§ Mr. CLEMENT DAVIES
I beg to move, in page 1, line 10, to leave out the word "production."
I realise that in moving this Amendment I shall be raising the main principle upon which Part I of this Bill is based. I feel that many Members of this Committee will desire to take part in the Debate, and I shall confine myself to a short summary of some of the many objections there are to Part I of the Bill and the inclusion of the word "production." The purpose of Part I, doubtless, is to put in the hands of the owners a monopoly of production of coal in this country, and, by having a monopoly of production, to have then the sole controlling voice in the price which is to be fixed, and the price which the consumer will have to pay for the commodity. The real, main purpose is to limit and control production. We have to hear in mind two important main facts. One is that this limits production while the world consumption is not increased. The purpose of this Bill, instead of desiring to increase consumption, which would benefit coalowners and miners, is to limit the amount which both of them could produce.
The figures are very striking. In 1900, the amount of the world consumption was only 765,000,000 tons. In 1913, which was the peak year, to which I will refer in a moment, the figures were 1,324,000,000 tons; in 1928, 1,430,000,000 tons; and in 1929, 1,490,000,000 tons. There has been, therefore, a continuous increase, not as great year by year as it was before the War, but still an increase. The peak year in production in this country was 1913, in which year we produced 287,000,000 tons. Last year we produced only 256,000,000 tons; so that I think the Committee will realise that, whereas consumption on the whole is increasing, we in this country have suffered 2454 a decrease in production, and that we are not meeting the world's demand. I should have thought that this was a moment when we should do our best to encourage production, so that we might still retain the market we ourselves had created. The proposal of the Government, however, is that, instead of increasing the 256,000,000 tons which we produced last year, it should be put in the hands of the owners to say what amount shall be produced, and that amount may be lessened. I realise, of course, that there does come a time when a Government can and should interfere in the delicate matter of trade, but it should only interfere to this extent, that it should help trade forward; it should do its best to increase the trade, but surely it is a new principle of this House to hamper and hinder trade as this Bill now proposes.
What will he the effect of this Bill in practice? It will have an effect not merely upon coal and the coal industry, but one must remember that it will also have an effect upon other industries. This is the basic industry which supplies the raw material for other industries, without which they cannot possibly succeed. Might I instance one or two? Take, for example, steel, which has passed through a very difficult time. At least three tons—many people say four tons—of coal are required for the production of one ton of steel. Assume it is four, and assume that production of coal is limited, with the result that the price of coal is increased by even the lowest estimate that has been given to me, namely, 3s. 6d. to 4s. a ton. Suppose it is 4s., merely for the sake of illustration; 4s. a ton on coal means an extra 16s. a ton upon steel, which is already finding a difficulty in meeting competition. Then take tin-plates. I understand that the tin-plate industry of this country consumes something like 800,000 tons of coal during the year, and 1,000,000 tons of steel. You have added already to the cost of steel, which is the raw material of the tin-plate industry. You are also going to add to the cost of the other raw material, namely, coal. What is to happen to the poor tin-plate industry, which has barely survived a whole series of disasters?
§ Mr. T. GRIFFITHS
Does the hon. and learned Member know that at the 2455 present time the only bright spot in South Wales is the tin-plate trade, and that we only retain that trade by having a quota system and also fixed prices?
§ Mr. DAVIES
I will instance one or two other industries which are better known to Members of this Committee than they are to me, namely, the cotton and woollen industries. Are you going to increase the cost to them, and make it still more difficult for them to compete with foreign competitors? [Interruption.] We on these benches are anxious that the miners shall have the best treatment, that they shall have shorter hours, and that they shall have a proper wage; but they are not going to obtain it by cutting down the amount which the miners can produce.
Might I turn to the effect upon the industry itself? If you cut down production, you are bound to increase the costs. The same roadway must be maintained. You must have your full ventilation carried on. The same pumping has to be done. The same overhead charges will be there. Yet you are depriving the colliery owner of the right of meeting those charges by cutting down the amount he shall produce, and you are cutting it down by Statute. What is going to be the position of the single man? I should have thought hon. Members opposite would have rejected any trust or combination which did not have a fair measure of justice in it for the people of this country. The combine may pay its 4 per cent or 5 per cent., its production has to be cut down by 25 per cent. and it can only do that by closing down the most uneconomic and unprofitable mine and then make up the difference from the other mines.
Take the case of the single man. He has to cut down his production by 25 per cent., but he cannot do it, and he will have to close down his mine with disaster to himself and more unemployment among the miners. I suggest that this is a most unfair Measure, because it does not have regard to the mineowners or the miners as a whole. I understand that the 2456 bulk of the mineowners in the country have rejected the suggestion which has been put forward. I implore the right hon. Gentleman, the Government, and this Committee to pause before they put into the hands of a few of the coal-owners "of this country the power to control the production of coal which is the basic industry upon which the wealth of this country depends.
Sir LAMING WORTHINGTON EVANS
This Amendment really goes to the root of Part I, and I suppose, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, that we shall be allowed, as the Mover of this Amendment has done, to wander a little from the words of the Amendment in order to get the discussion on rather broader lines.
I think I may say at once that on an important occasion like this it will be the wish of the Committee that a little more latitude than usual should be given.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON - EVANS
Part I of this Bill marks a new departure in economics and politics. A new principle has been introduced, because hitherto we have acted in the belief that efficiency resulting in a large and cheap output is the best method; that it was unwise to handicap an efficient business, and that it was better to allow the less efficient to drop out. We were of the opinion that if an efficient business were cheated of its reward, it would bring about effects which would in the long run cause damage to the industry. No one would be willing to invest his capital in a business from which the reasonable rewards were withdrawn. Consequently, where output was excessive prices became reduced, and a reduction of price ultimately allowed for the survival of the most efficient and the closing down of the less efficient. I have very briefly stated the lines upon which we have hitherto proceeded. Now it is proposed to introduce some quite new principles. I am not at all sure that it is not Socialism of the latest form in practice.
Of course, we realise that any Government is entitled, for good reasons, to expropriate the private property of any individual if that property is required for public purposes. Under those conditions, the State can expropriate property 2457 upon proper compensation being paid and fixed by a Court of Arbitration. This Bill does something quite different from that. Yesterday we spent the whole day in providing, not for compulsory purchase, but for the setting up of a Court, or some independent authority, to be provided with machinery for the compulsory acquisition of mining undertakings by amalgamation or absorption. This is to be done, not with proper compensation fixed by an independent tribunal, but for shares in another undertaking. Even where not a single one of the owners of those undertakings desire it, the machinery will enable this to be done. If the owners desired to do what is suggested, they could have done it under the Act of 1926. The Government think that the provisions of that Act are not sufficient, and so they have introduced this Clause in order to limit the right of the individual in the production of coal and its sale. Hitherto limits have been put upon private property, but they have generally been based upon public policy. For example, you cannot carry on a noisy or offensive trade upon your property, and the law intervenes so as to prevent you carrying on anything which is contrary to public order or morality. Subject to these very few exeptions, an individual is entitled to carry on and exercise his rights over his property in any way that he thinks fit. An individual can carry on his business without interruption, except that which is necessary under sanitary or factory laws, and the type of restrictions which are common to everyone, but never before has there been a proposal such as that which is proposed in this Bill.
Let me very briefly summarise what is in this part of the Bill so that we may have it in front of us. The Bill commences by limiting and fixing a standard output, and then, in relation to that output, fixing the quota which each mine is in future not to be allowed to exceed. The mine which has a quota fixed is not to be allowed to exceed it, and machinery is provided for fixing prices which are not maximum prices but quite a reversal of that principle. The price is fixed under which coal shall not be sold; no matter how profitable it may be to a man to sell it at so many shillings per ton less 2458 the owner is deprived of the right of selling at the price which seems to him the best, and out of which he can make a profit, pay wages and carry on his business successfully. A committee of other people will be entitled to say what the sale price of his coal shall be, and he will only be able to sell at that price.
How is the standard output and the quota to be fixed? If it were going to be fixed according to the efficiency of the mine, there would be something to be said for it, but it is not to be fixed in that way. On the contrary, it is to be fixed upon a plan which takes into account past output, and once that has been ascertained the standard of production is fixed and then the quotas which must be proportionate, and you cannot differentiate between the good and the bad mines. No difference is made for the money which has been spent bringing the mine up-to-date and introducing the best machinery that can be used, and you are not able to reward the enterprising owner. Consequently, you risk depriving such an owner of the benefits of his former enterprise under which he put capital into the concern, because of the quota. There may be a mine which has a 100 per cent. output which can afford to pay proper rates of wages and have proper hours of work and still make a profit, but, instead of allowing that owner to continue, you may, by the provisions of this Bill, reduce his quota so that he will be able no longer to produce 100 per cent. output, but probably 80 per cent. or 70 per cent. It may be that such a mine cannot pay even at the higher price which will arise with the limitation of output, but, assuming that such an owner can pay at the higher price, you are not allowing him to go forward with an increased output, out of which he could make more money unless he buys the quota of another man, and he can do that. He can take upon his own shoulders the cost of putting out of existence the man who has not hitherto been efficient, but who has been able to come into the combine, and so disturb the others.
