§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. GREENALL
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This is a very short Bill to repeal the Act of 1926 and to return to the seven hours working day. In bringing it before the House, I think it is wise to set out one or two reasons. First, the Eight Hours Act of 1926 was passed under exceptionally abnormal circumstances. The miners had been locked out for many months, and there was very strong feeling on both sides. Secondly, the large majority of the Members of the House and of the general public did not understand what was the actual length of time the miners were compelled to work underground under the Eight Hours Act. Further, during the time the Seven Hours Act was in operation, more coal was being produced than was being consumed. Never in the history of this country has industrial legislation passed by the British House of Parliament done so much harm in the country and caused so much distress, poverty and suffering among the workers in the industry and brought about such chaos as the Eight Hours Act. The Prime Minister refused to meet the representatives of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain to hear a statement from them as to the deplorable condition of poverty and suffering in which the miners and their families were compelled to exist as a result of the passing of the Eight Hours Act. In my opinion, the Prime Minister is more responsible than any other living man for the present position in the mining industry, and it would seem that he is afraid to face the situation.
Before going further into the subject, I think it would be wise to mention the difference between the Acts and agreements for the working hours in mines on the Continent and in other countries and the Acts of Parliament which affect British miners. In other countries, those Acts and agreements apply to the hours from bank to bank. There are large numbers of Members who do not understand that yet, and a tremendous number of people in the country do not realise 710 the difference that it makes. In this country, time is arranged by the inspectors for men going into and coming out of the mines in addition to the seven or eight hours as the case may be. The times arranged vary from 35 to 70 minutes. Men working under the Seven Hours Act are in the mines from eight to eight and a half and in many cases nine hours per day, while those who arc working under the Eight Hours Act are in the mines from nine to nine and a half and in many cases ten hours from bank to bank. Let me give the House an example of the working of this Act under those conditions. You have a mine where 40 minutes are allowed, and there are a large number of them in the country. The inspectors have arranged for reasonable safety and reasonable time. In this case, there are 40 minutes for going down and 40 minutes for coming up. In the county from which I come the men start going down at ten minutes to six in the morning, they all get down by seven o'clock and commence winding coal. They go on until three o'clock in the afternoon, in most cases without a break. There is no question of stopping for food. Then from three o'clock until ten minutes past four they are winding the men up again, which proves the truth of what I say, that they are down from nine to nine and a half and many for ten hours from bank to bank. It is necessary that these facts should be borne in mind in coming to a decision in connection with this Bill.
I want to draw attention to the conditions under which the Seven-hours Act worked and the result of its working in so far as the amount of coal produced and the profits were concerned. It came into operation on 15th July, 1919, after the Royal Commission had been sitting for some considerable time. They examined witnesses, who gave evidence as to the situation in the industry, and they recommended a seven-hours working day. In so far as output was concerned, not for a single month or a single week did the coal required for the nation ever fall short of the needs either for home consumption or for the export trade. In spite of that, I must remind the House that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir Robert Home) joined 711 hands with the coalowners in 1921 to force upon the miners of Great Britain the wage scheme which is very largely answerable for the present position. The coalowners at that time threatened to take action with regard to the mining situation, and, of course, this matter arose, as I have just stated, with regard to the agreement which was forced upon the men.
There were two exceptional periods during the working of the Seven Hours Act which prove the statement I have made with regard to the coal produced during that time. One period was when the trouble took place in the Ruhr in Germany. The Germans refused to produce sufficient coal for the French. In 1923, there was a great scarcity of coal on the Continent, and British coal was in very large demand. For some fifteen months or thereabouts, miners in Great Britain were fairly regularly at work. This was under the Seven-hours Act, and even then, when that great demand came upon this country—it was a great demand, and we saw the results later—the miners of Great Britain were able to supply as much coal as was required, although there were many miners unemployed at that particular time. As a matter of fact, the amount of coal produced in Great Britain in 1923 amounted, in round figures, to 276,000,000 tons—under the Seven-hours Act mind you—and this was the second highest record for coal produced in Great Britain. The other highest record was in 1913. In 1913, under the Eight-hours Act the output was, in round figures, 287,000,000 tons. Therefore, you will see that under a seven-hours working day at the time I have stated we fell short of the highest amount of coal produced in Great Britain only by about 11,000,000 tons.
Surely, there is proof that there was no need for the passing of the Eight Hours Act as far as the output of coal is concerned. I believe that the latent power of production in this country today would enable us, if it was necessary, to produce 300,000,000 tons of coal per annum. Therefore, there is no wonder that we who understand the situation are surprised. We felt that no sane person would ever dream of altering the Act of Parliament. When these people 712 were informed, as they were informed by the miners' representatives, what would take place—and it has actually taken place—in the mining industry, one might have expected that they would have hesitated before they had taken that step. During 1923, the coalowners made a profit of £27,000,000 upon an actual capital of about £150,000,000. Therefore, from the standpoint of profit, there was no need for any alteration. At least, for six years during the seven years that the Seven Hours Act was in operation, the coalowners made fair profits; in fact, they made double the profit per ton during that period than they did before the War. Thus, when it comes to be calculated, it certainly is a fair amount of profit for them to receive on the capital that they have invested.
Another extraordinary period during the time of the Seven Hours Act was in operation occurred in 1925. In the middle of 1925 the coalowners threatened to lock out the miners. The Seven Hours Act was still in operation. The reason for the threatened lockout was not that the miners were lazy, as some people wish to call them. There was nothing at all said at that time with regard to their being lazy. It was because they were producing too much coal that they threatened to lock out the men. Pits were working short time. Large stocks of coal had accumulated at every colliery. Miners in all districts were down at the minimum, and an unnatural, wildcat, cut-throat system of competition, entered into by the employers, took place, and all because the miners were producing more coal under the Seven Hours Act than the nation required. The coalowners threatened to close the pits in August, 1925. Then the Government came forward and offered a subsidy to the coalowners, which subsidy continued until April, 1926, taking from the taxpayers some £23,000,000. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, one day this week, stated that the cost would be more than £80,000,000—in which figure, I understand, the £23,000,000 is included—but I think, if we could get at the real facts, we should find that this trouble in connection with the Mines Eight Hours Act has cost the country a tremendous amount of money in addition to the suffering which has been forced upon the people in the country. The subsidy was stated to have 713 been given to help the owners to pay the wages of the men during the time stated. Actually, it was a subsidy given, in many cases, to companies which were making very large profits. The way that the coalowners used that subsidy is certainly surprising to any person who is connected with any of the industries of the country. The coalowners, without being asked for it, gave the railways of this country a reduction of half-a-crown per ton. In addition to that, they gave away at least half of the subsidy to the coal merchants on the Continent. We boast about having the best coal in the world, and we certainly have, and we have the best miners in the world, but instead of this country having the benefit of the best coal and the best workmen, it would seem that other countries are having the benefit. At least, they got the benefit in connection with half of the subsidy, and the other half the coalowners put into their pockets or paid to their shareholders. Not one single penny of the £23,000,000 of subsidy was Spent to improve the conditions in the mines.
During the time that we were working the seven-hours day, millions of tons of coal were stacked. We in the mining districts saw acres of land covered with stacks of coal. The Government stacked millions of tons and the employers also, with the object which they had in view, and which they knew was coming, and that was to force the miners to get back to the eight-hours working day. In April, 1926, the coalowners gave notice of a lockout, with a view to forcing the eight hours. They realised that they could not work the eight hours until an Act of Parliament had been passed. What they did, what we on these benches expected they would do, what those who had been interested in mining for a large number of years knew they would do, was to come to their friends the Tory Government, which had been returned by a large majority at the general election. People argue whether it was a lockout or a strike, and to get round the difficulty they use the mild word "stoppage." It was a deliberate closing of the pits by the coalowners to force the eight-hours working day on the miners.
§ Mr. GREENALL
Knowing that they could not apply the eight-hours working day without an Act of Parliament they came to their friends the Tory Government, who joined with them with a view to forcing the Act upon us. The Act was carried under those conditions. The Government never took the slightest trouble to consider what would be the results of the Act. They did not trouble to find out the opinion in the country, and whether the country wanted such legislation. It was not in their programme at the last General Election. Had it been in their programme that they intended to force an increase of hours upon any body of workmen in Great Britain, red letter or no red letter, they would never have been on the Government benches to-day. We will take care that it is in the programme at the next Election. The Act was forced upon the industry and we know the results; I will leave the description of those results to some of my colleagues.
I will contrast the times worked by the miners in Great Britain with the hours worked by the miners in other countries. The eight-hours working day means in actual hours from 9 hours to 9½ hours and in many cases up to 10 hours, bank to bank. The Colliery Year Book and Coal Trade Directory has been published for this year, and I will take certain figures from it. It is not a Labour publication, nor is it issued by the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. It is from a source which is certainly reliable and I think will be accepted by all the people interested in the mining industry. In France, the miners are working 7½ hours bank to bank; in Belgium, 7½ hours bank to bank; in Holland 8 hours bank to bank; in Germany, the Ruhr, 8 hours bank to bank; in Upper Silesia, 8 hours bank to bank, and in Czechoslovakia, 7¾ hours to 8 hours bank to bank. What a difference compared with the hours of work in this country! There was a time when we talked about the competition of long hours worked by men on the Continent. How Great Britain has fallen!
I would like to deal with the question of industrial peace, of which we have heard so much. Much of the present unrest has been caused by the Government passing the Eight Hours Act. The Prime Minister not only talked about industrial peace, but I well remember the right hon. 715 Gentleman uttering a solemn prayer, standing at that Box,Give peace in our time, O Lord!At that time, we on these benches accepted his statement and believed he meant what he said. What has the Prime Minister done or what have the present Government done with a view to helping to bring peace in our time?
The passing of the Eight Hours Act has done more to create unrest and dissatisfaction amongst the workers of the country than anything that has taken place for many years past. It has caused suspicion and distrust and made it much more difficult for those who are genuinely working and striving for peace in industry to get a move on. We on these benches honestly and sincerely desire peace in industry and are prepared to work for it, but before we can have peace in industry we must have justice for the workers. Is there any reasonably-minded person who will say that the miners are having justice when they are compelled to work longer hours than any other body of miners in the world, except the Indians, and have to live under the conditions which exist at the present time? No, there can be no peace in the mining industry so long as the present conditions continue and so long as the present Eight Hours Act remains on the Statute Book. For these and other reasons we are introducing this Bill this afternoon.
§ Mr. CAPE
I beg to Second the Motion. If we were appearing before any unprejudiced tribunal we should prove our case in such a satisfactory manner that there would be no doubt what the decision would be but, unfortunately, whilst this House is supposed to be, and ought to be, the fairest tribunal in the country we all know that with the overwhelming numbers on the Ministerial side that when we come before the House with matters affecting the workers generally we are appealing to a prejudiced assembly. When the Eight Hours Act was before the House in 1926 we challenged the Government that they were the tools of the coalowners and were being forced by their masters to enforce the Act upon the miners. They were indignant at the accusation; there was no truth in it whatever. They said they were strong enough and powerful enough, and able enough, and without any suggestion 716 from the coalowners had come to the conclusion that the Act must he placed on the Statute Book for certain specific reasons.
During the prolonged stoppage, and during the various discussions which Look place in this House, we found that our assertion was right; and hon. Members will recollect that the Chancellor of the Exchequer wrote a letter and made a speech in this House in which he accused the coalowners of a breach of faith. He said that they promised the Government that if the Eight Hours Act was passed they were prepared to make a national settlement with the miners in regard to wages and other things. The Government told us that there were various reasons why the Act, should be placed on the Statute Book. These were some of the reasons. First, that a longer working day was essential and necessary to put the industry into an economic position. They said that they were satisfied that this was the only direction they could take in order to bring salvation to the industry. In the second place, they said: "You need not be alarmed about the earnings of the men. If they are not increased by the Eight Hours Act at any rate they will be maintained at the same rate." They further told us that if the Eight Hours Act was passed there would be a larger production of coal at less cost and that that would mean that the coal mining industry would be placed in an economic position, and that this would be such a stimulus to all other industries which are dependent on coal that we were in for a time of prosperity such as the country had not seen for many years.
Lastly, they said, "Why talk about this Eight-hour Act? It is going to be permissive." A good many hon. Members opposite voted for the Bill in the honest but rather foolish belief that the miners in the districts would have some say in dictating what the hours should be under the Act. When I have had to meet a body of coalowners who are as fair as any other body of coalowners, probably no fairer but equally as fair as any other group of coalowners, the point I had to meet was this; that the eight hour day under the Act would have to be recognised throughout the district. I asked whether we could argue and show reasons why it should not. They said, "No, 717 there is no right." I asked, "Can we go to arbitration before some independent man?" and they said, "No. The first stipulation is that there must be an eight hours day, and unless you agree to that all the other clauses in the agreement we have submitted to you cannot be considered because they are subject to the Act being put into operation." Where is the permissiveness in that? The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in my hearing in Downing Street, was asked to explain what was meant by "permissive," and he said in his usual fashion with a shrug of his shoulders that if the coal-owners want it you must fight it. That is to say that if we are strong enough, if we can go hungry long enough, we must resist it; but if we cannot we must accept it. I want hon. Members opposite to realise that the word "permissive" is absolutely valueless as far as the miner's are concerned.
If you take the whole of the reasons put forward for the Act, we shall be able to show that not one of the objects of the promoters and supporters of the Measure has been realised. For instance, in the January-March quarter, 1926, the total cost per ton of production was 15s. 9.28d., and the proceeds from pithead prices, upon which the miners' wages are based, was 14s. 6.29d. per ton, leaving a deficiency of 1s. 2d. per ton. It is true to say that in December, 1927, taking the whole of the British Isles, the total cost per ton of production had been reduced to 13s. 6.54d. One would have thought from that, that the object aimed at by the increase of hours had been achieved. But what did the coalowners do? At that time there was a raging, ramping, mad competition going on, and although they had reduced the cost of production at the expense of the men, they reduced the selling price to 12s. 8.12d., and we found ourselves with a deficiency of 10.42d., as between the production price and the pithead price. It is true to say that, taking the whole of the figures, there was a general reduction of 2s. 2.47d. per ton in the cost of production, but the selling price also went down by 1s. 10.17d.
The point I want to make is this: Instead of the Act bringing prosperity to the industry in the shape of profits to the owners and wages to the workmen, it has done quite the reverse. During the period of 1927—I can speak with some 718 authority on the subject—the pieceworkers' standard base rates have been reduced in many districts. When I go home this week-end I have to face the fact that the men at three collieries in the County that I have the honour to represent are being asked to accept reductions, varying from 5 to 15 per cent., of the standard base rates of the pieceworkers. Therefore any additional output that the men may be given at the face is being filtched from them by the coalowners, and the men's standard of life is being attacked. Not only are general reductions of wages taking place, but local reductions are being made in manly districts, and the result is to put the mining population on what can practically be called starvation wages. Therefore, from the wage point of view, the whole thing has been a complete failure.
