§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [17th December], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day six months."
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Commodore DOUGLAS KING
In dealing with this Measure, I think it is generally realised that the primary object of it is not to benefit the community at large and not to benefit the coal industry itself; its primary object is partially to implement a pledge given by the present Government at the time of the last election. I should hardly have thought it worth while on the part of the Government to have attempted such a small instalment of their promise. The Government is already discredited by their failure to carry out their pledges in regard to the Widows' Pensions Bill and the Unemployment Insurance Bill. Their original pledge was, of course, that they would immediately repeal the disastrous Act, as they called it, of the previous Government, which permitted a longer working day. When they entered into office, they at once realised that the full carrying out of their pledge was impossible without bankrupting the whole of the coal industry. I think that in itself is testimony of the wisdom of the previous Government in having lengthened the hours. They find now that the most they can do without severe injury to the industry is to suggest shortening the hours by half an hour. Even that is going to put a very heavy burden on an industry which has not yet recovered from the very heavy blow which it received during 1926—a heavy burden on an industry which is not yet paying any profit, which is just about on a balance between profit and loss. It is obvious that they could have no hope of carrying through such a Measure as the shortening of hours without the consent and a certain amount of co-operation on the part of the owners. Therefore, after 1662 various discussions with the coalowners, they have inserted in their Bill what really amounts to a monopoly to the coal industry—the power of fixing output and fixing prices as e, return for the shortening of the hours. They also add on that what, I think, is one of the worst features, and that is the permanent interference with the coal industry by the Government of this country.
In his speech the day before yesterday the President of the Board of Trade said that there were many people who might ask: "Why not let the industry alone, and let it work out its own salvation?" I frankly admit that I am one of those who think that the coalmining industry, in common with most other industries, prospers most with the least possible Government interference. We have had many examples in the past of Government interference at exceptional times, but here we have the proposal that as a permanency the Government should have the right of interfering with the industry. I realise full well the importance of the coalmining industry to this country. It has in the past been one of the greatest factors in our trade. It is of the very greatest importance in the general support of this country, but it has to be in a position to give support to the country. It is of no use to the country if it has to be supported by other industries which are in as bad a state as the coal industry itself. Certainly we would welcome its help and support in the revenues of the country. But if the coal industry is to be placed in the position of being given a dole or placed on Poor Law relief, then the industry is going to be of very little use to us.
I would like to mention some of the Government interferences in previous times to show how disastrous they have been to the industry. I will not go further back than the control period during the War. We know that from the early part of 1917 until the spring of 1921 the coal industry was controlled. We also know too well that during that period of control the cost of production went up enormously, the output per man was sadly decreased, and a large number of additional men were taken into the industry for whom afterwards there was no work. That was some of the harm that was done to the coal industry itself by that control period; but we also have 1663 on record the serious effects it had on the finances of the country, because in giving evidence before the Royal Commission Sir Ernest Gowers, who was then the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Mines Department, said that during those four years of control a sum of £40,000,000 was paid into the industry from the Exchequer. So there, again, it was not only injurious to the industry itself, but it was a great burden on the taxpayers of this country.
In 1921, when the industry was decontrolled, we had a period of temporary prosperity due to the occupation of the Ruhr, and afterwards the great coal strike in the United States of America. During that period there was a slight prosperity in the coal industry. By 1924 that was beginning to show signs of diminishing, and then we came to the next piece of Government interference with the industry. The Socialist Government that was in office in 1924, though they could see that this period of prosperity was beginning to dwindle, forced on the coalowners of this country an increase in wages of 11 per cent. which was wholly unjustified. I maintain, and have always maintained, that that unjustifiable increase in wages given by the Socialist Government in 1924 was the root cause of all the troubles we had in 1925 and 1926. I would refer the House to the Report of the Royal Commission with regard to that injury to show how serious it was. On page 227 they say:The increase of the minimum percentage, so as to make the minimum wage rate of every man 11 per cent. higher than before, was not justified; if the temporary prosperity, caused by the paralysis of the Ruhr—Britain's principal competitor in Europe—did not continue, the rising of the minimum was bound to lead to an impossible situation.As, of course, the Royal Commission realised, it had brought it to an impossible situation. With that increase in wages a further burden was placed on the industry, and by 1925 it was found impossible to carry on the industry at the rate of wages which had been given in the previous year. I will not go through the history of the negotiations, but we know that in order to avert the trouble in 1925 the Conservative Prime Minister offered a subvention so that the matter might be thoroughly discussed and thrashed out, in the fervent hope that 1664 the disaster of a stoppage might be avoided. That subvention cost the country £23,000,000, but if its effect had been successful it would have been well worth that amount. Unfortunately, in spite of the Report of the Royal Commission, we know that no agreement could be come to between the owners and the men, even with the intervention of the Government. The Commission, again, in their Report, say, with regard to the position at that time:We come reluctantly but unhesitatingly to the conclusion that the costs of production, with the present hours and wages, are greater than the industry can bear.That was one of their considered opinions, and yet throughout those negotiations the Miners' Federation, supported by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, refused to meet the situation in any way whatever by refusing any reduction in wages or any increase in hours.
We come to the time when the General Strike came and went, and the coal stoppage seemed to be going on indefinitely In June, 1926, my right hon. Friend the Leader of our party came to the conclusion that it was necessary to make permissible the working of longer hours. I would like to say now that in bringing in that permissive increase in hours the one object in the minds of the Conservative party at that time was the sincere belief, which we still hold, that it was necessary to bring in some such permissive Measure to avert a worse disaster of far lower wages and far greater unemployment. I think that permissive Act has shown that it was not only justified, but it has to a large extent carried out its object. I will point out the difficulties that had to be met at the end of 1926 and throughout 1927. We know that, in spite of the lengthening of hours, in spite of the reduction in the cost of production, the markets which we had previously enjoyed had been largely lost. During that period of stoppage our rivals abroad had taken our markets. In 1927 we found that, instead of supplying 80 per cent. of Sweden's import trade which we had been enjoying previous to the stoppage, we were enjoying only 46 per cent. The remainder had gone to our rivals. Poland, Germany and our other rivals had increased their output capacity to the greatest possible limits.
In spite of all those difficulties, the coal trade struggled on. It fought hard 1665 to regain the markets which it had lost. The Conservative Government encouraged the efforts of the coalowners to get together to try to avoid wasteful competition. I hear right hon. Gentlemen opposite say "Hear, hear!" It was one of the criticisms of that time that there was wasteful competition as between companies, districts and so on in our own country, and we certainly encouraged the efforts of the owners to get together to avoid wasteful competition. Another great way in which we tried to assist them was with regard to lightening the burdens on the industry, and I was glad to note that the President of the Board of Trade in his speech paid a tribute to the effect of the de-rating action of the late Government and the reduction of freights in the coal mining industry. That, in itself, had a very beneficial effect on the industry. The President of the Board of Trade gave us the figures, and admitted that that freight relief assisted the industry to the extent of between 7d. and 9d. on every ton of coal. That I consider to be of very great assistance.
We found that, with all these assistances, by the middle of last year—during the last 12 months, I might say—there had been a very considerable improvement in our export trade and throughout the mining industry. I would like to give the House a few figures to show the combined effect of the longer working hours, a certain amount of co-operation on the part of the owners, and the benefits under the de-rating Bill—the accumulated benefits to the mining industry, as shown in the statistical summaries issued by the Mines Department in the years 1928 and 1929. The latest figures that we have at our disposal so far are for the June quarter of 1929, and therefore I make the comparison between the June quarters. We find that, between 1928 and 1929, the output increased by nearly 5,000,000 tons. The net costs—a very important factor in the mining industry—the net costs, on the average for the country, had decreased from 14s. 6d. in 1928 to 13s. 10d. in the June quarter of 1929. The debit balance—another important factor in the coal industry—for the whole country decreased from 1s. 5d. in 1928 to only 3½d. in 1929. I maintain that that shows that the policy of non-interference, but of giving every help that could possibly be given.
1666 which was followed by the late Conservative Government, was succeeding, and was actually showing its result in the figures of the coal mining industry.
Coming to the actual districts, let me take some of the most important districts as regards export trade and volume of output in the country. In Northumberland, in the June quarter of 1928, they were making a loss of nearly 1s. 2d.—ls. 1.8d. on every ton of coal. In the. June quarter of this year they had turned that lose into a credit of 4½d. Anybody who knows the difficulties in. Northumberland and on the North-East Coast will realise what an immense advantage that is to the industry up there. Durham had reduced its loss from 7½d. in 1928 to a credit of ld. in the June quarter of this year. South Wales, which in June, 1928, was making a loss of nearly 1s. 9d. on every ton of coal, had reduced that loss by June of this year to 4½d., a very considerable reduction—1s. 4d. on every ton of coal—due, as I have already pointed out, to the longer working hours and to the de-rating and freight relief given by the late Government. Yorkshire also made a reduction from a loss of 1s. 9d. in 1928 to a loss of only 2d. in the June quarter of this year.
It is not only with regard to profits and losses, though they are important enough. The question of unemployment usually interests hon. Members opposite whenever it is dealt with, and I would remind them that when we make the comparison in this case we have later figures, namely, for the September quarter. When we compare the September quarter of 1928 with the September quarter of 1929, we find that, while in 1928 there were over 899,000 miners employed, at the present time there are over 940,000 employed, which shows again the benefits that were brought to the industry by the administration of the Conservative Government. Unemployment in the coal industry at the present time, again taking the September quarter, is 16.1 per cent., as against 26.1 per cent. in 1928.
In the matter of working hours, in the number of shifts that have been worked we find an increase in the 12 months. We find that in the September quarter of the present year 5.1 days per week were worked, are against 4.77 in the previous year. It is one of the strongest 1667 signs of increasing prosperity in the industry when you find the average shifts per week being increased. I maintain that, when we find the industry developing and improving at this ratio, it is not unreasonable to believe that, if that industry were left alone to work out its own salvation, with the benevolent help of the Government in office, it would, by July, 1931, have been in such a position that it would have been possible to allow the Eight Hours Act to lapse, as it would lapse in the ordinary course. It is quite possible, and I believe probable, that without interference the industry would so set its house in order, would so develop and so improve, that there would be no necessity whatever to continue the permissive Act which was brought in by the Conservative Government. When we find ourselves in that position at the present time, I do say that this is not the occasion to interfere with an industry which is struggling bravely and making progress.
We find that under this Bill the half-hour is to be a definite burden on the industry. The President of the Board of Trade gave us his estimate that the reduction of half an hour would mean an increase of 1s. 6d. on every ton of coal. He gave us that the day before yesterday; I have it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I would ask the House to realise what that means. I have shown that, as the result of the industry's struggle with the assistance of the Government, a reduction has taken place in the previous 12 months amounting, I should say, to something almost less than the 1s. 6d. which the right hon. Gentleman opposite now proposes to re-impose on that struggling industry. The industry, in spite of its improvement, is not yet showing any profits. Where does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that that increase of 1s. 6d. per ton is to come from? He tries to prove to the House and to the country that there will be no serious increase in price; but, if there is an increase of 1s. 6d. in the cost of production in an industry which is still losing money, where is that increase to be found? It can only come, either by an increase in the price to the consumer —the home consumer only—or by a reduction in wages, and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite think that there is no possibility or probability of there 1668 being a decrease in wages. I would only put to them what was mentioned by, I think, the President of the Board of Trade with regard to South Wales.
South Wales is one of the interesting problems, because that is a case where the increase in cost of production cannot be passed on. How does the right hon. Gentleman propose that South Wales is to meet that increased cost of 1s. 6d. a ton? Something like 80 per cent. of the output of South Wales is used for export, and I think that the right hon. Gentleman and my successor at the Mines Department will agree with me that you cannot persuade the foreigner to pay 1s. 6d. more for your coal because you have added 1s. 6d. to the cost of it. South Wales is not in a position to have a levy on the other 20 to 30 per cent. of its output. That levy on the home-consumed coal would be too heavy; it would be impossible for South Wales to place the levy on that small proportion in order to meet its difficulties. How did the right hon. Gentleman ride away from that? He said that, with regard to South Wales the Government, thanks to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had obtained from Italy a contract for 1,000,000 tons of coal a year for three years. I am sure that he is not so ungenerous to his predecessor as to claim the whole of the thanks for that increase in the demand from Italy. I know perfectly well that my right hon. Friend who was his predecessor in office had been working on those lines for a very considerable period, and that, had it not been for the groundwork which had already been done before the right hon. Gentleman opposite came into office, the obtaining of that increase would have been very unlikely. But what does that increase mean? I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has included in the price for that extra 1,000,000 tons of coal per annum the 1s. 6d. per ton which he says he is going to put on to the cost of production? If he has not, what advantage is it to the South Wales coalfields if they have the opportunity of selling another 1,000,000 tons of coal for 1s. 6d. a ton loss? It is of no great assistance to them.
That is the case with regard to South Wales, which is largely an exporting district, and what I have said with re- 1669 gard to South Wales is going to be largely true of other exporting districts. I think that right hon. Gentlemen opposite are very optimistic indeed if they can visualise the inland coal-producing areas giving a free levy in order to support South Wales and other exporting districts. Let us realise that the coal exported from this country only amounts to 20 per cent. of the total output of the country. Is it likely that the other 80 per cent. of producers in this country are going to make this free gift by putting a voluntary levy upon themselves in order to give a subsidy to those coal-exporting districts which stand to lose their markets and to lose heavily in their trade? It is quite likely, as has been said, that this has the support of some of the coal-owners. One can quite understand that the Yorkshire coalfields welcome the suggestions in the Bill. They at the present time are only working 7½ hours, and they see with pleasure the prospect of their competitors in the other areas being brought down to their working hours of 7½, because they know that the bringing down of the working hours in those other districts will put up their costs, and, therefore, Yorkshire will be in an even better position than at present. It is only natural that Yorkshire should welcome such a scheme as this, which not only brings other people down to its level of working costs, but is also going to penalise the other people in the world's markets.
The Secretary for Mines said that he thought there was something in this Bill that would give the miners a little bit more sustenance than they had had before and he told us to read the Bill and see where it came in. The only thing that I can see in this Bill that is going to give the miners any extra sustenance is through the monopoly—through the powers which the Government propose to give to the coal industry. Are those powers going at last to bring both sides in the coal industry together? Is it to be that the Miners' Federation and the Mining Association are going to band together in order to fleece the rest of the community and obtain greater profits and increased wages? I have read the Bill very carefully, and I read the hon. Gentleman's speech, as well as listened to it, and I cannot find anything in the Bill that is going to give greater sustenance to the miners unless it is, by joint 1670 action, to put up prices against the home consumer.
With regard to home consumption, who are these other people who will have to pay the increased price? The Secretary for Mines quoted a miner's paynote which he said, after all deductions, gave the miner only £1 14s. 8d. I think he will agree that that is an exceptional case. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I was not asking hon. Members on the back benches. I was asking a responsible Minister of the Government, and if he makes inquiry, he will have to admit that that is an exceptional case. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] His own statistical returns will show it so. The average wages for mine workers in the June return were something over 9s. a shift, and we are working over five shifts a week and, therefore, it is common arithmetic to say that 45s. is the average wage. [Interruption.] I am not going to be drawn into argument all over the House. I am taking up a point which was raised by the Secretary for Mines the night before last, and he made a statement with regard to a miner's paynote. I am only putting it to him that if he makes inquiry he will find that that is exceptional. [Interruption.] I will take the hon. Member's suggestion. Even supposing that were an average—it is not an average I know; it is very much below the average—but even if it were £1 14s. 8d., does he realise that many of the consumers who will have to pay extra for their coal under this wholly unwarrantable Bill are getting far less than 34s. a week? [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] Shame it may be, but you have to realise that it exists. Why should the mine workers try to clamber up on the shoulders of other workmen It is a deliberate attempt to clamber up on the shoulders of the poorer paid workers. If hon. Members opposite went anywhere in the Eastern counties, they would find that the agricultural labourers' wage is 30s. a week, and there are many workers throughout the country who will have to pay more for their coal who are receiving less than that 34s. 8d. a week, which is an exceptional case in the coal mining industry.
§ Commodore KING
I shall certainly have to pay it in every ton of coal that I buy, as well as every other private 1671 consumer. But what of the other industries which will have to pay more for their coal? The President of the Board of Trade spoke of unsheltered industries.An unsheltered industry: if ever that phrase could be used it is true of coal."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th December, 1929; col. 1271, Vol. 233.]I do not know what knowledge he has already acquired at the Board of Trade with regard to other industries, but I could name a great number which are far less sheltered than the coal industry. Only a fifth of the coal raised in this country enters into competition at all, or has any competition against it. It is only the 20 per cent. that we send to foreign markets that is unsheltered in any degree at all. The other 80 per cent. of the output is fully protected by geographical conditions. No coal comes in in competition with it from other countries and, therefore, he is giving this unsheltered industry, as he calls it, a greater measure of protection than any other industry enjoys. If you want to know of other industries less sheltered than the coal industry, what about the iron and steel trade? That industry has been in a depressed state far longer than the coal industry has been and it has suffered far more severely, and yet an increase in the price of coal is bound to be injurious to the iron and steel trade.
Let me put it from the other point of view. Let us take the benefits, admitted by the right hon. Gentleman, with regard to the reduction in rail freights. That came into force on 1st December last. In the three months following that 1st December the blast furnaces at work increased by over 10 per cent. which, I claim, was largely, if not entirely, due to the reduced price of something like 10½d. a ton on coal going to the iron and steel trade. If right hon. Gentlemen by their efforts are going to increase the price of coal to the home consumer—they cannot do it abroad—they are going to place that wholly unsheltered industry in a far worse position in its competition with foreign buyers, and so with every other unsheltered industry in the country. It is going to cost industry more. If we are going to put the cost of production up, the effect of it is going to be first of all in the coal industry. In many cases it will reduce wages, it will certainly reduce employment, it 1672 will throw many people out of employment in the coal industry, and the effect on other industries of increasing the price will be to increase unemployment in those other industries. I consider that at the present time to interfere with the coal industry will injuriously affect its position both in this country and in the world and is going to do a grave injury to all other industries and to every private consumer in the country. I therefore, hope that to-night we shall have the pleasure of seeing the Bill rejected.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I have never taken part in a Debate in the House where it was more difficult to make a speech, because there is so little to answer. I have listened to the speeches from the other side of the House. I listened to the very admirable exposition of the President of the Board of Trade, which was in many respects a very fine Parliamentary feat, but there was very little attempt to justify a Bill of this character. I listened, too, with very great delight to the Secretary for Mines, and I think it is to the credit of his integrity and intelligence that, after six months of close study of the Bill and of these proposals, he could not find a, single presentable argument in favour of; them. Therefore, a critic of the Bill is addressing the House under conditions of very exceptional embarrassment. It is an incredibly bad Bill. It is really an incredible Bill at all for the Labour Government to have introduced. It contains, in my judgment, the worst features of Socialism and individualism without the redeeming features of either. It is State interference without State protection. It has all the greed of individualism without any of the stimulus of competition, and, for that reason, it is exceedingly difficult for anyone, whether he be an individualist or a Socialist, to find a single creditable argument in favour of it. I can hardly believe the Government intend to put it through in anything like its present state.
I should like to add a few words of protest against the way in which it has been introduced. This is, after all, a very great Bill which affects every industry in the Kingdom. It affects every hearthstone in the Kingdom. It is introduced on a Thursday. The country is given no time to consider it. The industries have no time to come together—not even executive committees—and on Tuesday, just 1673 after a short week-end, immediately before Christmas, the Bill is rushed through its Second Reading. I should like to ask whether anyone in the House, however long or short his experience, can produce a single precedent for action of that kind. It is not as if it were an emergency Bill. It has taken five or six months to prepare, and it ought to have been produced earlier or the Second Reading ought to have been postponed.
The very masterly analysis of its provisions by my right hon. Friend sitting by me the hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) has absolved me from the need of going into it in great detail. Let me state, first of all, the two provisions of the Bill of which I approve, in conjunction with the Members with whom I am acting. The first is the reduction of hours. The other is the establishment of the National Wages Board. I can do no otherwise. I was responsible as the head of the Government that reduced the hours of labour to seven. I was also responsible for the carrying of the Act which the right hon. Gentleman said was his analogy for the setting up of the National Wages Board—I mean the Railways Act, 1921. I might say that the right hon. Gentleman, in mentioning those two things, might—I will not say out of courtesy but even out of a sense of justice—have mentioned those two facts, that he was just reverting, in the first case, to a Bill which I had the responsibility of carrying with some right hon. Friends of mine sitting there, and that, in the second case, he was copying it. I hope he will go on continuing to copy these excellent examples. The 1921 Act has been a very great success. It has averted a good deal of trouble in the railway world, and I am very glad that that excellent precedent is being followed in this case.
Nine-tenths of this Bill, though, is a fixation of prices and a limitation of output. The right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Trade, in a very able speech which showed a very great mastery of the coal industry, pointed out what is true of this Bill, that it is not a marketing Bill. There are no marketing provisions in it in the ordinary sense of the term. Marketing provisions like those in Germany, great selling and marketing syndicates—those, at any rate, would have cut down the cost 1674 of distribution. As he pointed out so well—and I make no apology to the House for repeating this, because it is a very important feature of the criticisms of this Bill—this is a Bill to put up prices and to limit output. There is no co-operative selling in any sense of the term.
Let us examine what the effect will be on prices. The President of the Board of Trade with very great skill, glossed over all those rather troublesome aspects of his Measure which are likely to create prejudice in the minds of the people of this country who regard coal as a basic industry, and he did not say very much about them. Let us examine the facts. There is, first of all, a deficit on the working of the coal mines. It is a diminishing one, but it is there. Some of that loss is genuine, and I am rather suspicious that a good deal of it is manipulated. At any rate, there is no doubt at all that a good deal of it is genuine. This must necessarily be increased by the Bill, even by the parts of which we approve. You cut down hours. You propose to put on an export levy. I do not see how you are going to avoid increasing the deficit which you have to meet by at least from £25,000,000 to £30,000,000 per annum. I have been trying to work out the figure with a great many people who know the industry. I know that some may put it low and some may put it high, but it is going to be a very grave deficit, and the real point is: How do you propose to meet it? There are two ways of meeting it. One is the crude method of putting up prices. The other is the method of reorganising the industry so as to save under-production and under-distribution. That is the scientific method, that is the rational method, that is the method that would benefit the mines and the miners, and the owners, especially the best, and would benefit the country as a whole. The Government have chosen that crude, burdensome method, easy but pernicious, of merely putting up prices, and the second method, which is difficult and will require a lot of thinking out, they have discarded altogether.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen put a number of questions to the Government. I regret that it should be necessary to put them across the floor of the House. We should have been 1675 quite willing to have put those questions and to have pursued them in consultation with the Government. But the questions have been put across the Floor of the House. I understand that the Prime Minister is speaking later on in the course of the Debate. May I incidentally, as a citizen of the City of London, offer my hearty and cordial congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and to his colleague the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon the distinction which has been conferred upon them by that centre of commerce and finance to-day. The right hon. Gentleman may be answering later on, but I hope that we shall get an answer before he gives his answer, because I understand that he is winding up the Debate. I hope that an answer will be given at a time when there will be an opportunity for us to consider what has been said.