The result is that the efficient man has to take upon his shoulders the cost of finding the compensation for those owners who are put out of existence. It has been said that it is not intended to put those men out of existence; that, on 2459 the contrary, it has been claimed that the quota business is being adopted in order to keep more men employed. If anyone holds that view, I think it is a fallacy, because it will pay the inefficient men who have only occasionally been able to make a profit to sell their quotas and shut down their businesses, and the men whom they have employed in the past will suffer through unemployment.
I have given, very briefly, the broad outlines of the machinery which is to be set up under this Bill. Let me for a moment examine this question from the point of view of the mineowner, because, after all, we are dependent in this country upon the production of coal and upon the cheap and efficient production of coal. Coal is the basis of all industries, and, unless we can have cheap coal, all our manufacturers are bound to suffer. Take the case of a mineowner who has had an efficient mine. He has invested capital in it, and to-day, with 100 per cent. output, he is making, and can make, a really good profit, because he can get all the capital he requires to extend his undertaking and keep it up-to-date. Now, suppose that this quota is fixed at 80 per cent., what is the position? He can go to arbitration. I commend this arbitration Clause to the attention of the Committee. It says that an owner may refer to a board of independent arbitrators. But it does not give those arbitrators any power whatever. It does not say that they shall alter the quota or that the prices shall be altered, or that, when they have considered the case, any decision which they may give shall be binding upon anybody at all. There is absolutely no protection whatsoever in this so-called Arbitration Clause. Will the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, when he comes to reply, say what the arbitrators in this case can dot Can they make a decision altering the quota? [An HON. MEMBER: "Certainly!"] I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade will say "Certainly"? Can they alter either the quota or the prices? Can the owner whose case I am imagining if his quota is fixed at 80 per cent., go to arbitration, and can the arbitrators alter the amount of the quota? If the price fixed is higher than he wants, can the arbitrators reduce that price? If the 2460 arbitrators are entitled to do that, and there is some judicial means of checking the action of these committees, it is a difficult position which will then have to be considered. But, so far as I know, that is not so at all. He cannot lower the price nor can he increase the quota. It might well he that an efficient owner would wish to have the price lowered. His danger is not in having too low a price, but in having too high a price; that he will have to keep pits in existence which ought to go out of existence, and that he will cripple demand because the price he gets will have to be put up unnecessarily. He can buy a quota. That means that the cost of production of all the coal industry is going to be increased, because, whatever the cost of that quota is, he gets nothing for it that he has not already got. He has already got 100 per cent. If it is reduced to 80 per cent. and he gets it back, he is exactly where he was before the Bill came in. It is said: "Oh you have fixed prices, and you will pass any increased cost on to the unfortunate public, and the public will have to pay."
I do not pretend to know much about the details of the coal trade, and therefore I am dealing with it on general lines; but I know that the independent owners in South Wales, who have sent out a little document which I have no doubt everybody has got, claim that three-fifths of the output of South Wales coal is exported and two-fifths retained at home, and that the actual half-hour proposed in the Bill is equivalent to 1s. 6d. a ton. That 1s. 6d, has to be recovered and put on the price, and that is the object of the Bill. In addition, the payment for the quota has to be put on the price. What can the 1s. 6d. be put on? Not on to the price of coal exported, because there it comes into competition with other coal outside. It has to be put on the price of the two-fifths retained at home, and, to get level, you have to put on 3s. 9d. a ton. The right hon. Gentleman used 4s. a ton. The quota would make a good deal more than the extra 3d. The owner, therefore, has to get level to buy the quota, and he has to run all the risks in this business both of increased cost of production in the pits and also of reduced demand. But that is not all. He is subject to other things. We are all of us subject to the law, but this unfortunate 2461 owner is subject to another form of restriction by law. We are going to set up a tribunal which can try him and fine him. If, perhaps by accident, he produces a little more coal than he ought to produce, he may be hauled before the tribunal and fined an unknown amount. It is called a levy in the Act, but somewhere else in the Bill it is called a penalty; I translate it into the shorter word "fine."
Hitherto, having been efficient, he has always been able to get what capital he wanted, and he has had no trouble. He was trustworthy, and he was known as an efficient man. Do you think anybody will be foolish enough in future to put money into this type of mine, restricted in the way that they will be restricted? Who will know whether the mine is going to be made subject to compulsory amalgamation, not with efficient ones, but with a lot of "duds"? Where is your equality there? Having perhaps jumped that fence, what is the next one? They will not know that the quota is to be changed. They will not know that the price fixed to-day as a minimum price may not be increased to such an extent that the demand will fall off for that type of coal and the whole pit may become uneconomic.
These are the new principles in this Bill. Where are they going to stop? You are going to apply this to coal today. I could give you, with regard to the steel industry or even with regard to the farm, precisely the same sort of arguments that you use in connection with this Bill. One little mine is too small a unit. It is not equipped with the best machinery; put two or three together, and then we will equip them with the best machinery. Steel works—one little unit is insufficient, and it ought to be compulsorily grouped and equipped with the best machinery. This compulsion is to be continued beyond the coal trade into the steel trade and the farm. One little field, two little fields; bring them together, make a nice fat unit: bring in the best machinery, and have a nice big one; and this is to be done whether the people want it or not. Even where they do not want it, you come to the House of Commons to compel them. I do not know where you are going to stop.
I believe, if you pass this Bill, you are going to make it absolutely impossible 2462 for the trade to be carried on by private enterprise. If you mean to nationalise it, say so and do it. What you are trying to do is to strangle the trade first. The unfortunate owner has to consider a central scheme, a district scheme, arbitrators, committees of investigation, the Board of Trade, and thousands of officials. That is the prospect you are holding out to one of the most important trades in the country. Do not forget that if you by your experiments put this trade seriously out of action, if you increase the price of coal seriously, you will affect employment in every one of the manufacturing trades of this country. As it is, this Bill is going to be a dear coal Bill. There is not a public utility company that will not suffer if this Bill goes through, and the householders will also realise the price you are demanding.
§ Mr. ANEURIN BEVAN
I would not have intervened in this Debate at all, but it has become necessary to do so because it might be assumed that the members of the Miners' Federation in this House are not supporting this portion of the Bill with as much enthusiasm as they are supporting the reduction of working hours. All through this Debate on coal the argument has been that these selling agencies will have two results, one to make it more difficult for the efficient collieries to carry on production while giving the inefficient colliery a statutory value, and the other that the inefficient colliery will be able to exact from the efficient one a price which it would never be able to obtain if the ordinary competition in the coal markets were left unimpaired.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) has on more than one occasion fascinated the House with his sweet reasonableness. On the occasion of the Second Beading, he referred to the Westphalian Coal Syndicate. He pointed out that that syndicate had managed to reduce the number of units of production by something approaching from 75 to 60, and he said that that compared very favourably with this country where we had 1,400 companies producing 260,000,000 tons annually. The right hon. Gentleman did not mention that it is admitted by every expert on the coal industry in Europe that the German coal industry was able to accomplish that reduction of the number 2463 of units only by quotas, and only by a cartel. The right hon. Gentleman has won a high reputation for veracity, but it will not survive examples of that, kind in putting before the House half the facts in connection with the matter.
I remember talking to some German coalowners in 1927. The German industry was faced in 1924 and 1925 with a much worse difficulty that we have—over-production, falling prices, inefficient collieries, too much gradation between the collieries themselves in technical equipment—and the first thing they did was not to suggest compulsory amalgamations as the only solution, but to fix quotas for every pit, and to surround those quotas with a cartel having legal sanction from the German Government, and within that cartel, and within those quotas, they reduced, to use the right hon. Gentleman's own figures, the number of companies from 70 to 50, and the price of coal in Germany to-day is, if anything, slightly lower than in this country with our own competition.
What evidence is there as the result of this experiment that there will be an increase in the price of coal? We have been told that in 1929 the average rate of profit in the German coal mines was 1s. 6d. a ton without any increase in the price of internal coal. Hon. Members opposite approach the problem with doctrinaire prejudices and fossilised principles. The Conservatives have no policy at all. I believe the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) has told them that no policy at all, in their position, is the best policy to have. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has told us that the best thing to do is to leave the industry to the ordinary play of competition. We have had free and unfettered competition since 1921. The industry is absolutely unable to obtain for a very large portion of it any assistance whatever from the money market. It is unable to raise any money for re-equipment anywhere in the ordinary money market, apart from a few favoured collieries in prosperous areas. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen has told us what is the result of the Conservative policy since the end of the war. He, however, tells us that all we need is to have large-scale amalgamations.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
If the hon. Member will read 200 pages of the Report of the Royal Commission he will find a great deal more.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I have read the pages the right hon. Gentleman refers to very carefully indeed, and I can find there that certain recommendations have been made which are outside the scope of this Debate, such as the nationalisation of royalties, to which no practical miner attaches any technical value. Nationalisation of royalties might have had value about 10 years ago. Liberal Members are merely concerned with doctrinaire policies. The nationalisation of royalties was an old Radical cry. It was fought in 1900, and it is repeated in 1930. It does not matter at all about the actual conditions. The right hon. Gentleman speaks about amalgamations as being a cure for the difficulties of the mining industry, and the others are derivative, from amalgamations. We have in South Wales and many other parts of the country amalgamations as large, if not larger than are desired for administrative efficiency. No one suggests that it is a desirable thing to have very large amalgamations, say, of collieries producing 10,000,000 or 12,000,000 tons annually. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) pointed out that it was not a good thing to have too large administrative units. We agree with him, and the administrative units to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen has directed our attention on the Continent are much smaller than existing units of amalgamation in this country to-day.