Let me take another contention—that the Act would bring prosperity to the coal industry. Prosperity has not come. According to the figures that we have in our possession, there were employed in March, 1926, no fewer than 1,111,912 miners. On 31st December, 1927, after the settlement, there were 975,710 employed in and about the mines. That is a decrease of 136,202—a terrific decrease. If the decrease had been temporary one would have been satisfied to have said "Well, in the course of a few weeks, these numbers of unemployed will be considerably reduced." Unfortunately that was really the best time that we have had after the long stoppage. Instead of the numbers of unemployed growing less they have steadily increased, until it is estimated that there are to-day about 220,000 unemployed miners. Then there is the question of under-employment. We have not even continuity of work in the coalfields. We have had less "time" during the 12 or 15 months that the Act has been in operation than we have had for a long number of years. According to the Board of Trade figures the average is about 4.21 days per week. But a large number of districts have not averaged four days, and an hon. Friend reminds me that in many districts the men are not averaging three days.
I was in a certain district last week, and, without any inquiry at all, I was told that all the collieries but one in that locality were averaging about four days a week, and had never done more 719 since the resumption of work after the stoppage. Moreover, one-third of the men in that small area are unemployed. Therefore, the eight-hours day has not brought prosperity to the industry in wages or in employment, and it is apparent that from that point of view the whole thing has been a complete failure. Has it brought prosperity to the industry? We were told in effect, "Give us the coal. Never mind the miners' wages; never mind how they live, as long as we have cheap coal. We shall then be able to compete in all the markets of the world, and other industries will flourish." Those who were foolish enough to believe that cry might have thought that we were going to walk into paradise in a few months.
What has been the result even on the export side? I will give the figure for March, 1926, the last figure available before the stoppage. The exports from this country during that month were 4,702,536 tons. The last figure I have, for January of this year, is 3,904,700 tons. There is, therefore, a terrific decrease, even in the export trade. Every Member will agree that whatever our fiscal views may be, this country depends for its maintenance largely on its exports. These millions of tons less have been exported, and other workers beside miners have been thrown out of employment as a result. All the distributive and transport trades have been affected because of the decline in coal exports. From that point of view, therefore, the Act, instead of being beneficial to the country, has been most detrimental. Has the Act brought prosperity to any other industry? If it has, I say frankly that I have not been able to see it. I live in a district and represent a constituency that contains a good many industrial works within its borders. It has a large iron and steel industry, and while it is true that the iron and steel company has obtained its coal and coke at a cheaper rate, that has not brought prosperity to the industry. As a matter of fact, the employers are reducing the men's wages. That is the position from the workmen's point of view.
Then there is the employers' point of view. Are they satisfied? I have not yet discovered one employer who is. Taking the employers of the country as a whole, they are all asking either for reductions 720 in wages or for a change in the conditions of the men's employment, on the ground that the employers are not able to make ends meet. Frankly speaking, I think that one of the most devastating things that has taken place in connection with the trade of this country has been the passing of the Coal Mines Act of 1926. Time is going on, and I know my hon. Friends opposite are anxious to proceed with their Amendment. It is quite meet and right that the two hon. Gentlemen whose names are down on the Paper should move that Amendment. Both, I understand, are very largely interested in the coal mining industry. That is the reason why I say that, if we had an arbitration before an independent and neutral chairman on this subject, I would have been delighted to have put the case against those two hon. Gentlemen. I wish to say, like my hon. Friend who preceded me, that we are not seeking war in industry. We want peace in our industry, if we can get peace, but we are not going to pay the price of destitution and suffering which is being demanded. The people in our mining areas and the children of those people are suffering to such an extent that it is not to be wondered at if sometimes there is a little passion in the speeches from this side.
At any rate, the Mover and the Seconder of the Second Reading of this Bill, can claim that they are speaking from real definite, practical experience. We have had experience ourselves of working in the mines in days gone by. We have lived all our lives in the midst of our own people, the mining population, and some of us know, in our own families, that the people to-day are suffering hardships and miseries such as they have never suffered during all the time I have been connected with the mining industry. I have spent a long lifetime among the mining community, both as a worker, as an agent and as a miners' representative in Parliament, and I reecho the words of my hon. Friend the Mover. So long as this eight hours provision remains on the Statute Book, there cannot be any peace in the mining industry. If the Government are desirous of showing that they want peace in the industry, let them restore the seven-hour day which was obtained, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) 721 was Prime Minister, after long and exhaustive inquiry. Let them give us a chance so that our people can be employed. If they do so, I believe there will be more likelihood of peace and prosperity in the mining industry than there will be if the Coal Mines Act, 1926, remains on the Statute Book.
§ 12 n.
§ Mr. CLARRY
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the wordsthis House, whilst regretting the cause which necessitated the enactment of The Coal Mines Act, 1926, cannot assent to the Second Reading of a Bill which would involve either a further reduction in the already low rates of wages or an increase in the already high percentage of unemployment in the coal mining industry.I wish to say at the outset that we on these Benches concede to no one in our desire to see no reduction in wages and no extension of hours, if it is at all possible. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side have no monopoly of sympathy with British working men. We are able to convince them, by word, act and deed, that we can represent them adequately, or we should not be on these Benches. Reference has been made by the Mover and Seconder of the Second Reading, to the number of unemployed in the industry, and the figure is put at well over 200,000. Surely the more correct way would be to take a comparison between 1913 and the present time. We all recollect that during the War a large number of dilutees and men not usually miners, came into the industry. If I recollect aright, in 1913, there were 1,105,000 men employed raising 287,000,000 tons of coal. To-day, there are 956,000 men employed, leaving a difference compared with the pre-War figure of 149,000, and not over 200,000 as hon. Members suggest. I would like the House to get a correct perspective of this proposal and of the mining industry generally. I strongly object to the words that were used by the Mover, and I think the Seconder, about the responsibility of the Prime Minister in this matter. There are over 40 Members in this House who are also members of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, of which Mr. A. J. Cook is Secretary. They have to represent the case for the miners, and nobody blames them for that. The miners are their 722 first consideration and afterwards—a long way afterwards very often—come the consumers, the ordinary laws of supply and demand, other industries and the national aspect of the question. As I say, I do not blame them for that, but they must, when studying the problem, consider all its aspects. Mr. A. J. Cook last week published a book called "The Effect of a Longer Working Day in the British Coal Mines." I think it could be more correctly designated "The Effect of the Minority Movement in the British Coal-mining Industry." The author of this book also published a book in 1910 called "The Miners' Next Step." [HON. MEMBERS: "No !"] He is the joint author of that book, and I find in it this passage, which is article 13 of the constitution there laid down:That continual agitation he carried on, in favour of increasing the minimum wage and shortening the hours of work, until we have extracted the whole of the employers' profits.In the coalfields, in 1910, there was a small band of young agitators, who were out for their own personal aggrandisement and who had no hesitation about endeavouring to get on top. One of them, at any rate, has been successful. I do not ask hon. Members to accept my statement for that. Let me read a more authoritative statement made in 1920 at the time of the datum line stoppage:If Cook has any other policy for the Federation beyond his obsession of strike, strike, strike, let him propound it in the Press. It is not by his thought that he gets a following, but by spreading suspicion and bitterness. He will do nothing but lead the Federation over the precipice of ruin and anarchy.That was written by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn), and that was before Mr. A. J. Cook had risen to the position of Secretary of the Federation. There you have cause and effect. The effect is the position in the industry to-day. We have had continual strikes—in 1920 a three weeks' stoppage; in 1921, a 13 weeks' stoppage; in 1926, which was the supreme act of folly, a seven months' stoppage. The result of that has been that we have lost markets which we shall never be able to regain. If, even at the last minute, the Miners' Federation had met the situation, not with a desire to ruin the industry which existed among a small number of them—I do not accuse hon. Gentlemen opposite or include them in a 723 general condemnation, because I am aware that some of them dislike the policy of Cookism as much as we do—this might have been avoided. If they had negotiated before the stoppage of 1926, we should certainly not have lost all the markets which we have lost to-day, or there would have been some hope of reclaiming them. In this book to which I have referred, published last week, it is admitted that there is a reduction in the cost of production of 2s. 2.7d. per ton. The admission is there by the Miners' Federation, and that, at any rate, is something achieved by the Eight Hours Act.
§ Mr. CLARRY
It is in this book. I prefer to take it from this hook, although the figures are not worked out in any way that can be checked, because they deal with the proceeds per ton raised and not with per ton commercially disposable coal.
§ Mr. CLARRY
No, but they are not comparable in certain other directions. At any rate, there is the admission there that this Act of 1926 has effected a reduction in the cost of production of 2s. 2d. per ton. I ask, as quite a simple problem, if you were to revert to the seven hours arrangement, would you not obviously increase again the cost of production by 2s. 2d. per ton? That is obvious. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If you make a reduction of 2s. 2d. a ton in the change-aver from seven to eight hours, surely you will make a corresponding increase if you go hack from eight to seven.
§ Mr. VARLEY
A part of that reduction is due to the increased working time, but another part is due to decreased wages.
§ Mr. CLARRY
Certainly, and I am corning to that. I want to deal with the ease quite fairly, and I want to put it that the situation has arisen, not through any action of the Prime Minister, but through the minority movement agitation since 1910 solely and definitely; and I believe the country recognises it and is heartily sick of agitation. It is because 724 of that reduction of 2s. 2d. in the cost of production that the industry has been able to carry on at a small loss. Obviously, it would not have been able to carry on at all if you added the 2s. 2d. to the already big loss which was being suffered. The Mover mentioned that we were over-producing, but I would prefer to state it that we were under-consuming British coal.
§ Mr. CLARRY
There is Polish, Silesian, French and Belgian coal. I think hon. Members opposite admitted themselves that the principal factor the coal industry was the export market, but if you go out there, you have to meet the competition of other countries. In Europe, whereas in 1913 we were supplying 52,000,000 tons of coal, we are now supplying 37,000,000 tons; and a very big proportion of that competition which has taken our orders away from us is coming from Poland, where wages are 3s. 9d. per shift, where subsidised railway freights are 3s. 4d. per 400 miles.
§ Mr. CLARRY
I am coming to that in a moment. I want your support. The general prices quoted for Polish coal are 13s. 3d. f.o.b. Dantzig, with a competition of 15s. 10d. f.o.b. the Humber, and only a few weeks ago this country lost a big contract to Poland for the Swedish State railways at 11s. f.o.b. That disposes of the statement made in the Press that the colliery owners are throwing the coal away and unnecessarily reducing the prices, for some ulterior motive. Here is a concrete case in which they are undercut and lose a definite order. Now, as to the cost to the consumer, there are very many factors. Freight is a very big factor in coal and has gone-up very materially. It might interest the House to take a percentage of 100 for 1913 on the various general costs: Pithead to ship, 176: wages, 149; pithead price, 125; the wholesale commodity figure of the Board of Trade, 141; and cost of living, 168. As to the question of eight hours, one would assume from general observation that every man in the coal industry was working eight hours every day. I appreciate the point, made by the Mover and Seconder of the Motion for Second Reading, that there must be 725 some extension of that eight hours. Obviously, if you take the first man down and count him as the last man up, you have to add the total time of going down and coming up again to his eight hours. [An HON. MEMBER: "It can happen!"] Yes, but it is a very extreme case, and nobody would use it as an ordinary argument by taking the first man down in the pit and counting him as the last man up, and taking that as an average working day. As a matter of fact, out of the 950,000 men who are working in the industry, only about half are working eight hours. There are other districts that are working seven and a-half hours, and, of course, there are surface men. There are some working very much less than eight hours. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] At any rate, I concede this point very freely, and have not hesitated to do so on every possible occasion, that since that disastrous stoppage when the miners were so badly misled in 1926, they have done their very best to retrieve the situation, and if we take the statistical summary for the last published quarter with the one immediately pre-stoppage in 1926, the figures are evident. They have increased their output per man by 2⅓ cwts. at a loss in wages to themselves, in earnings, of about 9d., and nobody can say that the miners are not endeavouring to retrieve themselves from the morass into which they have been misled.
§ Mr. CLARRY
No, I am dealing with the national figure. [An HON. MEMBER: "Does the hon. Member suggest that that national figure is correct?"] Certainly, I do. That is from the statistical summary published by the Mines Department, which hon. Members have probably got from the Vote Office themselves. It is out for the first time this morning, as a matter of fact. From the figures for March, 1926, Item 19, at the bottom, which all hon. Members opposite know, the output per man shift worked was 18.46; in the statistical summary out this morning, it is 20.82, which is a difference of 2.36. I said 2⅓ cwts. greater production. Now, as to earnings, which is the next item, the earnings per man shift worked in March, 1926, were 10s. 4.73d.
§ Mr. CLARRY
The earnings per man shift worked for the December quarter arc 9s, 7.38d., or a difference of approximately 9d. I am making a present of the point and congratulating the miner on the great effort he has made to retrieve the situation. I am surprised that nothing has been said as to what the owners have done. Not a single reference has been made to what they have done in the endeavour to help the industry in its present plight. I have a few figures here, and I make this observation. You may amalgamate to produce, but you have to create to sell, and coal is different from a large number of other industries. You have got to mine the coal where it lies. There are different grades in coal; you cannot lump them altogether, and when we come to the question of amalgamation and its effect upon economy, that is more limited than in any other industry. When you take out the wages and a large number of other irreducible costs, you get down to a very small percentage of the cost of production that is capable of being reduced. Obviously, if amalgamation is a material help in reducing the cost of production, all the larger undertakings in this country would be doing a great deal better than the smaller ones. But that is not the fact. We heard the other day that an arrangement had been come to in the South Wales coalfield on a long basis. A scheme is already in existence in Scotland in which collieries are invited to tender to the pool, stating how much they will stand aside and suspend or curtail potential capacity for output. There is a great scheme called the Five Counties scheme with which, I understand, my hon. Friend who will second this Amendment will probably deal. To show what has been done on the other side, out of the total output of coal last week of 4,844,000 tons, the output that is within the purview of the Scottish, the South Wales and the Five Counties schemes amounts to 3,500,000, or over three-quarters of the total output of the country.
The Mover and Seconder of this Bill ought to have given some indication as to how the industry was to be carried on if their Bill were put on the Statute Book. It is due to the House to be told how it could carry on. They have 727 entirely ignored economic facts of every description. They only used figures to suit their own purpose, and they have not given anything in the way of a practical solution. I can only regard the Bill as merely an item of window-dressing, as a demonstration, perhaps unwillingly, as agents of Cookism. I want to give hon. Members the benefit of doing it unwillingly, but you cannot get out of the logic of it. If it is desired to serve the interests of the miners, I suggest that that can best be done by ceasing to agitate in the coalfields. Drop politics. Hon. Members cannot be very proud of the effect of their past attitude in view of the position to-day. Drop politics, and cease making this great industry a catspaw for political purposes; regard it as a great industrial problem which can only be solved by a study of the economics of the industry, and by the closest co-operation with all interests.
§ Mr. WRAGG
I beg to second the Amendment.