Questions were put the other day and answers were given by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Mines. They were very unsatisfactory. It is not the fault of the Secretary for Mines, because he read the answers in a very clear voice. Therefore, he was not in the least responsible for any misapprehension or disagreement that may have arisen. I will point out, later on, where they were inadequate, but I think it is fair that I should say that no answer that can be given to these questions would induce hon. and right hon. Gentlemen acting with me to be responsible in any degree for this Bill. We think that the other provisions are so thoroughly vicious that we must reserve to ourselves the most complete freedom to deal with them in Committee, and all that we could do, if they were completely satisfactory, would not be to interfere—in so far as we could—with their going to a Committee for examination. But, on the question of the Committee, I should like to say that I sincerely trust that the right hon. Gentleman, if he gets his Second Reading, is going to see that this Bill is taken on the Floor of the House. It would be a perfectly indefensible proceeding to send a Bill of this character, highly controversial and of vast moment to the country, to a Committee upstairs, and I do not believe that it would ever get through.
I come to the questions which were put by my right hon. Friend. The first dealt with the questions of grouping and 1676 amalgamations, which we consider to be thoroughly vital and fundamental, and I will tell the right hon. Gentleman why we consider them to be fundamental. By the best computation which I have been able to secure, the effect of this Bill must be, in the absence of provisions for cutting down the costs of production, to increase the cost of coal by at least 3s. 6d. a ton. There are some who put the figures very much higher. [Interruption.] There is a Gentleman who spoke yesterday. He is the Chairman of the Scottish Coalowners. He says that the effect will be to put up the price of coal by 4s. 6d. [Interruption.] He is the Chairman of the Coalowners' Association in Scotland. That is very serious for the industries of this country. It would be disastrous for the exporting districts. At the present moment, they are holding their own and perhaps just progressing a little, gradually but on very small margins; just by a small margin of profit they are able to hold their own, and some of them, like the cotton industry, are working at a loss. If you are going to put on 2s., if you like, and certainly 3s. 6d. a ton, that margin will be swept away in a vast number of cases, and, if, in addition to that, we are going to tax the industries here, in order to give a, bonus to the manufacturers across the seas, then it is simply legislating for calamity. It will be a crushing cost.
Take the heavy industries—iron and steel, shipbuilding, engineering—I do not know how they can possibly face it. Take even the textile trade, where you do not consume so much coal. Most of the coal is consumed in the dye for these industries. I am told that for Lancashire alone, even on the basis of 2s. 6d. increase, this would mean an addition of £600,000 per annum to the cost of the industry. Everybody knows that they are in a very bad way. They can barely hold their own, and this £600,000 added to their annual cost might very easily bring down a great many industries. I can well understand the point of view taken by the mining Members, and I sympathise with it, but this is not the method with which to deal with that grievance. They say that the mining industry is being bled and that this is a process of transfusion of blood from other industries to vitalise it. Yes, but you are going to get it out of industries, many of which are white with anaemia at the present time.
1677 5.0 p.m.
Take domestic coal. The consumers of domestic coal are the most defenceless of all God's creatures against a monopoly. They cannot come together; they cannot organise. The great industries, the railway companies, the gas and electricity companies, and, may be, some of the great heavy industries will be able to federate in order to present their case. The consumers of domestic coal cannot do so. Three and sixpence per ton added to the price at the pithead will mean at least 4s. 6d. by the time is comes to the home. In scores, if not hundreds of thousands of homes, it will mean a perceptible diminution in warmth and comfort. When we woke up this morning and looked out of the window, we saw the ground covered with a thick hoar frost. [Interruption.] Is no one to be allowed to sympathise with the people, except hon. Gentlemen opposite? I saw a thick layer of hoar frost, and I said: "This is not the day to go down to the House of Commons and vote for the Second Reading of a Bill that puts up the price of coal to the people." There was an old tax in this country called the Hearth Tax. It was an oppressive tax, it was a cruel tax, and it was abolished by the humanitarian sentiments of this country; no one thought that it would fall to a Labour Government to reimpose it.
What is the alternative to putting on higher prices? [An HON. MEMBER: "Nationalisation."] This is not nationalisation; this is running away from nationalisation. What is the alternative? It is the one which has been proposed by the Labour leaders themselves and by the Labour party in what I call their provisional schemes before the Election. It was quoted by my right hon. Friend—the grouping of mines (which they proposed in 1929 at the Election, but rejected twice in 1919 when the Government offered it to them, with the loss of 10 years, 10 years of disorganisation) with miners on the Board; the grouping of mines in such a way that you could save cost in production and save cost in distribution. More than that, that you should concentrate more and more upon the economic pits. Everybody who knows the mining industry knows very well, especially those who have been engaged many times in settling mining disputes, that the 1678 uneconomic pits are mainly responsible for lowering the general level of wages throughout the whole industry. [Interruption.] Certainly. Close down the uneconomic pits and concentrate upon the others. Every inquiry that has been instituted has recommended that course. No inquiry has recommended the present course; not even the Lewis inquiry, as my right hon. Friend pointed out.
The experience of Germany is not the experience which the President of the Board of Trade stated to the House. Germany began with marketing schemes, and there were 30 years of conflict until they came to grouping. There were high prices which the Prussian Government had to fight, but could not fight because the pits were run by the State, and therefore they were too costly. The Prussian Government fought it, the other mines fought it, the industries fought it, and for 30 years there was nothing but conflict until they came to grouping. The experience of Germany points to the fact that you should begin to consolidate with groups. When that happened, what was the result in Germany? Efficient mines, improved production per head, improvement in regard to cost. They were able to reduce the price of coal without reducing the wages of the miners, and they were able to reduce the hours of labour as well. That was the experience of Germany.
The right hon. Gentleman said that one of his arguments in favour of, I will not say compulsory marketing but of compulsory quotas, was the experience of Scotland, South Wales and Yorkshire, where every scheme had collapsed for lack of compulsion. Why is the scheme collapsing in Yorkshire now? Has the right hon. Gentleman read the report of the inspector of the Mines Department for 1928? It has reduced the number of shifts, and when you reduce the number of shifts in pits you increase the dangers, and the percentage of lives lost has gone up. That is the report of an inspector of the Mines Department. It is not merely that. I will give an illustration from Yorkshire of why the scheme is collapsing, and it is an illustration which is full of lessons for the Government when they are proposing a scheme more or less on that basis. There is a letter which is in the Mines Department—I have a copy of it—from one of the largest collieries in Yorkshire. I will give the 1679 right hon. Gentleman the letter afterwards, but I am not sure that I will give the name. In any case, the letter is in the Mines Department. It is from one of the largest collieries in Yorkshire. Before they came into the scheme they were well managed, always paid good wages, and worked full time. Their output was 600,000 tons. Under new management they spent a good deal of money in putting improved machinery in the pits in order to increase the output. They increased the capacity to 700,000. Then they were induced to join this scheme. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which is the colliery?"] I have already said something about that and I am not going to say anything more. The letter will be in the hands of the Secretary for Mines or the President of the Board of Trade. What happened? The quota of capacity was fixed quite fairly, and they are not complaining about that. The quota was reduced to 438,000 tons. They bought a quota from another mine and paid thousands of pounds for it, but they could only buy a quota of 30,000 tons. That brought up the joint quota to 478,000 tons. [HON. MEMBERS: "468,000 tons!"] The amount is 478,000 tons, so that the first quota must be 448,000 tons. What has happened? They said: "We can only make the pits pay by working full time. If you cut us down in the quota we cannot work the pit except at a loss." They said that they would either have to cut down the number of shifts to 3¾ days—they were working five days—or dismiss 500 men. They have written a letter withdrawing from the scheme.
I will put a question to the right hon. Gentleman. Here is a case of this kind, where there is a good mine, working well, giving five days work a week to the miners, paying good wages. Their quota is cut down, and they have either to dismiss men or to reduce their wages to what is called starvation point by giving them three or four days work. Every day you cut off is an addition of shillings on the tonnage you produce, because the overhead charges are just the same. Supposing the owners of a colliery of that kind say: "We will not throw our men on to the roadside under a scheme which we think is an unjust one. We will not reduce their wages to starvation point." Who is going to prosecute? Is the right hon. Gentleman going to prose- 1680 cute? Is the Labour party going to prosecute the owners of mines because they refuse to throw their workmen out?
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down!"] The right hon. Gentleman has given way. The question will be fair and legitimate. In view of the importance of the illustration that the right hon. Gentleman is now giving, surely the House is entitled to know the name of the mine.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I have told the hon. Member what I shall do. As soon as I sit down I shall make inquiries. If the Secretary for Mines chooses to give the letter to the hon. Member, he can do so. That is his responsibility.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am answering the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). I think I shall be in a position pretty soon to show the letter to the hon. Member. I shall do my very best to do so, and I think it will be within a very short time after I have sat down.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I cannot in the time at my disposal enter more fully into the matter, because I have to deal with many points. I am giving an illustration of how the scheme works. What is the whole point of the scheme, unless you cut down? That is the point of it. Here is an illustration of how it can work and how it has worked in a particular case. I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman, who is going to prosecute in these cases? Is it the Government or is it the coalowners? Who will do it? The right hon. Gentleman is going to create quotas. What do quotas mean? Quotas mean that you are going to create a statutory property where there is none now. It must mean that. If these things have a value of their own, well, then, you sell upon the value, whatever it is. If you are going to create a statutory quota, there is something to buy without the mine passing at all. That is an absolutely new property which is being created. The right hon. Gentleman said that these mines could buy quotes. 1681 They are buying something which has no value apart from this Bill which he has introduced. What is the result? They will become more and more valuable as you go on buying. You may buy a few quotas at a fairly reasonable price, but the fewer there are left to part with the higher the price, and good mines will have to buy something which has no value merely in order to be able to keep going and to employ their own men. The industry is going to be held up by a band of quotas. It is a deadweight burden upon the industry. Talk about putting amalgamation last. This is cutting down the output first. It is putting the cart before the horse. It is even worse than that; you are filling the cart with rubbish, and when you put the horse between the shafts he will be carrying a lot of deadweight which is of no use at all. That is the proposal in the Bill.
I want to put this question to the right hon. Gentleman: Will the Government undertake to introduce into this Bill on the Committee stage complete provisions for compulsory grouping of mines—this is very important—will these provisions have legal effect to establish groups as and when the Commission reports to the Committee to be set up without the necessity of resorting to other or further legislation? I hope that question is clear to the right hon. Gentleman. The answer that was given on Tuesday night, that provisions will be inserted for the appointment of a commission to investigate and report and that another Bill would be brought in at a later date, is of no use, and hon. Members opposite know that perfectly well. Once you get a period of temporary quiet in the mines you are not going to get any Government to go out of their way to disturb it. If you could put Mr. A. J. Cook and Mr. Evan Williams to sleep I cannot see any Government wantonly stirring them up. If grouping and amalgamation is to be accomplished, it must be accomplished in this Bill or you will not see it, and the result will be that you will simply have a mere crude Bill to raise prices. The mines will go from bad to worse because it will discourage those who are trying to improve their output by means of machinery and good management.
The second question I have to put is this. When you start grouping you must do it upon a certain basis of value. In 1682 my judgment far and away the best report on amalgamation since the Report of my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen is Sir Arthur Duckham's Report. He goes into the matter in great detail and sketches out his plan. His proposal is to group a number of mines which will be reported to be so situated that they can be worked together more effectively than they can be worked separately. Then there are values. You establish your amalgamation upon the basis of those values in the form of shares. There is no need for the raising of any capital, unless they wish to do so, for the purpose of working the mines. That is a very different amalgamation to the amalgamation Lion which we have here, and which is purely and largely—I do not care to use the proper term for it—in the nature of a financial deal. It is not real amalgamation in the sense of grouping together mines for the purpose of cutting down the costs of production and improving distribution.
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman this: In a case of that kind, will the values for the purposes of amalgamation —I should like to have the attention of both right hon. Gentlemen—be on the basis of the real value of the mines—nobody wants to take away any value which really exists—without taking into account the artificial values created by this Bill? The right hon. Gentleman said that there would be no values created by this Bill. I think he is absolutely alone in that matter. Everybody knows that when you establish a statutory quota you are establishing a value which does not exist now at all; a value which is not a real value, which is not an intrinsic value, which is not a value due to the development and prospects of the mine, but a value which is due to an Act of Parliament carried by a Labour Government. It is rather curious that a Government which is in favour of the nationalisation of all property is creating a new property which has no value of any sort or kind, and proposing that it should be paid for!
The third question I want to ask is in regard to the time limit; and that has a bearing upon values. You may put it in an Act of Parliament and say that there shall be no such value, but quite unconsciously it may influence values. You may call it goodwill, but, if you have a time limit, then that value cannot be a 1683 serious one— I mean the fictitious value. Therefore, a time limit is essential. I do not mean that at the end of the time you should have no marketing schemes. I hope you will have real marketing schemes. It will be far easier to establish them then when you get the Commission. You will have a different set of men to deal with. They will see the advantages of grouping for marketing purposes, and at the end of that time your Commissioners would come in and advise and assist in some sort of way in the organisation of a real marketing scheme. But a time limit is essential.
I come now to what is almost the most important question of all—that is, the matter of prices. I must dwell a little upon this in order to explain our proposal. In this scheme there is no protection for the consumer. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade consulted the miners and the mine owners, but there was no consultation with any body of men representing the consumers of this country. They were never brought into consultation. Suppose that the Attorney-General brought in a Bill to reform the legal profession—not that they stand in need of it—[An HON. MEMBER: "Abolish it."] If you call together the Bar Council and the Incorporated Law Society I am quite certain that the only recommendation you would get would be that the one reform which was necessary was an increase in the fees of both. [An HON. MEMBER: "And no limitation of output."] The solicitors would say to the Bar, "We will not object to your fees providing you do not tax our costs," which is more or less what is happening in this Bill. The client is not there; the consumer is not represented, and, therefore, this is a Bill which is an owners' Bill. The only thing you have is an investigating committee; and, when you come to prices, it lures the consumer into a labyrinth of inquiries.
There is no provision in this Bill which so completely demonstrates the fact that this is an owners' Bill as the provisions with regard to the consumer. It is the besetting vice of the Bill, you can see it running right through the speech of the right hon. Gentleman—you must do nothing which will be in defiance of the owners. His words were, "You must have agreement with the owners." 1684 It is an abdication of the functions of government to the owners the moment you say, that it is for them to decide. The standard capacity of the mines, of the whole of the mines of the country, is to be fixed—by whom? By the owners. The whole quota for this country is going to be fixed by a committee of the owners. The district capacity, the district quota is to be fixed—by whom? By the owners. The capacity, the quota, of each individual mine is going to be settled—by whom? By the owners. The prices which are to be fixed, who are going to fix them? [HON. MEMBERS: "The owners."] Hon. Members opposite are learning their lesson very swiftly. I hope that they will pass it on to their constituencies.
Let us see what that means, because there have been other recommendations for dealing with this situation. Surely the quota which you fix, whether for a district or an individual mine, will affect the livelihood of the miners themselves. If you cut the quota down you may turn miners out, you may cut down the number of hours they work. Surely they at least ought to be consulted, but it is all left to the colliery proprietors. And Mr. A. J. Cook accepted this! "Blessed are the meek." [HON. MEMBERS: "Finish your text."] It is just as well that hon. Members should know what they are voting for, not that it will make any difference in their case, but it will make some difference in their constituencies.
Let us show a little further how this goes on. If there is a dispute between one district and another with regard to the quota there is to be arbitration. If there is a dispute between one owner and a district as to the quota or the output there is to be arbitration. It is to be decided by an impartial tribunal. Why? You must be just to the owner. When you come to the consumer how do you deal with him? Price is not even mentioned. Why? I do not say that price cannot be referred to a Committee of Investigation, but there is nothing in the Bill to say so. When you come to fixing the price at which you sell, and which is fixed by the owner, you are not ashamed to put in the word "price"—arbitration—but when you come to protect the consumer you must not mention the word "price." Why? It would upset the owner. [Interruption.] Hon. 1685 Members must listen. They listened for an hour and 35 minutes to the President of the Board of Trade when he moved the Second Reading of the Bill.
We come now to the Committee of Investigation. What is it to do? Grievances will be sent in, perhaps, by consumers, although it is not clear in the Bill that the consumer can complain about price. It is just as well, however, that that should be mentioned. You send in a complaint to the Committee of Investigation. What are they to do I Can they decide? Oh, no; that will disgruntle the owners. All that they can do is to send their complaint to the Board of Trade, and if the Board of Trade show as little aptitude to protect the consumer as they have shown in this Bill, very little protection will the consumer get from them. What are they to do? They can investigate and, having investigated, what are they to do next? Do they decide? No. They can send the complaint on to the owners. What follows after that? [An HON. MEMBER: "Another committee."] That is right; there is just another committee, just another investigation, and, as far as I can see, even in the end the Board of Trade cannot decide the price, cannot adjudicate on price. Arbitration for quotas, arbitration for all the interests of the owners, none for the interests of the consumer. All that the Board of Trade can do is to write to the owners and say, "If you do something, well, we shall have to reconsider the whole scheme." No wonder that the provisions with regard to hours and with regard to wages have been compressed and crowded into the back pages of the Bill behind a high screen, so that the owner should not see them.
This is an owners' Bill. I wonder what would have been said if my right hon. Friend of the Conservative party had ever attempted to bring in such a Bill as this? Every previous recommendation, every inquiry, every Bill has contained special provisions for the protection of the consumer. The consumers have been put forward in every scheme, including nationalisation schemes, except one, and have been given equal representation. There is a report of a Commission which has never been mentioned in the whole of this Debate—the Sankey—
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
You have forgotten it already. If you remembered it, you would never go into the Lobby tonight to vote for this Bill. [Interruption.] I certainly supported Sankey in his dealings with consumers, and I am shortly coming to that point. Why has the Sankey Commission not been mentioned? It has been flung at my head so often by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite and their followers that I am afraid they began to consider it not as a message but as a missile. The moment it ceases to have any use for flinging at someone's head its contents have no value to hon. Gentlemen opposite. What is it? It was a scheme for putting the whole of the mines of this country under public control and authority. The property was to be in the State; the management was to be in the State. In spite of the fact that you had the State, that represented miners and consumers, in charge, the Sankey Report made recommendations by which the consumer as such should have the same representation on the management as the workmen —the same representation—and there were to he no owners. The miners and the consumers were to have the same representation.
I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has consulted the author of that Report upon this Bill? He might ring him up. If he will apply at the office of the Lord Chancellor he will get his number. I ask now a question which has been asked me many a time: "What about Sankey? What about it?" The consumer—there you would have given him equal representation—the consumer has not one man to stand up for him in this great scheme of those who believe in the Sankey Commission. I ask the right hon. Gentleman this question: Will the Government in Committee establish as complete a protection of the aggrieved consumer as they propose to give to the aggrieved owners in this Bill? What does that mean? Judicial protection, something which you can decide, something which you can resort to, as a colliery proprietor can do when he is aggrieved. Will the right hon. Gentleman give the same protection to the aggrieved consumer as he is proposing for the aggrieved owner? That is the question.
1687 It is incredible that such a Bill should ever have been introduced. It was unfair to the President of the Board of Trade to send him to these hardened negotiators without any protection. The result has been that he has surrendered completely —completely. Crude, simple, innocent! The right hon. Gentleman said that he was a Scotsman. I do not believe it; it is impossible. Was this scheme considered by the Cabinet? Did it pass the Cabinet? There were three Cabinets, and two of them at least considered it—the cabinet of the mineowners, the cabinet of the Miners' Federation, but the Cabinet that seems to have counted least, of all was the Cabinet that sits in Downing Street. Did they pass it?
It is very significant that there is no name of any Minister on the back of the Bill except the names of Ministers who were bound to be there. On every great Bill there is the name of some one Minister who is not engaged in the departments by way of giving the sanction of the rest. The name of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade is on the Bill. Who is the author? The name of the hon. Member the Secretary for Mines is on the Bill. I have great respect for the hon. Member, and there are many positions that he has filled with great distinction and many positions in which he would prove successful, but, honestly, regarding him as Minister of Mines I cannot help thinking that the quota of responsibility is greater than the standard capacity. [Interruption.] I say that without any hesitation, and I am entitled to say it. [Interruption.] In my judgment, it is vital, in so important a Ministry, that men should be there who are acquainted with the working of the industry. The name of the Attorney-General is on the Bill. He was bound to be on. I see that he himself said, in substance, in the discussions on unemployment, that those who were genuinely seeking work cannot discriminate in the jobs which are offered to them. [Interruption.] I can well understand that Ministers are shrinking from putting their names on the Bill. The Bill is a complete surrender to one interest—a complete surrender—without regard to the general interest of the community.
The owners treated the Government with insolence in my judgment. They 1688 refused to appear, at the invitation, I believe, of the Prime Minister, in order to discuss matters with him, because the miners were there. I think the Government ought to proceed to redraft their Bill. Instead of doing that the Government surrender. Well, I do not put Cabinets too high. [Interruption.] I have been in several, and I know. As a matter of fact, to use a phrase which has been falsely attributed to me and which I never used, Cabinets are not "homes for heroes." There never has been such a case of abject surrender as this surrender.
May I just say in conclusion—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—I flatter myself that the proof that I am not tiring hon. Members is that they should be here—[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on!"]—and I can assure them that I shall not be more than a few minutes more. What I want to say in all seriousness is this: This is not the expectation that was roused at the last Election. There never were higher hopes excited at any Election—[HON. MEMBERS: "1918!"]—HON. Members opposite must really allow me to continue. We have listened to their Ministers. I say there never were higher hopes roused at any Election. I am not referring merely to pledges which were given. I am referring to genuine hopes which the men who roused them honestly believed, and which the men who listened to them honestly accepted. I am referring to the sincere hopes that were excited that there was to be something different from anything that had happened before in the way of re-conditioning the country and raising the level of the standard life. It. was going to be something different from anything that had been done before. Pensions, doles —all these had been done by capitalistic Governments, but this was going to be something different.
That is a matter which must be left to the discretion of the Chair. The right hon. Gentleman is quite in order.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
All these, as I have said, were things which had been done by capitalistic Governments, and there was a genuine expectation aroused that there was going to be something of a different order—the development of the resources of the country, the re-conditioning of the country itself, and so on, and there was a great deal of it with which hon. and right hon. Friends of mine were in great sympathy. What have the Government done with that impetus which sprung from high hopes? They have taken the easier task. It is easier to pay doles and to increase them than it is to find work. It is easier to raise prices in the coalfield than to reconstruct the industry, and the Government have followed that course. I am not unreasonable in the sense that I would expect a Government in six months to redeem legitimate promises made at an election. There are always wild promises made by every party. I am talking now of legitimate promises. But we are entitled to take note of the direction in which the Government are going. They are not going in the direction of the hopes which they roused. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has had the experience which I had a few years before him, of a visit to the Sahara. He must have noticed one feature which impressed me very much. Streams flow down into the Sahara from the surrounding hills, and you expect to see them fructify the land. But as they proceed they are absorbed in the wide arid sands of the great desert, and you can only follow their track by the weeds. This is one of the weeds and ought to be cut down.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
A Debate on coal in this House is nothing new. Every Government in the past twenty years has been called upon to devote considerable time to the discussion of this great industry and hon. Members in that period have had to consider proposals submitted by various Governments in successive Parliaments. But I venture to assert that on this occasion the House, the Government and the country are faced with a more important problem in the 1690 coal industry than has been the case at any time in the last 20 years. Those who have taken part in the Debate, including, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), have been very much concerned as to what we are going to do about the conditions created by this Bill, but no one seems inclined to deal with the problem with which the Bill is supposed to contend. That problem has to be appreciated in its fulness and entirety before anybody can judge whether this Bill is suitable for solving it or not. The proposals of the Bill must at all times be considered in relation to the problem with which they are intended to deal. This discussion has gone on as though we were dealing with something which had arisen, just at the moment; as, though there were no history attaching to the coal problem; as though nothing had been done in the past; as though the leaders of the other two parties were in no way responsible for the conditions which have grown up in this industry. I hope I may be excused for making reference to a few incidents of the past 10 years which are very largely responsible for the conditions with which we have to deal to-day.