We have colliery combines in the South Wales coalfield producing 6,000,000,7,000,000, 8,000,000 tons annually, a much larger production than on the Continent, and yet within those amalgamations you find all the difficulties that exist throughout the coal industry. Some companies that I have in mind have collieries that are obsolescent alongside undertakings owned by the same company which are the last word in engineering and mining matters. Why is it that those large amalgamations have not been able to confer upon the collieries the benefits that the right hon. Gentleman thinks ought to flow 2465 from amalgamation? It is because they have no means of calculating what the market is going to be for their output, and, therefore, no means of determining what pits should be eliminated and what new money should be spent for the purpose of bringing them up to uniform standard equipment, and no scheme of amalgamation contained in the Bill will assist the industry, with its surplus of 50,000,000 to 60,000,000 tons annually, unless you give the coalowner some calculable market upon which to base his future plans. Hon. Members on the Conservative benches at least are consistent. It is the only merit I have been able to discover in them. They have a sort of vested interest in mystery. They say: "Leave the market alone. Let it be as vague and as incalculable as possible. Keep it so. Do not attempt to introduce any calculable element into it. Let the entrepreneur go on producing for an unknown market, and we shall see then what the gods will "end us." Liberal Members do not go as far as that. They say: "It is a desirable thing that we should have some sort of interference in industry. We should bring about these big amalgamations, so large that it will be possible for them to arrange private cartels between themselves, and to artificially fix the price of coal." And there is nothing in the English law that I know of to prevent those large amalgamations united by cartels being brought about, and facing the consumer with all the disadvantages that they say belong to the Bill.
Let us have a look at these inefficient pits again. It is suggested that the efficient pits will be allowed to produce only 75 per cent. of their productive capacity, and that the inefficient pits will be put in a favoured position. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), in a temporary re-alliance, which may be carried right through to the Division Lobby in their capacity as joint executioners, said on the Second Reading that the inefficient pits would have the efficient pits at a disadvantage and would be able to go along with their quotas in their hands and say to the efficient pits, "If you are going to produce at 100 per cent. of capacity you will have to buy us out." But 2466 exactly the same quota allocation as prevents the efficient pit from producing at 100 per cent. will stop the inefficient pit also, and, if the efficient pit is hurt by it, how much more is the inefficient pit going to be hurt? The inefficient pits will not be able to exact any high price from the efficient collieries because, if the efficient coalowners are sensible at all, they will merely say to the inefficient collieries, "Go on producing; if you do not want to sell your quota, produce it, and the inefficient colliery will be actually unable to meet the standing chargee upon a reduced quota, because if an efficient colliery cannot meet its standing charges upon a reduced output, how can the inefficient one? But it is suggested that the Statute which is going to be poison for the efficient pit is somehow or other going to be a sort of elixir of life for the inefficient pit, which will be able to hold the rest up to ransom.
Since the very beginning in this Debate we have not been having a dispassionate examination of the conditions of the industry. We have been subject merely to a desire on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs to use his Parliamentary position for the purpose of trying to put new life into the decaying corpse of Liberalism. On the Second Reading, because of his Celtic fervour, he went much further than he intended to go, and now it is impossible for him to support Part I of the Bill, otherwise he will have to eat all the words he said on the Second Reading. Here is the position of the mining members. We say to the Liberals, "It is no use you telling us that this is not a Nationalisation of Mines Bill, and you ought to have brought it in if you believe in it." The chief reason for the fact that we are not able to unify the industry, as has been recommended often by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn), is because, at the beginning of this Parliament, we were told that one of the conditions of our life was that we must not introduce any nationalisation. If there are any defects in this Bill—and no one on this side denies that there are defects in it—they are the consequence of trying to reconcile two irreconcilable principles. It is impossible for us permanently to introduce into this industry while it is in private hands any spirit of collectivism. 2467 If there is too much coalowner in this Bill, who wrote the words of it but the right hon. Gentleman opposite? It was no use the Government going to the coalowners and saying to them, "You must have this. Bill." The Government could not hold a pistol at their heads, because they knew that the right hon. Gentleman had taken the bullets out.
We who represent the mining industry say that this is the only part of the Bill which puts any money at the moment into the industry out of which to support a reduction of hours. We do not say that this Bill is necessary merely because of the reduction of hours, because there would be a mining problem even if the miners' hours were not reduced. We refuse to anybody the right to say that this Bill is merely a consequence of the reduction of the hours of the miners. The problem is there all the time. It is for hon. Gentlemen opposite to say how that 50,000,000 tons of surplus output is going to be handled unless in the meantime the industry is surrounded by some sort of protection. How is it going to be distributed? I understand that hon. Gentlemen opposite have no objection to price fixing—[Interruption]—they have resurrected that now. If you are going artificially to fix the price of coal, and to eliminate competition in price as a means of distributing the market over the various units of production, you have to have some artificial means of distribution, and the quota is the only means that we have been able to discover.
I hope the Committee will remember that, if this Bill be not passed, the country will be confronted with a first-class crisis in the mining industry. In a few months from now, wages agreements will come up for consideration. Is the House of Commons prepared, is the country prepared, to face a repetition of 1926? If they are not prepared to face a repetition of 1926, is it going to be said that the sinews for the re-organisation of the mining industry must again come out of the loins of the miner? People talk about the price of coal as though the price of coal now were fixed by Divine ordinance, as though there were something sacrosanct about it; but, if the coalowners could, within their own limits, by agreement, raise the price of 2468 coal to the public utility concerns, there would be no whisper of reproach or opposition. One would imagine from the arguments that the price level for coal had something sacred about it, but it is simply the price to which the product has fallen because this industry has been exposed to conditions from which every other industry has been to a large extent exempt. We say that in the meantime, until 1933, this protection must be given. If the concerns of this country are going to be asked to pay a slightly higher price for coal in the meantime, is that an unreasonable thing to ask? Should coal keep on subsidising every other industry? Should other industries be able to make use of an unexampled condition in the coal market which prevents the coal industry from operating on the same basis on which they are operating, and should they extract coal from the mining industry at an uneconomically low level?
We have a right to say that, if it means slightly dearer coal, it is better to have slightly dearer coal than cheaper colliers. Hon. Gentlemen here must face the issue that when they vote against this Bill, they are voting for lower wages for the colliers, and they are voting at the same time for an increase in the number of accidents in the collieries, for it follows, as night follows day, that whenever you make it more difficult for the piece-worker underground to earn a decent wage, you ask him to devote himself to output at the expense of safety in the colliery. It is always characteristic of Liberal hypocrisy to pay lip service to these things and refuse to face the consequences that follow from them. We say that you cannot get from the already dry veins of the miners new blood to revivify the industry. There veins are shrunken white, and we are asking you to be, for once, decent to the miners—not to pay lip service, not to say that you are very sorry for them, not to say that that you are very sorry that these accidents occur, not to say that you are very sorry for the low level of wages and for the conditions of famine which have existed in the mining districts since the War, and then to use all your Parliamentary skill, all your rhetoric, in an act of pure demagogy to expose the mining community of this country to another few years of misery.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am sorry to have fallen foul of a young countryman of mine—[Interruption.]—I have listened without interruption to a very bitter personal attack, and I think it is not unfair that I should reply. I say that I regret very much to have fallen foul of a young countryman of mine, for whom I have a great deal of admiration. I regret that he should have marred what otherwise, if I may say so as an old Parliamentarian, was a very able speech, by imputing mean motives to other people. We are all doing our very best according to our lights—[Interruption.]—some are more shining lights than others. At any rate, we are all doing our best for those whom we represent in this House, and no one has a right to suggest that the action we are taking is simply one which is animated by unworthy, unpatriotic or mean motives, and certainly not that it is animated by cruel and callous motives.
It is not so easy a problem as my young friend imagines. It is a problem which affects not merely one industry, but every industry in this country. If you are going to put up the price of coal, we have the authority of men like Sir Josiah Stamp—[Interruption.]—he is one of the ablest economists in this country, so able that he is consulted by the Government upon their own programme, and he has expressed his opinion that this will involve either a reduction in the dividends of this country to such an extent that it will be impossible to raise capital for fresh enterprises, or a decrease of Is. 6d. per week in the wages of the workmen. If this were a matter, not merely of maintaining the wages of the miners, which I think can be done, but even of increasing them, there is no man in this House who would object to a proposal of that kind, but if it involves putting up the price of coal in such a way as to destroy the means of livelihood of millions of other people in this country, we are entitled in the House of Commons, without imputation of base motives, to stand up for our own constituencies.
As to the question of the effect upon the lives of the miners, has the hon. Gentleman read the Report of the Inspector for Yorkshire as to what the effect of the curtailment of output by a quota has been in that county? He said that it increased the perils of the 2470 miners, that it increased the danger to their lives and limbs. If you reduce the number of shifts worked, that is the inevitable result, and, so far from this proposal increasing the security of life and limb for the miner, it is increasing his peril, not merely in Yorkshire, but in every part of the kingdom. The hon. Gentleman has been good enough to talk about demagogy. I should think, after that last specimen of his, that he can have no sense of humour, or otherwise he would not have incorporated that phrase in that particular part of his speech.