I have the greatest pleasure in doing so. I have been told that it will be unpopular in my constituency to second an Amendment of this sort, but I would sooner tell the truth and lose my seat than attempt to lead the House astray, or attempt to delude the workmen in my constituency, and retain my seat. I believe, however, that my action on this occasion will help me very considerably to retain my seat, because there is no doubt that if you repeal the Eight-hours Act it will cause a great crisis in the industry. It will compel many districts either to go out of production, mines to close down, and 200,000 or 300,000 more miners to be out of work, or else it will bring about a situation which will compel these men to accept lower wages. Everyone who lives in mining districts knows that wages are too low to-day. It is in the direction of better wages that you have to look for a solution of this question, and not necessarily in the direction of reduced hours. But let us examine what those hours are. The hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Greenall) led us to believe that men were sometimes working nine or ten hours below ground, and he argued from the exception to try to prove the general rule. But the Samuel Commission went into the whole of these figures exhaustively, and they came to the conclusion that the aver 728 age winding-time in this country was 30 minutes.[HON. MEMBERS: "Thirty eight"]. An objection is taken to my figure. I will read from the Royal Commission's Report:The authorised times include an allowance of 25 per cent. added as a margin for contingencies to the actual times of ascent or descent calculated by the Inspectors; if this allowance he taken off again an average of almost exactly 30 minutes is reached.That is from the Royal Commission's Report—an average of 30 minutes in winding. I know, from my own experience, that in an up-to-date pit you will find not much less than half an hour, it may be 20 minutes. There are exceptional cases of comparatively antiquated mines, but I think the fact that the Commission said that 30 minutes is the average winding time disposes of the statement of the hon. Member for Farnworth, who tried to lead the House to believe that a miner worked something like 10 hours. One or two may be working—but it does not apply to the case generally. We are told that in this country the hours are longer than on the Continent. I do not know whether hon. Members have attached the proper importance to the statements of the Samuel Commission with regard to the hours of miners abroad, where they say that only effective working time is taken into consideration on the Continent of Europe. If effective working time is taken in this country, the hours are not nearly so great. There are very few collieries that do not have a stop of at least 20 minutes.
§ Mr. WRAGG
I happen to be Chairman of the South Leicestershire Colliery Co., and I say that the usual practice in the Midlands is adopted of having what they call a snap time of 20 minutes or thereabouts—it may be a quarter of an hour. I am not very well acquainted with the working conditions of the collieries in North Derbyshire, and, therefore, I cannot say whether they have 20 minutes or not. If the hon. Member will assure me that there is no stoppage for snap time in Derbyshire—
§ Mr. WRAGG
It is not the custom in the county with which I am most familiar. On the Continent of Europe, if there be a breakdown of machinery, the men are kept down below longer, because they are idle for the time being, and they are kept down below to comply with the eight hours effective working time. If hon. Members refer to the Commission's Report, and read the details of it, they will see—
§ Mr. WRAGG
I am quoting from the statistical details of the Samuel Commission, which I have not here, but I can soon get it here if the hon. Member thinks the point is worth pursuing. Hon. Members opposite said that we could bring in seven hours in the mining industry to-day without either a subsidy from the State, or without nationalisation, but it must he within the knowledge of hon. Members that last year £6,000,000 was lost in the coal trade. [Interruption.] Is that disputed? [HON. MEMERS: "Of course it is!"]
§ Mr. WRAGG
The right hon. Gentleman appears to dispute these figures, but all I can say is that I have taken them from this document; I thought that I might take figures which the right hon. Gentleman would believe to be correct; they are the figures of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, compiled from the figures of the point auditors representing the miners and the owners, and they bear the signature of Arthur J. Cook.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not think any industry is ever helped by noise; it may be by argument. Hon. Members must wait their turn. The first two speeches were listened to by the House in perfect silence, and it will help no one to prevent hon. Members having a proper hearing.
§ Mr. WRAGG
I want to be fair. They are trading losses and not deficiencies. The deficiencies in different coalfields are arrived at after allowing the 15 per cent. on wages which was allowed after the settlement of the last stoppage. The figures which I am quoting are actual trade losses and profits, certified in each district by the miners' accountants in conjuction with the owners' accountants. The deficiencies would be at least twice that amount of £6,000,000. During the last ascertainment a loss of over £6,000,000 in the coalfields of this country was certified, and that does not include the coalfields of Nottingham, for which no figures are available. These figures are taken from the official returns. If there be in the present state of affairs a loss of 6d. a ton, and if this Act be suddenly repealed and a seven-hours day introduced, that loss would be increased by a further 1s. 6d. to 2s. Who is to bear the loss of 2s. 6d. a ton? Is it going to be met by a subsidy from the State, or by a sort of subvention under a scheme of nationalisation? Is it meant that those pits which cannot stand the racket will have to close down, or that those areas which cannot stand the pace are to have a reduction of wages? It is unbelievable that wages can further come down in the mining industry. I was very sorry indeed to see the result of the arbitration award in the coalfields of Durham and Northumberland. I am one of those who think that it is far better to have a decent wage, if you can get it, than to reduce hours irrespective of the conditions in the trade throughout the world. Do not let hon. Members say that the conditions in the coal trade 731 have been brought about by the Eight-hours Act. It is nothing of the sort. The conditions are almost entirely due to the action of the leader and secretary of the Miners' Federation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense!"]—who, with no sense of responsibility, refused to compromise on any lines whatever during the great stoppage of 1926.
§ Mr. WRAGG
The hon. Member knows that, time after time, the Government brought forward suggestions for arbitration and tribunals, and made every kind of suggestion for compromise, but they were turned down by the slogan, "Not a penny off or a minute on." That slogan has caused all the trouble, depression, and misery in the mining areas. Living in a mining area, I see a great deal of that misery, and I am sorry for it, but if the miners will have a man like A. J. Cook—and many of them believe in him still, although I notice that his audiences in different places are gradually coming down—they must put up with the consequences. All over the world we have lost markets.
During last summer I was with the Commercial Committee of the House of Commons in Rio de Janeiro and other places in South America. I called upon the Rio Light and Power Company, a British company which has a concession to supply the whole of the light, power, gas, etc., for the City of Rio de Janeiro and San Paulo. I came across the gas manager, and in an interview with him we got on to the question of coal. He said, "Being a British company, we have in the past always bought coal from England, mainly from South Yorkshire." Rio de Janeiro and San Paulo are cities with a combined population of more than 2,000,000, and therefore they use a very large amount of coal, something like 100,000 tons a year, I think, but that is only approximately. During the long coal stoppage of seven months their stocks became exhausted. Had the stoppage lasted only two months, nothing like that would have happened, and they could have carried on; but during a stoppage of seven months all their stocks were exhausted, and they had to find other suppliers. They went to the United States of America. I asked the gas 732 manager: "How did you find this coal?" He said "On the whole, you would think it quite as good as the coal we have been getting from Yorkshire, in some ways it is better, and it is cheaper." I said: "You will eventually come back to Great Britain for your supplies?" He said: "Well, I do not know." The point I wish to make is this, that this company, which during the whole of the time it has had this concession has bought British coal, would never, if there had not been this long stoppage, have had to go elsewhere to find its suppliers. As anyone in business knows may happen, they have been satisfied elsewhere, and they do not return to the original suppliers.
§ Mr. WRAGG
I think the eight-hours day has certainly done one thing. We hear from the other side—I think the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Cape) said so—that our export figures showed that we were not getting back our export trade, but we have been enabled to get back a great deal of that trade, because, whereas in 1913 the exports, including bunkers, were 98,000,000 tons, and in 1925 the figures, based on the first six months—I do not quote the figures after June, 1925, because they were complicated by the subsidy—were 69,000,000 tons, in 1927 we had got back to an export of 68,000,000 tons. That shows that we have very nearly got back to our 1925 position in the export of coal. It has been got back by selling at very low prices, but, if you lose markets, there is only one way in which you can get them back, and that is either by quoting a lower price or providing a better quality of coal. During the seven months' stoppage our competitors abroad were encouraged to go into the trade more intensively than they had done in the past. The Poles greatly increased their output during that time. Poland is one of our most dangerous competitors. I have been in Silesia, and have seen the conditions for the miners there, and I have seen the thickness of the seams they work, and I know that they are dangerous 733 competitors. When to those conditions are added the subsidised railway freights to Danzig, we have a very severe competitor indeed in Poland.
It is said we can do a lot to improve matters by improving efficiency in the coal mines. Hon. Members on the Liberal Benches will say: "If you were to put your house in order, you might be able to give the miners quite a good wage and might be able to work even seven hours a day." But I think the fact that since 1914 the number of coal-cutting machines in the collieries of this country has been doubled, and the number of conveyors at the coal face has been multiplied by four, shows that we have done a great deal to improve the efficiency of the pits. The fact that in Great Britain we can pay a considerably higher rate per shift for all the men employed in the collieries shows that we are not behind the Continent of Europe in efficiency. Then we are often told, and I expect we shall hear it later on, that under the eight-hours day there are more accidents than with the seven-hours day. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I do not think that follows at all.
§ Mr. WRAGG
It is my experience that the majority of accidents happen in the first half of the working day, and it seems to be common sense that that should be so, because very often the working places have been left during the night, perhaps left for 12 hours or so; and anybody knows that even in 12 hours there may be some parts of the roof—which have not been thoroughly examined, or, if they have been examined, where the examination has not revealed it—which may develop a flair. Therefore, it is found that it is in the first half of the day that the accidents in coal mines mount up. Figures have been given to show that there has been an increase of accidents in mines since the introduction of the eight hours day. What do those figures amount to? They show that in 1925 the fatal accidents numbered 1.02 per thousand men employed, in 1926 1.08 and in 1927 1.09. Does not that show that we have checked the rate of increase of accidents. From 1925 to 1926 the accident rate went up by.06, and from 1926 to 1927 it went up only by.01. The 734 same relative figures apply to the injuries rate. What I want to impress upon the House is that it is a great marvel that after a stoppage of seven months there were not more accidents. Everyone acquainted with mining knows that when pits stand idle for six or seven months, and when, in many cases, the safety men have been reduced—in many cases attempts were made to withdraw them—there is a tendency for a, pit to creep or for something to happen which you cannot see. That would be so with all the safety men on. Every mining engineer at the end of this great stoppage was frightened that there would be more accidents than there were. It happens after every stoppage, and, therefore, to come along and attempt to base a case upon the fact that the figures have gone up from 1.08 per thousand to 1.09 is surely very special pleading. A great many of the accidents are due to the carelessness of men in not carrying out the regulations. I have here the report issued by the Inspector of Mines for the North Midland division in 1926, and he says:Of the accidents which occurred during the year I find that five were due to neglect on the part of officials and 58 were due to neglect by the workmen, a total of 63, or 31 per cent, of the whole. It cannot with reason be suggested therefore, that there is not room for improvement.There is room for improvement, and there is no reason why the accident rate should be so high. My own view is that the men, as well as the management, are equally responsible for the accident rate being so high as it is to-day.
§ Mr. TINKER
The hon. Member has tried to show that the accident rate has not increased very much, and that many of them could be avoided. He also states that there is contributory neglect. The Inspectors of Mines have urged that in previous years, so that the comparison does not affect the point which the hon. Member is putting, and it ought not to be used to show that the accident rate is not increasing.
§ Mr. WRAGG
I do not see the relevancy of that interruption. I simply quoted from the Inspector's report for 1926. I understand that similar remarks have been made in mining inspectors' reports for many years past, and I do not think there is any doubt that there is a certain amount of carelessness.
§ Mr. GREENALL
Is the hon. Member aware that the Chief Inspector points out that these accidents result from the system of payment by result under which the men work?
§ Mr. WRAGG
I am not going to be drawn into a discussion upon the relative merits of piece work and day work. All I will say is that if you do not have payment by results you will get very little coal brought to the top. Although I am opposing this Bill to-day, I am very glad to notice that something is being done throughout the country to try to raise the general level of the conditions in the coal industry. I think the five-county scheme which we have now started in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Warwickshire will be of very great assistance in stabilising prices. Of course, it may increase pit head prices, and I think it will be a good thing if it does. I am not talking about the ultimate price to the consumer, and I am simply referring to pit head prices. With a pit head price of 11s. or 12s. a ton, it is impossible to pay the miners what we should like to pay them. The essence of the scheme is that all the collieries in that area will have certain quotas, and they will pay a fine if they exceed those quotas. This will prevent one particular colliery, which may be rather greedy, from working six days a week when a neighbouring colliery may be working only three or four days a week. The whole of the pits will be brought to a certain stabilised level of four-and-a-half or five days a week as the state of trade will allow.
This arrangement will remove the great difficulty which everybody selling coal experiences to-day, and that is the difficulty caused by the selling of spot lots at the collieries. In a state of bad trade collieries often have their sidings choked up with coal. The greedy colliery owner wants to keep working full time even at the expense of his neighbours, with the result that he gets his siding choked up. Instead of selling at the ordinary price, this colliery owner goes to the merchant and says: "What will you give me for this lot?" Probably it will be offered at 18s. a ton, and the merchant says, "I will give you 15s. a 736 ton." The result is that these spot lots are sold at a great deal below the proper price. The only effect of selling a large amount of spot lots in times of depression is to bring down the level of the whole, and the merchant gets the chief advantage although he does not reduce his prices. [An HON. MEMBER: "It means closing the collieries!"] It does not mean that and what we are doing is intended to prevent the closing of collieries. In the Midland areas, many collieries will have to close if we cannot get a somewhat higher price for the coal at the pithead. This scheme will tend to increase the pithead prices by a small amount, and this, I hope, will enable the collieries to be carried on. The same time thing is happening in South Wales. There they are proceeding on the lines of a minimum price, which I think is a mistake.
§ Mr. WRAGG
It is starting this month. My reason for opposing this Bill is because it is unthinkable that miners' wages should be reduced, and I believe that would be the effect of passing this Bill. I am all against causing further unemployment in the country, and I fear that would be the result of the passing of this Measure. I believe in better wages for the miners and more employment, and I have the greatest pleasure in seconding the Amendment for the rejection of this foolish Bill.
§ Mr. WALSH
May I ask the hon. Member two questions? Is the hon. Member aware that in the ascertainments to which he refers simply the pithead nominal price is brought in; and, secondly, is he also aware that the actual selling prices realised by the selling agencies are not brought into the ascertainments at all?
§ Mr. WRAGG
I shall have great pleasure in answering those questions. First of all, as far as I know, there are very few colliery selling agencies in this country. That is a question which was gone into by the Coal Commission in their Report, and it does not represent anything like 10 per cent. of the coal sold in this country. As far as I know, the accounts from which I have quoted are audited by the Miners' Federation. The Coal Commission went into the whole 737 question of the colliery selling agencies, and they found that they did not represent more than sixpence per ton.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
It is a matter of very considerable personal gratification to me to see my friends of the Labour party spending the whole of a Friday afternoon in restoring an Act of Parliament which I was instrumental in carrying through. This Bill, however, is so very carefully drafted that the fact that they are seeking to restore that Measure is not even mentioned in it. I had to read this Bill very carefully to find out what its purpose was. On the face of it, it appears to be a Bill to restore the Act of 1908, and I was wondering what on earth was the purpose of the Labour party in bringing in a, Bill for that object. I see, however, that the object is to restore, not the Act of 1908, but the Act which I was very largely instrumental in carrying through in 1919. I proposed that Measure upon grounds which I shall give later on, and I resisted the proposal of the Government to alter it. I have not changed my mind in the least.
The condition of the mines was undoubtedly bad in 1926. The hours have been altered from seven to eight, and what is the result? It is that the mines are infinitely worse than they were before. It is no use entering into these recriminations as to who is responsible for the strike, or the lockout, or the stoppage. I am not going to enter into that question of 1926; it is beside the mark. It is no use, even if it were in order, to enter into that question. If it were worth while to spend the afternoon in doing so, I should have no hesitation in giving the answer. Whatever the responsibility of Mr. Cook—and he had some; it is no use pretending that he had none—for the way in which he handled the affair, it is nothing to the responsibility which the Government have for the way in which they handled it.