I submit that the Governments of the past—successive Governments in the past 10 years at least—and the coalowners have been pursuing a coal policy which is based upon a delusion and that until that delusion is destroyed we shall never cope successfully with the coal problem. The delusion upon which the coal policy of Governments and coalowners has been based is that, if we reduce the price of coal by reducing the cost of production, we shall, by that means, regain lost markets and secure a volume of business equal to that which existed in pre-War days. That is the delusion on which the coal policy of this country has been based for 10 or 15 years. It is a very dangerous delusion and it is responsible for most of the blunders which have been committed in the industry and for the deplorable conditions now existing. In pursuance of that delusion wages have been thrown into the price cutting policy. Lengthened hours have been thrown in; the reserves of the coalowners, overdrafts on the banks, concessions from railway companys and docks, de-rating benefits—anything and everything that could be taken hold of by the coalowers has been pushed into this policy of cutting prices 1691 in the hope of regaining the volume of business which we had in pre-War days. The Government policy of 1925–1926 was based on that delusion. The coalowners' policy all along is in harmony with it and until we get rid of that policy we can never hope to deal with the coal problem successfully.
Why do I say that it is a delusion? We have been trying ever since the War to regain our markets. We have cut prices but we have not succeeded in regaining the markets. Why? For the simple reason that the markets are not there. We have not lost our markets because the Germans or the Americans have cut us out, but because they have dried up and are not there for anybody. In pre-War days we sent 6,000,000 tons to Russia. That market has dried up and does not exist for anybody. It is not that Russia consumed only 6,000,000 tons. Russia consumed 10,000,000 tons of which 6,000,000 came from us, but that market has gone. In pre-War days we sold 21,000,000 tons for bunker purposes. Today we only sell 16,000,000 tons and you can search in vain for those other 5,000,000 tons in the ports of the world. The market for them does not exist. In South American markets, which were mainly our markets, 2,000,000 tons or 3,000,000 tons have gone. In France where they are consuming 6,000,000 tons to 8,000,000 tons per year more than they did before the War, they are producing 10,000,000 tons or 12,000,000 tons more than they did before, and they are dependent on outside sources for 2,000,000 tons or 3,000,000 tons less than formerly. To that extent the French market has dried up.
In addition to that, we have other forces coming in to prevent this market being regarded as of pre-War dimensions. In pre-War days Holland, for instance, produced 1,500,000 tons; to-day she is producing 11,000,000 tons, so there are 9,500,000 tons that were not in existence. In addition to that, we have had waterpower resources utilised. In eight of the European countries water-power resources have been developed to such an extent that work is now being done by electric current produced by water-power which formerly it required 29,000,000 tons of coal to perform. The same thing applies to the home market, which is down by 20,000,000 tons, and you have only to look 1692 into the items under which that reduction has taken place to see the hopelessness of any attempt on our part to regain a volume of trade equal to pre-War business by merely cutting prices and reducing wages. I say that that policy is responsible mainly for the conditions in the coal trade to-day and that that is the theory that has to be reversed. It is in order to reverse that theory or to meet the evil consequences of that fallacy that something on the lines proposed in this Bill is necessary to prevent the cutthroat competition, under-cutting, and ruination for the owners and for the workmen that have been going on as a result of that false notion upon which we have been conducting our business hitherto.
I should like, for a few minutes, to look at the attempts that have been made to regain our markets. I was very interested in the speech delivered by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), when he referred to this Bill as providing a sort of subsidy for foreign manufacturers in the shape of cheap British coal, so that they could compete successfully and oust British manufacturers in world competition. Let us look at what has taken place in foreign markets. During the War 400,000 of the miners went into the Army, as a result of which our output went down by 50,000,000 tons a year. As we could not cut down our home consumption, we were compelled to decrease our exports by 50,000,000 tons, and the Government of the day decided that we must send the whole of our surplus to France and Italy. When the War was over we had, outside Britain, only those two markets; we had been deprived of every other market in the world, and then the Government of the day made a Reparations agreement under which they said that Germany must supply with coal the only two markets in the world which we had, and left us absolutely without any markets at all.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
May I just remind my right hon. Friend that that agreement was accepted and supported by the Labour party in the House of Commons?
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I am not in the least concerned about blame or responsibility. I am simply concerned about the facts. As a matter of fact, it was never 1693 done by the Labour party, which was about 60 strong, I suppose, at that time. We had nothing to do with drafting it, and I knew nothing about it. I know that I denounced it at the time. I personally denounced the whole thing. I spoke for myself, and I denounced it as undermining the very foundations. Anybody who looks at the Debates in 1921—not in 1919, but in 1921—when we were dealing with the consequences of it, will see that I then pointed out—[Interruption.] I listened to the right hon. Gentleman while he was speaking—
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I do not want to say nasty things, but I do expect to receive the same courtesy as I give. I was saying that as a result of that Reparations agreement the only two markets in the world, outside Britain, that were left to the British coal industry were taken from us, and the result was that immediately our export business was gone, because during the War, we having had voluntarily to give up every other market in the world, the United States of America came in and took the European markets, except France and Italy. The first thing we had to do was to get America out of our old markets. The Government of the day said, "Yes, you have got no markets, and now we are going to decontrol the industry and allow the miners and the mineowners to have a light over this." The miners of that day said, "Do not do that," and we offered three shillings a day from the wages of every miner in this country, a concession of practically £50,000,000 a year in reductions of wages, to ease the position and to help tide over that very difficult situation.
The Government of that day, as I say without any feeling at all, but simply as a matter of fact, with a callous indifference to the interests of the miners such as I have not seen exhibited in any other action that has taken place during my political life, decontrolled the industry, although the miners' Members in this House predicted—and our speeches are on record—precisely what was bound to develop and come out of the policy that was then adopted. As a result of that decontrol and the fight that took place, the coalowners could not help themselves. They simply had to force down wages, and they secured an agreement, after 1694 a prolonged struggle, which meant for the miners in this country during the year 1921 a reduction in wages amounting to £120,000,000 a year. That was the first-fruits of that policy. Anyone who will take—the documents are there to be seen—the figures prepared by the Mines Department and compare the March quarter of 1921 with the December quarter of that year will see that wages had fallen at the rate of £120,000,000 a year. What happened then? During that year we sold precisely the same quantity of coal abroad as we sold the previous year, and we disposed of it for £56,000,000 less. Wages were taken from the miners with a ruthlessness that would have done credit to any tyrant, and they were handed over to the foreigner without regard.
We are told in this Debate that this Bill is going to provide cheap coal for the foreigner, but what has been going on for years past? In 1922 the miners had another reduction in wages, amount-to £30,000,000 a year—£120,000,000 down in 1921 and another £30,000,000 down in 1922. Out of the first £120,000,000 a year the owners managed to keep 3d. The next year they had another £30.000,000 handed to them, and they managed to keep 11d. of it. All the rest went in price-cutting proposals with a view to extending the market. During those two years 1921 and 1922 the cost of wages in this country had fallen by 18s. 3d. a ton, and none of it remained in the industry. It all went through in this policy of price-cutting in order to secure a higher volume of business, because I think the employers honestly believed that by that process they could secure a bigger volume of trade than had been the case before.
I do not for one moment suggest—and this may he a criticism urged against what I have been saying—that the price prevailing in 1920 or in the early days of 1921 could have been maintained indefinitely in this country. That goes almost without saying, but the result of the Government's policy of that day was such a scramble for a bit of business, such a driving down of prices, that we drove America out of Europe, and we knocked the bottom out of the German cartels. When the German employers, who were under obligations under the Reparation Treaties to supply coal to France at the same pithead prices as 1695 they charged their own nationals, plus freightage to the frontier, or at the pithead prices of British coal for export, had to supply France at British pithead prices, they were so much lower than German pithead prices that the German employers had to go to their own Government, and say, "Because we have had to reduce our prices down to the British level, we must have £700,000 from you to make good the deficiency. It is a political thing, and we are entitled to have that loss made good."
As a matter of fact, it is the British coalmining industry that has led the price-cutting process throughout the world, and when we talk about this Bill having anything to do with prices abroad we have to keep this fact in mind. Our policy here has had the effect of driving down prices in Germany, in France, in every coal-producing country in the world, and to-day the coalmining industry in all those countries is in very much the same position as is the mining industry in this country. They are practically on the border of bankruptcy, and for years past they have been endeavouring to open up negotiations with representative industrialists in this country with a view to allocating the business of Europe, so as to get higher prices for themselves, because, just as you have cut-throat competition proceeding in this country, so you have it between the European countries in the foreign markets, and they are as much concerned in getting a better price for foreign coal as we are ourselves.
In order to live on our prices they have had to get all kinds of subsidies, direct and indirect; and if we set up machinery of the kind outlined in this Bill, one of the things which I should expect to result from it would be, not the selling of coal cheaper to the Continent than has been the case hitherto, but the fixing of international arrangements under which coal will be sold, not at monopolistic prices or at inflated prices, but at an economic level. Coal to-day is being sold in foreign markets, not at a reasonable profit, but at a very substantial loss, and there is no sense or reason in carrying on business and sending the coal produced in this country to foreign lands at a price below that at which it is produced. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen talked about the pro- 1696 visions in this Bill for getting cheap coal for foreign lands. There is to be a levy imposed upon all the home-produced and home-consumed coal, in order to get cheap coal for abroad. I agree that there is a permissive Clause in the Bill, and the National Board may, if they care to, put in such a provision, but, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has explained, that Board consists of representatives of all the coalowners in this country. I shall believe that that Board is going to put in such a proviso as that when I see it.
If the owners in Derby, Nottingham, Warwick, Leicester and the other Midland coalfields can be induced to hand over some of the proceeds of their sales to the coalowners of Wales, all I can say is that there is a little bit more Christian spirit in them than I have seen evinced up to now. As a matter of fact, nothing of that kind is likely to happen. In some areas where they have a large home consumption and a small proportion of their output is sent abroad, this policy may be pursued in relation to that small quantity, but I should be very surprised if that permissive provision in the Bill were ever put into operation. I would like to come to 1925 and 1926. We have given the policy of settling the coal problem by cutting prices a very fair chance. The last Government dealt with this problem in 1925 and 1926, and I was amazed to read recently a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition referring to this Bill. In Edinburgh, on 13th December, he said:It seems to me that the effect of the present legislation will be to throw back once more the coal industry into the political arena, from which with such infinite difficulty we saved it in 1926.I could understand the Leader of the Opposition saying, "We did our best to keep this out of the political arena; we did our best to put it on to some basis, and to provide a solution; and we thought we were doing it. We were honest in our attempt to solve it. by longer hours and lower wages. We thought that that was a correct line of procedure." I can understand him saying that, and I dare say it would be true if he said it. I do not believe that in 1926 anybody responsible for the Government would, from a spirit of cussedness, merely pursue a policy to the detriment of the 1697 miners unless they thought that it was going to be an advantage to the community, and unless they believed in it as an ultimately successful policy. Had he said that, he should have gone on to say: "We regret that our policy has hopelessly failed, and that it has resulted in creating a much worse position; therefore, we must help this Government to provide a better proposal than we adopted."
When that policy was being pursued, we pointed out that the problem in the coal industry was of such a character that it could not be solved by longer hours and lower wages. I strongly urged that, and predicted that the result of an eight-hours' day would mean not merely not solving the coal problem, but immensely worsening the situation. What has happened? What we said then has come true in every item and detail. I challenge anybody during this Debate to name any period in the whole history of this country when there have been so many miners unemployed, when the standard of life of the miners as judged on the basis of the purchasing power of wages has been so low, when there have been so many bankruptcies among the coalowners, and when the problem of the coal trade was so intense, as at the present time. It has been enormously worsened as a result of the eight-hours' day.
I have here the results of 2½ years' working under the eight hours' day. In the quarter ending March, 1927, everybody expected prosperity. We had had six or seven months' trouble; stocks had been exhausted; there was no coal in the country; we wanted to replenish our exhausted stores; and we expected high prices and a good volume of trade. What happened? In the first quarter there was a profit of £3,500,000. By the end of that time, the effect of the eight hours' day had come into operation. There was more coal coming on to the market than there was an outlet for, the scramble for the business that was available became more and more intensified and prices began to fall. What has been the result? In the June quarter of 1927, there was a loss of £2,400,000; in the September quarter, a loss of £3,150,000; in December, a loss of £2,900,000. In the March quarter of 1928, the loss was £2,200,000; in June, £3,600,000; and in September, 3,300,000; and so it goes on. The last results show a loss for the June 1698 quarter of 3½d. a ton, which is precisely the figure that represented the loss on the industry in 1925, when the Conservatives took it in hand first. At that time, they were dealing with an industry that was paying on a seven hours' basis, and with an industry that employed 1,126,000 men. To-day, they have brought it down to 940,000 men; 180,000 men have been thrown out of employment as a result of their legislation.
We have had these deplorable conditions as a result of a policy, deliberately entered upon, of cutting prices in order to expand the market. It bas simply failed, and the industry has now reached a stage when something has to be done. It is no use talking about what will be the conditions arising out of this Bill. We have to face the position of what is going to happen if this Bill does not go through. Does anybody imagine that this industry can go on along the lines on which it has been moving during the last few years? Surely there is an end to this kind of thing. If the banks next week declined to continue to finance the coal industry in this country, there would be a complete collapse in the industry. How much longer are they going to do it? Only as long as they are satisfied that the rolling stock, and the plant, and the other redeemable assets are sufficient to cover their indebtedness. The day is not far distant when in a large number of cases that point will be reached in the coal trade of this country. If all this was increasing the output and expanding the market, and making a future possible, there would be something to be said for all the sacrifices that have been made, but we are still in the 250,000,000 tons stage. In pre-War days, we had some 30,000,000 tons or more in excess of that, and we are not going to get improvement by the kind of policy that has been pursued hitherto.
What is the object of this legislation? Up till now a policy of cut-throat competition has been proceeding for this simple reason. You have such disparities between the costs of production of the various concerns in the coal trade, some of them producing 5s., 6s. and 7s. a ton below the cost of production in other collieries. As long as you have these disparities in costs, and as long as, coupled with that, there is an output greater than the demand, there will be a scramble for trade and reductions in prices; the low 1699 cost concerns will dominate the market, and the other people will be hopeless and helpless. That is what has been going on, and it is continuing. They have been unable up till now to retain in their industry anything that they have had. They had £24,000,000 by way of subsidy, and it passed through the industry like water through a sieve. They have been given £150,000,000 a year out of the wages of the miners, and it has gone through the industry in the same way. They have had substantial reductions in costs, and it has all gone in the same way. It has gone because the owners are unable to coordinate their activities, to control prices, and to prevent the policy of cut-throat competition at home and abroad.
This Bill aims at putting a check on them. Quite frankly, there is no attempt on our part to hide it. The Liberals, as I understand their Amendment, say: "We are quite prepared that you shall have a shorter working day, but go and fight for it." Let there be no misunderstanding that if the Liberal position in this Amendment, and in their general attitude, should become effective, and if their sentiments were translated into action that we should have only a shorter working day through this Bill, it would mean a shorter working day with a fight. The miners of this country are not going to submit to any more reductions in wages. If that happens, it will not happen without a fight'. It is an injustice to the miners to expect them to submit to still further reductions in wages. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke on Tuesday made out such a case for a reduction in hours as won my greatest admiration. It was a much stronger case than I could have put, a case that is absolutely unanswerable, and yet the miners cannot have that mere measure of justice without fighting for it again; unless something is done to prevent the employers cutting each other's throats and undercutting in the markets and thus enabling some revenue to be brought into the industry.
This Bill may not be all that people think it should be. It may be a rotten Bill; it may be everything that has been said about it; but surely, if the proposals do not meet the case, it is the business of this House to help to make them meet the case. The Liberals, at any rate, have 1700 put down something in the nature of suggestions for the future, but not to meet the present position. The Conservatives are not prepared to make any suggestions at all. They do not say, "Yes, we agree there is something to be done, but this is not the way to do it, and we suggest an alternative method." No, they say, "Just leave things alone. Read this Bill this day six months." In other words, it is a "do nothing" policy. I should be very pleased if this Bill could be given a, Second Reading and amended in such a way as will make it more efficient and more effective for the purpose for which it was introduced. I have listened to the suggestions made and the questions asked. I did not know what the Government's replies would be. I have no authority to speak on behalf of the Government, but I gathered not merely from the replies, but from the original statement of the President of the Board of Trade, that they were going to introduce an amalgamation scheme and were going to appoint commissioners to carry it into effect. The Liberals say, "But you have not the power to do it." The President says, "I think we have, but if we have not we will obtain powers." There is common agreement between us on principle about that. The Liberals say, "Are you prepared to insist upon amalgamating them on present values and net upon inflated values?" A very definite and emphatic reply in the affirmative has been given to that question. [interruption.] I did not catch what was said.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
Well, I read the report to-day and I understood it to say that it is the intention of the Government definitely to secure the amalgamations without including in the price any fictitious values which will be created by this Bill. What is more, they say they do not think any fictitious values will be created, but if such be the case, it will be the duty of the commissioners in amalgamating the mines to see that any fictitious value is not taken into consideration. There is one question which has been stressed and to which, so far as I know, no reply has been given, and that is as to the price. Is there to be proper public control of prices? I have not heard any definite reply to that, and 1701 I am not authorised to give any reply. I suppose some reply will be given later. But I am speaking now on behalf of the miners on this point, and I can say this so far as the miners are concerned, that we do not desire any schemes that will enable either the miners or the mine- owners to fleece the British public, but to charge nothing beyond what is necessary to enable us to have a decent civilised existence. As to any safeguards that can be inserted in any part of the Bill that will bring about that result, as far as we are concerned there is no combination between the miners and the mineowners to carry the thing further than that. As far as we are concerned, we would not enter into such a combination. We should certainly adhere to that provision.
I want now to say a few words about the amalgamation proposals. I regard the present position of the Government as being very largely due to the action of the Commission of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen was head in making what in my judgment was an altogether wrong report upon the evidence submitted to them. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not mind my differing from him in my interpretation of the facts which were placed before that Commission. After all, the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues had that evidence before them for a few months. At that time they were qualified better than any other individuals in this country to form a judgment. But we have had the same data before us for three years now, all the evidence, all the facts, all the figures, all the accountants' state-ments, everything upon which they formed their conclusion, and any one of us can form his or her own judgment upon that data. I realise that I am expressing a contrary opinion to that of a very able and competent gentleman, and I realise that in differing from him, I may be regarded as a little bit lacking in modesty.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will remember that the report was the unanimous report of all the Commissioners.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
Yes. I intended to say that; but had I been on that Commission there would have been a minority report. Let us look at the position for 1702 a minute. In 1925, and that after all, is the crucial date, the conditions in the mining industry were the subject of a special examination by the Commission. What did they find? They found that the mining industry, taking it all through, sustained a loss of 3d. per ton for the half year ending June, 1925. I dealt with those figures in 1926 and I showed what that 3d. per ton meant. The industry taken as a unit, as one complete whole, showed a loss of 3d. per ton. But when we look at it in its respective constituent parts, what do we find? Out of the 613 concerns we find that 90 lost from 3d. to 1s. per ton, 89 from 1s. to 2s., 74 from 2s. to 3s., 42 from 3s. to 4s., 16 from 4s. to 5s., six from 6s. to 7s., and 35 over 7s. per ton. You will see how difficult it is to understand the whole coal problem when 3d. per ton loss means 7s. per ton loss to some collieries. That is what happened in connection with 396 firms out of the 613 producing 58 per cent. of the output. What about the others? We find that 74 firms made profits of less than is.1s per ton, 63 made profits of between 1s. and 2s., 35 between 2s. and 3s., 18 between 3s. and 4s., 14 between 4s. and 5s., six between 5s. and 6s., two between 6s. and 7s., and six made profits of more than 7s. per ton. There we have a group of 217 firms making profits varying from less than 1s. to over 7s. per ton, while the industry as a whole was losing 3d. per ton. It is difficult to understand how 3d. per ton loss can be harmonised with 7s. per ton loss, and how 3d. per ton loss means 5s. per ton profit. It is a very difficult proposition.
What was the position of the industry then? There are three facts which I want to put before the House, and on the basis of those facts I entirely disagree with the findings of the Commission. The price of coal during that half-year was 18s. per ton. The cost of producing it was 18s. 3d. per ton. Had the industry been under common ownership, had the whole industry been unified, at the end of 1925 the simple problem with which the country would have been faced would have been, "How are you going to wipe off 3d. per ton loss?" A 10 per cent. reduction of wages would have reduced the cost 1s. 3d. per ton, which would have meant wiping out the losses and establishing a profit of 1s. per ton on the total industry. That is a fact proved by the statistics of the right hon. 1703 Gentleman's documents. Those are facts and figures that cannot be challenged. If the coal industry in this country produced the coal at 17s. per ton and sold it at 18s., there could be 1s. per ton profit on every ton raised, and the wages payable to the men and the number of men employed in 1925 could be maintained out of the finances of this industry. Can this industry afford to pay 18s. per ton? At 18s. per ton this industry can employ 1,126.000 men. It is true that at the present time prices are 4s. below that, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs talks about raising the price of coal 4s. 6d. per ton—
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
—I would say this. For another 4s. per ton you could employ another 180,000 men and find them in wages of £120 a year.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
We have got no different markets. The market has not changed at all. You could put them in, you could pay wages and make a profit of 1s. per ton. I am prepared to debate this and produce the figures, and I say the statement I am making is absolutely irrefutable. On the prices prevailing in 1925, the total number of men employed at that time could be continued in employment. They could continue on a seven-hours basis, and the employers could have 1s. per ton profit on every ton of coal raised if we merely maintained prices at that time, costs at that time and markets at that time. Nothing that has been done up to now has changed that fact. That is what we ought to have done in 1925, instead of which we pursued an entirely different policy. What has been the result? Since then we have sold 800,000,000 tons of coal, not at 18s. per ton, but at an average price of 15s. 5d. We have received 2s. 7d. a ton on 800,000,000 tons of coal in the last four years, and how does that work out? It means about £106,000,000 saved to the nation in cheap coal. I must point out, however, that more than £30,000,000 of that went abroad. We saved about £70,000,000, and what has it cost to get to that stage? To begin with, it has 1704 cost the employers £40,000,000 which they forfeited in profits; the cost to the Exchequer was £24,000,000 in subsidies, and the cost to the miners was £43,000,000 in wages. One other item must be added. In 1926–27 the total imported was 23,000,000 tons, and if that had been bought at the 1925 British price it could have been produced in this country for £21,000,000, instead of which we paid £52,000,000 to foreign coalowners. In addition to that we had a six months' struggle which landed us in a worse position than we were in before.