I want to put to the Committee my reasons why they should not incorporate this quota in the Bill. It is a grave decision. It is a decision which will affect every industry in the kingdom, and every hearth and home in the kingdom as well, and we are entitled to examine the reasons both for and against it. I have never taunted right hon. Gentlemen opposite with not having been able to bring in nationalisation. Those taunts have come from the men behind them, and not from the men in front of them —[Interruption.] I have never in this House taunted the right hon. Gentleman because he has not brought in a Bill for nationalisation. After all, I fully realise that he represents a minority Government, and that, if he means to continue in office, he must, and perfectly rightly, bring in Bills which will have a fair chance of obtaining a majority. The whole of the taunts in that respect have come from a few bon. Gentlemen sitting behind him. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] At any rate, when the right hon. Gentleman brings in Bills which are short of the extreme programme which I assume he would have liked to introduce if he had a majority behind him, we are entitled to examine those Bills on their merits.
Here is a proposal, which, if it had been submitted to this House by right hon. Gentlemen would have been opposed by everybody on that side. At the present moment, this is universally condemned by every trade and industry in the country. It is perfectly true that the miners themselves, by a majority have voted in favour of it, a majority everywhere except in the county where the experiment has been tried already. That is in Yorkshire, where there was a majority against it.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Yorkshire mine workers have never cast a decision either for or against this particular Bill, and that the only decision that the Yorkshire miners have taken is to disagree with the seven and a-half hours Bill since they desire a seven hours Bill?
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I accept the correction at once. The hon. Member knows very much better than I, and I accept his statement on the subject. The mineowners have rejected the Bill as a whole. [An HON. MEMBER: "By a majority!"] By a majority, but by a very considerable majority. What is very remarkable is that 90 per cent. of the export trade voted against it this morning. There you have a trade which is to receive a subsidy, and, in spite of that, they have come to the conclusion that the proposals of the Bill are so injurious to the trade as a whole that they voted against it this morning. Take every other trade and industry in this country. If you submit a question of tariffs to any of these great associations, such as represent the trade and industry of the country, there, at any rate, is a division of opinion, and, whichever way the majority goes, there is always a powerful minority. But Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Industries, all these associations which represent manufacture and distribution, all of them, have condemned, by unanimous resolutions, this proposal upon which we are voting in the House to-day. I have not seen a single resolution of a single trade union in favour of it; not one. The trade unions are associated with the Government, and naturally they do not want to embarrass it by any adverse resolutions. There has not been a single resolution of a single trade union in favour of it. There has never been a single resolution of the cooperative societies, or associated with hon. Gentlemen opposite, in favour of it. If this Bill had been introduced, I say again, by a Conservative Administration, you would have had the First Lord of the Admiralty giving us a string of statistics to prove how disastrous it would be to the industries of this country.
What is the object of this particular proposal? It is to meet, as I understand it, the cost of the curtailment of the hours of labour. Let us examine that. If it were necessary, in order to meet 2472 the costs and the curtailment of the hours of labour, to have any provisions for that purpose, I for my part would be quite willing to examine them, and I have shown a readiness to do so. This, so far from meeting the cost, will increase the cost, and I will show the Committee how. At the present moment, the foreign hours of labour are better than the hours of labour in this country. When this Bill is through, at the end of another year or 18 months, the hours of labour will be better here than they are there, but for the moment the advantage is with the foreigner. Later on the advantage will be with the miners in this country. They have competed with us when the hours of labour were shorter than they are here. We shall be forced to compete with them when the hours of labour are shorter in this country than they are there. I have not the faintest doubt that we shall be able to do so.
Were it necessary to put up prices for that purpose alone, I do not believe there is a man or an industry in this country who would protest against it. The suggestion that we are in favour of the reduction of the wages of the miner is a gross and shabby libel. We voted for the reduction of hours, but the suggestion that we are in favour of reducing the wages is a gross libel. I was responsible for the reduction of the hours of labour to seven hours, the very number of hours which are incorporated in this Bill. At that time, I was equally responsible for increasing the wages simultaneously.
Let us see what the effect of this will be. There are two propositions in Part I. The first proposition is that you should meet the situation by limiting the output, and the other is that you should meet the situation by fixing prices. The proposition which we have to consider at the present moment is compulsory restriction upon the output of the mines. I say that that, inevitably, by itself, will increase the cost. Anybody knows that whether you are dealing with coal or with iron or with the motors the more you increase the output the better is your chance to decrease the cost of production. It is equally true that if you diminish the output you are bound inevitably to increase the cost.
You have only to see exactly what happens. I am told—and there are hon. 2473 Gentlemen over there who can easily cheek what I have to say, and I have this on the authority of men who know just as much about the mines as they do, and I have had the opportunity of consulting a great many men—[Interruption.] Hon. Members had better listen first of all. I am told that if you reduce the output in a particular mine you have either be dismiss a certain number of men or to diminish the number of shifts. Most mineowners prefer cutting down the number of shifts from five to four, or to three, as the case may be, to dismissing their men. I am informed by those who have been working mines that every shift you take off adds 1s. per ton to the cost of coal, because you have to maintain the same overhead charges. If it is two shifts a week, it means an increase of 2s. Just see what that means? [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the ascertainment?"] The hon. Gentleman will have his opportunity later on. I have seen the figures. Who gets that shilling? That shilling does not go to curtail the hours of the miners. The miner does not get the shilling. The mineowner does not get it. It does not go into his pocket. It is lost. The consumer does not get it. It does not reduce the price of coal. It simply goes to the devouring maw of incompetency. It is lost completely. It is thrown away. That is not a proposition to meet the increased charge upon the mine of the curtailment of hours. It simply means artificially increasing the price of coal without giving the benefit to anybody. I would ask the right hon. Gentlemen: "Do they really think that that is going to improve wages? "
As I shall be able to prove later on, I think that there is a real improvement in the position of the mines at the present moment. They are getting better prices. By improved efficiency they are cutting down the costs and gradually, I think—and I have had this upon very good authority—if things continue to improve, that not merely will they be able to meet the increased charge which would be the effect of the curtailment of hours, but that gradually the mineowners will be in a position to pay better wages. But that is not by a limitation of output. Limitation of output means inevitably that you will increase the cost. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the 2474 Board of Trade has said, "Well, they need not limit the output. They can purchase a quota."
I will give him one or two cases where quotas have been purchased. This has been given to me by a mineowner who is in favour of quotas. He is a Yorkshire mineowner, a very considerable one. He said that last year they devoted £40,000 to the purchase of quotas. I said, "Does that mean that you purchased the quota of the other mines outright?" He said, "Oh, no, you have to go through the same process next year." In order to be able to work his mine full time, he had to buy quotas and pay £40,000 a year for, what? Nothing. For the right to something which he hitherto had. Just see what that means. [Interruption.] I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will really listen to the presentation of the case from the other side. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the name of the colliery?"] Certainly I will give the name of the colliery. It is a Yorkshire colliery, and I will give the hon. Gentleman the name later on. This mineowner paid 1s. 6d. a ton for the quota. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name the colliery!"] I will give the name to hon. Gentlemen as I did the last time. I will give it. I have no objection to doing so. [HON. MEMBEES: "Is it the Kiveton Park Colliery?] That is it. Hon. Members know that it is a very considerable amalgamation; it is an amalgamated colliery. They came to the conclusion—and this is rather important—that they could not work their colliery without loss unless they were able to work to the full capacity, and, in order to do so, they have to pay 1s. 6d. a ton for the right to work a certain quantity of coal.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question? Either he is wrong or I am wrong. I may be wrong. He says that this colliery is a large amalgamation. I believe that that colliery is standing by itself in Yorkshire. The amalgamation is in my county and not in Yorkshire.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I do hope that if there is an interruption it will be a relevant interruption. The gentleman to whom I had the privilege of speaking is in the Five Counties Scheme. Let me show what that means. You pay £40,000 a year for the right to close down other collieries, 2475 and to add to yours the right to hew coal and to sell it. Sixpence a ton is paid in royalties for one part of the coal which is hewn there, and 1s. 6d. a ton is paid as a new royalty, and in some cases they have had to pay 2s. 6d. a ton. That represents the interest which you would have to pay upon a capital of £500,000 to £600,000. If that colliery were to raise £500,000 or £600,000 that is about the sum that they would have to pay annually in interest, with this difference that they would have had the £500,000 for the purpose of improving their equipment and of developing their collieries, but now they are paying that interest upon what is absolutely dead capital, and all that is passed on to the industries of this country.
That is not all. That is in an area where the scheme is voluntary. If the gentleman who runs that colliery said, "You are asking too big a price for your quotas, and I cannot afford it," he could retire from the scheme and not pay. He could work his own colliery and produce the same quantity, without paying anybody; but the moment you make this compulsory, every owner of a quota can hold up any colliery that cannot be worked at a profit without purchasing a quota. It is not 1s. 6d. and it is not 2s. 6d. that would have to be paid; many a colliery would have to pay a good deal more than that in order to prevent itself from being shut down, and men being dismissed. That is what you are doing. You are establishing a new royalty by Act of Parliament and placing it as a burden upon industries which are already over-burdened.
What is the effect upon the general industry of this country? Let us consider it for a moment. Here is a period of very intense competition, owing to the fact that there was great intensification after the War. There was intensification for two reasons. There was the development of new industries in countries where those industries had never been established before, and the War quickened the application of labour-saving machinery to every industry throughout the world, because it was vital that labour should be saved. What is the result? Our export trade has to meet more intense competition than it has ever had to face before in the history of this country. I am not 2476 going into the very controversial matter of tariffs and what their effect will be upon our securing our home trade, but, even assuming that tariffs would secure our home trade, this country must remain a great exporting country if it is to live at all.