There had never before been in this country a strike which was longer than three months. Whether the Government were right or wrong in the terms that they proposed—and my hon. Friends thought that we were wrong in 1921— [HON MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—that, again, I cannot enter into, because it would draw me away from the question of the Bill, but at any rate we made it 738 quite clear what our terms were, and what we would not accept, so that the miners knew at any rate exactly what they had to deal with; but you never knew from day to day where the present Government were. At one moment they would accept the recommendations of the Samuel Commission, at the next moment they would not. Then they would have them with certain reservations, and then those reservations were withdrawn. At one moment they stood by the seven-hours day, and at the next moment they changed back to eight. When you have a contest conducted under those conditions, everyone says, "If we hold out a little longer they will swing back again": so that both the mineowners and the miners were encouraged to prolong the conflict, in the hope that the vacillation of the Government might swing them round in their particular way if they held out long enough. This the mineowners undoubtedly thought. They knew their Government, and anyone who has had experience, as my hon. Friends here have, and as I have had in my way, in these various disputes, knows perfectly well that the way in which it was handled had the inevitable effect of prolonging it to the very last moment, until the men and the women and the children were starved out. That is the real explanation.
When the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Clarry) says that this Bill is window-dressing, he is really talking something which is—I do not know whether the word "nonsense" is Parliamentary, but, at any rate, it is something like that. The seven-hours day was the result of the unanimous Report of the Commission of 1919; it was about the only thing upon which they were unanimous. The mineowners were prepared to sign that. That was not Mr. A. J. Cook; it was Mr. Evan Williams and Sir Adam Nimmo. They were in favour of that, and when we legislated in 1919 in favour of a seven-hours day, that was on the unanimous recommendation of a Commission upon which were large industrial representatives, including three very considerable coalowners, who were there representing the mineowners' organisation. The hon. Member for Belper (Mr. Wragg) said that there were thick seams in Silesia. They were just as thick in 1919, when the mine- Owners of this country were recommending 739 that. He referred to the carriage of coal from Kattowitz up to Danzig on the railway, but that was there in 1919.
§ LLOYD GEORGE
I am coming to that. The subsidy on that railway is the direct result of the eight-hours day introduced in 1926. It is one of the ways in which you drove the Continent to meet the reduced cost due to cutting down wages and increasing hours of labour here. Here you had a Commission appointed by the present Government in 1925. A Liberal was in the Chair, but there were one or two Conservatives on it. They unanimously recommended the Government not to make any alteration. They took into account all the things that are now put by the hon. Member in support.of the Eight Hours Act, and said that, instead of that, they recommended the 'Government to stand by the seven-hours day. They pointed out exactly what would be the result. They pointed out that it would mean increased unemployment; they pointed out that it would drive the Continent to expedients which would ultimately worsen the whole conditions in the mines of Europe. That has come about.
Let us examine the predictions which they made with regard to unemployment in the mining industry. One figure given is 160,000. That is bad enough, and I am quite willing to take it, but it is more than that. This year the figures have been corrected by leaving out the men over 65. That has been done very largely throughout the whole of the industry of this country, in order to give the sham impression that trade is not as bad as it really is, and in order to justify letters sent at by-elections to say how well things are going on in this country. If you alter all the figures of the unemployment register—it has been done very largely during the last year or two, and this is the last attempt to do so—even the figures acknowledged by the Government are figures which stow that things are worse in the coalmining industry than anyone can remember in a whole generation; and that is after this restoration of the eight-hours day, which was going to put things absolutely right. What has it actually cost in cash to the country? It has cost at least £10,000,000 a year in unemployment 740 pay, and I say that it has cost more. I say that that reduction in the price of the 68,000,000 tons which go across the water and are bought by the foreigner is a loss to this country which is very largely attributable to this action. It has cost this country anything between £10,000,000 and £20,000,000 a year, partly by way of unemployment pay and partly by way of a direct subsidy to the foreign purchaser.
Let us take the other point of view. The hon. Member for Belper said that the coalowners lost £6,000,000 on balance throughout the year, and they lost £9,000,000 during the last three quarters—I am taking his figures. I do not quite agree with him there, but, surely, that is a condemnation of the Act of 1926. Here was an Act that was to restore the prosperity of the industry, and the hon. Gentleman urges that the coalowners of this country have lost £9,000,000 in the course of the last three quarters. What they are going to lose this quarter is going to be very considerable; I believe the loss is increasing. The loss is increasing, wages are going down, and unemployment is increasing this year after this Act, which was passed in 1926, and was supposed to be the one way to restore the prosperity of the industry. I will not say it is an acknowledged failure, because hon. Members will not accept it. But there is no doubt at all that it is a failure when you apply that test.
We come now to the point mentioned by the hon. Member anti his predecessor. He says that you have succeeded by this means in reducing the cost by 2s. If you restore the seven-hours day you put on the 2s. An hon. Member pointed out in an interjection that a very large part of that is due to the reduced wages and not to the reduction in hours. Therefore, if you restore the hours, it certainly will not amount to 2s. [An HON. MEMBER: "2s. 8d. was the figure!"] I have taken the figure given by the hon. Member for Newport. If it is 2s. 8d., the same thing applies. It is not entirely attributable to the hours. It is very largely due to the considerable diminution in wages. What has happened? Let us take the actual facts. When we reduced the costs in order to restore our markets—I am very glad to see from the figures the hon. Member quoted that we have retained that market—the Continent 741 of Europe said: "We have to meet that increase in the hours of labour by Great Britain and we have also to retain our markets," so they resorted to every kind of expedient, and one of those expedients was to subsidise the coal from Kattowitz to Danzig. That would not have happened but for this. These Continental countries had to retain the trade which they had already secured, and they were doing their best to capture new markets, so they set about countering the action of the present Government in order to keep their customers. They could only do that by reducing their prices, and they could only reduce their prices either by a subsidy or by reducing costs. They have done both. The Germans undoubtedly have resorted to every kind of expedient for the purpose of reducing the cost of production. In addition to that, the Silesian coalfields are subsidised by the policy of the Government.
That is the direct result of the action of the present Government in restoring the eight-hours day. You gained nothing by it. At best, after two years, you are just where you were, as far as the export trade is concerned. At the worst, you are selling to the foreigner at a reduction of 2s. 8d. a ton. That is 8d. more than I thought it was. That sort of cut-throat competition at the expense of the miner is damaging this country, is doing no good to the coal industry, and is degrading the conditions of labour throughout the whole of the Continent of Europe.
I had a talk with some of the leaders of the International Bureau at Geneva. There was an attempt made under the League of Nations to secure a general uplifting of the standard of labour throughout the world. The old argument had great force in it, that you cannot possibly reduce hours here, improve conditions here, and increase wages here, because, if you do, it would lose your markets abroad; your commodities would cost too much, and you would not be able to compete in neutral markets. That was the argument, and this International Labour Bureau was set up in order to get a general uplifting all round, so that all the manufacturing countries of the world should enter the market on equal conditions. It was slowly effecting an improvement. The delay in the 742 Washington Convention has put things back, but generally there was a steady improvement in conditions throughout the world. We were the pioneers, certainly in Europe and even as far as a great many States in America are concerned. There were infinitely better conditions in this country than in that boasted country with its great prosperity. On the whole, Britain was the pioneer, and the pioneer land, leading the industry of the world in improved conditions of labour, suddenly went back in 1926, and it is the greatest discouragement that has been given to this international effort since it started in 1919. Britain was slightly ahead on coal, as the Report points out. There was a definite superiority as far as hours of labour were concerned over all the countries of Europe and the United States of America. What has happened? We are now worse off than any other coalfield in Europe, except Silesia.
What do we gain by it? We have virtually lost by it. We have lost in the national balance-sheet. Our hours are longer, we have reduced the cost of the coal that has been exported, and we have forced our rivals on the Continent to arrest improvements which they were on the eve of making in the hours and wages of their workmen. In a very short time, the pressure in the German and French coalfields would have been so great that wages there would have gone up. This has retarded the movement for improvement in labour conditions amongst our rivals, and we have done that at the expense of giving a present of £8,000,000 or £10,000,000 a year on our export of coal to the foreigner. The coalmining industry itself is in a worse plight—and no one on the other side can deny it—than it has ever been in our history. For that reason, I stand by the Act of 1919, and I am glad to see hon. Members rallying round it. [Interruption.] At any rate, here is a proposal which worked all right, which after investigation by a Commission appointed by the Government, was found to be practical. The Commission unanimously recommended that there should be no change. The way to enable us to compete and to reduce charges is to put the whole of the industry on a business footing. There is no doubt at all, in spite of what the hon. Gentleman says, that it is only the coalowners themselves who will not 743 admit it. Every other industry in the country, looking at the matter, has come to the conclusion that there is no industry that stands more in need of reconstruction.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
First of all, there is the admission by the present Government. The Sankey Commission recommended that there should be a reconstruction on a very drastic scale. May I just remind the hon. Member that the Eight Hours Act was not the only Act that was passed in 1926, as he seems to imagine. There was an Act, a very vital one, based on the assumption that the industry required reconstruction. The Government passed an Act of Parliament for the purpose of enabling them to do it, and they have given them two years in which to put their house in order. If it was in order already, why did the hon. Gentleman support a Bill which called upon them to put it in order? That is the work of his own Government. And there are a great many Conservatives like the hon. Member. I am sure that Conservatives, like my hon. Friends below me, will take a very different view. Let the hon. Member look up those Acts before he speaks next time. [Interruption.] Yes, the Sankey Commission was signed by Mr. Justice Sankey, and the miners' representatives did not sign it at all. [interruption.] Not in the least. The last people in the world who have the right to claim the Sankey Commission are the miners' representatives, who, I am sorry to say, very foolishly did not sign it.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
But that is not the only foolish thing you have done. [An HON. MEMBER. "It is not the only foolish thing that you have done."] I did not do it. [Interruption.] I was not responsible for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb), thank God, nor for the others. They were members of the Commission, and they declined to support the Sankey Commission, and they declined to sign it. They now know what fools—
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
If the hon. Gentleman will let me finish the sentence and will not be so hysterical, that document was signed by one man alone, and his name is John Sankey. The others made reservations. They would not accept it, and now they begin to realise how foolish they were, and, as they always do, they blame somebody else.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
They agree with everything in the Sankey Report except the things that they did not agree with. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. BATEY
I am going to read what was said. The Report is signed by Mr. Frank Hodges, Sir Leo Chiozza Money, Mr. Smillie, Mr. Herbert Smith, Mr. Tawney and Mr. Sidney Webb. They said they were in substantial agreement with the Report of the Chairman, and it was thought unnecessary to set out in a separate statement all their views.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
One of those little points was that there were three of them who did not desire to pay for the property. That is only an insignificant matter, I agree. They were quite willing to accept the Sankey Report provided that he recommended that the property should be taken over without any payment.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I will give the second point. I am quoting from memory, because I was not aware that this matter would be raised. The second point is this. It was part of the condition of the Sankey Report that there should be specific measures for the purpose 745 of preventing strikes and lockouts in the industry. These gentlemen would not accept that. Therefore, two conditions at least which I have in mind now—one was payment, and the other was that there should be special machinery for dealing with strikes and lockouts—were not accepted, and that is the reason why they did not sign the Sankey Report. When you come to the Sankey Report, you will find that there is only one signature. If the hon. Gentlemen had insisted upon putting those conditions into the Sankey Report, it would not have been a Sankey Report, because Mr. Justice Sankey would not have signed it. They know it perfectly well. It is only because they now know what a wretched tactical error they perpetrated at that time that they are now trying to blame somebody else, and they have done it in every strike that has taken place.
§ Mr. POTTS rose—
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I cannot give way. It is really quite beside the discussion at this stage, but it is a very good indication of the way—
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I followed Sankey in all the things wherein the majority recommended a particular course, every one, and I am prepared to meet these hon. Gentlemen either here or in the constituencies on that particular issue. I have been to the miners to say so. This is an illustration of the tact with which these gentlemen have secured support. [Interruption.] I rose to support a Bill which they introduced. Nobody would have believed it, but this is the way in which the miners' business has been steered for something like the rocks. And they are surprised that the miners in this country are in a worse plight than they have ever been in before!
§ Mr. GEORGE HALL
I rise to support the Second Reading of this Bill. I should like, not at any great length, to deal with some of the points which were raised by the Proposer and Seconder of the Amendment, and, if I may say so, incidentally, with some of the points which were raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon 746 Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). He said that he was Prime Minister at the time that the Seven Hours Act was placed on the Statute Book. We are quite well aware that at that time, notwithstanding the fact that he was Prime Minister, it was only as a result of the mineowners' representatives on the Commission being in favour of the seven-hours day that the Government of which he was Prime Minister agreed to the introduction of the Seven Hours Act. We are not unmindful of the stoppage of 1921, which brought about a considerable reduction in the wages of the miners. So far as the miners are concerned, the only difference between the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs and the Prime Minister of to-day is this, that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs as Prime Minister in 1921 listened to the voice of the mineowners in exactly the same way as did the Prime Minister in 1926. The same influences which were at work in 1921 were at work in 1926. The right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) was the master of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, or he was as much the master of the right hon. Gentleman in 1921, as he was the master of the present Prime Minister in 1926.
It is only within the last two or three years that we have heard from the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs the statement with regard to side-tracking the Sankey Report and the report of the Sankey Commission. He knows that the six reservations that were put in by the miners' representatives on the Sankey Commission were reservations dealing with what was, more or less, a charge against the miners of this country by other members of the Commission, and to protect the interests of the miners the representatives of the miners on the Commission felt that those reservations were very necessary. So far as the nationalisation of the mining industry and the reorganisation of the industry were concerned, they were in substantial agreement with the report of the chairman, and no one knows that better than the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. It is another bit of Liberal policy, indeed one might say that it is another piece of Liberal hypocrisy, to try to draw a red herring across the track of the miners' movement in the country—in the mining constituencies where there 747 are very few Conservative Members and very few Liberals.
The right hon. Gentleman has risen to support the Second Reading of the Bill. He did not vote against the Third Reading of the Bill of 1926; the Act this Bill seeks to repeal.
§ Mr. HALL
The right hon. Gentleman may have paired against it. I trust that he will be more successful in getting his Liberal supporters into the Lobby to support the Second Reading of this Rill than he was in getting them to vote against the Third Reading of the Act which is now on the Statute Book. We shall find that there will be a few Liberals voting with us, a larger number voting against us, and the majority not voting at all.
§ Mr. HALL
It is the truth. I will deal briefly with the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment. We have heard from almost every Member of the Conservative party in this House, from the Prime Minister downwards, that they have sympathy for the miners. They have a very peculiar way of extending their sympathy, when one comes to consider their actions. I do not know what the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Clarry) would have had to talk about, had it not been for Mr. Cook and the minority movement. His speech was a rehash of the old argument which has become the regular stock-in-trade of almost every member of the Tory party.
§ Mr. HALL
Mr. Cook is a very much more powerful man than I think he is, if he is responsible for the present conditions. The hon. Member did not touch a single material point in the Amendment. All that he referred to was the influence of Mr. Cook and the minority movement. He did not even move his Amendment. So far as the Seconder was concerned, he certainly had very little to say about the Amendment in his very long speech.
748 I will deal with the position from the print of view of our export trade. When hon. Members deal with the position of the mining industry and the effect of prices, one would imagine that 90 percent. of the coal produced in this country was produced for export purposes. That is not so. Of the 250,000,000 tons of coal produced in this country last year only 58,000,000 tons, or less than one-fourth, had to meet foreign competition. Can it be argued for a moment that the price of coal in this country is in any way influenced by coal imported into this country? Hon. Members opposite know that there is no coal-producing country in the world that can send coal into this country to compete with coal produced in this country. Some 180,000,000 to 200,000,000 tons of coal are required every year for our own purposes, industrial and domestic.