Now we find that the leaders of political parties to-day are not facing this question. The Liberal party say that they are prepared to unify this industry from top to bottom. As far as I am concerned, I am with them all the way in that proposal, and I am speaking for the miners. Why are the Government not introducing those terms? Simply because the Liberal leaders in 1925 said that they wanted a system of small group amalgamations and because the Tory party said: "We are not going to adopt the system of unifying the industry." The Government know that the only effective remedy is to unify the industry from top to bottom, and yet they do not propose it because they know that they cannot get the support of the parties opposite for that proposal.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
How does the right hon. Gentleman know that the Opposition parties are opposed to such a scheme? A scheme of that kind has never been introduced.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
During the Debates in 1925 and 1926 the Leader of the party then in Opposition made a proposal of that kind and urged the Government to adopt it. That scheme was turned down by the Government of the day, and they pursued a policy of an entirely different kind. We know that the Liberal party does not hold that view, but all that I want hon. Members opposite to do is to face the facts, and a solution of this problem can be found only by fairly and squarely facing the facts. We say that if you will not nationalise the coal industry and place it under State ownership, at any rate unify it. You may arrange for public control over the industry if you like, but at any rate unify it. If you want to make an industry successful there is nothing like 1705 having it in one set of hands. If you want to remedy what has been called the unfortunate position of the coal industry it can he accomplished only by treating that industry as one unit. If you want to transfer workmen from the unprofitable pits to the more highly efficient and less costly pits, it can best be done when the industry is being run as one concern. The problem cannot be solved in any other way. If we cannot get any further by the present methods we must go in some other direction, and if that leads us into the direction of having a unified industry then I am willing to go along that road. We do not wish to go along the road of compromise, and it is no use talking about setting up a monopoly and leaving control in the hands of private enterprise.
Are the Liberal party and the Labour Government prepared to unify this industry from top to bottom? If we can get some proposals brought forward which will prevent cut-throat competition, make national agreement possible, compel the grading and pricing of different kinds of coal and provide for amalgamation to take place in the direction of unifying the industry, that will be a very useful preliminary, and, as far as I am concerned, I am prepared to support a policy of that kind. I regard this Bill with all its defects, and in spite of the criticisms that have been directed against it, as proceeding on the right lines in relation to the marketing arrangements, and I regard the preventing of cutthroat competition as an essential element. Until the Leaders of the party opposite can show how the objects I have put forward can be achieved in a better way than under the proposals of this Bill, as far as the miners are concerned this Measure will receive all the support we can give it.
As a new Member may I ask for that indulgence which is generally given to those who address the House for the first time? I think that in considering a question of this kind we should erase from our minds any question of giving special consideration either to one particular section of this industry or the other. On this side of the House we do not represent the coalowners any more than the coal miners, and I hope hon. Members opposite find themselves in the same position. We have to consider 1706 this industry from the point of view of the whole country, and also from the point of view of those industries which are dependent upon this industry for their raw material. I have had a good deal to do with the coal industry during the last 15 years, and my opinion is that the tragedy of the industry is due to the fact that it has been constantly dragged into the political arena.
If we examine this Measure not from a political point of view, but from a business point of view we shall find that, by this Bill, a difficulty will be created which will make it almost impossible to carry on the industry with success. The late Government passed an Act which was known as the Eight Hours' Bill. Hon. Members opposite spend a good deal of their time declaring that the Conservative party consider that the miners should work eight hours. It is true that the Conservative party passed a Bill permitting the industry to work eight hours where it was necessary, and we passed that Bill because we realised that if it were not passed, it would not be a question of working seven or eight hours but of working no hours at all. The problem which we have to face in the coal industry is that the customers we have had in the past have disappeared, and we are now faced with the problem of keeping the customers whom we have at the present time. How is this Bill going to do that? It has been admitted by the President of the Board of Trade, and by every hon. Member who sits on the benches opposite, that this Measure is bound to increase the cost of coal. If you raise the price of coal, how do you think you are going to keep the customers you have at present? Take the South Wales district alone. It has been estimated that on account of what was known as the De-rating Bill, economies have been made and the cost of production lowered by, roughly speaking, £3,000,000 per annum. It has been estimated fairly reliably that if hours are reduced from eight to 7½ in the South Wales coalfield, it will increase the cost of production by £4,000,000 per annum, and that is a very low figure. Somebody has to find that £4,000,000. The customers you have at present have to find it. The President of the Board of Trade mentioned something about differential prices. I happen to know that at the present time negotia- 1707 tions are going on between the heavy industries and the coal trade. The heavy industries say: "We know there is bound to be an increase of price. What are we going to do about it?" I would point out that an increase of price of 4s. per ton, as has been suggested, means 12s. when it comes to steel. Therefore, very naturally the heavy industries approach the coal industry and say: "What are you going to do about it?" The coal industry says—as has been almost admitted by the President of the Board of Trade—"Well, perhaps we will not increase the price to you." What does that mean? The other customers have to pay the heavy industries' bill. That is all it means.
I was rather interested in one or two remarks by the Secretary for Mines yesterday. He tried to give the House the impression that Members on this side of the Rouse do not think about the coalminer. I have worked and lived with the coalminer, and I have done something which, probably, a great many people in this House have not done. I have played golf with him. We did it during the 1912 strike and we might have done worse things. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who won?"] They did. The Secretary for Mines said: "We are making a gift of half an hour to the coal miners." I cannot believe that he and his supporters will spend any time in the Christmas Recess going round the country and saying: "This is our gift to you." He is not going to Yorkshire saying: "This is our gift to the miners of this country." He is not going to South Wales and the other districts where they are working eight hours at present, to say: "We are giving you half an hour in this Bill, but, at the same time, under the quota system, which will be stabilised and legalised, you may find yourselves out of work altogether."
If you are going to reduce the output of the mines throughout the country, as this Bill is going to do, you are bound to reduce the number of men employed in those mines, and you have to find jobs for them. We on this side of the House are as much concerned in finding jobs for the miner as anybody else. We say this Bill will not do it. It will even chase away the customers that the industry has at present. It is going to add un- 1708 told difficulties to the operation of the mines. It has been said that these industries cannot establish marketing schemes unless it is done by legislation. I do not believe that for a single moment. In my own industry we have been able to establish a marketing and controlling scheme covering not only the whole of this country but the United States as well. That is tin-plating which some hon. Members opposite know all about. What can be done in one industry can be done in another, and what brings it about? Economic pressure. It will bring it about in this industry as in others, but never as long as owners and miners are always waiting to see what the Government are going to do.
Before we rush into further legislation, we must realise the position of the industry. We must produce our coal and sell it at the market price, without going into any question of hours, or wages, or anything else. We must realise what is the position of those people who are competing with us at the present moment. In the first place, and it is most important, in other countries this industry has not been submitted to a raging, tearing political propaganda as it has been in this country. I say quite definitely that this is more responsible than anything else for the tragedy of the industry in this country. We hear that in this or that country they work seven or eight hours, and that wages are this or that. A few years ago I was working in Germany. At that time we worked a 12-hour day, Saturday and Sunday and everyday, and the only holidays were one day at the beginning of the year and one day at Easter. What we have to realise is, not what the working day is, but how many hours are worked in the year. The other day we had introduced in this House an Annual Holiday Bill. We are all in favour of an annual holiday and of giving another hour, but we have to compete with these people who are producing coal under conditions more favourable than we can compete with. Until we appreciate that, we cannot meet them successfully in this industry.
This Bill is going to establish what is known as a National Board for the decision of wages disputes, and so on. I presume it will be composed of members of the Miners' Federation and members of the Mining Association. These two bodies have never yet been able to sit 1709 round the same table. It is a very unfortunate thing, but it is nevertheless the case, and they never will be able to sit round the same table until they make up their minds that they are going to see each other's point of view. As long as the Miners' Federation is nothing but a political organisation whose aim and object in this country is the nationalisation of the coal mines, with or without compensation—that has never been made clear—you will never get these two bodies to sit satisfactorily round the same table. When the Miners' Federation make up their minds that their aim and object should be to make their industry profitable and they give a fair deal, they will have the country, and whatever Government is in office, behind them. It will be only then that we shall be able to see this industry revived and once again prosperous. This Bill will do nothing but create more difficulties and, in my opinion, much greater differences of opinion than have existed in the past. The one man who is not considered or consulted in any way is the consumer, and we in this House are the trustees of the consumer. We have passed legislation during the last month which is going to cost millions of money, and those millions have to be found, not by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but by the industries of this country, which are all dependent on this industry for their raw material. This Bill is going to make it more difficult for those industries to find that money and I shall support its rejection.
§ Mr. GORDON MACDONALD
It falls to my lot to convey to the last speaker, with some recollection of my own maiden speech, my appreciation of the manner in which he has fulfilled a difficult task. I remember my own difficulties and I have the greatest sympathy with anybody trying to deliver a maiden speech. I certainly did not agree with much that he said, but I hope if he stays long in this House he will join us on this side. This Debate has contained many things interesting to us in the mining districts. It has shown, in the first place, to a majority of the Members of this House that the need for this Bill arises from the cruel and callous way in which the miners were dealt with in 1926. If the Conservative Government of that day had dealt with the subject in a more 1710 humane manner, there would not have been the need for this Bill in 1929.
There is also agreement among the majority of Members of this House that something should he done, and done immediately. I was pleased to hear from the spokesman of the Liberal party that there is also agreement among the majority of the Members of that party on the question of the shortening of the working day. The Liberals agree with us that the present working day of the miner is too long and ought to be shortened, and I think I can say that they agree with us that the present wages are so low that they ought not to be reduced, but, on the other hand, ought as soon as possible to be increased substantially. I was also pleased to notice that the Liberals agree with us as to the need for a National Board in the mining industry. It is true that there is a minority which does not subscribe to any of these statements, and I want to say quite frankly that we never expect any sympathetic consideration from that minority.
The miners will never look to the Conservative party for any sympathetic consideration of their troubles. If there be a body of politicians that has forfeited for ever the confidence of a body of workers, it is the Conservative party. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) has pointed out that the Liberal party had the good sense to put down a reasoned Amendment. The Conservative party did not think that the mining industry was worthy of a reasoned Amendment, but thought it quite sufficient to say, "Reject the Bill; do not suggest any alternative; leave things as they are. We dealt as a party with the mining industry and put the miner in his place in 1926; do not let the miner rise higher than that unless we put him there. Leave his working day as it is; do not think about trying to improve his wages, and do not suggest reducing his working day." That has been the Conservative policy for many years. We never expect it to change, and it is never likely to win the confidence of the miners of this country.
Much has been said of the things which are not in the Bill. I want to make it clear that the miners in this House can suggest many things which they would have liked to see in the Bill. They would 1711 have liked to see some proposal dealing with the question whether the industries closely related to the mining industry—the by-product industries—ought not to be related financially to this industry. We should like to see proposals that the proceeds of all the related industries should be taken as proceeds to determine the wages of all those who work in the mining industry and in related industries. That is not in the Bill. We should have liked also to see something dealing with the vast disparity between the pit-head price and the price paid by the consumer. There is nothing that troubles the miner more than the fact that whoever handles coal after it has left the pit-top gets more out of it than anyone who handles it before it gets to the pit-top. In 1926, a number of friends of mine who had worked with me at the coal face determined to cease working at the coal face. They said to me that working in the coal industry as producers did not pay, and they were going to take on the job of distributing. They are still my neighbours. They have been distributors of coal now for three years, and they tell me that they have got more in those three years as distributors of coal than they got in any previous three years as producers. I am not suggesting that these young men are getting too much as distributors. My point is that any system which allows a man to handle coal after it has been brought to the pit-top at a greater profit than it gives in wages to the miner who gets the coal stands condemned.
I also realise that there are things in this Bill which will be very much appreciated by the miners. I was rather amused to hear from the ex-Secretary for Mines the reason why the Conservative party are not going to support this Bill—that it does too much for the miners. Then we heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that his party are not prepared to support the Bill because it does too much for the coal-owners. When a Bill which does too much for the miners in the direction of shortening hours—which meets with the approval of the Liberal party—and, on the other hand, does too much for the coalowners, which does not meet with the approval of the Liberal party, is 1712 opposed by the Conservative party, I cannot understand the position. I have always looked upon the Conservative party as the finest body of supporters that a body of employers like the coalowners could ever have, but this Bill, which does too much for the coalowners to satisfy the Liberals, is opposed by the Conservative party. It does too much for the miners to win the support of the Conservatives, and yet the Liberals are saying that they are not quite sure whether they will support it or not.
We have heard much about hours, and we have got to face this position sooner or later. Liberty of output has been allowed; there has been no restriction; and yet to-day the coal industry is in a deplorable condition. What happens today? Any colliery is allowed to produce all the coal that it can, regardless of requirements, and the result is that some collieries are dealing with tremendous surplus stocks, and, having sold their ordinary stocks at decent prices, they dump the surplus stocks down in other markets at slaughtered prices which handicap the collieries in those other districts. For instance, the Yorkshire coalfield is dumping coal in Liverpool at 1s. 6d. a ton less than the pithead price at collieries near Liverpool. We say that, surely, some regard must be had to the question of output. Excessive output is hampering the coal trade generally.
It was pointed out by the President of the Board of Trade that, as a result of rationalisation both on the production and on the consumption side, we have reached what is regarded by all parties as a static figure for consumption. If that be so, surely some regard ought to be paid to the relationship between output and that static figure for consumption. We are told that prices are going to be regulated, and that we must have regard to the agricultural labourer. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild), in his maiden speech, put in a very proper plea for the agricultural labourer. We have to face this position. If the purchasing power of the agricultural labourer is to determine the price of coal, very well. The miners have no objection whatever, provided that it be also agreed that the purchasing power of the miner is to determine the prices of the commodities that he must buy. We 1713 do not at all mind coal being sold at a low price; all that we are concerned about is that the miner who risks his life and runs all the dangers of mining life shall in return get sufficient to enable him to live and continue working as a miner and to do his duty to those who are dependent upon him. Surely, we have a right to ask that the man who is working in the mining industry should get in return for his labour sufficient to enable him to be a father to his children.
The question has been raised of some of our competitors on the Continent being able to produce coal at lower wages than are paid in this country. That is not the case. If we compare the wages paid in the pre-War period and to-day, and the cost of living, in the coal-producing countries on the Continent, with the corresponding conditions in this country, we shall find that the Continental miner in many districts is better off, comparatively speaking, than the British miner. Our wages throughout this country to-day stand at 42 per cent. higher than they were in 1914. The cost of living to-day stands at 67 per cent. higher. In the Ruhr, the wages stand to-day at 65 per cent. over 1914, and the cost of living at 54 per cent. over 1914. They are 11 per cent. better off than they were in 1914, while the British miner is 25 per cent. worse off. In Upper Silesia, the present earnings are 23 per cent. over those of 1914, and the cost of living is 12.8 per cent. less than in 1914. Therefore, they are better off to the extent of 35.8 per cent. than they were in 1914.
As regards working hours, the last speaker mentioned that the working hours in this country are very low as compared with Continental countries, but I will show the relative worsening of the position for the British miner and the relative improvement of the position of the Continental miner. In 1913, the average working day in Great Britain was 8½ hours. The average in France was 8½ hours; in Belgium it was 9 hours, and in Upper Silesia it was 9½ hours. To-day in Great Britain the working day averages 8 hours and 19 minutes. In France it is 7 hours and 47 minutes, in Belgium 8 hours, and in Poland 9 hours and 10 minutes. That means that in Great Britain we are to-day 11 minutes better off than we were in 1913, while in France they are 43 minutes better off, in Belgium 1714 an hour better off and in Poland 20, minutes better off. My only point in putting these figures is to make it quite clear to the House that comparatively speaking the British miner is worse off to-day than he was in 1913 as compared with the Continental miner. In 1913 he stood among the best; to-day he stands worst in both hours and wages.
With regard to the question of economic pits, what is an economic pit? If it be said that a pit is economic provided that it pays the low wages imposed upon the worker, and provided that it allows that worker to work the long hours imposed upon him. we do not agree. Our conception of an economic pit is that it gives the producer of coal, in return for his labour, wages which will enable him to live a full life, and that at the same time it gives the coal to the consumer at a price which will enable the consumer to get all that he wants out of the product.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
The regulation of prices under this Bill is for the definite purpose of providing that the worker shall receive decent wages for his work, and of providing the consumer at the same time with coal at the lowest possible price which will enable that to be done.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
You will find that in the Committee stage. That is the position of the miners in this House. The present position of the mining industry is unsatisfactory, and we cannot afford to leave it as it is. At the present moment the atmosphere is suitable for getting some fair settlement in the industry. Every one of the discussions in this House in the past has taken place at a time when there was a struggle going on in the industry; there has been a stoppage on every occasion when this industry has been a topic of discussion in the House. I submit to everyone on all sides that it is far better to get at the mining industry, which is a source of endless trouble in this country, when the atmosphere is suitable, and I suggest that now the atmosphere is suitable, if only we in this House can say to ourselves that the miner is a necessity for this country, that on the product of his labour 1715 depends to a great extent the prosperity of this country, and that, therefore, the importance of the industry is such that we in this House will see to it that all that we can do to make this Bill one which will place the industry on a suitable and satisfactory basis will be done by every party in the House.
§ Major COLVILLE
I want to refer principally to the position of Scotland as affected by this Bill. The President of the Board of Trade said that Scotland was the one district which so far had not come into the scheme. He said his countrymen and mine were naturally a cautious race, and no doubt when they saw there was economic benefit in it they would Dome into the scheme. I represent a constituency in which there are many thousands of miners, and I am going to carry the attack direct into our opponents' camp by saying I resent the statement that the Conservative party has done nothing for the miners. To do that, I am going to make this statement first of all—I am referring to Scotland only—that this Bill will do absolutely nothing for Scotland except to put her in a worse position competitively with the rest of the United Kingdom. It will put Scotland absolutely into the pocket of Yorkshire, to start off with. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Hon. Members really must not interrupt. The Debate has been very well conducted hitherto, and I hope that we shall be able to keep it up.
§ Major COLVILLE
I will try not to be provocative. It is not my intention, but this is a highly debatable subject. I should like to run over the position in Scotland at present. I am not going back into past history, and I will sketch the position very briefly. Soot-land produces about 33,000,000 tons a year. It produces very much more than it consumes. In other words, it produces plenty of coal for all its own requirements, and has a large export margin. The export margin is about 40 per cent. of the total—30 per cent. foreign export, and 10 per cent. coastwise and bunkers. In the East, where my constituency is, the export is very much larger. It represents about 60 or 05 per cent. of the total coal raised in Fife and the Lothians. What has the position been with regard 1716 to the Scottish trade? Scotland, on the whole, is a troubled coalfield physically. We have physical troubles to get over. If the Scottish coalfield were as easy to work as the Yorkshire coalfield, the question of working 7½ hours would be an easier one for us. It is a troubled coalfield, but the difficulties have been met very largely by science and engineering. Sixty per cent. of the coal won is won mechanically, which is a far higher percentage than in any other part of the United Kingdom.
I want to pay a tribute to the men. Absenteeism is the lowest in the country. It is about half what it, is in any other district. I pay that tribute to the men deliberately because it is only fair to put that side of it, too. The men—whether they agree with me politically or not I do not care—are taking a great part in the recovery that is taking place in the industry. The amount raised per man per shift is greater than in any other part of the United Kingdom. The men have worked hard in order to reach a point when they might be coming to a time for better wages. Wages are not too high now, but the Bill is saying goodbye to better wages for a long time to come. It is taking off a half hour, which will add to costs, and if anyone disputes this fact, why did not the Government take a whole hour off the first week they were in office? The industry has been through a hard time in Scotland, as it has in South Wales and Durham, and the miners have had an exceedingly hard time, but things are considerably better. In that part of Scotland where there is the largest export there has been a very real improvement, I am glad to say, not only in the number of men employed but in the general position of the industry. As an example, in January of this year the amount exported from the Fife and Lothian ports to Sweden was 7,000 tons and in September it was 59,000 tons. Of course, a month is sometimes not a very good example, but these are typical months. The amount exported to Denmark was 30,000 tons in January, and 82,000 tons in September; and to the Netherlands, 23,000 tons in January and 48,000 tons in September. The total export from these ports to all countries was 256,000 in January and 480,000 in September.
1717 In other words, we are getting back our markets and our export trade on which the prosperity of the coal industry in the Lothians and Fife almost entirely depends. What helped to get that export trade back? De-rating has helped enormously. I sometimes hear a laugh from the benches opposite when de-rating is mentioned, but, without doubt, but for it a great number of men would be unemployed in Fife and the Lothians today who are getting work because they have been able to get back certain of these lost markets. What else has helped? There is no doubt that the lengthening of the hours has helped. If I am asked, "How would you like to work for eight hours underground?" I should not like it. It is not my job. On the other hand, if the miner has chosen his job, the industry must be made to pay and coal must be sold if he is to be found a job in the industry, and he would not have been found a job in very many cases if it were not that the result of the lessening of costs has enabled coal to be sold in these markets. What is taking place is simply that we are getting back markets we have lost. I do not dislike the idea of international arrangements—I am in favour of them—but before our eyes the best possible kind of international arrangement is going on, namely, that British coal is getting back into markets which have been lost for a long time, and we shall be in a better position to treat for international arrangement if that progress is not interrupted and we go on and get back our full quota.
There is another market—that is the home market. We now come more to the west side of Scotland, where the market is in the heavy industries. I speak with some direct knowledge, as being connected with those heavy industries. They have had a hard struggle. The price of steel is very much affected by the price of coal, and there is no doubt that orders would have been lost and men would have been put out of employment if it had not been possible to keep down the cost of coal. What would be the result of this legislation? Various figures have been put out as regards the increased cost of working half an hour less. The President of the Board of Trade himself said is. 6d. I am going to make a conservative estimate and put it at rather less than that, but there is no doubt there will be an 1718 increased cost of about 1s. a ton. Who is going to bear that cost? I ask Scottish Members whether Scotland is going to be better or worse off as the result of the Bill as far as trade is concerned. Who is going to bear the extra cost? Forty per cent. is export or coast-wise. We know that the chances of getting an increased price there are very small. Ten per cent. goes to the heavy trades—iron and steel. The chance of getting an increase there, and being able to sell our steel under present conditions, is smaller still.
Fifty per cent, of the market is practically closed to an increase. The other half has to stand the racket. What is the other 50 per cent. Fifteen per cent of it is public utility companies. I think they could stand a little more, but even there we must proceed with caution, because the public utility company in turn sells to the ordinary consumer and puts up the cost, and a great part of the power sold by electrical companies goes into industry and, therefore, directly into the cost of production. In the ease of the Edinburgh Corporation, over 40 per cent. of the electricity sold goes for power, and so it is with the other great Corporations, and they cannot therefore put up the cost to any great extent without increasing production costs in industry. It comes back really to the domestic user, and he will have to suffer a very great increase if this is to be worked on those lines. I have shown that 50 per cent is practically closed—the heavy industries and export-15 per cent. can stand something —the public utility companies—and 18 per cent. may be taken as domestic. The result will be a great increase to the domestic user. A figure was given from the Liberal benches of 4s. 6d. I should put it at rather less, but there is no doubt there will be an increase of over 3s. to the domestic user which will mean an increase in the cost of living in every home.
We are not opposed to co-operative marketing arrangements, but we are opposed to a compulsory scheme of this nature which involves a hold-up of the consumer, and the Scottish owners—this is net a Scottish owners Bill—have stood aside from it. The Scottish producers in other industries will stand aside, and the Scottish public will be badly affected by it. The Scottish miner himself is 1719 going to be affected in this way. He has been working well, and the industry is coming to the time when, instead of making a loss, it is making a profit. There has been a loss in the last two years of over £2,500,000 actual out-of-pocket expenses, but they are coming to a profit earning basis, and in these exporting districts, as the market comes back to us so will the profits return, and there will come a time, if the industry is left alone, when the miner will automatically and rightfully be entitled to a share of those profits under the agreement. He has his auditors and there is the quarterly ascertainment. I consider that the miner is more concerned with getting a better wage than he is with getting shorter hours, and the party opposite, who claim to represent the miner at all times, are not doing him a real service in cutting off this half-hour when they know that that means saying good-bye for a long time to come to a chance of an improvement in wages. What I am saying here I am going down to say in my constituency to the miners, because I most earnestly believe they are not doing him a service in doing this at present.