What is the proposal here? The proposal is that, even when we can only retain our export trade with narrow margins in the neutral markets of the world, by the limitation of output we are going to increase the price of a commodity which enters into the manufacture of every other commodity, and by that means to increase the price of the goods which we have to send to the markets of the world in competition with others. Would anyone on the benches opposite ever dream of applying this proposal to the iron and steel industry? In the iron and steel industry we have at the present time a great many blast furnaces which are very modern in their equipment, where the management is first-rate and where their methods of marketing are admirable, but, on the other hand, we have a number of blast furnaces which are not so modern and not so well managed. Would anyone propose in a case of that kind to bring in a Bill compulsorily to ration the output in all those cases, and to give the same percentage to the good and the bad? If you did that, you would ruin the trade and industries of this country, and yet it is proposed to do that to something which enters into every commodity which is manufactured in this realm to-day.
The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) said the other day, in a speech which he delivered in South Wales, that the price paid for coal, and he gave an illustration, was exactly the same price that was paid in 1913. Wages have gone up, I do not say in value but so far as the figures are concerned. He asked how we are to meet our obligations unless we put up the price. The very statement which he made shows how the thing is done. It is done by improving machinery, by improved methods of production, by improvements in the preparation of the coal, so that you can get a proper price for it, and by improved marketing. I met a great coalowner the other day from South Wales, and he told me that by improved methods of production 2477 they were able to sell small coal, that they were able to grade it in a way that they could not grade it before, and that they were able to increase the price for that coal, I think he said, by 7½d. In addition to that, in the course of the same treatment, by improvements in the production of the coal, he said that they were able to reduce the charges by, I think he said, 10d. That meant an improvement of 1s. 6d. by those two methods. That is the way in which these obligations can be met.
But that coalowner said to me: "If you cut down my output by Act of Parliament, it will cost me 1s. per ton extra for every shift where I have to deprive the men of their work, and I shall not be able to do it." He added: "At the present moment, by these improved methods we are beating our competitors." We have only to look at the figures for last year to see that. Our export trade is going up. The coalowners have put their backs into the work, they are improving their methods, especially the preparation of the coal, and their marketing very considerably. What is the result? He said to me: "We are beating the Germans now, and he gave me illustrations where mines in Germany are to be closed down because of our competition and where their miners are out of work. He added: "At this moment, when we are improving, when we are getting on top with our competitions, you are going to bring in a Bill to force quotas upon us which will be disastrous to the best equipped mines." I sincerely hope that the Committee will not consent to this proposition.
By this Bill, the right hon. Gentleman is reversing the process which has been going on recently in the mines—the process of fighting our competitors by improved methods of marketing, production, and preparation of coal. Another coalowner told me that, in the course of last year, he had been able to cut down his costs by 9d. That process is going on, and the right hon. Gentleman is going to reverse the process by giving the same percentage of quota to the good and the bad mines. He is going to discourage the best mines. He has a right hon. colleague who has gone about the country delivering speeches advocating the rationalisation of industry and appealing to the great manufacturers to improve 2478 their processes. He said that rationalisation might temporarily have a bad effect by increasing unemployment, but that in the long run it would increase employment and increase our competitive capacity. While he is doing that, here is another colleague who, by Act of Parliament is de-rationalising. One of them says, "I want to encourage these improvements," and the other says, "By these quotas I mean to discourage them." We have two right hon. Gentleman in the same Government preaching two different doctrines, with two rival accents.
Will he mind telling me how this is going to be applied? [Interruption.] I am appealing to someone who treats the Committee with courtesy. I am asking the right hon. Gentleman how this is going to be applied between district and district. It is no use quoting Westphalia. Westphalia is one compact area. There you have about 50 mines in one compact area. There they have eliminated most of the bad mines by one process or another over a period of 20 or 30 years. I want to call attention to that for another purpose. Here you have 21 districts, with different trades, with a different quality of coal and with different customers, who are in many ways rivals. Yorkshire gives 225 days' work to its miners, who earn £113 a year. That is the last figure which appears in the Blue Book. [HON MEMBERS: "Splendid!"] That is under this scheme; under the quota scheme. Take Scotland, you have no quota. Scotland is against the quota.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
There they have been working 290 days, and earning £133. If you are going to have this quota system, are you going to establish parity? If not, what do you propose doing? Are you going to say to Yorkshire, "We will stereotype you at 225 days, and you in Scotland at 290 days." South Wales had something like 260 days, and there is another district where they work a smaller number of days than Yorkshire. Is it fair that we should, by Act of Parliament, set up machinery which will make it impossible for those counties which are working 218 and 225 days to come up to the others. On the other hand if you are going to establish parity between one district and another it means that you will cut down the number of 2479 days that Scotland is working. An hon. Member challenged the statement by an hon. Member on this side as to it being possible to increase the quantity of coal you care to sell. If that is so you can only increase those districts by taking something off the others. Do you propose to do that? The Prime Minister has been trying to establish some sort of a quota system among the five Powers. He bas not found it very easy. The President of the Board of Trade will have to establish a quota among 21 powers, and I venture to say that it will not be very easy.
Let me come to the individual pit. Take a pit which is working now to its full capacity. It employs 4,000 men. They are selling all their coal; they have a good market, the pit is well managed, and well equipped. The quota system comes in, and you say "your standard capacity is so much, your quota is 80 per cent." One-fifth of the output is cut off; 800 men are going to be dismissed or you will take one shift out. That will increase the charge on that mine by 1s. per ton. It means converting a mine which is paying at the present time into one which does not pay. I have asked this question before, but I have never had an answer. Suppose the owner of a mine says, "I am selling every ton of coal at a fair price, and at a price which will be above any minimum you can fix. I decline to turn 800 men out into the street." Are you going to prosecute him? Who is to prosecute? Is a Labour Government going to prosecute him because he insists upon finding work for those 800 men in a commodity which is required by every other workman. We are entitled to ask what it means. What is it for? It is said it is in order to limit output. The right hon. Gentleman does not realise that this is a scheme which is only for the limitation of output for three years. At the end of that time this machinery goes. And we are to upset the whole of the trade by setting up elaborate machinery for arranging quotas, and buying quotas—because that is what it really means—and all for three years.
You are reducing the hours of the labourer by half an hour and afterwards by an hour. That, in itself, reduces the output by 24,000,000 tons a year. I have no doubt that the effect of it will be that 2480 you will put more men in employment, it is bound to increase the numbers in employment. But this is the point. I can understand a man increasing his output even beyond his prospect of marketing in order to keep the men he has there in work, not turn them on the streets; but I cannot understand a coalowner taking on fresh men in order to increase his output beyond what he can possibly sell. That is what the right hon. Gentleman is doing. If there is an excess of 15,000,000 tons—I doubt it—but I will take the figure—
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
There is a potential excess of output in every industry, in iron and steel, in agriculture, and certainly in cotton and wool, but whatever the margin is now in the coal industry, it is a comparatively small one. A curtailment of the hours of labour will bring you down in your output and your problem will not be to limit output but to bring it up to the figure necessary to supply your customers. It will certainly take you three years to do that. Why should the right hon. Gentleman upset the whole of the trade by this quota, this rationing, putting pits which should improve their capacity in a position in which they are discouraged from doing so.
I earnestly hope the Committee will reject this provision, and we can then consider how we are to meet the prospect, or the chance, that the curtailment of hours might increase the cost of coal. We shall then be able to face that question fairly, but do not let us do it by a diminution of output. Every one who votes to-night will be responsible to his constituents—[Interruption.] I will face my constituents as I have done for 40 years with increased majorities. We represent every industry in this country, and every hon. Member will have to answer the question how he came to vote for a proposal which has increased the cost of a commodity, essential to the very life of every industry in this country, and increased it not by curtailing the hours of labour but by introducing fantastic proposals for limiting the output of the commodity.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I am very sorry, indeed, if I have intruded upon the Committee in preference to the right hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn), but it is not my intention to delay the Committee for more than a few minutes. Having to follow the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) it may not be easy to keep my observations within the limits I had voluntarily imposed upon myself. Although I am not a miners' representative I have the qualification of having worked for 10 years in the mines of Lanarkshire, and when I hear hon. and right hon. Members talk about the importance of the mining industry to Britain, about it being the basic industry of British prosperity, I cannot refrain from recalling the slavish conditions under which I spent those 10 years. If I may make one more personal reference, it is that it is only when one gets out of the gloom, sees the light and enjoys some of the comforts which go to other sections of the community who are not employed in a basic industry, that one realises the manner in which this nation in the past, and even to-day, is treating those upon whom its prosperity depends. May I remind the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs that we have emerged from a period during which the party of which he is now the distinguished leader held almost unquestioned control in this country, and if there had been in the mind of the Liberal party during the latter part of the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th century that desire to elevate the conditions among the miners of this country which we are told prevails to-day, it would not have been necessary to have had this discussion this afternoon.