When we are dealing with the subject which is before the House to-day and with prices, hon. Members opposite must know that the operation of the Eight Hours Act, if there be any argument at all adduced for it in regard to prices, could only be brought forward to deal with those districts which are exporting large quantities of their output of coal. One of those districts is the district in which I live, and a portion of which I have the honour to represent. South Wales exports between 60 and 65 per cent. of the coal produced every year. Our South Wales coal has to meet competition which, unfortunately, is very extensive and has been extensive for some considerable time. Notwithstanding that competition, I think I shall be able to prove that under the seven-hours working day we were able to meet that competition, taking into consideration other factors which were at work and which not only affected the export coal trade from this country but the export trade in coal from every other coal-exporting country in the world.
The hon. Member for Newport said one good word for the miners—they are working hard. The miners in South Wales to-day are producing more coal per man than they have produced since 1908. No less an authority than one of the largest mineowners, Sir David Llewellyn, said that he was bound to admit that the miners to-day are working harder than they ever worked before. 749 Let us see what reward they get for that work. The hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Greenall) referred to the fact that the miners in this country have a longer working day than any other miners in Europe. Our miners are working harder than they ever worked before and they have a longer working day now than any miners in Europe. Not only have they a longer working day than any miners in Europe, but it would be interesting to see how their wage rates have been affected since the advent of this Tory Government. A question was put to the Secretary for Mines on December 1st last year. He was asked if he could give the differences in the wages paid to the miners employed in the South Wales coalfield during the year 1927 as compared with the year 1924. These are the figures he gave. In 1927, the average weekly wage was £230,000 less than it was in 1924, an annual reduction of not less than £12,000,000.
If we take miners generally throughout the country, the reduction in their wages in 1927, as compared with 1924, is £800,000 per week, or about £40,000,000 a year. The Government introduced this legislation in order to protect the wages of the miners, at least that was the excuse given in 1926, yet the wages bill of the miners of this country is something like £41,000,000 a year less than it was in 1924. The hon. Member for Newport dealt with the question of unemployment; and one would imagine that everything was all right in the coalfields at the present time. I have never seen conditions such as exist in the coalfields at the moment. As a result of low wages and unemployment the condition of the people is worse than it has ever been for the last 50 years. Men and women are on the verge of starvation and desperation. The great wonder to me is that they are as patient as they are. This does not apply only to South Wales but to every other coalfield in the country.
Let me briefly deal with the effect of the Eight Hours Act on the question of unemployment. I have here a statement giving the percentage of insured persons unemployed in almost all the Exchanges of the country, but, taking the average number of persons unemployed in this country we find that it amounts to a percentage of 10.2 per cent. There are some 750 counties where the percentage is not more than 3 per cent., and if you take London, with its 2,000,000 insured persons, there is 6.7 per cent. unemployed, or a number well below the average for the whole country. Coming into the coalfields and commencing with Yorkshire, according to these figures, which are calculated up to the end of February, 12.6 per cent. of the male insured persons are unemployed. In Northumberland it is 19.6 per cent., in Durham 21.9 per cent.; and in the three industrial counties of South Wales, it is: Glamorgan, 27.3 per cent., in Monmouthshire, 28.4 per cent., and in Carmarthenshire, 34.4 per cent. The effect can be shown upon some of the areas. In Merthyr Tydvil there are no less than 71.9 per cent. of the male insured persons unemployed; in Blaina, 61.2 per cent.; in Cymmer, 54.8 per cent., and in Aberdare, my own district, 43.1 per cent. These figures certainly mean that there must be something radically wrong with an industry in which wages are lower than they have ever been, in which unemployment is rampant and worse than it has ever been before, and in which, as far as we can see, there is little prospect of any improvement.
I am not going to take the trouble of quoting an article which appeared in one of the London papers with regard to the incompetency of the mineowners to deal with the situation, but I want to emphasise the fact that at the present time, as was the case in 1925 and 1926, the Government of this country has not recognised or realised the real cause of the depression in this country and in every other coal-producing country in the world. One might say, after taking a look around the world, that in every coal-producing country there is a capacity for producing coal far in excess of the demand. America, we are told, has a capacity for producing 50 per cent. more coal than it can consume. The French Minister for Commerce, only a week on Saturday, said that the stocks of coal in France during the winter months amounted to 3,500,000 tons. Every European country is in exactly the same position as France. Is there any hon. Member who can say that the depression in the industry is because we are not now producing coal at a price at which customers can buy it? Hon. Members know that as far as pit head 751 prices are concerned we are down almost to pre-War level. In Scotland the pit bead price is 11s. 3d. per ton; in Northumberland, 12s. ld.; in Durham, 12s. 9d; in South Wales, 13s. 2d.; in Derbyshire, 12s. 8d.; in Yorkshire, 13s. 8d.; and in Warwickshire, which is the highest, 16s. 6d.; with the result that we are selling coal for industrial purposes in some instances at a price less than it was sold pre-War.
It is very interesting to note, when dealing with the question of railways, that the Chairman of the Great Western Railway Company at the annual meeting made use of these significant figures. He said that the coal bill of the Great Western Railway in 1927 was naturally lower than it was in 1926, owing to the fact that they had to pay very large sums for the importation of coal into this country during the stoppage. But he also said that the coal bill of the Great Western Railway Company was £475,000 less than it was in 1924, and the amount they had received in increased revenue for conveying coal and coke amounted to £345,000. Those two items, affecting the coal industry—the reduced price for coal and the increased revenue for conveying coal and coke—amount to £821,000, which added, I think, very largely to the dividend of 7 per cent. which was paid by the Great Western Railway Company. With regard to the question of steel and steel production, we are selling coal for steel production as cheaply as it was sold in 1913. On the question of coal sold for export purposes, a matter with which we are so concerned in South Wales, hon. Members might say that we have regained a very large proportion of our markets. In 1927 we exported just about 1,500,000 more tons of coal than in 1925, but for the exportation of that million and a half more tons we received £5,000,000 less. During the course of the first two months of this year we were producing coal, bringing it to the pit head, putting it into the trucks, taking it over the railways, and tipping it into the ships at an average cost of 15s. 9d. per ton.
The result, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs pointed out, is that because we are producing coal at such a cheap rate and sending it into European countries, all 752 kinds of restrictions are being adopted by those countries to prevent this cheap coal being dumped on them. Reference has been made to subsidies in Silesia. I have here some figures taken from one of the best-known South Wales colliery papers of 1st March last. They deal with the price of coal of one of our greatest European competitors. The paper says that the Ruhr price for unscreened coal is 14.87 marks or 14s. 10d. per ton, and the cost of placing it on board at Rotterdam is approximately 4s. a ton, giving an f.o.b. price of 18s. 10d. The pithead price of Ruhr large steam coal is 19s. 10d.; but we can put coal of an equivalent kind into those countries at something like 3s. and 4s. per ton cheaper than can the people who are selling the Ruhr coal. The same thing can he said with regard to Holland and almost every other country. The result, as my hon. and gallant Friend, the Secretary for Mines, knows, is that in Spain, Portugal, Germany, and in almost every other European country, very heavy subsidies are being paid. In Spain a subsidy of nearly 9s. a ton is paid to enable the Spanish producers to compete with the cheap British coal which is being imported into that country.
An hon. Friend has referred to the reduction of the pithead price of coal. I have here an interesting statement which was circulated only this morning by the South Wales Mineowners' Association, who are acting in conjunction with the South Wales Miners' Federation and, I understand, have had a preliminary meeting with certain Ministers because of the very serious situation in which the industry finds itself, to see whether the Government can do something to assist them. They say:Notwithstanding the reduced pit-head price of coal, owing to other charges—freight charges, dock dues, railway charges—which amount in some instances to more than the actual reduction in the pit-head price of coal—that is seriously retarding the position of the South Wales industry in the export market at the present time.Very interesting developments that have taken place were referred to by the Seconder of the Motion. In every coal-producing area in this country we find that the coalowners are not so much concerned about the question of production as about the question of fixing a minimum price and restricting output. They admit that it is not now a question 753 of output, as they argued in 1926. That was the argument that induced the Government to introduce the Eight Hours Act. What the coalowners said then was, "Give us more production, and that will enable us to reduce prices and costs, and enable us to give our workmen more employment." Now they say, "We are producing too much coal and are selling coal too cheaply. We have to fix a minimum price for coal, and we have to restrict the output in almost every coal-producing area of the country." Is not that an admission by the coalowners themselves that the Eight Hours Act is not what they thought it was going to be? If it is necessary to restrict output it would be very much easier to do so under a Seven Hours Act.
There is not a single redeeming feature about the operation of the Eight Hours Act. The miners of the country can never forgive the present Government for their great mistake in passing the Act. The Government are responsible for many mistakes, but it can be argued that the greatest mistake of all was the passing of the Eight Hours Act. It has filled the miners with a desire to show, at the first opportunity, what they think of the action of the Government. If I can get Members of the Government Front Bench sufficiently interested in what I am saying to listen to me, I will ask them to convey to the Prime Minister the views of the mining Members and the Labour party generally regarding his action, and to tell the right hon. Gentleman that he has committed an unforgivable crime, and that his conscience ought never to rest because he was a tool in the hands of the coal-owners in beating down one of the best types of miners in the whole world. The Act has brought about reduced wages, it has depressed conditions, and it has increased unemployment, and if the Prime Minister wants to redeem himself somewhat, we suggest that he should allow this Bill to go through to repeal the Eight Hours Act, so that we can return to the seven-hours day to which the miners are justly entitled.
§ Mr. ELLIS
The hon. Member who has just spoken, quite late in his speech came down to the real point at issue. I am perfectly prepared to admit that this 754 question of hours is one that has given many of us food for considerable thought. The eight-hours day no single owner resorts to, unless he is satisfied that his failure to resort to it will have such an effect on his pit that in the end greater unemployment will result. One sits in this House and listens to speeches from both sides, with quotations largely based on averages, even down to the hundredth point of decimals, and then attempts are made to draw deductions from those particular figures. What seems to escape very many Members, but what, I am sure, never escapes the minds of hon. Members who sit on the Labour side of the House, is the intense differences that exist between all the coalfields of the country. The very existence of those differences makes it almost impossible to argue this question from the general point of view. One thing which does stand out beyond every argument adduced to-day is this—that in dealing with the question of hours and production, whether you work six, seven, eight or nine hours a day, it is no good dividing those hours into the amount of production and saying that if you reduce the hours you have solved the whole difficulty.
What you have to consider is even beyond the circumstances of a district. You have to consider the circumstances of a pit. You have not only to consider the, total output of the pit in relation to the number of hours worked in the pit—it may be only five or four and a half hours a day, or five or six shifts in the week—but you, have to remember that an owner in dealing with a. lessened production—and surely enough that is what has to be done in the future—has now to face one of the most difficult positions which any man has ever been called upon to face. It is mainly this—he has to make up his mind whether he will continue to work his pit on a few days in the week and attempt to employ all the men, or whether he will look facts in the face and say to his men, "I am sorry, but I have to close down portions of this pit and stop working certain seams. I have to concentrate on what is most easily and cheaply got, and for the time, therefore, I shall only be able to employ a limited number of men on whole-time."
§ Mr. ELLIS
I know that my hon. Friend, who comes from the same part of the country as I do, is always kind enough on these occasions to say to me, "inefficiency." Let me remind him that there is one very simple and equally stupid answer and that is that the miners' leaders have been as stupid as the owners have been inefficient. The real point is that neither the hon. Gentleman nor myself believe what we say on that particular point. Now may I proceed?
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
The hon. Member has said that if the owner puts the eight-hour day into operation he only does so because, otherwise, greater unemployment would result in the end. May I ask him to explain how it is that thee are many pits paying very high profits and the owners are not attempting to alleviate the conditions of the men at all?
§ Mr. ELLIS
The hon. Gentleman has got in his little point. I do not wish to escape any of these arguments. All I was trying to do was to place before the House the difficulties of the position which the owners and the men and the coal trade generally have to face at the present time. You have a number of very large units among the pits which are running to-day on very heavy capitals, and these capitals have to be considered in relation to the basis profit made on the whole, and any reduction in hours in those pits throws back on overhead charges a very heavy item, which may make all the difference between a profit and a loss. I am not saying that all the coalfields are like that. I admit that these pits have a peculiar difficulty, but there are pits to-day in many districts which for those reasons and, possibly for those reasons alone, have to work on the eight hours. If they did not do so they would have to face the position of closing down. Then you have many pits which, for almost the same reasons, can get along on a seven-and-a-half hour basis and probably—I say it advisedly—it is between these two figures that the majority of pits would be found to work to-day. That, however, is not the immediate question which we are discussing.
§ 2 p.m.
§ Mr. ELLIS
Even the hon. Gentleman is not perfect. What we really have to find out is some sort of general basis, and then apply particular items within the general basis to each of the pits as to methods of working. But you cannot say that because eight hours is turned into seven hours that, therefore, lessened production will result which you can relate entirely to the hours. When I was interrupted I was discussing that question and perhaps I might put it in this way. Let us take each individual pit and decide what is most useful for that pit, not on the basis of an eight hour or a seven hour day alone, but in relation to what must be done in regard to the total production of the pit. That is the point of view which I wish to enforce on hon. Members. Having started on this basis, the position which hon. Members have to face is this—that efficient or inefficient as the mine owners may be, other industries, such as the textile industry, iron and steel and shipbuilding, have had just as large unemployment as the coal industry and have been through just as great difficulties. I have never heard anyone say that these difficulties were due to the inefficient management of those industries. Yet the results have been the same. We know, when we put all these things on one side, that the real reason is that we are suffering from world difficulties in the whole of our trade, and particularly the coal trade. We have to face the fact that the whole method of the treatment of coal is undergoing a change. We are going away from the basis of selling coal as a final product and we are coming to a cheap coal in the future which will be a raw material to be worked up into finished and semi-finished materials. That means that, for the time being, while facing world competition in our export market, we have to face in our home market a lessened demand for coal because of the changes that are taking place. It is no good expecting that we are going to get back, at any rate for many years, to a position where we can hope to employ the number of men employed in 1913 or even in 1925 and 1926.
What is the remedy suggested? It is often said that the coalowners ought to be condemned because now they are forming centres of agreement. I want to put this to my hon. Friend above the 757 Gangway and to the House generally, as one who is interested in the coal industry. The whole of this country has to realise that the miner is entitled to a decent wage and that the capital invested in the industry is just as much entitled to a decent return as is the capital in any other industry. One cannot get on without the other. Therefore, we go one step further. We are entitled to say that we no longer accept the position that certain trades are to go on existing under sheltered conditions, and that we are to be, not only refused the shelter to which we are entitled, but levied for the benefit of the other sheltered industries. There is only way of doing that—because we are refused, and I think rightly refused, a subsidy—and it is to take the question into our own hands and to say: "We have the raw material; we have been producing a great deal too much of it, but in the future we are going to produce just enough for the needs of the nation, and we are going to sell that material so as to get a decent wage and a decent return on our capital." That is the position I take up, and it is a position in which we can stand firmly and four square.