The Conservative suspension of the Seven Hours Act was a temporary Measure. I think it ought to be allowed to run its time, and at the end of the time I believe the miner will be getting better wages and there will be more men employed and they will be in a better position to consider going back to the original seven hours day. I do not think they are doing the miner in Scotland a service by this Bill, I know they are not doing the consumers a service and I know trade in Scotland generally cannot afford a big increase in cost in what is, after all, an absolute necessity to production. We were often told at the General Election that Scotland was dragged at the heel of England in the matter of de-rating. I do not know at whose heel we are being dragged in this case, but the miners, the steel workers and the general public who have to have fires in their homes will suffer from the effects of the Bill. I have no hesitation in opposing it. The action which we took in lengthening that hour was very unpopular, but I know that it has helped us to get back markets which we should otherwise have lost.
1720 The rest of the Bill, the marketing proposals and so on in the form in which they have come before us, I regard as ca' canny policy and a hold-up of the consumer which does not commend itself to this House. As far as the Central Board is concerned, it will cut across existing conciliation machinery. Generally speaking, the further we get away from the scene of a dispute, the longer it takes to settle it. These parts of the Bill do not loom so largely before the Scottish people as this one question: How are we to get over the difficulty of a definite increase in our costs as a result of a shortening of hours? This places us in a difficult competitive position, and does not give us the opportunity of increased employment, or the employé the chance of an increase in his wages to which he may be entitled in due course of time.
§ Sir TUDOR WALTERS
As I happen to be a director of a colliery company, it is fortunate for me that my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is not present when I rise to speak, because, from observations which have been made in various quarters of the House, it seems to be suggested that we colliery owners are afflicted with a double dose of original sin. I suggest that that is not true. I prefer the estimate formed of us by the Labour Government. I shall no longer attempt to conceal the fact that I am connected with collieries in my political work, but I shall forthwith don that robe of righteousness which they have handed to me and wear it for the rest of my political career.
I do not want this House to imagine that, in the part which colliery owners have taken in these negotiations, they have been actuated entirely by a spirit of selfishness. I think they have taken care to look after themselves, and I rather fancy that in the bargains that they have made with the Government they have certainly net proved second best in skilful negotiations. But I do not think that anyone who is really acquainted with collieries can doubt that some form of rationing and marketing is essential. We must start with that. Realising that fact, how can we best deal with a delicate situation? It is on that account that I do not feel disposed to say any very hard things to the right hon. Gentlemen who sit on the, Front Bench. I think that their motives are good, but they have 1721 adopted an unfortunate method of giving effect to their benevolent intentions. We had explained to us by the President of the Board of Trade the great gap that there is between the productive capacity of the collieries of this country and our markets, and we have had a lot of talk about what are good pits and what are bad pits, and what are economic pits and what are uneconomic pits.
I do not want to weary the House, but I should like to say a few words about the present condition of coal mining. During the last 30 years there has practically been a revolution in coal mining. In the old days before the invention of modern machinery and the adoption of methods of amalgamation, coal was got at comparatively low depths, and that limited the colliery operations to certain areas in the country. But, owing to the marvellous improvement in the skill of colliery engineers and owing to inventions generally, we are now able to work seams which are deep down in the earth. We are able to produce coal of a superior quality and have seams much more easily worked than they were in former days, with the result that in a modern pit in the best area, working the best seams, we can produce at least three times as much coal per man per shift with the same expenditure of labour as can be obtained from the old pits. Three times is a moderate estimate. The increased tonnage produced in these modern pits as compared with old pits working in shallow seams is one of the greatest triumphs of modern industry. Really, if you are to start a scheme of fixing prices, you ought to base them on the result of modern colliery experience. You must not start with the marketing prices on the basis of pits 30 years old which are entirely obsolete in their methods. If you want to get cheap coal, higher wages and shorter hours of labour, you must concentrate your operations upon the pits which have the latest products of scientific knowledge and modern mining engineering. If you start there, you will see where the main difficulty lies.
What does this Bill propose to do? It takes all the pits, ancient and modern, I was going to say, and regards them all alike, calculates total tonnage on the production of uneconomic pits and economic pits together, and then, having arrived at a standard, gives a quota. 1722 That means to say, that the production of one of our fine modern pits in South Yorkshire which can produce 1,000,000 tons of coal per annum, will be cut down to about 750,000 tons, and that will make it dearer to produce each ton of that 750,000 tons than to produce each ton of 1,000,000 tons. What is going to happen to the other 250,000 tons? You pass it on to another colliery which cannot produce a third of the coal per man per shift that we can produce. That is to say, the cast of production of this 250,000 tons, which has been taken away from us and given to an old out-of-date pit, will be a good many shillings more per ton than if we could have produced it in South Yorkshire. When you come to fix the price, it must be based on a figure that will yield a profit to the poorest pit. Therefore, you have to enable us in South Yorkshire to make twice the profit that we ought to do and charge the consumer a higher price for his coal, based upon the cost of the output of the obsolete pit.
I cannot conceive a more suicidal policy than that. It is as though we had said: "Taxicabs have been invented, but hansoms and four wheelers are in existence. Let us put them all into one group and quota them and ration them, and let us take care in the matter of speed that no taxicab shall go faster than the old-fashioned growler, and let us take care that the scale of pay shall be precisely the same for it." That would not be tolerated for a single moment. I would suggest that, if this Bill had become law 35 years ago, you would have had no South Yorkshire coalfield, no South Derbyshire coalfield, and no Nottinghamshire coalfield, but you would still have been grubbing your coal in very shallow seams and paying your men starvation wages. You cannot shut your eyes to the progress of science in this country. You cannot ration and standardise upon old-fashioned methods. If this were of any advantage to the men, something might be said for it. But is it to the advantage of the men? You have a quota which ought to have remained in the possession of the pit of higher productive capacity than the obsolete pit.
It is no condition on the obsolete pit that they should work the quota. In fact, we are told that they may dispose of it; they may sell this quota. Who 1723 gets the money as the result of the sale of the quota? The coalowners get the money. They do not work the coal in the pit. What happens to the men? The men are out of work except a few deputies to keep the coal pit alive. The whole of the sale price goes into the pocket of the mineowner. If anything is to be paid for the quota, it should be paid to the men and not to the owner at all. Why? Because these old pits have had their day. Pits that are now described as obsolete, in their day made handsome profits. The capital invested in them has been repaid over and over again. Why on earth should they now be paid for an obsolete pit out of which they have made their profit? No, I would far rather deal with the matter in this way. It would infinitely be preferable to make a levy on the highly economic pits which can produce the coal at a cheap rate and use it, not to send coal abroad, but to pay, over a short term of years, the unfortunate men who have been dispossessed by this system of rationing. I would far rather use the money for the purpose of transferring the men to other areas and for the purpose of developing pits in new areas with a higher productive capacity. The men would then get the benefit of immediate relief and assistance and further employment without unduly burdening the cost of coal to the consumer.
There is a worse side of it than that. Not only would you not have had any of the modern coalfields if this Bill had been passed 30 years ago, but, if you pass it in its present form now, you will have no progress in the future. You will stereotype all your present methods of production. Who shall say that the last word has been spoken in the production of coal? I can imagine that the scientists and the skilled engineers will devise methods which will tend to increase the productive capacity of the miner to give a larger output of coal and enable the whole business to be productive and put on a more economic basis. Nothing of this sort will happen if the Bill is passed in its present form. You will have stereotyped your standards, quotas and methods for all time. What advantage do you provide for the starting of a new coalfield? You 1724 cannot get a quota for the new pit, as the quota has already been distributed to existing pits. A man may spend a million of money in sinking a pit in a district where there is better coal than anything now being produced, and the only way to work that coal with all its appliances and modern machinery, is to buy quotas from somebody else. It is not simply confining yourselves to the past but it is carrying the past into the future. We are to have no future, no development, but constant deterioration of the methods and procedure of the past. Therefore, I suggest that before you can commence your rationing and your marketing, you must get down to the bed-rock of economic production. You must get rid of your un-economic pits. It is no use trying to carry on those pits that produce such a small quantity of coal. By so doing, you are only dragging down the miners. You are preventing them from getting adequate wages. You are making coal so dear that it is difficult for our great basic industries to carry on. You must face the fact of the uneconomic pit, and get rid of it. You may say: "That is very hard on the men." I sometimes find that the past records of the Conservative party give me some enlightenment. I remember the Balfour Licensing Act, under which arrangements could be made for getting rid of redundant licences by a levy on the licensed houses that remained. I should like to apply that principle to the coalfields. I should like to concentrate all the production in the most modern pits, where we could get the utmost output for the labour expended. I should like to close down the obsolete, out-of-date, old-fashioned pits, just as we closed down the redundant public houses, but I would not leave the men any the worse off. I do not think that we can deal with this question merely as a problem in mathematics. There is the human side to this great question which must be considered. I would deliberately and decidedly impose a levy on the output of the highly-productive pits for the purpose of doing something to assist the miners dispossessed by reason of the closing of the uneconomic pits.
You must get an intelligent basis of reorganisation, bringing your pits up-to-date, and getting rid of every hindrance, 1725 before you can intelligently talk about rationing or marketing. Along these lines the Government might meet us. If they would, without reservation, undertake to introduce into this Bill Clauses that would give us an effective scheme of amalgamation, which would involve incidentally the closing down of obsolete pits—any body of business men would concentrate on the best pits and close down those that are uneconomic—and if on those lines of amalgamation and reorganisation we were satisfied that the Government realised the magnitude of the proposition and would meet us, it would go far to disarm much of the hostility which we feel to the Bill in its present crude and illogical form. I need not occupy the time of the House by developing points that have been touched upon already, but I can assure the House that the coalowners are not unmindful of these difficulties. I have no authority to speak for my colleagues. They regard me from my political associations as a somewhat dangerous person, but I can assure the House that the coalowners never dreamed for a, moment that they were going to get such a deal as this. I have lived with coalowners for many years and I have always found that when they make a bargain they are prepared to stand fifty-fifty, and if they get that they are happy and satisfied. I do not believe that the coalowners of this country are so callous and so obstinate as to refuse to come to terms with the Government on a Measure that would really be in the interests of the people of this country.
There is no one in commerce and in industry who for one moment will deny that this Bill will mean an increase of price if it is passed in its present form. We cannot afford an increase in price, and there is no need for an increase in price. I believe that if the policy which I recommend were adopted, if the uneconomic pits were closed and we concentrated upon the best type of pits, we could have a seven hours' day, and not a 7½ hours' day as is suggested in this Bill, at higher wages, with good profits for the mineowners, and cheaper coal for the public, but if the Government pursue this old, foolish policy of attaching themselves for ever to the chariot of the past, if they put that in the Coal Mines Bill and involved the country in a great increase in price of coal, stifle the development of our industries and put an additional 1726 burden upon the domestic consumers which they ought not to bear, they will not be rendering a benefit to the community but will be intensifying the hardships and the difficulties that many people have to face. They will make employment more difficult, they will fetter the development of our trade and, in the long run, they will be judged and will have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.
§ Miss PICTON-TURBERVILL
It is with complete sincerity that I crave the indulgence of the House in this my maiden speech on a subject so complicated, so involved and so difficult. My home for many years, indeed until recently, was in the Vale of Glamorgan, and no one living in the Vale of Glamorgan, within 10 or 15 miles of one of the largest coalfields in the world, could be indifferent to or ignorant of the great problems of the coalfields unless he was indifferent to human affairs. Moreover, it was my privilege to attend the Royal Commission that sat in 1925, day after day, week after week, month after month, listening to both sides of this difficult question. We have heard much to-day on the subject of markets quotas, cartels and amalgamations. While all these are vital matters, I want to concentrate on the million miners upon whose work the whole prosperity of this country depends. The hours of the British miners are the longest hours in Europe, with the exception of two coalfields abroad. Justice to miners is, I think, withheld because it is continually asserted that they are not working as long as other miners in Europe.
The figures given as to the eight hours' and seven-and-a-half hours' day are not comparable unless people take the trouble to realise the difference of winding time. It is said that in France and Belgium the men work eight hours, but they work eight hours from the time that the first cage goes down to the time when the last cage comes up. Average winding time is half an hour, therefore, they are really seven-and-a-half hours underground. The British miner works his eight hours from, the time that the last cage goes down to the time that the first cage comes up, so that he is underground eight-and-a-half hours. In justice to the miners of this country these facts ought to be stated, to controvert the innuendo 1727 that British miners are not working as long hours as the miners of other countries. That statement is unjust. We ought to emphasise the fact that the British miner, with the exception of two coalfields abroad, is working longer hours than any other miner in Europe. In my constituency there are men who are nine hours underground. It is for these men that the second part of the Bill will lessen the toil of life by reducing the working day by half an hour. I am glad that hon. Members below the Gangway opposite are, on this question, on the side of the angels. I am sorry that the hon. Members above the Gangway opposite are on the side of the other people.
Let us concentrate our thoughts for a few moments on the miners. I want to bring home to the House the condition of the men working in the mines. Last year, with the exception of March and December, the men were working less than five days to the week. The average was a little over four days per week, and in some cases the men were bringing home after their week's work 28s. I was in the house of a miner not long ago, and he brought home 28s. I think 3s. had been taken off for his rent, as he lived in a colliery cottage. The man had four children. The average days worked in the mines throughout the country last year was four days, and the miners of Great Britain were on the average bringing home 32s. to 33s. a week. Under these conditions the miners to-day are, to put it mildly, under-nourished. I will not use the word semi-starvation, because I do not want to overstate the case, but it must be obvious that with an average last year of only four days' work, and men bringing home only about 33s. for families of two or three, sometimes larger, they must be under-nourished, and cannot be at their full strength. This Bill seeks to reduce the hours by one half-hour per day. Hon. Members above the Gangway opposite are not prepared to grant this small modicum of relief to men the vast majority of whom are doing strenuous work and under-nourished. They stand for longer hours.
What are the conditions under which they work in the mines? It is true that the mines have improved during the last 20 years, but during their eight hours' work at the present time many men have to stand in water, and others tell me that 1728 they are subject to the most trying experience of water dripping on them from the roof all the time that they are at work. Often when a man reaches the age of 40 or 50 he is scrapped because of rheumatism and sciatica contracted under the conditions of his work. In other mines the men work in such a heat that their vital strength is sapped. Great Britain is the only country in Europe where there is no regulation concerning the heat in which the men are compelled to work. I would draw attention also to the danger of the miners' work. It is a well known fact that there are over one thousand deaths in the mines every year. One of my earliest childhood remembrances is of a great colliery disaster in Glamorgan. It is not only the tragedy when the accident occurs but the condition of working under a continuous fear of the possibility of accident. Let me read to the House the description of a miner working in the Rhondda Valley of his experience:I am working at the pit face. At the same time there has been erected a mechanical apparatus which carries the coal from where I am cutting it along the face and puts it into tubs. Of course this arrangement is only a temporary one, and so, although it is quite efficient and works all right, it naturally is not like a Rolls Royce and makes a great deal of noise. Behind me others are knocking away the props which hold up the roof. Every time a prop comes down part of the roof also comes down with it, pieces of pit coal, shale, stone, and rock and so on. It is the business of the others to call out to me when a prop is coining down, so that I can get out of the way, but, owing to the noise of the machinery, I cannot hear them, and therefore I have to work all the time either looking over my shoulder, in which case I am not getting on with my work, or else—and this is what I really do—just chance it in the hope that in the moment of danger there will be a pause in the machinery in which case I shall hear some shouts warning me when the roof comes down and that it will not come on my head. At the end of six hours' work I am absolutely worn out.In this Bill we want to decrease the hours by half an hour, and it is resisted by Members above the Gangway. It is not only men who are working in our mines; there are boys as well. Every year 20,000 boys between the ages of 14 and 20 come into the mines, and I hope their hours will be reduced by this Measure. Some boys are still working in our mines under the conditions which obtained 80 years ago, chained to sledges. 1729 I will read a description, written in the forties, of the conditions which obtained in last century; but the system still exists in some mines in Great Britain to-day:Boys are chained, belted, like dogs in a go-cart; black, saturated with wet, crawling upon their hands and feet and dragging their heavy loads behind them. They present an appearance disgusting and unnatural.If I was in order, I should make a plea for such a system as that to be abandoned altogether, and I only mention it in order to strengthen the plea that at least the hours in the mines should be reduced for boys working under such conditions. They are pulling sledges, not on wheels, but on runners, and pulling weights of 1¾ cwts. a distance of 40 to 300 yards, sometimes up a gradient of one in six. Those who are motorists in this House will know what a gradient of one in six is like. The right hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Lane Fox) said in his speech that he would be glad to reduce the hours, but the industry would not be able to afford it. I cannot pretend to go into the complicated and involved financial aspects of this coal question. My education was a good one, but my father was my best education. Among the many things he taught me was to read history, and as I have read the history of industrial England I have seen that same argument brought up again and again and again—we will gladly do it if only the industry could afford it. These walls have re-echoed those words again and again in the past. Let me read a passage from a Debate in the fifties of the last century, when an effort was made to reduce the hours worked in factories from 12 to 10:If these hours were reduced from 12 to 10 ruin would be certain. Manufacturers were already working at the lowest possible profit. To limit the hours would mean working at a loss, and manufacturers would be unable to continue business. Wages will go down.I have heard that said in this Debate.Wages will go down if you reduce the hours of labour. Large numbers will be thrown out of work and the industrial greatness of England cannot survive.The hours were reduced and the industrial greatness of England was never more apparent than it was after the reduction of hours. It was always the experts who said this; the men who knew. 1730 And every time their prophecy has been falsified. I am persuaded that their prophecy will be falsified now as it was in the past. The opponents of a Bill for lessening the hours of the worker have always said that they did so in the interests of the workers themselves; that has been said on this Bill. I do not want to shut my eyes to the economic facts of this difficult question, and it is true that except in the months of May, June and July, the mines were run at a loss. But is lengthening the hours and reducing wages the only way to economise? The Royal Commission in their Report say:The method of using coal is unscientific, oil and valuable by-products are wasted. Better organisation and better methods of transport are too occasional and do not secure the best financial results.It is iniquitous to insist on men working longer hours when we know that for two years they have been badly fed and under-nourished and are in a condition which makes it unfair to ask them to work eight hours. I would there was a Regulation concerning the men like there is concerning the horses. There is a Regulation that a sufficient supply of wholesome food shall be provided while the ponies are in the stable and at work. It would be a. fine thing if there was a law that there should be a sufficient supply of wholesome food for the miners as well as for the ponies. The passing of the eight hours day threw out of work no less than 130,000. Is that economy? It is not. It may be economy in one direction, but it is not economy in another. One word with regard to the first part of the Bill; production, supply and sale. Nothing is more injurious than the present situation. In the last 20 years the price of coal has fluctuated at the pit's mouth from 8s. 6d. per ton to 35s. and back to 12s. Is anything more unsatisfactory than that? The Bill will regulate, not restrict, the coal output. It will bring order out of chaos.
When I first read the Bill I was amazed at its moderation. In the coalfields—I speak of South Wales but it is true of other places—there is a heritage of bitterness to which we must not shut our eyes and which it will be well for us to overcome. There are men, middle-aged now, who well remember the time when, if a man was killed at his work, there was no provision for his family, nothing but the workhouse and the Poor 1731 Law; if he was disabled, he could look forward to nothing but the same misery. It is easy for others who have little to forget and nothing to forgive to say that that happened long ago. But the memory of it is there. I cannot believe that it is impossible to work the mines economically, or that it is not possible to give fair conditions to those who work in the mines. With energy, good will, and the application of science, those things can be done. To-day there is hardly anything that is impossible. We can speak across the oceans, we see across the continents, we hear across the world, we fly into the clouds, we dive into the depths of the sea. Are we to be baffled by this problem, and to say that the only way of making this an economic proposition is to underpay the men and to give them long hours? We know what the past has cost us. We can build a better future, and I believe that the opportunity has come this evening for us to build that better future. I hope the opportunity will be seized.
Marquess of HARTINGTON
I am glad that it has fallen to my lot to have the first opportunity of congratulating the hon. Lady on her maiden speech. I am sure that the House has listened to her with very great interest and sympathy. I hope that before the Debate ends we shall hear from the Government side more words of commendation of the Bill than we have heard yet. The hon. Lady made an extremely eloquent and moving appeal on behalf of the miner—an appeal which will find no deaf ear either in this House or outside it. But, with all respect, her speech went only a little way, if at all, towards showing that this Bill will improve the condition of the miner. Our contention is that this Bill will make the condition of the miner very much worse than it is now.
The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading of the Bill, in a speech which again was listened to with great interest and deep attention by the House, said not once, but over and over again, that the Bill was not by any means all that he and his hon. Friends would like, and that possibly some other legislation might be brought in at some future time, or that during the Committee stage the Bill might be capable of very great improvement. Except for 1732 one or two sentences in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, that speech might well have been made from the benches below me by some hon. Member of the Liberal party expounding to the House why, on the whole, he could not very well go into the Lobby against the Bill. We have heard so far no wholehearted commendation of this Bill from the Government side and I hope that to-night we shall hear from some Member of the Government that he believes this is a good Bill now, not one which can be improved at some future time.
I am inclined to think that even on this side of the House we have hardly given sufficient credit to the Government for what is, after all, whether we believe it to be a successful effort or not, a very painstaking and courageous attempt to deal with a problem which has foiled Government after Government for many years past. The Bill deserves the most careful attention of the House for a number of reasons. We must not lose sight of the fact that in introducing the Bill the Government have, temporarily we hope, brought themselves into opposition with the most powerful figure in the coal industry, Mr. Herbert Smith; we ought not to withhold credit from them for the fact that they have incurred that tremendously powerful hostility. We must give them credit for the fact that this is by no means a partisan Bill. As has been said by several hon. Members on this side the Bill is one which might quite possibly have been brought in by a Conservative Government, and one which would have incurred the united hostility of the whole country if it had been so brought in.
It is most certainly not a partisan Measure. It makes no advance at all to that ultimate ownership and control by the nation which hon. Members opposite believe or profess to believe is their aim. The Bill may be an interesting experiment in a capitalistic form of syndicalism, but it is certainly not a step towards Socialism. Ultimately, if the Bill succeeds, it will be an almost impenetrable barrier against what hon. Members opposite have said they hope to achieve. Again, the Bill has the support of an important section of the coal industry itself, and it has the advocacy of the right hon. Member who introduced it, who commands, and I think rightly com- 1733 mands, a very large measure of confidence on all sides of the House. We do not want to withhold credit for what is a very courageous attempt to grapple with the problem.
But, having said that, I am afraid that I must go on to say that I believe this must be written off as one more of the unsuccessful efforts to deal with this baffling problem. If the proposals of the Bill mean anything, they mean that the price of coal will be very considerably raised to the consumer.
There are several fresh charges which will be thrown by the Bill upon the consumers of coal in this country. Quite clearly, to restrict the hours and reduce the number of tons of coal which are sold each year in this country, without increasing the price, will merely make the position of the miners worse than it is now. To do any good it is necessary to increase, and no increase substantially, the price that people must pay. Various figures have been mentioned this afternoon. I have not been able to satisfy myself about any particular figure, but there are, undoubtedly, a whole series of fresh charges which must fall on the consumers of coal as a result of this Measure. First of all there is the half-hour off the miner's day. There is the levy on output, which is to go towards a bounty or subsidy of some kind on export coal. And there is the cost of the quota.