We are told by the right hon. Gentleman that we are embarking upon something to which the coalowners are opposed. Surely I am right in my belief that in Scotland the very principle we are discussing now has been voluntarily adopted by the mineowners there. Is it not true that they came to an agreement to close down certain mines? Is it not true that they paid to the owners of these discarded mines sums ranging from 1s. 2d. to 2s. 6d. per ton? The owners of these mines were actually paid for keeping them unemployed, and the payments 2482 they received came out of the industries of this country. While we are denouncing the miners for living on the dole these men are actually living on the dole from the industries of this country. The point I want to put this afternoon is, where is the capitalist order of society taking us? The right hon. Gentleman has told us, with that fluency and imagination of which he is such a master, that there is a good time coming and if we will just live and be content that wages will go up, and that this period of prosperity is to arrive by our taking proper methods to put the Germans under. Is not that another form of war? Has not war in that economic form always led to military war? Is the lesson of the terrible period from which we have emerged merely this, that we are to use fewer battleships and more economic pressure, and that we are to try to put the Germans on the dole instead of in their place? Is there no higher ground of statesmanship among the capitalist countries of the world than that? Are we to go on for ever, contemplating nothing higher than putting more people into a state of suffering in order that another section of the people may get an additional crust of bread? Surely in this twentieth century, and in our present circumstances, we can rise superior to a mentality like that.
I am in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs in saying that capitalism is taking us on a strange course. After the War we had placards posted all over this country telling us that its future existence and safety depended on more production. We had those posters signed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs and by leaders on this side of the Committee. What has become of "more production" now? What is the object of this Bill? Is not all this elaborate machinery being set up for the special purpose of restricting production? Is not our policy now that, while we want to take more production out of each man, we want to take less production out of the mass of the people employed? Is the nation going to get out of its difficulties in that way? Is not that applying a stranglehold to the country? Where possibly can there be an avenue of safety along a stupid course 2483 like that? We are told that if we limit production we will be able, somehow or other, to cut out the other fellows; but the way out is not to be found in that direction, and true statesmanship would seek to widen the market for its products instead of seeking to reduce the output of products.
This is nothing more or less than the application by the State of the policy of "ca' canny." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, but I want to show to hon. Members opposite that they have left us no other road out. We have to do something for these miners and do it now. Is anyone with the faintest knowledge of mining conditions in Great Britain going to argue that seven and a half hours is too brief a working day for a miner? And, as one of my hon. Friends points out, there is the winding-time which means that, even if this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, men will be employed in the mines of this country for eight and a half and nine hours a day. They will be employed in that dirty, dangerous, filthy and degraded occupation for the wages which have been mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs—for an income of £113 a year. Why, some of the men in this House would say that it was insufficient to pay their cigar bills. But in return for seven and a half or eight and a half hours' or nine hours' work in the mines on 230 days a year, men employed in an industry on which the prosperity of the country depends, are actually being paid £113. There could be no greater confession of the failure of the order of society of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs during the whole course of his political life has been a distinguished defender. If we were to-day discussing the failure of a Socialist order of society as we are discussing the failure of the capitalist order of society, there would be no man in this House so intellectually poor as to stand up and say a single word in support of a system that was such a confessed and obvious failure.
My regret is that the Government have followed along the course of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. My regret is that the Government have followed the course of 2484 seeking, through the competitive system, an outlet from our present difficulties and relief for our present working class, because there is no road that way. That is the way which leads to the ruin, not merely of the workers but of the nation as a whole, and I would warn this Committee if I can get its ear, and I would warn this country if it will listen to me for a moment that you cannot continue a policy under which your working-class, your wealth-producers, are being turned on to the streets in hundreds and thousands, and your capitalists—even if you are going to have private capitalism—are week by week, and year by year, seeing their capital go out of existence. You may continue for a short time in that way, but the end, inevitably, is the degradation of the workers and the ruin of the nation as a whole. I wish that the Government had proceeded, according to the principles which they themselves have advocated during the past 30 years, to find a way out of the present situation. I suppose that if we were to put it to the Committee we would get an almost unanimous vote in favour of a reduction of the miners' hours. The objection here is that the Government, in seeking to give a reduction of hours to the miners, have rolled up their proposal as it were, in blankets, until the proposal itself has been almost lost to vision in the things in which it has been enshrouded.
We all grumble about having to pay 4s., 5s., or 6s. on each ton of coal in order to give the miners something which is financially equivalent to about 1s. 6d. in the ton, but why have we to do that? Because we have left control in the hands of the people who can exploit the nation for every improvement that we seek to give to the workers. The right hon. Gentleman said he did not taunt the Government with having refused to adopt the nationalisation. I wish he had gone further and said that he was as much opposed to the Government, for not going along the path of nationalisation, as he was opposed to this part of the Bill. I think he would have rendered, at this stage in our economic history, a valuable service to the nation if he had insisted on the Government going in for the nationalisation of the mining industry, because that is the way out. I can give evidence from the coalowners themselves, that they would prefer that line to the 2485 course which we are now adopting. Does anyone think that we are dealing for the last time here with the difficulties of the mining industry? As was the case with the unemployment problem, hon. Members will be here again within 12 months dealing with this problem in some other form. If we are not dealing with it directly, we may be dealing with it through the steel trade, which will come complaining to the House of Commons that it is being crippled by the mining industry.
What a state of affairs for a nation in these difficulties! Confronted by the difficulties of one section of our people, we are told that we can only assist them by injuring another section. Is it not time that we were settling down to regard this is a great national crisis; to regard Britain as a great national workshop; to regard our industries as the basis of our mental and intellectual activities, and to regard our success in dealing with them, as the test of whether or not we are going to retain a foremost place in the civilisation of the world? Are we at the end of our resources? Have we no common sense left? Is there not sufficient intelligence in Britain to solve this problem—a problem stated so eloquently this afternoon by the right hon. Gentleman when he said that there was not an industry in this country in which there was not a surplus output? Fancy that! We are a community of human beings, dependent for our existence and our progress on a sufficiency of the commodities produced by labour, and the problem that we have to solve is that we have more of these commodities than we know what to do with! Though it is admitted that millions and millions of our people have not a sufficiency of these commodities, we are asked to believe that the way out of our difficulties is to restrict the production of the commodities and limit the purchasing power of the people. What a senseless entanglement for a nation of intelligent people to land itself into!
I quite agree with the coalowners that you cannot have the two systems operating simultaneously in any industry. You cannot have the coalowners running the mining industry, and the House of Commons running the same industry. [HOST. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I admit that to hon. Members, but I want them to realise what a mess the other 2486 fellows have made of it. Why, if the House of Commons and the nation had failed to the extent that private owners admittedly have failed, in the running of the industry there would be a universal outcry for the abolition of nationalisation and the restoration of private enterprise in the mining industry. I agree that if you want to have owners you should let them run the mines but why, in the name of all that is good and holy, should you continue to maintain a system of ownership that has brought us into the present situation? Would it not have been the correct course for the Labour Government of this country, having to clean up the mess made by its predecessors, to have said: "We are going to end for ever the system which has landed us into this terrible state of affairs. We are going to take over, on behalf of the nation, the industry of this country and run it for the welfare of this country; and if necessary use all the resources of the nation to compensate adequately those whom we realise to be the very basis of Britain's past and future prosperity." I am going to vote for the Bill, because it contains that half-hour for the miners. I do so, feeling that I am paying a dreadful price for the concession which I want to secure for my old fellow-workmen, and many of my present constituents. I know that we are being exploited, that the nation is being exploited. I am going into that Lobby with my eyes open. I wish it were not so; I wish we had, in passing this Bill for the reduction of miners' hours, ended the power of the mineowners to exploit the people of this country.
§ Sir SAMUEL ROBERTS
In addressing the Committee upon this occasion I feel that I am in a dilemma being what is called a coalowner. I looked upon this Bill, as it originally came into the House, as a bad Bill, and after the Amendments or new Clauses forced upon the Government by the Liberal party, I look upon it as a still worse Bill. But one with some knowledge of the industry cannot help realising that a Bill containing the Clauses which have already been passed, would be an infinitely worse Bill if the Amendment moved from the Liberal benches were carried. Speaking with an experience of the quota system for nearly two years, I can say that some of my hon. Friends appear to be raising bogies in 2487 order to knock them down, and exaggerating the evils of the quota system while forgetting that it has some good points. How did we stand in the Midland area? The coal trade was going from bad to worse, and the potential output was greater than the demand. I am not going to say what the potential output is. Some people say it is 50,000,000 tons, and some say that it is less, but, whatever it is, the potential output—the output that can be raised in a few weeks if the demand is there, for the pits are sunk and the roads are made, and you could immediately get to it—is far greater than the potential demand.
Having got that, the problem is, how is it to be met? The potential output being larger than the demand led to cutthroat prices, and the price of coal went down and down. Every concession in the way of wages, every economy that was made in a mine, were all given away by the salesman, and the salesman was bound to give them away, because he had to try to get as big an output as he could at his individual pit. Just over two years ago, people in the Midlands did not know what was going to happen with regard to prices. I am one of those who have thought on the orthodox lines for some years that, if you reduce prices low enough, you increase consumption; that increased consumption would increase demand, and that the two would meet. That may be a correct economic law, but it did not work in practice. There is another economic law which I believed, and that was that falling prices would make for the liquidation and the going out of action of the more inefficient and weaker mines. One fully expected that they would, but that law to a great extent did not work.