Obviously, in export trade we meet with competition from abroad of various kinds. Reference was made just now by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) to the question of subsidies on the Continent. The right hon. Gentleman has a particular interest in the Danzig Corridor because he made it, and if he had never made it we should not be in the difficulty we are in, as regards Poland anyhow. The subsidies were being given on the Continent long before we altered the rate of hours in this country. It may have had very little effect that we altered the hours. I do not think it did have any effect at all on the Continent. The real reason for the establishment of those subsidies was, I think, the realisation on the part of the countries producing coal on the Continent that they had to find some sort of employment for their people in those coalfields, and rather than face the difficulty of unemployment, they paid a subsidy to keep their pits going. Our people in this country have seen the uneconomy of the subsidy and have refused to continue it. It remains for other people also in other countries, to see the uneconomy of their 758 proceedings in that regard, and judging from all the signs that one can see, I think that alteration will come about before very long. Even then, owing to certain things mentioned by the last speaker, we shall never get back to the export condition in which we found ourselves before, 'because exactly the same conditions are operating abroad in the coalfields as are operating in this country, and the demands there are altering in the same way and for the same reasons. To-day in America the position in regard to unemployment and production in the coalfields is hopeless and much worse than our own.
What about our home trade? We have already discussed that in an amicable way, and I am relieved to see that hon. Members above the Gangway do appreciate the economic position. We are trying to meet the situation by a series of agreements, made within districts in the first instance, because the districts have a far better knowledge of what is going on in their own districts than would be the case if you tried to do it in one united sort of corporation. So far as these agreements are concerned, it is the only way in which we can deal with the matter in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and we naturally ask those who are as much interested as, and even more interested than, we are to face this situation and examine into it from an economic, rather than from any other point of view, and I believe they are doing so.
The whole basis of an agreement to, remedy the present position must necessarily, to some extent, be the restriction of production. We cannot get away from that, and we are entitled, I think, to say that production ought to be restricted, because when one considers production in any trade from an economic standpoint, one has to remember that it is always to the benefit of a country generally if you can flatten those attenuating curves of expansion and contraction which lead to so much difficulty and speculation. Therefore, all that we are doing is to try by these agreements to get a level kind of production, and yet at the same time leave the pits in such a position that, if the demand increases, the production can increase to meet the demand. What is one of the difficulties which we have to face to-day in relation, for instance, 759 to our friends the railway consumers? It has been allowed to them to increase their charges against us something like 60 per cent. in the last few years, and yet to-day the railways are endeavouring to grind down the coal pits to such an extent that they are trying to demand a two years' contract on prices such as exist to-day. If we are going to he met with intensive competition like that, and not only intensive competition, but an effort to put us right down there owing to the circumstances of the moment, I say to this House and to the country generally, as one representing the trade, that we too are entitled to live and to live in as decent a way as any others.
§ Mr. WELSH
I remember some years ago when the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) enunciated a policy of restriction of output that we were told that the trade unions had been guilty of bringing disaster to the industry, because they had been preaching short hours. It is a poor type of logic that would blame the preaching of a doctrine of that kind by the men while praising it when it comes from the owners because it will mean an increase of profits. It may be that we on this side of the House have too logical a type of mind, and I know that logic is a dangerous thing to apply, but this particular doctrine enunciated by the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Ellis), who has just sat down, namely, the need now in districts for a restriction of output with a view to enabling the colliery owners to live, was not and never has been applied by the owners in the sense that it is intended that there should be wages for the men. I think the average listener to these Debates on the coal mining problem must be struck by the two types of speeches delivered here—by the deep throb of earnestness and the feeling of wrath on the part of my colleagues on this side, in speeches dealing with human life, and by the speeches, on the other side, dealing mainly with profits.
We have heard a speech from the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who probably is the real political villain of the drama. Attempts are now being made in the constituencies, particularly in the mining areas, to rehabilitate the right hon. 760 Gentleman and his party in relation to coal and power. I heard them state to-day, in reply to the Seconder of the Amendment, that the state of the industry in this country was due to the lack of initiative and enterprise and to the inefficiency of the present owners. The mining industry is ruined, says the right hon. Gentleman in effect; let us pool the nation's resources, intellectual and financial, reorganise, reconstruct, make it profitable, but leave it in the hands of those who admittedly have ruined it. Again we may have too logical a mind, but we are not prepared to do that, and we think it would be absolutely foolish if we were to do it.
Coming to this Bill which we are discussing—and I am not going to quote figures, because the House has, perhaps, been blinded already by them—I would remind the House that the plea for the introduction of the Eight Hours Bill was, first of all, that longer hours would reduce costs. It was pleaded that if there were a greater output, and a chance of re-winning the markets which we had lost, not only during the dispute, but which were beginning to be lost previously, the extra hour would enable the men at the end of the week to take home, really, a larger wage. It was merely giving up an hour, and if the miner would only be altruistic enough, if he would only look at the life of the State being threatened by foreign competition, and agree to work one hour more a day, it would really mean a larger wage for him. That was the argument, but, unfortunately, it has not been borne out by the results. I have been in Durham during the last week and visited many districts there. I have never seen in any part of the coalfields—and I have been in the worse parts of South Wales and Scotland—such tremendous difference in the men that I used to meet previously, some of the best men that one could meet, and who, through the inevitable working of blind, economic facts in the industry, have been drowned and crushed. I met one going to a meeting—one of the most decent men that anybody could meet. At one time he had a comfortable balance in the co-operative society, and was struggling to educate his children—a man who never drank, who regularly preached on the Sunday, whose character was above reproach. He had not had a single loaf of bread for a day and a half 761 in his house. That is not an isolated case.
It is not these people's fault that the industry is in this condition. Had the preaching of A. J. Cook been a thousand times worse—or, let me put it in this way—a thousand times more violent from the point of view of hon. Members opposite, it would not have damaged the industry. The hon. Member who has just spoken seems to have put his finger upon the fact. He has been interested in the coal trade for a long time, but he is only beginning to realise that there are differences in districts as regards strata, geological formation and even geographical position. He has advocated restriction of output in districts. Does he not realise that the best districts would be able to undercut other districts? Perhaps by the time the Election comes, he may be in the, position, in which we were many years ago, of advocating a pool for the whole country. When we advocated a pool in 1921, we were held up to derision, and told that the only argument we had to advance to meet the situation was to repeat the parrot cry, "Pool, pool !" The hon. Member's view at the moment is parochial, but we hope, as the result of argument and discussion, that we may look to him to become an advocate of a real pool under a nationalised system.
The result of the Eight Hours Act has been to lower wages, to create more unemployment and a higher rate of accidents—I am glad that the Seconder of the Amendment, while his speech in many ways was inclined to be a little callous, did mention this—to weaken vitality, deepen and accentuate misery in the districts, and, much more than loss of wages, has meant loss of character by demoralisation. When we hear representatives of the collieries in this House making statements that the only way to save the industry is by undercutting, by selling cheaply in the markets of the world their surplus stocks, it seems to me that the miners and the community generally are to be asked to subsidise the production of iron and steel, shipbuilding and engineering on the Continent by cheap British coal, and those industries in turn are to be able to compete against iron and steel, shipbuilding and engineering this country. So that your last state is to be worse than your first.
762 Why not tackle the problem as it ought to be tackled? Let us reorganise above all things, and do our best to make it profitable. We can do it with the new developments taking place in the various methods of treating coal. We judge men by what they do, and not by what they say. I remember, in 1926, we heard a voice coming through the ether saying, "Cannot you (the miners) trust me to see that you get a square deal?" That came from the Prime Minister. Our ideas of a square deal are not increased hours, worsened conditions and lower wages. We are contrasting the reputation of the Prime Minister for a fair and square deal for the mining industry, with the action which he was compelled to take by the mineowners. There is the misery that is existing to-day among 5,000,000 of our population in the mining areas. That is something for which we are not answerable, either in this House or in the Miners' Federation. We have had no control on the situation at all. We are continually putting the case for the miners, and we know that when a time comes to assess the values of men who are engaged in public life to-day, an entirely different assessment will be applied to the Leader of the present Government than what the Tory newspapers predict. Our women, particularly, and our children will remember all that has taken place since 1926. Our women are asking themselves,What shall we remember in the long years afterWhen time has set its seal upon the plan of all his year?Shall he be remembered as the maker of our laughterOr damned by bitter curses as the author of our fears?
Captain ARTHUR EVANS
After the speech of the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment, and specially after the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Ellis), the House will generally agree that stem-hers on these Benches give place to no one in their concern and anxiety at the position in the coalfields to-day. After all, what is the House invited to do? We are invited to go back to the seven-hours working day, instead of the eight-hours day which obtains in the coalfields to-day. That is the contribution which the Socialist party propose to make to the economic problem which faces us in the competitive markets of the world. 763 Several moving speeches have been delivered by hon. Members on the position of the miner, especially in South Wales. There is not the slightest doubt that the stress that exists in these coalfields causes us all the very gravest anxiety.
Before coming to the larger question, I would like to deal with one or two points which were raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). He invited the House to consider the fact that the Sankey Commission, which reported in 1919, unanimously recommended that the working hours in the coal mining industry should be seven and not eight, and he asked the House to bear that in mind as if they should have no regard to the present day conditions and altered circumstances. But the right hon. Gentleman forgot to remind the House that the recommendations of the Sankey Commission had not proved a success. If they had, the industry would not have been making a loss of 1s. 2d. per ton before the subsidy was introduced. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded as if the industry was in a paying and prosperous position before the lamentable stoppage. it is well known that that was not the case. The Eight Hours Act is criticised by hon. Gentlemen opposite as not being a success. They say that when the Act was introduced, we made certain observations which have not been fulfilled, but they seem to lose sight of the fact that the Act commenced operations at the most difficult period in the history of the industry. It is a fact which we cannot easily overlook that the industry was closed entirely for six months.
We were aware that our foreign customers, who came to South Wales for their supplies, had for six months to look elsewhere. Surely, it is reasonable to suppose that, although we may make the most adequate and reasonable propositions we can in the circumstances, we cannot hope to regain a position, which we held previously, immediately we resume active operations. That argument applies to every kind of industry, whether it be a large and 764 important one, or an individual shop in Merthyr High Street. There is not the slightest doubt that, during the time the industry was closed down, many of our foreign customers, who undoubtedly preferred the quality of the Welsh hard steam coal, had to look elsewhere for coal, and our competitors took the same advantage of that situation that any business man would take in this country, if he were placed in the same favourable position. They obviously said, "The only reason you are coming to us for your coal is that you cannot get it from South Wales; therefore, we will make long term contracts, which will Lind you for a period of years." Although we admit that that was the condition of affairs which will have an effect for a long time to come, we do not feel that the industry would be any better off if it reverted to the seven hours day.
What would be the actual effect if this Bill were passed? It cannot be disputed that, at least, an additional cost of 2s. 8d. per ton would be placed on our export coal, and, in view of the fact that we are steadily losing our markets at our present cost of export coal, it is unreasonable and uneconomic to suggest that economic difficulties will he overcome by placing an additional burden of 2s. 8d. per ton on export coal. I do know that some of my hon. Friends on the other side of the House express an opinion that we are unable to hold our own in the export markets of the world owing to keen competition among ourselves at home. My hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Clarry), in a typically able speech, pointed out that that contention was not in accordance with the facts, because we find that Mr. Cook complains that there is widespread short time as well as unemployment as a result of the Eight Hours Act. This is unfortunately true, but I do not think anyone will dispute that short time is not an entirely new phenomenon. The cause of the short time is the glut of coal upon the inland markets consequent upon the loss, temporary only it is hoped, of a portion of our export trade. In the northern counties this loss is due primarily to the competition of Polish coal, which is produced by mineworkers whose earnings average only 3s. 9d. per shift, hauled 400 miles at a 765 subsidised rate of 3s. 4d. a ton, and sold free on board at Danzig at an average price of 13s. 3d. a ton, as compared with our price of 15s. 10d. f.o.b. Humber. It is just reported from Poland, I understand, that she has secured an order from the Swedish State Railways at a price of 11s. a ton f.o.b., which is well below the price quoted by Northumberland.
There is not the slightest doubt, I do not think there can be any argument about it, as to the conditions which prevail in our export coal trade to-day, and the question for the House is, what are the best means of tackling the problem? I think it will be the opinion of the majority of hon. Members, especially on this side of the House, that that condition will not be improved by curtailing the working day by one hour. We all know that the Act passed by the Government in 1926 operates only for five years, and the Prime Minister made a very definite promise to the House, and to the country, that if the conditions in the industry itself and the conditions of international competition permitted, he for one, if he were in power, would take the earliest opportunity of reviewing the whole position in the light of the facts prevailing at that time. I do not think the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite to-day have produced any fresh facts which would justify the House in saying that the time has now come to reconsider that Act, and having regard to all the circumstances prevailing at the moment, I hope sincerely the House will reject this Bill to-day.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Captain A. Evans) says that in the speeches from this side of the House to-day no fresh facts have been given which would justify the House in reconsidering the Eight Hours Act. If the present situation in the mining industry itself is not sufficient reason for a reconsideration of the whole mining position, as well as the question of hours, then nothing at all will convince right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House. Frankly, I do not believe anything would convince hon. Gentlemen opposite except the practical experience of working eight hours a day in a mine. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who is the Secretary 766 for Mines has been down some mines quite recently, and I am sure he will agree that even walking to the coal surface itself is very difficult work—in some of the low places in which men have to work, and if the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff could only have for two or three days running the experience of working eight hours a day in some of the deep mines of this country, I am perfectly certain he would make a much different speech after that experience.
No doubt if I had served my apprenticeship in this industry, as some hon. Gentlemen opposite have, I should be just as capable of holding my own in that industry as they are.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The hon. and gallant Member admits that he does not know what mining experience is, and that only confirms what I say, that if he had some experience of working in the mines, it would not be very long before be changed his tune. I am very sorry the Prime Minister cannot be here to-day to hear this discussion, because he did say, and it was reinforced by other statements from the Front Bench, during the discussions in 1926—and he practically convinced his own side—that whole the eight-hours day would mean an hour's work more, there would be the compensation of improved wages. No one can get away from that fact, that the impression left upon the House was that if longer hours were worked wages would improve and more men would find employment. I come from a part of the country where there is a condition of things which has been eloquently described by an hon. Member representing one of the Scottish constituencies, a part of the country where we have had for 60 years not an eight-hours day, not a seven-hours day, but, in the greater part of the county, six and a half hours a day.
§ Mr. LAWSON
Durham. Those were the hours of the coal getters. A six and a half hours day the great bulk of our men had, the coal getters in the pits. In most cases that was actually six and a half hours—
§ Mr. LAWSON
Now we are told the eight-hours' day is not in operation in Durham, it is only seven and a half hours for coal getters. But, make no mistake, there is no question about it that these men who had previously worked six and a half hours are down the pits eight hours now, although the coalowners themselves 60 years ago thought that for a man working at the coal face six and a, half hours was long enough. As a, result of the action of the Government, our men are actually working eight hours. It is very difficult when one is addressing this House to convey to hon. Members exactly what is the practical everyday experience of miners. I will give my own experience. I was travelling on the railway from my home the other day and a miner got into the carriage. I asked him at which colliery he worked. I then questioned him in regard to the number of hours he was working, and he told me that from the time he left home to the time he got back again he had done 11 hours. It must not be overlooked that these men have frequently to travel long distances from village to village to get to their work. Very often, they come out of the pit sweating and have to put on wet clothes. I am sure it would arouse the deepest sympathy of the hardest-hearted person inside or outside this House to see the actual state to which these men are sometimes reduced.