Those three charges have to be met out of the price, and they have to be met before anything can be done for the miner —before the miner can get any benefit from the Bill. Presumably the intention of the Bill is not to impoverish the miner but to improve his condition. If you are to improve his position a fresh and considerable charge must be borne by consumers of coal throughout the country. It is a very heavy cost for the country to pay. If the Bill works it will create an extremely powerful machine for the reducing of output and for the raising of prices, with a very small, weak and inefficient brake. It will lead to an immensely powerful price ring. There will be a million miners and their families, 80 Members in this House, scores and scores of boards of directors, hundreds of millions of capital and scores of thousands of shareholders aligned together. Against that you will have 1734 some kind of committee, which in the last resort, can make a report to the Board of Trade. The Bill will create a very powerful machine. It is a machine of which I am intensely afraid.
Let me digress in order to make use of an illustration which will appeal to some Members of the House. Although holding less rigid Free Trade views than the hon. Members who sit immediately below me, I, nevertheless, hold definitely Free Trade views, not because I do not believe that the scientific use of a tariff system can achieve immensely valuable results, but because it seems to me that it is impossible to stop at a scientific tariff. Once you embark on a tariff system you embark on a slippery slope, one on which it is very hard to stand still and almost impossible to go back, and in the same way it seems to me that this proposal means that there will be a price-fixing machine of immense power on the one side, and an inefficient brake on the other. We shall be on a slippery slope and the temptation to the industry to meet the difficulties which obviously must arise from time to time, by another turn of the screw of that immensely powerful machine will be almost irresistible, while the forces on the other side will be very slight. You will not only have the influence of the various interests which are actively concerned but you will also have the reluctance of this House, whatever Government may be in power, to stir up once more that formidable hornet's nest —the coal industry.
Again and again, it will be found that rather than have a rumpus in the coal trade, rather than dispute what both miners and mineowners alike claim to be only fair, this House will agree to any raising of the price of coal to the consumer. They will take the line of least resistance, as we, if we pass this Bill, will take the line of least resistance, and they will go on reducing output and increasing price. That seems to be a very heavy price to pay and a very grave step to take, and we ought to think very carefully before deciding to impose a burden of unknown amount but certainly a heavy burden, and almost certainly an increasing burden, on the consumers of coal. If we could be assured that by passing this Bill we should be solving the problem of the coal trade, and that by doing so we were going to bring peace 1735 and prosperity to the industry, we might feel justified in voting for the Bill, but it seems to me that it is as nearly certain as anything can be, that this Bill holds out no hope of bringing permanent prosperity to the industry.
I cannot believe that a policy of reducing output and increasing price can bring anything more than temporary relief to the industry. We know that a policy of reduction, or rather storing up of output, accompanied by price-fixing, has succeeded in the diamond-mining industry in dealing with difficulties. But that has been done with immense Government assistance and with the aid of regulations which I think any Government would hesitate to apply to a vital necessity. It was easy enough to apply them in the case of diamonds, but they could not be easily applied to the case of a vital necessity like coal. The diamond industry, however, has succeeded along those lines in securing, as far as one can see, permanent stability; but, on the other hand, that policy has failed in many other industries. As we all know, it has failed in the case of rubber.
Attempts have also been made to use the same methods in regard to the production of some of the scarcer metals. Within the last few months we have seen that the cotton trade, after having for years, with perfect friendship between employers and employed, pursued the policy of reduced output in order to keep up prices, has been compelled to admit that it has been a disastrous failure. I believe that in the case of coal that policy can in the long run produce nothing but disaster. What we want is a demand for more coal. It may be that that is very difficult to secure. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill based his whole case on the assumption that the demand for coal was steady, and that the consumption could not be increased or stimulated through ordinary economic channels. It is with very great diffidence that any hon. Member will venture to disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. With his amazing command of facts and equally amazing power of assimilating figures, one would not like to disagree with his facts or with the weighty authorities which he quotes. I hope I am not venturing too far, however, in suggesting that the facts and figures of 1736 the last few months do not fully bear out the right hon. Gentleman's view. It is the fact that we are increasing our output and are consuming more and more coal.
I do not wish to detain the House with many figures, but I would point out that the figures of coal output, published today, for the week ended 7th December, show an output of 5,507,300 tons as compared with the figure of 5,153,000 tons in the corresponding week of last year, and the number of men employed in the week ended 7th Decmber, was 946,500 compared with 896,000 in the corresponding week last year. The output is going up, and we are getting rid of more coal and employing more men. It is also the fact that the loss on coal—there are not sufficient figures to enable a comparison to be made over a number of years—in the June quarter of this year was 3.43 pence per ton while in the same quarter of 1925 it was 1s. 5d. per ton. So that the loss is going down side by side with the increase in output and employment. The June quarter, the figures for which are the last available, is not a good quarter, and later figures may be expected to show a further reduction in the amount of the loss per ton, and it may be expected that the trade as a whole will be able to show a profit for the period after de-rating has begun to take effect. I think there is no doubt that when the figures for this quarter are ascertained they will show for the first time a profit on the coal trade as a whole.
I am not going to argue with the right hon. Gentleman about the position in the export market. It may be that the development of "white power" as it is called, has diminished our chalices of increasing our export trade in coal but I believe there are still vast possibilities of increasing the use of coal in the home market. Electrical development is going on at a very rapid rate, and—what may not be so generally known—the gas industry is expanding at an even faster rate. When either electricity or gas are first introduced in a district they may, to some extent, compete with the use of coal which has been previously burned in the raw state, that new systems of gas and electricity replace the use of coal burned raw, but the development in the electricity and gas trades is ultimately reflected in the coal trade, in increased tonnage. Much of the increased consumption of gas 1737 and electricity replaces however not coal burnt raw but paraffin or petroleum lamps or candles—or in country districts it is new consumption and replaces no other form of consumption at all. The population is expanding and housing is going ahead, and, as far as one can see, there are great possibilities before the home trade. There are other developments possible. The gas trade as I have said is in a state of great activity at the present time, and we hear of vast possibilities which lie in low temperature carbonisation, and other processes, and the expansion in the use of gas by new methods of distribution and generation, such as has been applied at Nuneaton We are undoubtedly on the eve of a great expansion in the gas industry, and there are all kinds of possibilities in connection with the use of pulverised coal, and coal in other forms, for motive power in shipping.
There are many ways and many hopes, through gas, electricity, and the use of coal in different forms, of recovering a large proportion, anyhow of the home market, for the coal trade, but all these things depend on an abundant and continuing supply of cheap coal, and by passing a Bill of this kind and putting the whole thing into a position where we cannot rely on cheap coal, where we feel that at any moment the industry may give another turn of the screw, we are destroying those hopes and destroying the industry's chances of increasing its output at a remunerative rate. For these and many other reasons, I hope this Bill will not pass its Second Reading to-night, and I shall feel that I am not being unfriendly to my neighbours the miners but doing them a good turn, in voting against the Bill to-night.
§ Mr. D. GRAHAM
The Noble Lord the Member for Western Derbyshire (Marquess of Hartington) finished on a note of sympathy with the miners. That always comes from the other side. We are sick of your sympathy, and we are not wanting any of your charity. We are only wanting to get fair play. I have been 11 years here. I was here when the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) played the game that the Tory party played in 1926. When the miners were locked out for three months, because of the manoeuvring of the sympathetic gentlemen who own the mines and the land of this country, 1738 and who found it necessary to force down the wages of the miners without regard to the well-being of the industry as a. whole, it was all sympathy. They were brimful of sympathy, bubbling over with it. In 1926 it was the same thing, and all kinds of prophecies were made that if the miners would accept the proposals of the experts on the other side and carry on the industry as they say it should have been carried on, then everything would be all right and the miners would enjoy good conditions.
There has hardly been a Government since 1822 that has not had to deal with the mining problem either in one form or another, and there has never been an occasion when either a Liberal or a Tory Government gave to the miners anything that the miners were not able to force. If we do not force it by industrial methods, we have to do it by political methods. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition talked in Edinburgh last week about bringing back peace to the mining industry. The peace that has been brought back to the mining industry by the manoeuvring of the other two political parties has resulted in the Labour party being in power. Since 1926 we have not been able to fight industrially, but we can do so politically. I remember the time when the mining vote went Liberal. I was reared in a Liberal family, and for many years my political god was the late Mr. Gladstone. The Liberal party made all sorts of promises to us during the years when they had full control over the Government of this country, when they could have done anything and everything, and now they cannot get a Liberal candidate in a constituency in which there is a majority of miners. The Liberal party are wiped out, so far as mining constituencies are concerned, and that is equally true of the Tory party.
The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs to-night made a political speech, nodding himself that he was one of the heroes who had tried to bring peace and prosperity to the mining industry. He told us what he did in 1921, and he mentioned the sacred name of Sankey. If there is anybody who betrayed Sankey, and the miners as well, it was the Liberal Coalition Government of 1921. If the Liberal party are prepared to support our Government to-day 1739 in putting the recommendations of the Sankey Commission on the Statute Book, the miners will accept it. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has left the House, and I am still more sorry that the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) has left the House.
The right hon. Member for Darwen was unknown in the mining world until he became Chairman of a Royal Commission, and he has now become an expert, like the gentlemen who have been at the Mines Department. If you are at the Mines Department you become an expert. The right hon. Gentleman put some questions to the Government, but I should like to put some questions to him. I should like to know from him what is the connection between his appointment as Chairman of the Samuel Commission in October, 1925, and the meeting at the National Liberal Club addressed by Adam Nimmo in February of the same year. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has told us that the Chairman of the Scottish Coalowners' Association does not approve of this Bill, but he did not give the name of the Chairman of the Scottish Coalowners' Association. It is Sir Adam Nimmo, who knows more about the coal trade than all the Members on the Opposition Front Bench.
All the arguments that are used by the Liberal party cannot deal with the situation in the mining industry. They talk about organising the industry economically, making the pits efficient, and adopting the German system. In the county of Lanark, which I come from, there is more coal produced by machine labour than in any other part of the civilised world. Three out of every four tons of coal are produced by machine labour, and the higher the production, the lower the wages. Some people talk about a 7½ or an 8 hours day being worked at the present time, but the law is more honoured in the breach than in the observance, due to the fact that the people who are the administrators know nothing at all about the industry or, if they do know anything about it, they administer it always in the interests of the employers.
The mining industry is not a declining industry, and it is one in which some people have made millions of money. From 1889 until 1924 this industry has 1740 paid out in profits over £440,000,000, an average of £11,400,000 per year, or equal to 1s. per ton for all the coal that has been produced in Britain since 1888 or 1889, and that information was supplied to the Samuel Commission. If we are using figures, it may be as well to have some figures about the position of this industry. The hon. Member who preceded me is particularly anxious that the price of coal should not be increased. That also is the position of the Liberal party. That is also our position, but let us see what the Liberal and Tory parties have done for the mining industry during the last eight or nine years.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
It was the Coalition Government. I shall not, like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, make a statement without giving my authority. In the "Glasgow Herald" for 8th March, 1921, a statement, supplied apparently by the Mines Department, of the cost in the mining industry in Scotland is produced. The wages cost for January, that is, for one month was £3,391,033. The wages costs for producing one ton of coal was 32s. In the quarter ending 31st May, 1929, according to the Mines Department Report, the wages paid to the Scottish miners amounted to £3,290,673: that is to say, for three months' work they got less than had been paid in one month in 1921. I think that we have made a fair sacrifice. The cost of producing a ton of coal fell from 32s. in January, 1921, to 8s. 4d. in March, 1929. Is that price too high? The cure that I would offer to some of the hon. and right hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House is that they should go down to some of the pits in Scotland, where they have to machine coal at seams only two feet thick, and work there eight hours, and see how much they can produce.
I support the arguments put forward by the hon. Lady the Member for the Wrekin (Miss Picton-Turbervill), who delivered her maiden speech to-night. It is not merely a question of economics, but a question of humanity, and a question of common decency. Millions of tons of coal are produced in mines three-quarters of a mile deep. We are told by experts that every 60 feet the tem- 1741 perature rises one degree, so that you can calculate the temperature at the bottom of the pit. When at the bottom, the men have to travel two or three miles to the coal face, and, when they have reached the coal face, sweat is coming from every hair of their bodies; and you expect these men to work for eight hours and to remain healthy. Millions of tons of coal are produced from seams less than two feet thick, and to ask a man to work eight hours following the machine under these conditions is absolutely inhuman. I am looking forward to the time when our Government will follow this Bill by other Bills, which will put upon the Statute Book a maximum working time in the mine, and make provision for the health of the miners to be considered. There are some places in a pit where a man ought not to be asked to work more than two or three hours.
At the moment, the Government are doing the best that they can. I am speaking as a member of the British Miners' Executive, who have discussed this Bill. We do not pretend to be satisfied with it; we do not say that it is a perfect Bill; but the miners, and not merely their executive, not Mr. Cook or Mr. Smith—you always find a bogy on the other side; it was Mr. Smillie in 1921, and then Frank Hodges, probably one of the most able men in the Labour movement at that time, and they tried to hunt him out of the Labour movement—not Cook or Smith, but the miners themselves, after considering this Bill, and having had a statement submitted to them by the Government, have agreed practically unanimously to accept this Bill. Suppose the Liberal party pluck up sufficient courage to vote with the Tories to-night. Will that settle the mining question? It will not. It will only make the position infinitely worse. I recognise that there are men on the other side of the House who are extremely anxious that some sort of arrangement should be arrived at to bring peace and prosperity in the mining industry. I cannot help making reference to the obviously dishonest speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. I hope that not only Members belonging to the Labour party, but Members belonging 1742 to the Tory party, will vote in support of this Bill, not because it is a perfect Bill—it is not a perfect Bill, and I do not look for very great improvements being brought about by the passage of it—but because there is one fundamental and necessary question that will be solved by the Bill, namely, the employers will be compelled to organise. There will be district organisation, and every man will have to be in the organisation.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
You first put it down beyond an economic level. Coal has an economic value, but is 8s. 4d. a ton an economic price? You are selling coal on the Continent at less than half the price at which you are selling it to the manufacturers at home. Do you think that the miners and the coalowners are going to meet and divide this spoil? If you think so, you do not know the coalowners, nor do you know the miners. The public may take it that there is no arrangement between the coalowners and the miners to increase the price of coal. After all, there are 4,000,000 persons more or less connected with the mining industry, one eleventh of the total population. [Interruption.] We do not get coal free, notwithstanding all that you read in the made-up statements of the coalowners; we have to pay as high a price as others. I am a miner—at least a miner's agent. My brother-in-law leaves the house every day to work at the pits. The pits are within a stone's throw of my house and I have to pay 40s. a ton for every ton of coal. We do not get our coal free.
We say that the price of coal to the domestic consumer is too high. To watch the crocodile tears flowing down the cheeks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs is a sight worthy of the gods. He was terribly annoyed about the frost this morning and the cold the poor are suffering. There are millions of persons in this, country who hardly ever see a fire from one year's end to another, though we believe that if the mining industry were organised, as it can be organised, and as it ought to be organised—and this is a Bill to do it—there is not a single home in Great Britain which need necessarily be without a fire. That would mean a very considerable increase in consumption and that would bring an increase of sales. 1743 The miners would be prepared to increase their output. Whatever faults the miner may have he is not lazy; whatever faults he has, at least he is a good citizen. No single section of the community not even the new or the old aristocracy, sent a larger percentage of men to the War than the miners. Forty per cent. of the men left the mines to go to the War and fight for this country, and after they had fought for it, and after we had won the War, the service given back to the miner is to ask him, as we did last year, to live on charity, on the Lord Mayor's Fund. I close as I began. We do not want your sympathy and we do not want charity. What we do want is fair treatment, which we have not got, and we believe this Bill is the beginning of a policy which will ultimately result not merely in raising the status of the miner socially but in adding very materially to the prosperity and the well being of the nation.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
This is a very intricate and complicated Measure, and I am going to be as brief as I possibly can. I will not follow the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) in his rather discursive observations, but I will deal as quickly as I can with three aspects presented by this Measure, and presented by the coal problem, which seem to me to be of fundamental importance. These three aspects are: first, the organisation of the coal industry; secondly, the question of the price of coal; and, thirdly, the international aspect. I think there will be general agreement that these are probably the three most important aspects of the problem at the present time, and I want to see how this Measure affects each one.
Take, first of all, the organisation of the industry. On all sides of the House we are agreed that rationalisation is a good thing and not a bad thing. I quite agree with my Noble Friend who spoke a little earlier that if rationalisation is Interpreted as being merely a policy of restriction of output and of holding-up prices, then it is a thoroughly bad thing; but rationalisation in its proper interpretation is nothing of the kind. Rationalisation is really the economic regulation of production in order to reduce costs, the regulation of production to meet requirements. That is a very 1744 different thing from mere restriction of output in order to increase prices. In this country at the present time, as the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) has pointed out, there are 584 separate and mutually competitive coal undertakings; there are 750,000 of what the right hen. Gentleman described as toy trucks wandering about the railways of this country; there are 21 separate wage districts; and as regards rationalisation upon a large scale, amalgamation or organisation, if you like to call it that, it has not been seriously attempted in the coal industry for the past 10 years.
What are the five things most urgently required at the present time? I do not think there will be any disagreement on any side of the House that the first desideratum is an enormous reduction in the number of units of production in the coal industry. The second thing is that the whole system of transport ought to be reorganised, with proper modern wagons supplanting the present disorganised system of antiquated trucks. Thirdly, there ought to be reduction of the number of districts. Fourthly, there ought to be some form of controlling authority to regulate certain aspects of the industry as a whole, such as they have in Westphalia. Finally, and most important of all, there ought to be concentration upon the best seams and the best units, a concentration of production upon the most economic units. Every speaker has pointed out that we ought to concentrate upon the most economic units, and remorselessly to close, either by compulsion or not, as may be found necessary, the uneconomic pits, the uneconomic units.
I want to examine for five minutes how this Bill deals with each of those problems. It does nothing to promote amalgamations. It does nothing to bring about any form of rationalisation or organisation—nothing, absolutely nothing. Commissioners are to have a look round the coalfields from time to time and make some reports, and then, some day, some legislation may or may not be introduced. You can search this Bill from the first word to the last, and you will find nothing in it which is designed to promote or induce or compel amalgamation or rationalisation or reorganisation in any form. It does not touch the transport problem. It deliberately retains 1745 the 21 districts in this country as the basis of the coal organisation. It sets up no form of controlling authority for the industry. It sets up a body of owners with complete powers to allocate quotas to the different districts, but there is no form of controlling authority to act on behalf of the industry as a whole.
Finally, and here I think is the most dangerous and most pernicious proposal in the whole Bill, we are—I quote the words of the President of the Board of Trade—to set up district associations of owners who are charged with the duty of fixing the standard or basic tonnage for every pit or undertaking in the area. Having done that, the national quota is applied. A reduction will have to be made, probably in every case, a percentage of reduction. That reduction is to be applied to every pit, quite regardless of whether it is efficient or inefficient, or whether it is likely to do good or harm. In every case the reduction is to be uniform. It is laid down in the Bill. No attempt is made in the Bill to discriminate between the economic unit and the uneconomic unit. If you are going to cut down deliberately, by Statute, a percentage of the output of the most efficient pits you will enormously decrease the competitive power of the coal industry. You must do so. It is a policy of insanity to apply that percentage reduction indiscriminately to coal-producing units, regardless of whether they are economic or not.
This policy is deliberately designed, it must be, to keep inefficient pits going. It can only have that effect. It is bound to raise prices. You are giving statutory authority to the coalowners to raise prices to the home consumer in order to subsidise the export trade by this means. You are going to keep the most inefficient pits going. You are going to arm them, also, with an additional weapon, with the weapon of the quota, which they can sell at enhanced values to the efficient companies. What is going to be the result of that? The money is going straight into the pockets of their owners. The efficient companies will have been compelled to sink a certain amount of capital in buying up these quotas, in order to work full time, and there will not be a single tangible asset created in its place.
I came now to the question of prices. Nothing whatsoever is being done in this 1746 Bill to safeguard consumers against extortionate prices being charged by coalowners, who are being given powers never before granted to any individual body of industrialists in this country. You are giving them arbitrary powers to fix minimum prices to exploit the consumer, and to subsidise the export trade. The President of the Board of Trade said that he was going to set up a committee of investigation to go round the coalfields to hear complaints about the price of coal, to find out whether the consumers were being treated fairly, and that committee would report to the Board of Trade. Does the right hon. Gentleman really believe that investigations of that kind are going to be of the slightest use? Does he really think that investigations of that kind will safeguard the consumer against extortionate prices?
Hon. Members opposite seem pleased with this Bill, but we shall go to the country and explain to the farmers and the gas consumers exactly how it is that the price of coal and gas has been raised. We shall explain to them the means by which the President of the Board of Trade proposes to safeguard them by appointing a committee of investigation. Supposing that committee makes an adverse report? It is a fact that the only power which the President of the Board of Trade possesses to deal with a situation of that kind is to smash up the whole organisation. If he does that, is it likely to do any good? You will have given the coalowners power to fix minimum prices for coal charged to the consumer. That is in the Bill. It is certain that prices will rise. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) is an acknowledged authority on this question, and he said that he had no doubt that prices would rise considerably.
Has the President of the Board of Trade considered the organisation of the Westphalian coalfield in Germany, which is acknowledged to be one of the most efficiently organised coalfields in the world? The coalowners there have made greater profits during the last seven or eight years than have been made in this country. The law of 1919 applying to the coalfields of Germany makes territorial cartels compulsory; but it also sets up a national coal council, upon which repre- 1747 sentation is given to the miners, the coal-owners, the consumers, and the Government; and that body is ultimately responsible for the control of prices. I wonder why the President of the Board of Trade has not directed his mind to that side of the question?
I now turn to the international aspect. I would like to read one extract from the League of Nations Report from which the President of the Board of Trade quoted. It says:The existing coalmines of Europe are capable of producing more coal than their markets require or are likely to require for many years to come.There are therefore two policies for the coal industry. We cannot go in for an international war of attrition, an exhaustive process. On the other hand, we can come to some international agreement for the regulation of production and of prices. I would like to give one short quotation from the speech of the President of the Board of Trade on the Second Reading of this Bill. He says:Until we have some kind of organisation enabling us to present a united front in Britain to German and Polish and French or other Continental coal in competition we have little or no chance of getting an effective place in international trade.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th December, 1929; col. 1259, Vol. 233.]Those are the words of the President of the Board of Trade, and I would like to ask what he is doing in this Bill to provide such an organisation. So far as I can see he is doing absolutely nothing to facilitate the setting up of an authority which could negotiate an agreement with the coalowners abroad. There is no organisation to be set up which is capable of conducting negotiations of that kind. By giving the coalowners statutory powers to subsidise export coal at the expense of the home consumer, the right hon. Gentleman is bound to accentuate and embitter that international war of attrition which he claims to be so anxious to avoid. The right hon. Gentleman knows quite well what has been going on in Belgium in this respect. The effect of our policy of exporting coking coal at uneconomic prices to Belgium has been that the Belgians have been able to manufacture iron and steel at a lower cost, and this has enabled them to com- 1748 pete more successfully with this country. That has been going on for the last four or five years, and this Bill will not do anything to remedy that state of things. The President of the Board of Trade, by empowering the British coal-owners to subsidise the export trade is going to make foreign competition more bitter, and he is by that process cheapening the cost of coal to the foreigners and not to the home consumer. It is unfair to the people of this country.