What really happens in regard to the so-called inefficient mines? They are in great financial difficulties and are in the hands of their banks; the banks hold a debenture, a trustee for the debenture holders is put in, and the trustee sells the mine for an old song; the bank overdraft has all gone, past liability has gone, and that concern starts again. There is no reduction whatever of out-put. Some people will say that if that worked long enough, it would be a failure and the weakest mines would go out. I agree that the weakest mines go out eventually, but what happens in 2488 practice? People talk about rich, efficient mines, but I wonder where the rich mines are to-day. A great number of the most efficient mines are really in the hands of their banks. Through this cut-throat competition, they have got rid of their reserves, and have had to go to their banks very largely to keep them. I do not think that there is a colliery company which could go on the market and raise money from the public. That being so, the good mines and the so-called efficient mines could not possibly wait until the other ones were out of the way, or they would find themselves in a condition of ruin. So the leaders of the coal trade in the Midlands, the most far-sighted men in that district, and the people who are the owners of these efficient pits, which we hear are the pits which will be hit the most, were the men who got together.
You must in some way not limit output, but regulate output to the demand. I do not believe that to-day a ton of coal is being produced less in Yorkshire, where they have this quota, than would be produced if the quota were not there. It may be distributed about in different pits in that area, but the same amount is produced and as much is produced as can be sold.
§ Sir S. ROBERTS
Restriction of output at certain pits has had the effect of stopping, to some extent, the cutthroat competition. The basis of the quota system is the limitation of output to the requirements. You therefore give each colliery a standard tonnage which has relation to its best capacity; I think that you ought to have a very recent best capacity. That is not a fixed standard tonnage for all time, for it comes up for review. It is divided into three classes. You have the developing mines with an increasing output; the diminishing mines, where the output is going down, and where the standard tonnage month by month can be decreased; and the steady mines, where you treat the standard tonnage fairly steadily. The tonnage is not kept steady for a year; it varies month by month. A man may have a standard of 100,000 tons for January and 50,000 tons for June, and if it happened to be a colliery that deals with the Baltic or St. Lawrence, possibly the standard 2489 tonnage is larger in summer than in winter, but the actual figure is a matter of adjustment.
Having got your standard tonnage, you apply the quota month by month. The quota is not a set, fixed and definite thing, which it is impossible to manipulate. During the great frost of a year ago in the Three Counties area, the quota was altered twice within a month, and the order was given to go full steam ahead to get out everything that could be sold. With regard to the sale of the quota, it was at one time sold by private agreement. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), when he talked about quotas being up and quotas being down, had not made himself aware of what ultimate experience shows can be done, that is, that the surplus at the end of one month is put into the pool, and the pool sells it at a fixed price, which is fixed by the pool. The quota is not a thing on which the sick man can live. Only in the last month, people in the Five Counties Scheme who put quota into the pool were only able to sell about 10 per cent. of what they put in. So there is no question of sick men being able to live on the quota for ever and ever.
I wanted to make these remarks to show that this scheme is not really as bad as some people try to make out. I may have done an injustice to the men, many of whom I know personally, for I know them to be men of forethought and brains, who could not possibly have produced a scheme of such a fantastic kind as some of the politicians, who know nothing about the coal trade, seem to think that it is. The quota has very much steadied the market, which was going down very rapidly. It has also very largely taken spot lots off the market, which were a great damage. It has, too, enabled collective bargaining to take place, for instance, with the railway companies, and, in spite of what Sir Josiah Stamp says, I think that most of the railway companies are satisfied with the collective bargaining that has already taken place, and that they feel that there has been a fair and square deal. There has, too, been a regulation of the speculative merchant at the Humber Ports. That is an important thing. There is a lot of money to be 2490 found out of the industry by the regulation of the speculative merchant, so that he should not buy and sell on his own, but simply sell on commission. The factor is a useful and necessary person, because it means that the producer and coalowner have not' to have the use of travellers; but it is a great injury to the trade if he is a large speculator on his own and not a buyer on commission.
It will be found that most people believe that a scheme of this sort has helped the coal industry. It has had its defects. One is the minority who stay outside. Since I have come up against this sort of business, I have had perhaps a little more sympathy than in the past with hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they have talked about people who have waited outside a scheme in order to receive all its benefits. That has been a serious defect, and has prevented the scheme being the full success which it otherwise would have been. The committee dealing with the matter has always been able to give what is probably the right decision in their own mind, because of the fact that they have had an important member who might say, "If I do not get what I want, out I go." It may be said that all this can be done without a quota system simply by the fixing of a minimum price. I do not think that it can be done. It was tried in South Wales and failed. Another reason is that it would not enable the activities of the speculative merchant to be dealt with. A pit would be able to sell the whole of its output to a speculative merchant, and it would be difficult to follow what the merchant did afterwards. He would have bought to sell at the price fixed, but what he did with it afterwards would not be known. It is desirable to work full-time and have a big output, but I think that it would put a tremendous temptation in the way of people to make various concessions, not exactly in the price, for there are other ways in which concessions can be made, so that really they would break down a price-fixing scheme, although, apparently, on the face of it, it might go on. A price-fixing scheme, however, would not have that effect.
Now I come to my serious dilemma. I believe that the pool is bad; I believe that this portion of the Bill would make it less bad. I believe that if this portion of the Bill were taken out, it would 2491 be so disastrous to the Bill that the Bill itself would be dead. As I desire to see the death of the Bill, I shall give my vote in accordance with the way in which I think I could achieve that end. I have another reason for the vote which I intend to give. I am not here to represent the coal owners or the miners, but the large number of my constituents, among whom the coal owners and miners could be counted on two hands. I believe that it is in the interest of those constituents that this Bill should be killed. I, therefore, intend to accept the position of the Jesuit, that the end justifies the means.
§ Mr. GRAY
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Ecclesall (Sir S. Roberts) upon having made the first attempt, in the whole of the Debates upon this Bill, to defend the quota system. The Committee have listened with a great deal of pleasure and instruction to the remarks of the hon. Member from inside knowledge. I am going to oppose the provision of quotas in this Bill, but I should like to point out to the hon. Member that the whole of the system to which he refers is purely voluntary. It is not a compulsory system forced upon the owner whether he likes it or not, and I submit that you have to discriminate between a voluntary arrangement into which business men like to enter, which they can vary at a moment's notice, with which they can deal as they like, and which can, if they wish, meet the exceptional need of a particular individual, because if they do not he can withdraw. You cannot have an arrangement of that sort with a compulsory statutory provision which has to be applied, by the terms of this Bill, to every pit in the country. The curious thing was—as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, it was their weakness—they were not able to compel those members of the industry who did not approve of it to come within it.
We are entitled to know what was the genesis of this particular provision in the Bill. It certainly was not in the minds of hon. Members opposite before they came to the House. I have never made, and I never will make, any cheap sneer against the Government for not fulfilling their election promises—I do not think that is worth very much—but this at least is certain: I do not believe there 2492 is a solitary Member on the Government side of the House who, if he had been asked by one of his constituents, "Will you vote for a Bill to give the coalowners the right to control output and fix minimum prices," would not have replied with a prompt negative. That has never been within the policy of hon. Members opposite, and it is not within the policy of hon. Members of the Liberal party. We have been asked, both on Second Reading and to-day, whether we would have supported nationalisation. I say, quite frankly, that I would prefer nationalisation to this Measure, because nationalisation would be infinitely less injurious than this remarkable scheme, in which yon restrict the right of a coalowner to work his own mine in his own way. If you examine the working of this quota system you will find that you may do, what one hon. Member apparently wishes to do, that is, give work to German miners at the expense of English miners. I am not going to repeat the arguments of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), to which we have, so far, had no answer, but it is an undoubted fact that the quota system must increase the cost of the production of coal.
I would like to put before hon. Members opposite a point which has not been sufficiently considered. You are going to forecast the requirements of coal in this country. I am not in the coal industry, but I believe I am correct in saying that there are something like 30 to 60 different grades of coal, and it will be a rather difficult job to forecast all requirements. What will be done in the case of a pit in this position? I am not going to give the name, and I may tell hon. Members in advance that it is no use asking for it, but it is an actual case. There is a colliery company with a single pit which is engaged almost entirely in the export business. The company have their depots abroad, and they are working to full capacity. When the quota comes along and reduces their output by from 20 to 25 per cent., what are they going to do? At the moment they are shipping their coal to depots abroad and making contracts with shipowners to supply ships with coal at various ports. You reduce their output by the quota. Are they going to buy a quota? I do not suppose so. What they will probably 2493 do is to buy abroad the quantity of coal that you stop them producing in this country, and have that coal shipped to their foreign depots. The quota system will not reduce the total amount of coal-buying in the world but will transfer that amount of work from this country to coal mines abroad.
Then we have to face another thing which will apply when we try to make a system of this sort uniform and compulsory throughout the country. I am informed that a good many coal-users have a liking for a particular coal from a particular pit. It does not follow that if you reduce the output of that coal these users will buy another kind of coal. They may transfer their order elsewhere. When we start a process of this kind we are bound to take note of the implications. First, there is a restriction of output. As has been pointed out, that will not benefit the miners. I shall have a word to say in conclusion on that point, because I think we on this side have very good cause for resentment at the attitude of a number of hon. Members opposite. They appear to think they are the only people in the country who have any interest in the coal miner, or who care anything about the hours of work or the conditions of employment. I say quite plainly that any suggestion of that sort is absolutely unjust and I will point out in a sentence how we could deal with the situation without the quota Hon. Members opposite could do what the Liberal party—which a good many of them despise—did before the War. We were faced with a coal crisis, we were faced with the difficulty that neither owners nor miners would come to terms, and we introduced a Minimum Wage Bill. Under that Bill the strike was settled and there was no difficulty in the coal mining industry until the War period. Those who ask for State action ought not to forget what happened in the coal mining industry. The State stepped in and controlled it from top to bottom, and then handed it back to the coalowners in a hopeless condition. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who did that? Lloyd George."] When hon. Members have finished repeating that statement, I will answer them. In making that statement hon. Members are perpetrating one of the greatest political injustices ever committed in the history of this country. They are blaming one 2494 man for all that they disliked in a Coalition Government, which represented all three parties in the House.