During the last sixty years the only change which civilisation has been able to effect in the coal industry is that the men are now working longer hours, and their actual conditions of work are worse than they were sixty years ago. I am not now dealing with statistics, but I am speaking from my own experience, and I have no hesitation in saying that I never saw the mining population worse-dressed than they are to-day. I have never before known people tell such sad stories in regard to the difficulty they experience in making both ends meet. The one thing that is certain, from the point of view of the workers, is that the improved conditions which were promised when the Eight Hours Bill was passed have not materialised, and the results have been worse than was expected by those who took the most pessimistic view. The results have been bad for the coalowners, if the story they tell us is true. It is all very well to refer to what appears in 768 the Liberal books, but we cannot forget what happened in 1920 and 1921, when we suggested a pool for the whole industry. It is a rather remarkable fact that the coalowners have now decided to adopt the pool, which was received by them with laughter when we suggested it in 1921. In Yorkshire, they are now pooling their resources; the Durham coalowners are feeling the result of it, and they are afraid that they will be compelled to adopt the pool as well.
§ Mr. LAWSON
At the present time, the miners are starving, and I sincerely hope that the coalowners will finally arrive at the view which the miners arrived at in 1921, that a pool consisting of the whole of the districts in the country is the best thing for competition and business as well as for other purposes. If hon. Members opposite think that on this side of the House we are concerned about this matter for political ends, they make a great mistake. I am not able to deal effectively with statistics, and miners are aware of their shortcomings in this respect, but we are painfully aware of the shocking state of things existing in the mining areas. If hon. Members would support this Bill, I think it would be the best business deal this country has done for a long time. It would compel the coalowners to do their business properly, and, if only they would do that, they would realise that, in this country, where we are fortunate as regards the quality of our coal and our geographical position, by the application of common sense for the benefit of all the people in the industry, we could face any competition on much shorter hours than we have at present. Hon. Members have complained that in Poland they subsidise their coal production, and it is said that they have done that because we have extended the hours of labour in mines.
Does the hon.. Member believe that if we reverted to a seven-hours day Poland would withdraw the subsidy?
§ Mr. LAWSON
By the passing of the Eight Hours Act, the Government not only promoted reaction in this country but they also produced a vicious reaction in the coal industry all over Europe. 769 The hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Clarry) talked about co-operation in the mining industry. Conferences are actually being held now on the question of co-operation in the industry, and I venture to say that there is not an industry in which, during the past year or two, the workers have co-operated so heartily and given of their best as in the mining industry. It is true that there have been reductions, but the only result has been that, when the workers have agreed to reductions to keep pits working, the next colliery has had to have reductions in order to compete, and so you have had the same state of things prevailing in other districts. I think I ought to read something to the House which my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. Whiteley) read a week or two ago. It is a quotation from the "Newcastle Chronicle," which cannot be said to be biased in favour of the workers, and it really expresses the feeling of the people who are on the spot. The "Newcastle Chronicle," in a leading article on the wage of 7s, 8d. a day, says this:How is a man engaged in strenuous labour, taxing his energies, taxing his endurance, to maintain himself in physical efficiency and to provide even a meagre livelihood for his wife and children on such a basis? He continues to give an honest output, but is beginning to doubt very much whether a miner's life is worth living.That is with regard to the wage of 7s. 8d., but nearly 60 per cent. of our people have only 6s. 6d., and there are the boys working in the mines. I came home in the omnibus the other day with a friend of mine who said that his boy had begun to work in the pit. He was 14½ years of age, and, working for four days, received 5s. 10d. Four days in a mine for a boy in his 15th year for 5s. 10d., working eight hours a day in the mine! I say, therefore, that whether this matter be regarded from the business point of view, or the industrial point of view, or the point of view of the human effect upon the people in the industry, or whether it be regarded from the national or international point of view, it would be a good thing if this House could see its way to accept the Second Reading of this Bill to go back to the seven-hour day. Of this I am certain, that, whatever parties may say at the next General Election, if the House does not accept 770 this position, all classes of society will realise that this Government, which passed the Eight Hours Bill through, did a great wrong, not only to the miners of this country but to the community, and the community itself will right that if it has a real opportunity to do so.
§ 3 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY for MINES (Commodore Douglas King)
During this Debate there have been many accusations, such as are frequently made from the opposite benches, that the speeches from this side of the House were based on monetary interests and not on the interests of the workers, but I think that this Debate has shown that whereas, as again is rather usual, the speeches from the opposite benches have been based almost entirely on sentiment, the speeches from this side have shown a real, practical sympathy with the difficulties of the men and the difficulties of the industry. If I may make a personal allusion in speaking for the first time for the Mines Department, I would say that, as hon. Members opposite know full well, my acquaintance with the mining industry is only of a few weeks' duration, but, at the same time, although I have not known much about mining, I have had the opportunity of meeting with a great number of miners, for during the War I had the privilege of serving with many thousands of some of the most excellent men that I ever met in this world—miners from Yorkshire, Durham, the Midlands, Scotland and South Wales. That association anchors my sympathies for all time with those men with whom I served, so that, whatever my appearances may be, or whatever I may say in regard to the mining industry, I hope hon. Members will believe that, as long as I live, I shall always do everything in my power to assist the miners and the industry which supports them.
If I may speak for a moment of a matter to which reference has been made by the Mover of the Bill and by other speakers, with regard to the Prime Minister either not being here to-day or having so far declined to meet deputations from the Miners' Federation, I should like to remind the House that only a few months ago the Prime Minister had under consideration the question whether the Mines Department should 771 be done away with, and I am authorised by the Prime Minister to say that, in considering this matter, he was very considerably influenced by the representations made to him by the Miners' Federation; and, partly owing to those representations, he has kept on the Mines Department and reappointed a Secretary for Mines. It can hardly be expected, when he has continued the department at the request of the mining industry and of the Miners Federation, that he personally should deal with all these matters. He has appointed a Minister under him to deal with these questions, and therefore, it cannot fairly be expected that he should himself receive deputations and deal with questions affecting the mining industry, when he has appointed me Secretary for Mines. I would only like to say, with regard to this suggested deputation from the Miners' Federation, that I shall be only too pleased to receive a deputation from the Federation at any time they like to apply to me, to discuss the matters which they wished to discuss with the Prime Minister.
The main charge during the Debate has been, of course, that the Government has been mainly responsible, not only for all the ills under this Act, but for all the ills which affect the mining industry. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said that he blamed the present Government entirely for the state of the industry. He said he thought that this Government had grossly mismanaged the coal stoppage, and, as evidence of that mismanagement, he said that the stoppage had continued for seven months, whereas the previous record for length of dispute had been three months. I cannot help wondering whether the shorter duration of the previous strikes was not partly due to the methods of the right hon. Gentleman himself. We know that his general method, during his period of office as Prime Minister, of dealing with any trade dispute, was to give what was asked for, and so encourage further demands. Going right back to 1914, in the early period of the War, the right hon. Gentleman, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, even at that time, founded, as I consider, many of the disasters with which we have since been faced. He gave way then when the coal strike was 772 called; he granted a rise of, I think, 2s. 6d. in wages at the demand of the Miners' Federation, and that was the basis of the repeated demands that have been made since. It encouraged the leaders of the trade union movement to believe that they need only demand a thing sufficiently strongly and they would obtain what they asked.
It was the method of the right hon. Gentleman during his period of office that encouraged the making of further demands, and I really tremble to think what would have happened to the coal-mining industry or to this country if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs had been in power when the last coal stoppage took place. We only have to consider the attitude adopted by the right hon. Gentleman during the general strike to realise what a disaster it would have been to the country had he had to deal with it. It has been stated by various speakers that opinions were expressed during the passage of the Eight Hours Bill that the wages for the longer hours that were to be worked would not be reduced. When that Act was passed, conditions were not so bad as they were after a further three or four months after the stoppage. Those opinions were based on the condition of affairs at the time they were given, but we had to face another three or four months of stoppage and disrupture after those opinions were given.
§ Commodore KING
The Bill became law some three to four months before the stoppage finally ceased. [Interruption.] The hon. Member's own colleagues will put him right on that matter. There is no question at all that the Eight Hours Act was in force months before the stoppage finally ceased. During those months of the stoppage various offers were made to the Miners' Federation both with regard to wages and hours. They were all refused. We have been told during the debate that the Prime Minister had said that wages would not be reduced. At least, on two occasions, in September and in November, 1926, the Government offered to set up a national independent tribunal to deal with the wages question in the mining districts. An hon. Member shakes his head, but I can give him the actual dates in 773 September and November, and Members who were dealing with the coal situation will bear me out when I say that those offers were made as late as the second week in November, 1926, and were definitely turned down by the Miners' Federation and by their conferences in the districts. The Government said: "If those district agreements are going to mean less wages for longer hours, a national tribunal shall go into those questions and carefully consider them." That would have been a certain guarantee against unfair reductions in wages. [An HON. MEMBER: "What were the conditions?"] The conditions were to be settled in the districts. Whatever they were, a national tribunal was offered to consider and review them in the interests of the men.
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman also aware of the deep feeling that existed with regard to two other large professions, the teaching profession and the police force? There was a national agreement, and behind this offer there was an attempt to break down the national agreement.
§ Commodore KING
I am dealing only with the coal question, quite big enough and important enough matter to deal with. The miners themselves refused those offers of a national tribunal, and therefore can hardly complain, as some hon. Members have complained, that there is now no national tribunal before which they can put their case.
§ Commodore KING
Those who have been listening to the Debate know that there have been complaints that there is no possibility of bringing before a national wages tribunal the present low rates of wages that are being paid, and it is to that I am referring. If the hon. Member had taken the trouble to sit in this House during the whole of the Debate, as I have done, he would have heard the whole of the speeches.
§ Commodore KING
I have stated it perfectly accurately. If the hon. Member will read the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow, he will see that I was perfectly accurate in what I said would be put before the National Wages Tribunal. With regard to the effects of these longer hours, I think it is universally admitted that there has been a reduction in the cost of production—there has been a reduction of 2s. 6d. a ton. That has, without doubt, reduced the loss which was previously being experienced by the industry. Had that reduction not taken place, there is no doubt whatever that many of the pits that are working at the present time would have had to close down over 12 monhs ago. It is quite impossible to carry on the pits indefinitely at such a loss as that. The reduction of the costs of production and the working of longer hours, thereby spreading the heavy overhead charges, have made it possible to continue working a large number of pits which otherwise would have had to be closed down.
I know that wages are low, and that there have been further reductions in Durham and Northumberland, with which everybody sympathises, but at the same time, I think hon. Members opposite will agree that it is better to receive even low wages than no wages at all. If it had not been for the reduction of working costs, a far larger proportion of men would now be receiving no wages at all" and more pits would have been closed down. It has also been stated that, although the costs of production have been reduced, all that reduction has been dissipated by lower prices. The lower prices which we have had to accept in our export trade only show the strength of our competitors. It has been calculated from the benches opposite that our competitors in Poland and other foreign countries are working shorter hours than we are in this country at the present time; yet those countries can successfully compete against us and drive us out of foreign markets, even though they are working fewer hours. It shows that, had it not been possible for us to 775 have reduced our costs of production by 2s. 6d. or more, those foreign countries could have still further cut their prices, and reduced their costs, without any difficulty whatever.
§ Commodore KING
My argument is going to show that the reduced costs have enabled us more closely to compete with our competitors.
§ Commodore KING
Of course, if the hon. Member carries it far enough, why should you ever let them out of the pit at all? On the other hand, why get any coal at all? Why allow anyone to go down the pits, if you cannot sell your coal in competition with your rivals? I want to draw the attention of the House to the position of our foreign rivals. It has been pointed out that they work fewer hours than we do, and yet they can compete with us. If we had not reduced our costs, they could still further have reduced their prices, without affecting their standard of living. In spite of everything that has been said by the Opposition, no single case can be shown how the lengthening of hours or the reduction of wages in this country has in any way lowered the conditions of living in the mines of those foreign competitors. That has to be proved before you can show that the reduction in wages and the lengthening of hours have been thrown away in this country.
§ Mr. PALING
Will the hon. and gallant Member tell me how it is that those foreign competitors are able to compete with us, in spite of the fact that not only do they work shorter hours but that their geological conditions are infinitely worse than anything that obtains in Great Britain?
§ Commodore KING
I can tell the hon. Member why they can compete with us; 776 it is a question of wages. He knows perfectly well that, however low wages may be in this country, they are double the wages received by the miner in Poland. Not only have the conditions in this country of longer hours and lower wages not in any way been reflected in a downward direction amongst our foreign rivals, but the opposite tendency has taken place, and we find that now, Germany is almost on a level with us both in regard to wages and hours. With regard to Poland, the miners are at the present time demanding an increase in wages. So far there has certainly been no downward effect but rather the reverse, an upward tendency and a demand for better conditions amongst the miners working in those foreign countries. I hope both for their sakes and for ours that that will come about, because if we can get a little nearer to the cost of production by having the wages in the Polish mines a little more on a parity with ours, we certainly shall have a far better opportunity of competing against that foreign coal.
I do not wish to weary the House with too many figures, but as we have had a discussion on the question of exports from this country and from foreign countries, I would draw the attention of the House to the position before the Eight Hours Act came into force or, rather, before the subsidy was brought into force in August, 1925. For the previous 12 months with regard to our export trade, there had been a steady decrease, almost constant throughout the year. It had been going down and down and the total for the last month of the year ended August, 1925, amounted to something over 2,000,000 tons of a decrease in our exports as compared with August, 1924. That was the position in August, 1925. The fall was so steep that had nothing intervened in our favour, our export trade now would have been almost negligible. In August, 1925, the subvention was brought into force, and the subvention at once, with the assistance given to the mining industry, enabled us to compete more nearly and to raise the amount of our exports. Then after the stoppage we came to the increase in hours. That, again, kept us on a higher level of exports during 1927 than had been the case during the 12 months preceding August, 1925.
777 During the first few months of last year we were filling up orders. We had a false boom and we were replacing orders which had been carried over from the long stoppage, but after these first few months of prosperity we again declined, and, although it was very serious, I would like to point out to hon. Members that during the worst month of the later period we never touched—I hope we shall not—the low level which we reached during some of the months of 1925. Now with regard to the actual effects of the stoppage of 1926. Hon. Members themselves have referred to the loss of markets. I want to draw the attention of the House to the increase in output and exports of foreign countries of our competitors due to the operation of the coal stoppage. In 1926 Poland increased her production of coal by 23 per cent. as compared with 1925. The increase in the number of tons between 1925 and 1927 is 9,000,000 tons, or 30.8 per cent. increase.
§ Commodore KING
That is production, but the figures of their exports are far more telling. Germany, as between 1925 and 1926 has increased her exports by 72.9 per cent. [HON. MEMBERS: "We bought some of that!"] We may have had to buy some of that coal, but it only emphasises the foolishness of the coal stoppage. That is the whole of my argument; I am trying to explain some of the difficulties we have to meet, and why we have to meet them. When these figures are realised it is obvious that we had to bear a heavy blow in 1926 under which we staggered, and that we have not yet recovered from that blow.