Read this Bill as you like, you cannot get away from the fact that it does nothing to facilitate amalgamation or reorganisation. It gives the coalowners statutory power to subsidise the export trade at the expense of the consumer, and it gives no power to any authority to control prices. In other words, it retards progress towards any international arrangement. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) was appointed President of the Board of Trade we expected much from him, but we have been very bitterly disappointed with this Bill. There is no evidence whatever in anything that has been done by the present Government that any sort of serious consideration has been given to these questions. I believe in a liberal measure of compromise and expediency when dealing with economic problems, but I think that any Government ought to be actuated and guided by some sort of principle.
Nobody on the Opposition side can say that in their handling of the coal problem the late Government was not guided by principle. Hon. Members opposite, on the election platforms, claim to be Socialists, and therefore we might have supposed that they would have a slight bias from time to time towards some form of public control. We expect that. If they are starting to interfere in this industry, and to hand out to the owners these altogether unprecedented benefits, the least we should have expected of them would be that they would set up some form of public safeguard to protect the consumer. They cannot have it both ways. They do not even do that. There is no evidence of any construction or design in their policy. They came down and asked us to shovel out money first to widows and then to the unemployed, without any plans or 1749 apparent objective. Now they Dome and ask us to shovel out money to the owners. This is the worst and most vicious proposal of the lot, because whereas the shovelling out for the widows and unemployed is at the expense of the general taxpayer, this is to be at the expense of the poorest section of the community.
To-night, I suppose, we shall observe hon. Gentlemen opposite being ushered into the Division Lobby and led up the garden path by the coalowners. It is not a very edifying spectacle. Why they should select the owners, after the widows and unemployed, for their special benediction, I do not know. We should have thought the owners were a class of the community which would not particularly appeal to hon. Members opposite. You cannot get away from the fact that this Bill confers on them absolutely unlimited, uncontrolled, and unprecedented powers without a single safeguard for the public. We are passing through a very dark hour—[Interruption.]—and a very harassing time in the heavy industries. We are about 10 years behind most of our principal rivals in industrial organisation. We have now got a so-called advanced Government. They come down with this miserable Bill as their solution towards the economic problem of the coal industry. It really makes one despair, because there has never been one attempt on the part of an hon. Member opposite, either on the Front Bench or on the Back Benches, to answer the murderous criticism that has been advanced against the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) said it might be a rotten Bill, but still, it was better than nothing. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] At a later stage he described it as a compromise thing. That is about the most flattering description I have heard from any hon. Member opposite. I hope very much this House will have the courage of its convictions and will vote against the Bill. The reason why I hope the Bill will be rejected—and if the Government are rejected as well; so much the better—is that I regard it as one of the most reactionary and retrograde proposals that have ever been brought forward.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I rise somewhat earlier than I had intended, because I am very anxious not in any way to ob- 1750 struct or hamper the Prime Minister in the momentous speech which he is to deliver at the close of this Debate. I do not wish by any delay on my part to be forced to prolong my remarks beyond the period which, I understand, will be convenient to him. I say frankly that I find great difficulty in winding up this Debate. Usually when important issues are brought before the House of Commons, whoever is charged on either side with the concluding phase of the Debate looks to see first what one side is thinking and then the other, and out of this clash and counter-statement he selects points upon which the House is in doubt or upon which its decision would naturally turn. But on this occasion I have listened to a great part of the Debate, and it seems to me that only one side has been stated.
We have had a series of speeches setting forth all the objections to the Bill. I have never listened to such a series of speeches. There was the speech of my right hon. Friend with all its deep knowledge of practical conditions in the coal industry. There was the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), who impressed us all on this side very much, and, lastly, there has been the speech of the Leader of the Liberal Opposition. We have heard speeches like that to which we have listened from the hon. Member who has just sat down, all marshalling the long series of arguments and objections against the Measure, but where is the answer? We have heard no answer. Not a single word has been spoken from the Government Bench since the speech of the introducer of the Bill, and no attempt worthy of the name has been made to reply to any of the dozen serious objections and criticisms which have been brought forward moderately, forcefully but persistently from this side of the House. The Government have sat still as stocks, dumb and silent throughout this Debate and have made no counter-case. Therefore, coming as I do, not so much to take part in the Debate but coming at the end of a commination service to see if I can find some new form in which the curse can be presented, I must apologise to the House in advance if I should be limited rather to the duty of revising, reviving and reviewing the main arguments that have been adduced against this Measure.
1751 Let us now at the last stage of the Debate, when so short a time separates us from the most important Division which this Parliament has seen, see quite clearly what it is this Bill proposes to do. It is a deliberate and avowed plan of levying a new, indirect tax upon the general public for the benefit of private and sectional interests, and of levying this tax through the agency of a basic necessity of popular consumption. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade made us a very lucid, limpid, if lengthy speech the other day. I see that the newspapers in their tributes to him described his form of oratory as that of a purling brook, limpid and clear. I must admit that his candour was very apparent. He made no secret whatever of the fact that the Bill he introduced was intended to have the result of extracting a new, large, sum of money from the pockets of the taxpayers through a dearer price for coal. I will read to the House the words which I particularly noticed, in order that there may be no dispute about this:As regards those public utility organisations, I say not a single word in criticism of their work this afternoon.I thought that that sounded ominous. It always is when anyone begins like that. The right hon. Gentleman then pointed out that they use between 35,000,000 and 40,000,000 tons of coal a year, and he said:Electricity is regulated under two great Acts …Gas is regulated under a whole series of Acts of Parliament. Railway companies are regulated under the Act of 1921, there are public institutions of one kind and another. These are industries which have either some form of guaranteed return, or a monopolistic nature, or"—and this is what I want the House to mark—or have the power of passing on to consumers increased charges."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th December, 1929; col. 1267, Vol. 233.]There is nothing like stating frankly one's position, and if one does it with all the lucidity and limpidity of a purling brook, all the better. I think it is an advantage in this discussion that we should all start agreed upon the main point of outset. We are definitely entitled, and even instructed, on the authority of its author and introducer, the President of the Board of Trade, to call it the "Dear 1752 Coal Bill." Electricity, gas, railways, and other public utilities, many of them administered by local authorities, will have to pay more for their coal, and are meant to pay more for their coal, and will have to recover that from their consumers, from the users of their services, and are meant so to recover it.
These great services have been singled out for a particular purpose. The struggling railways, with their traffics falling from year to year; gas, which is so vital an aid to industry, so humble an assistant in the poorest home; electricity, on which high hopes have been founded and fine perorations are being prepared by the Minister of Transport—all these are to become the instruments of a new private tax collection for the benefit of one section of the community, and for the sake of any political advantage that the Government may think they can get from it. As for the ordinary domestic consumers of coal, as for the users of industrial coal, as for the agriculturists, who use coal for many purposes, they will have to pay directly for every sack of coal or consignment of coal that they purchase, and indirectly, in addition, for all the commodities that they purchase which in the future will be manufactured with taxed coal.
This tax is put on to pay the loss which the coal industry is about to suffer because of certain decisions which the Government have taken. They have decided to reduce the hours for miners, or rather, to reduce the length of the shift. Apparently the miners are suffering from short time; that is to say, they are not employed for enough days in each week to enable them to earn the wages that we should like to see them take home to their families. But it appears also that they are suffering from long time; that is to say, they are asked to work too many hours in each of the days when they are employed, and so they cannot have the rest and leisure which they desire. Apparently, also, it costs so much to lower a miner into the pit and haul him up again that the length of time spent below is an important factor, not only in the price of coal, but in the amount of coal which we can sell, and consequently it is an important factor—within very narrow limits an extraordinarily important factor—in the number of man-days' work available.
1753 One would have thought that this difficulty of the too long shift and of the too little employment in the week could somehow or other have been adjusted within the ambit of the trade, and one would have thought that some arrangement of computing hours, in fortnights or in weeks, would have met all difficulties and have secured to the miner the most satisfactory arrangement of his time and to the mining industry the most profitable employment of the shifts at the coal face. One would have thought that this Government of all others—this Labour Government, intimately associated with the miners, in honourable friendly relation with them—could have done something, with all their special knowledge and their peculiar influence, to work out a system which would have adjusted this difficulty, and that this would have been one of those contributions which it would have lain in the power of a Labour Government to make. Perhaps no other party in the State could have rivalled them in the making of it. However, it was not to be. The Government have promised to reduce the hours of the miners by one hour, and so, as men of honour, as pledges are sacred, they conceive themselves bound to reduce them by at least half an hour. At any rate, we are glad to know that, in the view of the party opposite, debts of honour should always be paid at least at the rate of 10s. in the pound.
No one knows what the cost of this relief will be. I have heard it put at £9,000,000; others say £15,000,000; but at any rate it is a very heavy cost, a substantial new charge upon our resources. Who is to pay? The owners cannot pay, because it is common ground in this Debate that the ascertainments are showing over the last few years a definite loss. Perhaps the figures are exaggerated, but that there is a loss no one disputes. The Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot pay out of his present resources, because he has given them all away for the dole. Perhaps that is putting it too high; we will say that he has given a large proportion of them away in improving the actuarial position of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. The miners certainly cannot be asked to pay out of their wages. And so there remains only one way out—the consumer. It is the consumer who is 1754 to pay; it is the consumer who seems to be the line of least resistance. The consumer is in a queer position. He has not got a single friend until, all of a sudden, something happens, and the consumer, hitherto brushed aside as negligible, finds himself a powerful figure, and perhaps the dominant, deciding factor in a political issue. The Government could not fight the consumer, I presume, at the same time as they were fighting the other forces, and, in order to gather their strength, they thought it necessary to come to terms with the owners. They had to square the owners to fight the consumer; and, in order to square the owners, they have had to pay their price. We do not know what the price is, but, whatever it is, the consumer will have to pay.
I am very glad to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer here. I think it would have been more manly and more honest to impose this new indirect tax in the Budget and distribute the money raised in accordance with whatever principle and under whatever conditions the Government thought right to prescribe. It would be far better for the House of Commons and far better for the taxpayer, and we should know exactly the rate that was to be struck, we should know exactly how much money has to be raised, we should have the justification and the purpose to which it was to be put, and the House would have retained power over the taxation of the country. But by this Act of Parliament the taxing powers of the House of Commons are to be handed over to a council of owners, we are to part with our hitherto most jealously guarded right, and £30,000,000, £40,000,000 or £50,000,000 are to be extracted from the pockets or the people by an Act of Parliament passed by this House without any of that protection which the procedure of the House of Commons in financial matters, and in regard to burdens proposed to be cast upon the people, has always provided.
What is the explanation of all this? It is a very simple explanation. Nothing but duress would have led experienced politicians and electioneers, like the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer—I think I will say the Foreign Secretary before I come to the Lord Privy Seal, because the Lord Privy Seal has hardly been showing his usual 1755 form in electioneering lately—nothing but duress would have led these experienced politicians into the danger and the uncertainty of being branded as the authors of a policy or, as the right hon. Gentleman below the gangway called it, the calamity of a Dear Coal Bill. Would it have taken the President of the Board of Trade an hour and three quarters to tell us about the grip which the Miners' Federation have upon His Majesty's Government. This limpid stream would have revealed that ugly fact with extreme prominence—40 seats directly controlled by the Miners' Federation and an influence through trade union organisation in many seats which is dominating in the party opposite. There is the scientific conception behind this Measure. There is the social idealism. The Government are not free agents. They have not been in a position to take the right course, nor even to seek it. They have not been able to offer us a helpful solution of the coal problem, or even an improvement in that problem. They have been forced to obey the dictates of sectional and class interests organised and massed in an intimate manner within the structure of their own party, and to adopt the policy of erecting a nationwide monopoly trust to be set up by Act of Parliament to fix the amount of coal to be got, to fix the prices at which it may be sold at home and abroad and to divide these fixed amounts among the district combines, who are again to divide it among the mines.
That is the proposal. There is no guarantee of reasonable efficiency, such as always has been sought in every measure where compulsory powers are given to private individuals, no guarantee against an overcharge to the consumer, no attempt to reorganise the industry, no attempt to form a big selling pool to deal in the most effective manner with its product, nothing but a powerful combination in restraint of trade, a revival of the obsolete economics and conceptions of bygone generations that there is a static amount of work, a static amount of trade, a static amount of coal to be got and a fixed cost of production, as though all those fallacies had not been swept away by the bold advance of a scientific world. How are the prices that are to be fixed to be distributed? The foreigner is to 1756 have the first place. He travels first class. He has the preference. Then we are told perhaps something may be done to let steel and iron, at any rate, get their coal as well as they can now, but about that nothing has been said. In the third class are the public utilities, industrial coal, householders and the general public, who are to pay at a penalised price in order to pay the Bill for the miners' shorter hours, for the compensation or squaring of the mineowners, for the levy to fortify imports into this country with British bounty fed coal and, no doubt, an additional sum thrown in to cover incidental expenses.
When the Government embarks upon such a policy, it is involved in a number of very curious reactions which I shall ask the House to let me mention. First of all, the Government in this policy is bound to favour a particular class of capitalist with whom they have entered into partnership. I am a supporter of the capitalist system but I do not go so far as this Bill of the Socialist Government. There is one advantage, at any rate, of the capitalist system. It continually clears itself of failures. If a capitalist succeeds, he is taxed. If he fails, he is let fail. That is the only method by which the prosperity and productivity of great communities has so far increased. It may be a hard method but it is a healthy method. The more boldly it has been applied in any country, the more rapid has been the advance in wealth, the greater has been the accretion of wealth and the higher has been the standard of living amongst the masses of the population. But the Socialist Government, in their new-found love of the coalowners, are proposing to give the inefficient capitalist a new vested interest and a guarantee of security. In fact, it is a new dole for failure, and it is a new dole far capitalist failure, but only for one kind of capitalist—the coalowners.
I have no wish to reflect upon the coal-owners. On the contrary, they have no; sought this Bill. They were threatened and they have made a very effective retort to the treatment to which they were subjected. But the coalowners, as capitalists, are not a class to be picked out above all others for favours from the Government at the cost of the public. The landlord, the cotton spinners, steel masters, railway share- 1757 holders, a dozen classes have at least as good a claim to consideration, if these good things are to be distributed, as the coalowners. The Government have been committed to a policy of exceptional favours to be bestowed on a particular class of capitalists, which relieve those capitalists from the risks and obligations which are inherent in their position as independent producers under an individualist system.
That is the first re-action. What is the second re-action? The second reaction is what I can only call a novel application of the doctrine of ca'canny. The Socialist mind is always fascinated by the idea of equality, of levelling. Of course, no doubt they would like to level up. That is very difficult. It takes a lot of work to level up. Reorganisation and all that sort of thing, are not so easily done. And so when that cannot be achieved we have to level down. If a mine is equipped with the latest machinery, if it is well-organised, if it is working full time and at the highest economy, it is to be made to slow down by the Bill of the President of the Board of Trade. It is to be made to mark time like the soldiers from Wellington Barracks till the other company catches up. For so many days each week it is to be made to slow down or to stop in order that the inefficient, backward pits shall have their share of the quota. It is very familiar to us. We all know how often the skilful worker or the industrious worker has been made to stop for his less gifted fellow or comrade. Everyone knows the old trade union prejudice. Here we see the ca'canny system applied by Statute, not by prejudice or workshop arrangements, but applied by Statute, not to individuals but to whole collieries, and firms and districts. It is a kind of collective ca'canny. And what does it amount to? That a large number of productive enterprises in this country are to be told in the future, as individuals have been told in the past, that they are not to do their best; they are to be told by law that they are not to do their best.
The third reaction which follows from the policy of His Majesty's Government may be described under the general heading of "Quotas." Having fixed the total cost, having fixed the total coal that may be cut, this total having been 1758 divided among the mines, and the price at which it may be sold having been decided by the coalowners' committee, the following situation arises: If any mine wants to cut any more coal—and, obviously, it will be highly profitable to some mines to cut more coal—it must buy an additional quota. We are to have a market in quotas. The quotations of the quotas will be quoted. There will be the "bulls" and the "bears" of quotas, and in the papers: Quotas are cheap to-day. When quotas are bought up, we shall find that a corner in quotas has developed. The efficient mines, which, if they were allowed to work full time, could earn rich profits, and whose economy will be destroyed if they are compelled by this Measure to work short time, have a strong inducement to buy quotas, and the value of the quotas, as the Leader of the Liberal party has announced, will steadily be increased as the number in the market diminishes. Let us see what it is that the purchasers of quotas will be buying. They will be buying the right to cut coal at the highest efficiency. They will be buying the privilege of exercising their initiative and enterprise which hitherto in this country have been as free as air. And they must in the future saddle their successful enterprise with the costs, the high costs, of the purchase price which has been extracted from them to buy up these newly-created monopoly values of quotas from the decaying and dying mines. They will be buying a licence to produce coal efficiently from someone to whom the Government have given a licence with a vested interest to produce coal inefficiently. Where will the money go? The hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Sir T. Walters) has pointed out, that if you are going in for a process of this kind, at any rate, you would suppose that some compensation would go to the miners displaced by this gambling in quotas. Not at all. The money is not to go to compensate the workers displaced. It is simply to go to pay the unsuccessful coalowner for the monopoly value, for the unearned increment value of a newly-created vested interest given to him by the Socialist Government—a Christmas present from Lossiemouth.
1759 We are often asked to remember the human side. There is a human side to this quota story. I am not going to use exaggerated language. I will take the words of the President of the Board of Trade. He said:I beg hon. Members also to remember that every colliery that is closed leaves either a village or a derelict community or a social problem behind."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th December, 1929; col. 1266, Vol. 233.]Moderate words, but powerful words. That is also true of the buying and selling of quotas. I look forward a year and imagine what we shall read in the newspapers, say the "Daily Herald," a year hence, after its correspondent has gone down to some village in Durham or South Wales, and finds all the people in that village standing about in the streets. He will say: "What is the matter with you? You were all right a week ago when I came here." "Oh," they say, "our quota was sold yesterday. Did not you know?" That is a cold-blooded process. I think that on the whole it is a more cold-blooded way of dealing with the grim facts of life than anything I have ever heard put before this House.
There is the fourth reaction from this strange policy of His Majesty's Government, but again a very characteristic one. All Socialist Governments in every country at all times have signalised their accession to office by inventing new crimes. Anyone acquainted with history knows that that is true without exception, and it has fallen to the lot of His Majesty's Government to invent a new crime—the crime of selling cheap. That is very progressive, very original. Their friends in Russia have only got as far as shooting people for selling dear. This is a refinement and an improvement. Now we are going to punish people for selling cheap. Many laws have been passed in this country to fix maximum prices. In times of emergency many laws are passed to prevent undue profiteering, and the undue taking advantage of the temporary conditions. Maximum prices we can see everywhere. Look at your electrical and public utility legislation, your railways, your tramways—everywhere you see legislation to prevent the public being charged more in relation, it may be, to the earnings, profits, dividends or whatever it may be.
1760 So far as I am aware, and I have made inquiries in several quarters, there is no previous instance in the history of the House of Commons where legislation has been proposed and passed to enforce minimum prices, not maximum prices, and to punish those who fall below them. This is the first time in history that the statutory authority of the house of Commons has been invoked and its penal provisions applied to enforce a minimum price, and to punish capitalists who have not taken enough profits. Properly viewed, this is a Bill for compulsory profiteering. It is no exaggeration to say that there are mines, that could be named on either side of the House, which under a fixed price applicable to the whole of the industry and enabling the whole industry to make a reasonable profit there are mines which, if they sold at that price, will be making profits far greater and far beyond anything that they could have obtained in the free working of the market.
What is the position of the Government in this matter? The President of the Board of Trade made a statement the other day as to how he was going to accelerate and invigorate the work of the Consumers' Council in regard to the cost of food prices to the public. He said:The Government intend to submit proposals enabling them to deal with trading interests which refuse to accept the views which the Government may reach after considering the recommendations of the Consumers' Council."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th November, 1929; col. 815, Vol. 231.]Here are more penal provisions, but the penal provision is in the opposite direction. I can visualise a poor woman, very likely a widow, who goes to a butcher's shop and buys a piece of meat in respect of which the butcher has been fined for selling it to her too dearly, and she takes it home and fries it on a fire, and the coalowner has been fined for selling the coal to her too cheaply. A strange and wonderful philosophy we are being taught by our intellectual guides!
I would like to deal with an argument which will certainly be addressed or ought to be addressed to me. It may be said: "You make a great fuss about all this, but in the five counties something like these proposals is working at the present time and has been working for a considerable time, and nobody seems to have worried about it." Yes, but there 1761 are many things that are done in trade and commerce, in private trade and commerce, which though not illegal certainly ought not to be set forth in the language of a Statute of the House of Commons. Liberal, Radical, Socialist opinion has changed in regard to mergers and combines. When first I came here they were regarded as the arch-bug-bear, but gradually it has been seen that great combinations here and in the United States have produced new services, cheaper and better services for the public, and have given far greater security and better conditions for their employés. Therefore, there is a more reasonable spirit displayed towards great combines.
I welcome that development, but there is all the difference in the world between a combine which is started by private enterprise, with all the salutary influences attendant upon private enterprise, with all the checks that are brought to bear through the competition of others in a wide, free market, and a combine set up by the Government, with the penal provisions of statutory authority which is universal and nation-wide in its scope and sweep. It is right that private enterprise should go and gather wealth where they can by all the means which the law allows. It is right that they should seek to apply their enterprise in the most effective manner, and it is also right that the Government should stand aside as a separate factor to supervise and, in some cases, to assist, and in every way to watch with vigilance and, if necessary, to correct the actions of great mergers. It may well be that the politics of the immediate future will not lie in the hampering of great industrial mergers and combinations, but in the harmonising of the activities of these combinations with the necessary rights, sovereignties and interests of the democratic State.
We have favoured these combinations in recent years. We talk about them in regard to steel. There has been much discussion about regional mergers. The principle is to concentrate work in the best places and by the best methods and to develop the utmost possible economies and facilities for production. This is not a scheme of that kind. This scheme is merely to distribute a supposedly limited 1762 quantity of work over the widest area, and to average out and slow down the whole pace of the industry to that of the average. The policy of steel amalgamation, to which so many people have given attention and concentration, is the exact reverse of the principle of this Bill, which confers enormous powers to limit efficiency, to level down, to average production, to enable proprietors to rest in peace and ease whilst enabling them to charge their expenses in all these uneconomic operations to the general consumer and the industries of the country.
The Prime Minister and the Government have, I think, walked into a trap. They threatened the coalowners. The coalowners have laid a trap for the Government, and they have walked into it, with Mr. Cook, their great friend, prodding them from behind. Now they are in the trap, and well they know it, as anyone can realise who has seen what has taken place in this House. It is a very deadly trap in these times when the lives of Governments and Parliaments are, to say the least of it, precarious. They are in the dear coal trap, and we have seen them running up and down behind bars, whining to the Liberals, whom they have always endeavoured to destroy and devour, to help them to get out, just this once more.
If the Prime Minister was wise, he would be brutally frank. Instead of gaining, as no doubt he will, a pyrrhic victory in the Division Lobby; instead of saddling himself for months ahead with the odium and unpopularity of this Measure, he would, even now, withdraw the Bill. He would, even now, confess what is no doubt the truth that, in all his other preoccupations, he has given neither time nor attention to the Bill, nor has his Cabinet. They have not realised all its implications. They have allowed themselves to slip into it on purely Departmental advice which has not been brought into the common stock of party stress and discusion. That would be the wisest thing to do at this juncture, and to make new proposals next year. Certainly it would be a more dignified course than the course, which I understand the Prime Minister has decided to take, of humbly accepting the ultimatum so brutally flung at him from the Liberal Benches.
