HC Deb 23 July 1929 vol 230 cc1084-6

(by Private Notice) asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is in a position to state the Government's intentions regarding the mining industry.


The Government have now had the advantage of consultations with the Executive Committee of the Miners Federation, a Sub-Committee of the Executive Committee, the Central Committee of the Mining Association, and a smaller body of representative coalowners.

As a result, the Government have informed the Miners' Federation that legislation dealing with hours of work and other factors in the coal industry will be introduced during the autumn session. In the intervening months the Government will be in regular consultation with the Federation as to the terms of that legislation.

The representative coalowners who were met yesterday were informed that the Government desired the owners to develop the organisation of district marketing arrangements and a central scheme for co-ordinating the activities of the district organisations.

In the legislation to be introduced in the autumn, the Government will take powers to enable them, if necessary, to compel colliery owners to conform to the rules of a district organisation inaugurated with the approval of owners of collieries producing the majority of the output of the district. The Government will also take power to enable them to initiate a scheme in any district which fails to constitute an organisation having the approval of the majority, and will take similar power to set up a central co-ordinating authority, if one is not constituted voluntarily.

The owners have also been invited to remain in constant consultation with the Government as to the terms of the legislation.


Will the right hon. Gentleman state whether the Government are in a position to say now whether the reduction of hours will be to the hours prevailing prior to the Act of 1926?


The reply which I have given to the House indicates that the Government will be in close consultation with the Miners' Federation and with the owners during succeeding months. Plainly, in view of those negotiations, which must take all the factors of the industry into account, I cannot anticipate the precise terms of the legislation. In other words, I cannot go beyond the statement that it will deal with hours of work and other factors in the Industry.


Will the question of the reduction of hours be contingent on any of the other factors which have been mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, or shall we go ahead with the reduction of hours?


I am afraid that, in view of the nature of the reply which I have given, and which was as comprehensive as we could make it, I must ask the House not to press me on details.


Is it not a fact that the Labour party gave a definite pledge to reduce hours, and is it not time that we had a straight answer to the question?


I can assure the House that all these facts are before the negotiating parties.


May I ask the right Hon. Gentleman—if he is not ready, I will not press him—whether these proposals will involve any subsidy, either from the Government or by means of any compulsory levy inside the trade itself, in order to meet the question of wages and hours?


At this point there can be no question of a general subsidy. As regards the details of the selling schemes, they must be left to the owners in the preparation of a plan, but we will be in constant consultation, and the Government must approve of schemes in the long run.


In regard to selling schemes, does that mean that the price of coal to the consumer will rise?


That is precisely one of the details of the scheme—[Interruption]—well not a detail, but a very important point in the scheme, which must be considered by the parties. No consideration of that kind will be overlooked in the coming months.


Will the Government take into consideration the £5,500,000 per annum given to the royalty owners?