§ Commodore KING
I have been careful to follow the moderate attitude of Mr. Cook in his pamphlet, and I am using the word "stoppage" throughout. I do not want to take up too much time of the House because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson) has to reply. With regard to Germany, the increase in exports was 72.9 per cent. In Holland in the two years between 1925 and 1926 the increase was 83.9 per cent., Poland 54.6 per cent., showing that we have not yet recovered 778 from that blow. We have reports from commercial secretaries in these different foreign countries, and during last month we received reports from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Turkey, Poland and Belgium, every one stating in set terms that we have not yet recovered our position and that in some cases it is very serious as compared with our pre-stoppage export trade. From Sweden there is this statement:The effects of the 1926 stoppage have not been overcome.It might interest the House to know that the British share of Swedish coal imports in 1925 was 80 per cent., whereas in 1927 it was only 46 per cent, or a little more than half. Another point which has been raised related to accidents in mines. Figures were quoted by my hon. Friend who seconded the Amendment. The figures given in a certain pamphlet that was mentioned were provided by the Mines Department, and I am not questioning them in the least. In fatal accidents there was an increase of.01 per 1,000 men employed in the two years, the one year when we were working on the seven hours system and the next year working on the eight hours system.
§ Commodore KING
If the hon. Member wishes it, I will make a comparison with 1924, which is some distance back and in the seven-hours period. The death rate per 1,000 men employed for 1924 was.98. That was under the seven hours, and a fair way of finding out what the probable percentage would be for eight hours would be to take one-seventh of that figure and add it to.98 to get the figure for the eight hours. If that were done it would still make the probable accident rate for that year far higher; it would be 1.12 for 1924 as against the actual figure of 1.09 during last year. Therefore, the probable rate of increase, even with the extra hour worked, has not been experienced. I am not labouring that point, however [interruption.] Is the hon. Member disappointed that it is not a heavier percentage? What has not so far been 779 stated in the Debate is the fact that such small increase as there has been in the accidents has been in connection with falls of ground. In most of the other classes of accidents the percentage of accidents is less. The principal increase has been under the heading of "falls of ground." Hon. Members opposite who have practical knowledge of the industry realise that these falls of ground are largely due to the seven months' stoppage. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] During a seven months' stoppage the condition of the mines is bound to deteriorate.
§ Commodore KING
I am not speaking of accidents during the seven months' stoppage. I am merely pointing out that the mines were closed down, and that it was impossible to have proper inspection made and repairs done during those seven months. When work was restarted, obviously there would be greater falls of ground and therefore greater liability to accidents. It is directly due to that seven months' stoppage that this increase has taken place. We all regret that unemployment has increased, but that increase was not unforeseen, and it is not entirely due to any action of this Government. I have here another publication with which hon. Members opposite are probably familiar, and which was only issued recently. It is called "The Mining Situation. The Immediate Programme," and is published under the joint auspices of the Trade Union Congress, the Labour party and the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. This is what they say with regard to the problem of labour supply:One of the most pressing problems is that of the over-supply of labour. Even under the Labour scheme there would be no prospect of the industry keeping 1,100,000 miners permanently employed.We agree with them.The view is generally held that there is a surplus of from 200,000 to 250,000 workers in the mining industry at the present time.That is our view, but we have not reached those figures, and that document was published only the other day.
§ Commodore KING
This document is dealing with Labour policy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, Labour policy now."] Labour policy apparently accepts the fact that there are from 200,000 to 250,000 more men than are required in the mining industry at the present time, so that although there is unemployment, and distressing unemployment, we have to realise that there is a great redundancy of workers in the industry. It is agreed that certain pits will have to close down. The whole idea is, in time, to get back our own markets and then, of course, the position will change; but, taking the long view, we have to realise that a certain acount of unemployment is necessary at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) also dealt with the question of unemployment and again laid the whole blame on this Government. The policy of the Government, according to the right hon. Gentleman, was mainly responsible for unemployment. Hon. Members on the Opposition Benches above the Gangway may recognise the book which I have in my hand. It is called "Britain's Industrial Future," and is a publication of the Liberal party. So far from agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, it says:If in the present condition of the industry the hours were restored to their previous level, either a fresh charge would be laid on the industry, since a larger number of men would he required to raise the same tonnage, or else the miners who are paid by the ton would earn, in a shorter period, an even lower wage than now.That is not what the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon. He and other Members have spoken about our competition with foreign countries and have referred to what they call "the Polish subsidy." There is no real subsidy on coal in Poland. There are preferential rates, in the carriage of coal on the railways, and, as these railways are paying propositions, so far from there being any direct subsidy, this encouragement of the export of coal does not cost the taxpayers anything. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs said, "Look at the result of the eight-hours day. You pass 781 the Eight Hours Act, and as a consequence Poland gives a subsidy." I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman is not here, but it may interest the House to know that the preferential rates for coal in Poland were put on in 1925, so that there is no connection whatever between the passing of the Eight Hours Act in this country and the placing of a preferential rate on coal in Poland. I really think the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was of a character more likely to encourage our rivals than to help the industry of this country. I am sorry I have not more time, owing to the interruptions, to deal with some other points, but I would like to say, in conclusion, that from the condition of the coal trade at the present time, from the condition into which it was getting before the Act of 1926 was passed, from the lowering of costs which enables us now to compete more closely with our rivals and, I hope, more successfully with them before long, I think the passing of the Eight Hours Act has been justified. On the other hand, to do away with it would without doubt, as is said in the terms of the Amendment, reduce the already low rates of wages in the coal industry or increase the already heavy burden of unemployment.
Mr. WILLIAM ADAMSON
I agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down in two respects. I agree, as do my hon. Friends on these Benches, with the policy that he intimated when he said that the Government had decided that the Secretary for Mines and his Department were to be continued. We also agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman when he spoke of the serious condition of the coal trade of the country. From the rest of his speech, however, we profoundly differ. I was interested when he made a quotation from the pamphlet recently issued by the Labour party, dealing with the mining situation. He said he was in common agreement with the part that he quoted, and he went on to say that both he and the Government did not agree with the policy laid down by the Labour party and the Miners' Federation in that pamphlet, but we are strongly of the opinion that some such policy as that is immediately necessary if we are to have an improvement of the deplorable condition in which the mining industry of this country finds itself to-day.
782 The Bill which we are discussing, and which has been brought in by my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Greenall) seeks to repeal the Eight Hours Act of 1926. That Act, in my opinion, is one of the most foolish and futile Acts of Parliament that has ever been placed upon the Statute Book of this country. By that Act the Government reversed the policy of every other Government for the past 80 years or thereabouts, including former Conservative Governments. For the first time in these 80 years, we had a Government proposing to increase the hours of labour in a part of the industrial system of this country. The conditions under which this Act was placed upon the Statute Book were of a shameful character. There is no doubt that the Government declared again and again in the course of the struggle of 1926 that they simply wanted to hold the balance fairly between the two parties. After that declaration had been made by the Prime Minister and by other responsible Members of the Government, there is not a shadow of doubt that they came down upon the side of the coalowners. The coalowners were either able to convince the Prime Minister or to coerce him to the view that the only way out of the difficulty in which the coal trade and country found themselves in 1926 was by reducing the wages and increasing the hours of the miners
From these benches the Prime Minister was warned against embarking on such a fatal policy. It was pointed out that neither reduction in wages nor increase of hours would take the industry or the nation out of their difficulty. It was pointed out by Member after Member on this side of the House that to follow any such policy was bound to make things worse both for the mining industry and for the nation. The Government were warned that a policy of this kind would force our competitors into a vicious circle which would make things very much worse for everybody. The warning was unheeded, and the coalowners, with the assistance of the Government, proceeded to reduce the wages and increase the hours. The Mover of the Amendment told us that the policy that had been adopted by the Government of consenting to the increase of miners' hours had lowered the cost of production to the extent of 2s. 2d. per ton. We are not 783 agreeing with him that that is the only factor which enters into the reduction that has taken place.
I am taking the hon. Member's figures for the moment for the purpose of argument, and I would ask him, how has the lowering of the cost by 2s. 2d. a ton been used by the coalowners of this country? It has simply been used to enable them to intensify the insane competition among themselves for the export trade; it has also intensified competition among themselves in the home trade. Not only has it done that, but it has put upon our competitors the necessity for taking certain steps to enable them to meet our competition. The Parliamentary Secretary, in replying to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said that the right hon. Gentlemen was wrong in saying that the Polish Government's reply to our action in increasing the hours was to subsidise the transport of coal from the Silesian coalfields to the sea. He might be right, but he omitted to say that the Polish coalowners have approached their Government suggesting that they should be allowed to increase the prices of the home supplies by 10 per cent., to enable them more effectively to deal with the competition of Britain for export coal.
It shows, at least, that the action of this Government in forcing an eight-hours' day on the industry, and putting the owners in a position to lower the price of coal, has forced our competitors to take steps to defend themselves, and one of the steps is to approach the Polish Government requesting them to become a consenting party to 10 per cent. going on to the cost of the home supplies. I do not know whether they are likely to get it, but the mining industry in Poland has already got the transport of their coal subsidised by the Polish Government, and it would not be surprising if the Polish Government consented to the new request. Not only have the coalowners in Poland been compelled to find ways and means to defend 784 themselves, but the same thing has taken place in Germany and other coalfields in the world, which are in a position to take a share of the export coal trade. Simply by taking what in our opinion was a fatal step, we have not only intensified competition among our coalowners, but forced our competitors into the vicious circle along with them. One of my friends informs me that while in Berlin he saw British coal quoted at 4s. a ton less than German coal could be purchased in Berlin, showing how the lowering of costs by increasing the hours has set up a vicious circle. Coalowners here go on intensifying the competition amongst themselves and intensifying the competition so far as our competitors are concerned. Notwithstanding that the price of coal has been brought below its economic level, we are selling less coal abroad to-day than we did before we embarked on this fatal policy. We exported less coal in February, 1928, than in February, 1927, and what has been the effect on the industry? The number of men on the unemployment register of the Ministry of Labour in February, 1928, was 2 per cent, higher than in February, 1927, and the number of wage-earners on the colliery books in February, 1928, was less by 5.4 per cent. than it was in February, 1927. Not only have we more unemployed, but the average of days worked by those who are still engaged in the industry was less in February, 1928, than it was in February, 1927.
It is true by increasing the hours we have been placed in the position of being able to produce more coal, but our ability to sell has gone down, and as a result of the policy of the Government in the matter of hours we have less wages and poverty of the most appalling kind in every part of the coalfield. Some of my hon. Friends have spoken of the condition of things in Durham, in South Wales and in other districts. I can assure the House that in every coalfield to-day the poverty and misery of the mining population are simply appalling. Unless the Government have the courage and commonsense to take some such steps as are outlined in the Labour party's pamphlet we shall have conditions in this country even worse than they are now. Things are developing for the worse day by day in every part of the coalfield, and the Government would he wise in their 785 day and generation to read and digest the policy outlined by the Labour party in that pamphlet and decide to adopt the measures set down there.
§ Commodore KING
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that in some of that policy his own party has stolen our clothes—that we are already carrying out some of that policy?
I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that we shall not be in the least displeased if he does steal our clothes. There has been a good deal of talk about the mining situation in 1926. May I point out that not only did the coalowners convince the Government, or coerce the Government, into accepting their view with regard to the necessity of a reduction in wages and increasing the hours; not only did they put that point of view before the Prime Minister and the Government, but they also asserted that what had been suggested from our side in regard to amalgamation and the setting up of selling agencies and the carbonisation of coal was not practical and that we knew nothing about the question. Things have been developing rapidly with regard to our prophecies in this direction as well as in regard to
§ what we prophesied about the reduction of wages and the increase of hours. On every hand we now see indications that the coalowners, in their desperation, and in order to get out of their present difficulties, are arranging for amalgamation.
§ I believe that there is a power behind them much more powerful than the owners which is forcing them into that position, and that is the power of the banking interests of this country. In order to escape from the desperate situation in which the mining industry finds itself, the mine-owners are re-organising the industry, and they are adopting amalgamation. They can now see the position into which their policy is forcing them. It would have been much better for the benefit of the country if the advice we offered in 1926 had been taken at that time. Instead of doing that, the Government foolishly and criminally followed the lines which have landed them into such a deplorable condition. I hope that the House will consent to the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 127; Noes, 154.787
|Division No. 59.]||AYES.||[3.59 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife. West)||Gosling, Harry||Maxton, James|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Greenall, T.||Montague, Frederick|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Murnln, H.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bllston)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Oliver, George Harold|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertlliery)||Groves, T.||Owen, Major G.|
|Batey, Joseph||Grundy, T. W.||Palin, John Henry|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Paling, W.|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Hail, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wlgan)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Pethlck-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Briant, Frank||Hardle, George D.||Potts, John S.|
|Broad, F. A.||Harris, Percy A.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Bromley, J.||Hayday, Arthur||Riley, Ben|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Ritson, J.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hirst, G. H.||Rose, Frank H.|
|Cape, Thomas||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Saklatvala, Shapurjl|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Scurr, John|
|Connolly, M.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Sexton, James|
|Cove, W. G.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhltha)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Kelghley)|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontyprldd)||Smith, Rennle (Penlstone)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Kelly, W. T.||Snell, Harry|
|Day, Harry||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Dennison, R.||Lansbury, George||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|Duncan, C.||Lawrence, Susan||Stamford, T. W.|
|Dunnlco, H.||Lawson, John James||Stephen, Campbell|
|Edwards. C. (Monmouth, Bedweilty)||Lee, F.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Lindley, F. W.||Strauss, E. A.|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Lowth, T.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Gardner, J. P.||Lunn, William||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Mackinder, W.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Mac Neill-Weir, L.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Gillett, George M.||March, S.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Vlant, S. P.||Welsh, J. C.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Wallhead, Richard, C.||Westwood, J.||Windsor, Walter|
|Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen||Wilkinson, Ellen C.||Wright, W.|
|Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)|
|Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Wedgwood, Ht. Hon. Josiah||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)||Mr. A. Barnes and Mr. Whiteiey.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Fermoy, Lord||Moore, Sir Newton, J.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Ford, Sir P. J.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Fraser, Captain Ian||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Galbralth, J. F. W.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Gates, Percy||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G.(Ptrsf'ld.)|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J (Kent, Dover)||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Atkinson, C.||Goff, Sir Park||Oakley, T.|
|Balniel, Lord||Grant, Sir J. A.||Penny, Frederick George|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Beilairs, Commander Carlyon||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Berry, Sir George||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Perring, Sir William George|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Grotrian, H. Brent||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Hacking, Douglas H.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Hamilton, Sir George||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Hartington, Marquess of||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Brass, Captain W.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Hanley)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Cilve||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian||Salmon, Major I.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hills, Major John Waller||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Hilton, Cecil||Savery, S. S.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Rentrew,W)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Somerville A. A. (Windsor)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Cautiey, Sir Henry S.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Cayzer, Sir C, (Chester, City)||Hurd, Percy A.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Illffe, Sir Edward M.||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Clayton, G. C.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Kennedy, A. R, (Preston)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Cope, Major William||Lister, Cunllffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Courtauid, Major J. S.||Loder, J. de V.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Watson, Rt, Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn. N.)||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Wells, S. R.|
|Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Macintyre, Ian||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Maicolm||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Macqulsten, F. A.||Windsor-Cilve, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Dalkelth, Earl of||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Davison. Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Malone, Major P. B,||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Margesson, Captain D.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Ellis, R. G.||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Meller, R. J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Montelth||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Mr. Clarry and Captain Arthur|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Evans.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ Mr. D. GRENFELL rose—
§ It being after Four o'clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.788
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned at Ten minutes after Four o' Clock until Monday next, 26th March.