As far as we are concerned, we are confronted with the Bill; and, unless a statement of this kind is made we have 1763 no other course than to record our votes against it. It is incredible that a single Bill should violate so many principles and affront so many convictions. Conservatives must resist an invasion of property rights, and the restrictions imposed on the owners of mines. We must also resist, and so must all those who represent democratic constituencies, the infliction of dearer coal on the masses of the people. Liberals have shown themselves utterly scandalised, as was natural, by the creation of a new statutory vested interest and a monopoly value. Free Traders are shocked at a reversion to the most obsolete forms of 18th century Protection. Protectionists are amazed that the Government should propose to favour foreign manufacturers with British bounty-fed coal, and yet refuse to consider a duty on imported steel even to the extent of countervailing the bounty-fed element in it. It is not Socialism that we shall vote against to-night. We shall vote against a most repulsive specimen of Syndicalism whereby the Government, under duress, joins forces with a powerful capitalist interest, and with a still more powerful vote interest, in the hope of fortifying their own political strength and with the callous intention of pillaging the wealth of the nation.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald)
We have listened to a speech which shows once again that the right hon. Gentleman has lost none of his romantic imagination. I confess—I hope he will not consider it offensive—that it was the revelation regarding what was in the minds of the Liberal party which interested me more than his criticisms of the Bill itself. He told us that there were certain conferences behind the Speaker's Chair, in the Lobby, and in various parts of the House. He suggested that they were only between the Government and the Liberals. I am not so sure about that. I am not quite sure whether the situation which there has been an attempt to create to-day is not far more a political situation than one that relates to the merits of the coalmining situation.
He complained that we have answered very few of the grave, the numerous, 1764 criticisms which have been made against the Bill.
I have heard the greater part of this Debate, and what I have felt is this: I have felt regarding the speeches made by the Liberals below the Gangway, as I have felt regarding the very able speeches made by the Conservatives above the Gangway, that somehow or other we stood on totally different ground as to what the immediate purpose of the Bill was. We are dealing with a pressing situation in the coal trade. My right hon Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) who spoke a short time ago reminded the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that he had a past, and reminded right hon. Gentlemen on the Conservative Benches that they have a past; and he reminded the whole House, irrespective of party, that as a result of failure after failure—I am simply describing the undoubted records in the history of this trade—time after time the trade, handled by section after section of this House, has proved that it could not be extricated from its difficulties in the way that it had been handled. The right hon. Gentleman sneered that we had squared the owners, and then varied that by saying that the owners had squared us. Has the right hon. Gentleman forgotten himself? Has the right hon. Gentleman forgotten that the owners squared him?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I have not at all forgotten the efforts that the right lion. Gentleman made to extricate this trade from its difficulties. The Government to which the right hon. Gentleman belonged voted what amounted to a sum of £23,000,000. It did more. It was, I am perfectly certain, sincerely convinced that this trade required longer hours. I am perfectly certain it was sincerely convinced that when the owners reduced wages as well as lengthened hours both steps were necessary in order to give the trade an economic foundation. Were they right or were they wrong? No one can say that that required economic foundation was given to the trade by that method. What is more, we have come now to this time, in 1929, when their great experiment in setting the coal trade on a good founda- 1765 tion is very nearly coming to its statutory termination. In 1931, at the very latest, the Eight Hours Act will lapse, and the trade suddenly, without any preparation if we follow the doctrines preached to us to-day from the other side of the House, will have to face that problem. According to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs that problem means, straight away, that 7s. is to be put on the cost of every ton of coal consumed by the consumers of this country. He played with the figure of 3s. 6d. for a half-hour.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am sorry to interrupt, as the right hon. Gentleman has not very much time left. I said that the whole—including the present losses— the whole restoration of the seven hours' day and the export duty in my judgment would amount to 3s. 6d.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I think that that is only slightly different from what I said just now. We will put it as he has said it. Suppose that in 1931 the seven and a-half hours' day is tried because people who wanted to give fair play to the trade and fair play to the miners, see a great danger of jumping one hour without any preparation. Then in 1931 we would still have to face this question without any preparation, as I shall show immediately. I am perfectly prepared to put myself in the hands of the House. Quite candidly, I put myself in the hands of the House. The trade to-day is not in a good position. I have talked to owner after owner. It is quite true that there are movements upwards, but I have not yet found an owner-well, I have found one or two, but very few owners, and very, very few, if any at all, of the owners who are taking a long view of the prospects of the trade—who believes that the trade is yet on the sound economic foundation which would enable it to reduce working hours by one next year.
What are you going to do? We have produced this Bill for the purpose of making it possible, and I beg the House to remember that we are at present in the course of evolution and of experiment in handling the question, and that every one of the attempts which have been made hitherto at handling it, has failed to produce the results that the authors expected. I think if the right hon. Gentleman opposite had listened to the speech 1766 of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore he would be very much impressed by that argument. In dealing with this question, some of our critics seem to assume that we never thought about amalgamation. We have heard the old story that we were in favour of amalgamation but put it on one side. That is not true and nobody knows it better than the right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway. He said he was sorry that some of these matters had not been made the subject of exchange of views in conference. I was rather surprised that the right hon. Gentleman made that statement to the House. First in logic, first in industrial need, comes amalgamation, but nobody who has studied the intricacies of amalgamation and the time required to complete it—and what is the use of talking merely about beginning—no one who has studied the time required for the completion of amalgamation really honestly, either to himself or this House, would say that amalgamation and the economies resulting from it can be reaped in time to enable the trade to readjust itself before the Eight Hours day has ceased to exist.
I say, as I said before, that amalgamation is to be proceeded with, and proceeded with without delay in accordance with the Royal Commission on the Mining Industry. It was proposed that the Commissioners should establish the areas to be amalgamated, and select the pits. That method will be proceeded with without delay. The right hon. Gentleman said it could be done by a simple Clause or two at the outside in this Bill. I am still very doubtful if it is possible to do it in that way; but, if it is possible to do it in that way, it will be done. What this House has to remember is this, that before any change can take place in the organisation of the trade, there must be some new resources put at its command.
In talking of putting those new resources at its command, the right hon. Gentleman who preceded me began to talk of cheap coal, the virtue of cheap coal—cheap at any price. His position and the position taken up by the late Secretary for Mines, in his very interesting speech, to every word of which I listened to-day, is apparently this, or a combination of their arguments amounts to this, that so long as there is an agricultural labourer with 30s. a week, the miner with 48s. 6d. a week 1767 has got no business to increase his wages if that increase of wages is bound to increase the cost of coal by 1d. per ton to the consumer. What an absurd position! I know that the hon. Member did not mean that and will not accept that conclusion from his argument, but, as a matter of fact, if his argument, applied in the way that he did apply it, is of any validity at all, that is really the position in which he finds himself.
The fact of the matter is that their thinking, if I might say so with respect, is running in the wrong channel. If cheap coal is got by sweating, is cheap coal economic? There is not a single move that has ever been taken against well-established sweating conditions but those who are not subject to them have put forth the argument that when the sweated person was raised in the level of industrial standards somebody had to pay for it. In the case of the machine sempstress, it was the wife and child of the poor underpaid agricultural labourer who had to bear the extra 6d. or 1s. that she got. To-day the right hon. Gentleman has repeated the argument. Why? Because he wants to contribute something really to the solution of the coal problem? Not at all, but because he wants to go to the country to make great speeches about dear coal Bills and those beautifully selected phrases which always illustrate the dictum that when a finely polished phrase is turned out, its substance may be truth, but its polish is untruth. Until this House is prepared to face the problem of prices, there will be no solution of the coal problem.
If I may say so parenthetically, I do not know if my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has communicated that letter to which he referred when he was addressing the House, but, as I understood him, he informed the House that the writer of that letter had left the Five Powers scheme. [Laughter.] How really can I avoid that subject? I mean, of course, the Five Counties scheme. That is not so. He has had his grievance, and he has presented his grievance, I understand, but although it is not a very enthusiastic commendation of the Bill, a letter received from him does indicate a somewhat more sympathetic 1768 and, if I might say so with respect, more businesslike point of view than was indicated by my right hon. Friend when he quoted him or at least referred to him. He says that the Bill appears to be a fair and probably a workable Bill. I quite agree that that is not enthusiastic, but it is a totally different line of criticism and a totally different conclusion from that of the right hon. Gentleman. I say that until we face the question of price, and until we give the right hon. Gentleman opposite liberty to go raging about the country like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, with all sorts of magnificent phrases and thumping about "dear coal" and "robbing the poor" and all that sort of thing—until we face that, and allow him to do it, and meet him there, the coal trade will never be put upon a firm foundation. He knows as well as I do that the price of coal up to now has been regulated by the most extravagant internal competition.
He knows perfectly well that when he gave the £23,000,000 to aid this trade, in order to build itself up, in order to give it a better foundation, that £23,000,000 in the main did not go to wages, did not go to profits, did not go to increasing the necessary capital of the pits, but that it went to subsidise the foreigners. The right hon. Gentleman could not have helped it, because the coal trade, as it was then and is now organised, can get no aids of any kind put in at any point without those aids being steadily sifted down and down by cut-throat competition, so that the trade is just as impoverished afterwards as it was before. That is what we are trying to stop. Coal in bulk and in average is sold at uneconomically low levels. It is said as a result of this internal competition at levels which do not permit a proper organisation of the industry itself. It is sold at levels which do not permit decent wages to be paid to the miners. It is sold at levels which do not permit profits being made upon the industry.
I have a suspicion with the right hon. Gentleman that all these declared losses are in the nature of losses, the other side of which are tucked away, and are to be found—[Interruption]. The thing is like transfer prices. If I have said anything which might be taken as offence to the coalowners—[Interruption]. What 1769 I had in my mind is perfectly obvious. It has been stated again and again in this House, and will be stated again and again in this House. The prices at which coal is now sold do not permit the accumulation of private capital for the development of inferior pits, and until the time has come when there is some sort of method for dealing with coal prices, not to enable anybody to strike a price that is uneconomic, not to destroy all chance of preventing a price which is uneconomic, because it is too low, but giving somebody properly watched, properly safeguarded, the opportunity of striking a price that will be a real economic price for coal produced in this country—until that is done you will never find the way to solve the coal problem. It is perfectly true—I do not resist this great argument of the right hon. Gentleman—that under conditions such as those under which the coal trade is now working the user is benefited, or appears to be benefited.
What is the price that the country has to pay for this apparent benefit, and this price which the right hon. Gentleman is so anxious should run right on to eternity? The first price is that the industry is uneconomically run. The charges are not economic charges. The next is that the coal industry is left unsettled and unhappy, with continuing internal friction that may break out into conflict at any moment. When the right hon. Gentleman talks about subsidies, at the present time users are subsidised by unsatisfactory conditions shared by both miners and owners, which this Bill has been produced for the purpose of trying to stop. To stop, but not finally, because this only deals with existing conditions. When you have got amalgamations, as we shall have, when royalties are nationalised, as they must be, and without delay, then the conditions which make Part I of this Bill necessary will have completely disappeared, and the way in which prices then can be controlled will be in a totally different fashion—on account of the amalgamations and the nationalisation of royalties.
Therefore, this scheme is bound to be temporary, just as long as the conditions are temporary, and if it is found to be impossible by any political misfortune to carry out to its completeness the scheme 1770 for reorganisation, and if the procsss of rationalising the industry is stopped, then this scheme will have a very much longer life than is necessary, and a very much longer life than will be good for the industry. But if this scheme of rationalisation and organisation is pushed ahead without delay, then as soon as the combination takes place, and marketing schemes come in, you are dealing by organisation with the coal produced at the pit-head, you are dealing with the middleman, and with coal sold to the individual consumer—then the coal problem becomes a soluble problem. The effect of this Bill will undoubtedly be to hasten that much more quickly than if nothing like this had been done.
There is another point I should like to refer to with regard to this matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, and those who have criticised this Bill to-day, have done so in two ways. They say, "We are in favour of a competition to regulate prices," and at the same time they say, "We are in favour of rationalisation." They cannot have rationalisation and at the same time the full operation of the old competitive method of fixing prices. The whole theory of rationalisation, the whole object of rationalisation, is to give the combined producers power to fix an economic price, power to give them organisation to push ahead with still more rationalisation, and an increase in the efficiency of machinery and so on, so that by an evolution on that side prices may still more come down and consumption still more increase.
That is exactly the process that is going on. But we can trust no longer to checks and to internal competition in the coal trade, or in any other trade, to keep prices at a fair level. That is to be done by combination very carefully and vigilantly watched as regards coatings by a public authority in order to see that the consumers do not suffer. In that respect the Bill requires some strengthening. This Measure is going to a Committee, and so far as the Committee is concerned any Amendments put down on the lines of the Bill to strengthen its provisions and deliberately put in to fulfil a certain purpose will be considered by the Government—[Interruption]—as they have always been considered by any Government that has sat on these benches. 1771 The House knows our intentions perfectly well. Hon. Members had an indication of those intentions in the speech of the President of the Board of Trade, and in the carrying out of those intentions, if contributions are made from the Government side or from Members of the parties opposite, the Government will examine them very carefully to see if they are suitable to the Bill. [Interruption.] I want to say that I feel some small surprise that this rigid adherence to tradition seems for some reason or other—certainly not a House of Commons reason and not a Parliamentary procedure reason but for some occult reason—to arouse feelings of hilarity. We are going to do our best to give this Bill a solid economic foundation. Even with that economic foundation, we are going to see to it that what goes into the trade does not go away in the same way as subsidies have recently gone away.
Therefore, Part 2 is essential to the Bill. We have not put in Part 1 simply to leave it in the position in which the right hon. Gentleman left the trade after giving it a subsidy of £23,000,000, because Part 1, left alone in the Bill, would be frittered away by the ordinary industrial operation of this trade, as every amount of money put into the trade hitherto has been frittered away. We see that Part 2 is going to reduce the hours of labour, and we are preparing the trade to enable it to stand the expense of the reduction of hours of labour. The expense can be stood, not by subsidies, but by so enabling the trade to get economic prices that wages can come out of the proceeds of those economic prices. There is no reason whatever for any reduction of wages when the shift is reduced to 7½ hours, and Part 1 provides the wherewithal for that to be done—not by robbing the public or by taxing the public, but by giving the coal trade an opportunity to get a sound economic price for its goods.
Part 3 is equally essential to the Bill. I am not saying it will, but it may be that attempts will be made to reduce wages or to pay wages that are not economically justified. So we establish the National Industrial Board that will have power to review them and to advise Kin them. That completes the first stage. It is perfectly true, as I said, that 1772 the provisions of the Bill will disappear as soon as the conditions have changed, but there is one indirect thing to which I want to refer before I sit down—the indirect effect that I hope to get, and my colleagues hope, if not exactly to get, to advance, and that is some sort of peace in this hard, callous industry. I have had actual experience in negotiations, industrial and other. When attempts were made, to which reference—a rather inaccurate reference—has been made, to get negotiations started in this industry that might have resulted in a real agreement, it was perfectly appalling and heartbreaking to find the temper that existed between the two sides. The sort of idea was that we should meet one side at 12 o'clock, hear what they had to say, and discuss it with them, and when we had finished we should ask the other side to meet us at 1 o'clock and go through with them all the arguments and considerations which were pressed upon us between 12 and 1 and get further information and a wider point of view; then go back at 2 o'clock again to the side we saw originally at 12 o'clock.
Nothing in my experience in recent years has convinced me more that if anybody—I do not care who he is or what he is—or any combination of men, could get this trade back again into the relations of ordinary friendliness, however much they dispute, one of the most splendid contributions to a paying coal trade would have been made. I feel perfectly certain that this Bill will very substantially contribute to that end. They must come together. They must exchange views across a table. They must stop this sort of idea that only in parts and only in sections are those great national problems involved in coal conditions to be settled and to be dealt with; and this Bill will make a substantial contribution to that end. Therefore, with its safeguards, with its peculiar Committee features—[Interruption]—no Bill has ever presented more problems for Committee, and more difficulties in discussing it with some sort of rational plan—this Bill, preeminently for Committee in front of the House, for discussion by the House in Committee, when all the points and all the details will be available for accurate and close discussion, will, I hope, receive a Second Reading now. 1773It is certainly desirable"—said the "Times" this morning—It is certainly desirable in the public interest that the Second Reading should be carried. The rejection of the Bill would produce many uncertainties and doubts, and would nullify the first difficult steps which the industry has been taking to set its affairs in order.
§ With these words, with these sufficient words, I hope the House will now proceed to give the Second Reading a good, substantial majority.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 281; Noes, 273.1777
|Division No. 111.]||AYES.||[10.57 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, M.)||Lunn, William|
|Adamson, W, M. (Staff., Cannock)||Glbbins, Joseph||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Gibson, H. M. (Lanes. Mossley)||Mac Donald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Aitchlson, Rt. Hon. Craigle M.||Gill, T. H.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Gillett, George M.||McElwee, A.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Gosling, Harry||McEntee, V. L.|
|Amman, Charles George||Gossling, A. G.||McKinlay, A.|
|Angeil, Norman||Gould, F.||MacLaren, Andrew|
|Arnott, John||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||McShane, John James|
|Ayles, Walter||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bllston)||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Mansfield, W.|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Groves, Thomas E.||March, S.|
|Batey, Joseph||Grundy, Thomas W.||Marcus, M.|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Markham, S. F.|
|Bellamy, Albert||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Marley, J.|
|Bennett, Capt. E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||Mathers, George|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Matters, L. W.|
|Benson, G.||Hardle, George D.||Maxton, James|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Melville, Sir James|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Messer, Fred|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Haycock, A. W.||Middleton, G.|
|Bowen, J. W.||Hayday, Arthur||Mills, J. E.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hayes, John Henry||Milner, J.|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Montague, Frederick|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Bromfield, William||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Morley, Ralph|
|Bromley, J.||Herrlotts, J.||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)|
|Brooke, W.||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Brothers, M.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Mort, D. L.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield)||Hoffman, P. C.||Moses, J. J. H.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hoillns, A.||Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Hopkin, Daniel||Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)|
|Buchanan, G.||Horrabin, J. F.||Muff, G.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Muggeridge, H. T.|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||Isaacs, George||Murnin, Hugh|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Calne, Derwent Hall||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Cameron, A. G.||Jones. J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Noel Baker, P. J.|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Oldfield, J. R.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Palin, John Henry|
|Chater, Daniel||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Paling, Wilfrid|
|Church, Major A. G.||Kelly, W. T.||Palmer, E. T.|
|Clarke, J. S.||Kennedy, Thomas||Perry, S. F.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kinley, J.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John, R.||Kirkwood, D.||Phillips, Dr. Marion|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Knight, Holford||Plcton-Turbervill, Edith|
|Compton, Joseph||Lang, Gordon||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Cove, William G.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Daggar, George||Lathan, G.||Potts, John S.|
|Dallas, George||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Price, M. P.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lawrence, Susan||Raynes, W. R.|
|Day, Harry||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Richards, R.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lawson, John James||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)|
|Dickson, T.||Leach, W.||Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Dukes, C.||Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.)||Ritson, J.|
|Duncan, Charles||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Ede, James Chuter||Lees, J.||Romerll, H. G.|
|Edge, Sir William||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Llndley, Fred W.||Rowson, Guy|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lloyd, C. Ellis||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Logan, David Gilbert||Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)|
|Egan, W. H.||Longbottom, A. W.||Sanders, W. S.|
|Porgan, Dr. Robert||Longden, F.||Sandham, E.|
|Freeman, Peter||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Lowth, Thomas||Serymgeour, E.|
|Scurr, John||Stephen, Campbell||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Sexton, James||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Strachey, E. J. St. Loe||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Strauss, G. R.||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Sherwood, G. H.||Sullivan, J.||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Shield, George William||Sutton, J. E.||West, F. R.|
|Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)||Westwood, Joseph|
|Shillaker, J. F.||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Shinwell, E.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Simmons, C. J.||Thurtle, Ernest||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Sinkinson, George||Tillett, Ben||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Sitch, Charles H.||Tinker, John Joseph||Williams Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)||Toole, Joseph||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Smith. Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Tout, W. J.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||Townend, A. E.||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Smith, Rennla (Penistone)||Turner, B.||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Smith, Tom (Pontetract)||Vaughan, D. J.||Wise, E. F.|
|Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Viant, S. P.||Wright, W. (Rutherglen)|
|Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Walker, J.||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Sorensen, R.||Wallhead, Richard C.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Spero, Dr. G. E.||Watkins, F. C.||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. T. Henderson.|
|Stamford, Thomas W.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline).|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Colfox, Major William Philip||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Colman, N. C. D.||Gray, Milner|
|Albery, Irving James||Colville, Major D. J.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Llverp'l., W.)||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Allen, W. E. D. (Belfast, W.)||Cowan, D. M.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon, Leopold C. M. S.||Cranbourne, Viscount||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)|
|Atkinson, C.||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Hanbury, C.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Harbord, A.|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Balniel, Lord||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)|
|Berry, Sir George||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Dlxey, A. C.||Hore-Bellsha, Leslie|
|Bird, Ernest Roy||Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Duckworth, G. A. V.||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.|
|Blinded, James||Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Hudson, Capt A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Eden, Captain Anthony||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.|
|Boyce, H. L.||Elmley, viscount||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.|
|Bracken, B.||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-S.M.)||Iveagh, Countess of|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Unlver.)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Everard, W. Lindsay||Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint)|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Ferguson, Sir John||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Fermoy, Lord||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Flelden, E. B.||Kindersley, Major G. M.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Flson, F. G. Clavering||King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Foot, Isaac||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Ford, Sir P. J.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Forestler-Walker, Sir L.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Butler, R. A.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Galbralth, J. F. W.||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Ganzonl, Sir John||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Gauit, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)|
|Castle Stewart, Earl of||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn)||Little, Dr. E. Graham|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Llewellin, Major J. J.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)||Long, Major Eric|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A.(Birm., W.)||Glassey, A. E.||Lymington, Viscount|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||McConnell, Sir Joseph|
|Christie, J. A.||Gower, Sir Robert||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Grace, John||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Macqulsten, F. A.|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Granville, E.||Maitland. A. (Kent, Faversham)|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Margesson, Captain H. D.||Ramsbotham, H.||Stanley, Maj. Hon. O. (W'morland)|
|Marjoribanks, E. C.||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Stewart, W. J. (Belfast, South)|
|Meller, R. J.||Remer, John R.||Stuart, J. C. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.|
|Mitchell-Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Mond, Hon. Henry||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Ross, Major Ronald D.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Rothschild, J. de||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut. Colonel E. A.||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Train, J.|
|Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Muirhead, A. J.||Salmon, Major I.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Nathan, Major H. L.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Tudor|
|Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.|
|Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Savery, S. S.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Scott, James||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|O'Neill, Sir H.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Owen, H. F. (Hereford)||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Peake, Capt. Osbert||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfast)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Penny, Sir George||Skelton, A. N.||Withers, Sir John James|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dlne, C.)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Pilditch, Sir Philip||Smithers, Waldron||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)|
|Pownall, Sir Assheton||Somerset, Thomas||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Preston, Sir Walter Rueben||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Purbrick, R.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Pybus, Percy John||Southby, Commander A. R. J.||Commander Sir B. Eyres Monsell|
|and Major Sir George Hennessy.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Tuesday, 21st January.—[The Prime Minister.]