§ Sir B. PETO
I beg to move, in page 17, line 27; after the word "sum," to insert the words:certified by an accountant appointed by the Board of Trade to be.Although I understand that the Government are inclined to regard this Amendment favourably, I think it is necessary to explain why I attach importance to it. The House will recognise that this Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission which is set up in clause 11 is not only an important body but one whose operations, together with the assistance that they require from experts, will be somewhat costly. It was indicated, as a rough estimate, by the President of the Board of Trade that the annual expense was expected to be £250,000. The Bill does not state who is to apportion the cost of the Commissioners and their expert advisers in the case of any amalgamation, whether compulsory or voluntary.
It might be held that this was a matter which, under the Mining Industry Act of 1926, would go to the Railway and 1372 Canal Commissioners, but on reading Section 7 of that Act, I am not of opinion that the Railway and Canal Commissioners would be empowered to go into this question. They would not be an appropriate body to consider the question of accountancy. In any case, where voluntary amalgamations were concerned the matter would not go before the Railway and Canal Commissioners. I would like to quote what the President of the Board of Trade said in regard to the apportionment of this expense of £250,000 a year. He indicated, when he brought clause 11 into the Committee, in answer to a question by me, that:The remuneration of the Commissioners would probably be a comparatively small element, and by far the greater part of the expense would relate to the legal, technical and other assistance involved. The hon. Baronet will, however, recall that it is provided in these clauses that a sum equal to the cost of that technical assistance is recoverable from the concerns amalgamated under this Bill, so that the cost of this Commission to the State, assuming that there was a recovery on those lines, would in substance be the salaries of the Commissioners together with any other expenditure that could not be recovered under the head which I have just described; but I should not imagine that that would be large—indeed the hope is rather that it would be comparatively small."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th February, 1930; col. 663, Vol. 235.]Therefore, it is clear that the President of the Board of Trade anticipates that the greater part of this £250,000 will be recovered from the concerns amalgamated. The question, therefore, is of considerable importance, and it is proper that the machinery for adjudicating as to the portion to be borne by the compulsory or voluntarily amalgamated concerns and the Treasury, should be inserted. Under the clause as it now stands, the owners of the amalgamated concerns will have to pay whatever the Commissioners and the Board of Trade decide is their share. The President of the Board of Trade said that £250,000 was only a rough approximation of the annual cost, and therefore the cost to be borne by the amalgamated concerns might exceed that amount. When I consider the position of a compulsorily amalgamated concern, I am irresistably reminded of two lines of Tennyson's. "Charge of the Light Brigade," with the alteration of one word:Their's not to reason why, Their's but to pay and die.1373 Undoubtedly, these compulsorily amalgamated concerns will die so far as their continued single existence goes as separate entities in the industrial life of the nation. All that I ask for in this Amendment is that in their passing hour they shall have the ministrations of a qualified accountant.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Sir B. PETO
I beg to move, in page 17, line 28, after the word "expenses," to insert the word "properly."
It is clear that the word "properly" is required. The expenses must be properly incurred. When we have a large amount of expense going on, in visits to different districts and the like, the scale of expenditure may be somewhat lavish if it is not clearly understood by the assistants to the Commissioners that there is some limit as to the expenditure to be incurred.
§ Amendment agreed to.