§ Mr. GRAY
I am not concerned with coupons. I am concerned with what hon. Members opposite have just said. They were blaming the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs for all that was done to the coal industry during the Coalition. That is a correct statement, is it not? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] Yes, that is what you were doing.
§ Mr. GRAY
I am not talking about the coupon; I am dealing with the coal question. I am pointing out that the statements made by hon. Members opposite are unjust; but I must leave that point, because I am afraid I have been getting rather far from the question before the Committee. When I have replied I will get back to my subject. I would only say there has been no greater political injustice perpetrated than to blame one single man for all the things which hon. Members opposite do not like which were carried through by a Government which represented all three parties in the House.
§ The CHAIRMAN
A statement has been made which was somewhat out of order and it has been answered, and we must now get back to order.
§ Mr. GRAY
I will get back to the question. Hon. Members opposite claim that this Bill has been brought in to benefit miners. I say quite plainly, on the very examples given to us to-night, that the quota portion of the Bill is a definite injury to the miner and cannot be anything else. We are faced with two inevitable propositions. We are going to cut down the output of certain pits. What are we going to do with the men who are producing the coal from those pits? There are two alternatives; either to dismiss the men and shut down portions of the pit, or work fewer shifts. In one case we shall be throwing men out of work—a curious policy for hon. Members opposite to adopt; in the other case we shall be doing what is probably worse—making them work short time and depressing 2495 their wages. Therefore the Bill is not merely a dear coal Bill, but it is a lower wage Bill for the miner. It means that the average earnings of a miner in a pit the quota of which is reduced will be less.
I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench who will reply in this Debate, on what basis is the price going to be fixed in regard to the quota? It must not be forgotten that we are going to cut down the quota of the coalowner who has a single pit and thus reduce his output. He may not buy another quota. My own impression is that the operation of the Bill will be particularly unfair to single pit collieries. I do not think they will find it easy to buy quotas. The big colliery amalgamations will probably not sell any quotas, though they may be in the market to buy them. The single pit owner will find that we have, by the quota, reduced his output and increased his costs. Then upon what principle are you going to fix the minimum price? Are you going to fix it at a level that will show a margin of profit to the dearest coal-producing pit in the district? If you do not, you will be interfering with the ability of that man to make a profit, and not providing him with the opportunity even of covering his costs of production. [Interruption.] If you leave him to the free play of economic laws he would know where he was. I do not know whether hon. Members opposite can justify interfering with the output of a man's pit unless you fix a minimum price which will enable him to show a margin of profit over his costs of production.
If you fix that minimum on the capacity of such a pit and make it an offence for any pit to sell below the minimum price, you will be giving an absurd amount of profit to efficient pits, which could sell at very much lower prices. You will be putting fat profits into the efficient pits producing up to 100 per cent. in order to enable the inefficient pits producing 80 per cent. to cover their costs of production. Hon. Members opposite may say they will fix an average minimum price. In that case I say they are doing a very unjust thing, because they will be interfering with the conduct of a man's business and preventing him from covering his costs of production. If you do not do 2496 that you are faced with the alternative that your rise in minimum price is totally above any reasonable level chat ought to be fixed to cover the industry as a whole. Let me sum up what I have said. Our great objection to this portion of the Measure is this: We dislike it because it increases the cost of production and lays a heavier burden on the coalowners in that sense. If you provide the coal-owners with a reasonable margin of profit you are bound to lay an intolerable burden on other industries and on the great mass of consumers. We dislike it because of that, but we dislike it still more because it does definitely add to the risk of injury to the life and limb of the miner and reduces his wages.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I have been listening to this Debate during the greater part of the afternoon, and I must confess that most of what I have heard has come from the imagination of the speakers rather than from the Bill. It would be just as well if we tried to keep in mind exactly what are the provisions of the Bill. When the Second Reading Debate took place the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) laid great emphasis upon the fact that it was a coalowners' Bill, and that the coal-owners had to do this, that and the other. This afternoon the whole of the Liberal party, and especially the right hon. Gentleman himself, have conveniently forgotten the part that the coalowners have to play in this business, and have simply peppered the Minister with questions as to what he is going to do about this, that and the other. It would be as well if we got down to what is really in the Bill.
We have been told that these quotas are going to put up the cost of coal by 3s. 6d. to 4s. a ton. There is nothing in the Bill to justify that statement, and we have not had a tittle of evidence upon which the statement is based. There is no one in this House or in the country who can form an estimate as to whether the quotas will cost anything at all, and, if so, what the amount will be. What actually takes place under the Bill is simply this: The owners themselves are called upon to devise, first of all, a national scheme, and they have to determine what shall be the maximum amount of coal produced in this country under that scheme. We are told by speakers in 2497 this House that a very serious hardship is to be imposed on this, that and the other kind of coalowner by the President of the Board of Trade or by the Government. Whatever may be embodied in these schemes will be such proposals as the owners themselves think are in their own interests.
In practice it will work out in this way: The Mining Association of Great Britain will get together, and at a conference will be represented by coal-owners from every coalfield in Great Britain; if they care they will be represented there through the district associations. Every question that has been asked this afternoon, as to whether Scotland is to give us some of the days now worked in order that Wales can work a few more days, and whether Yorkshire or Derbyshire or Nottinghamshire is to take some of the trading—all those questions are subjects which will be discussed in a conference at which the coalowners from every one of the districts will be present, and in the nature of things those owners are going to protect their own interests at that conference. Any scheme that is submitted under Part I of the Bill has to be made with the approval of and be acceptable to at least a majority of the coalowners of this country. As far as the coalowners are concerned, surely if they produce a scheme which in the opinion of more than half their members is in the interests of the industry, it is hardly competent for anyone here to say that the Government are imposing a really serious hardship on the industry?
The question has arisen regarding what is to take place in the allocation of the maximum throughout the country as between district and district. That, again, has to be done at the conference by the Mining Association of Great Britain, at which all the owners in each of the districts will be represented. I can imagine—and I expect that it will be so judging by my experience of the mining industry—that the Welsh coalowners will be clamouring for the biggest possible allocation that they can get, and that the Scottish, Midland and Northumberland and Durham owners will be clamouring for the same thing. I very much doubt whether in the end they will have an aggregate maximum less than has been produced, or a higher figure even than that. If that takes place there 2498 will be no cutting down of output and no putting up of costs. In none of the provisions does the Bill contemplate anything of the kind.
After all, what is it that these schemes will have to provide? They have to provide, in the language of the Bill, that schemes will be operated by the coal-owners themselves, and that the schemes must be so framed "as to ensure that within reasonable limits the quantity of coal offered for sale by any colliery and the price charged for it shall accord with the state of current demand." That merely says that the mining industry shall be conducted on an economic basis, that in so far as there is a demand for coal the coal shall be produced to supply that need, and that in respect of the coal which is produced a price shall be obtained for it which will enable the industry to work, will enable the employers to receive a reasonable profit, and will enable the workman to receive a reasonable wage.
I assert that there is nothing in the Bill which justifies anyone saying that the quotas will add 4s. or 3s. or 2s. or 1s. to the cost of production. If any speaker who takes part in this Debate later will give some sort of evidence upon which is based the statement that this quota system, a" a matter of course, will put up the cost of production or the price of coal, I shall be glad to hear him. We have heard a good deal about the selling of these quotas, and it has been represented that the sale of quotas is a real hardship. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs called attention to the fact that one colliery company paid in the course of years £40,000 for the quota of another concern. I do not know where that happened, but the case was put forward as a real hardship upon the producer and as a real benefit to the seller. These coalowners do not regard these things as hardships. Whatever is embodied in the schemes that are in operation in the voluntary arrangements to which the right hon. Gentleman referred are there, not in the words of an Act of Parliament, not by anything that the Government has done, but because the coalowners have done it amongst themselves; they have voluntarily made agreements regarding these things, and if there is any very severe hardship or loss 2499 to them, it is what they have themselves voluntarily undertaken to apply to themselves.
The point I want to get at is this: This Bill aims at dealing with a really serious problem that exists in the coal industry. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) said earlier, whether we have half-an-hour reduction in the working day or not, there will still be a coal problem to be dealt with. If this House destroys the provisions of this Bill that problem will remain to be dealt with. I had not heard a single suggestion in any speech this evening of an alternative proposal if this part of the Bill is defeated. The simple fact in connection with the coal trade is this: During the last 10 years the potential output has been much larger than any possible outlet for it. A scramble has taken place for such business as was available, and prices had been accepted which have placed the industry in a condition of bankruptcy. Today the industry does not possess the necessary capital to modernise and re-equip itself. It does not possess the necessary credit to secure capital, and the industry generally does not contain within itself the power to redeem itself. Unless this outside pressure is brought to bear to prevent the unfair competition and the undercutting which have been taking place in the industry hitherto, nothing can prevent a very serious collapse taking place in the industry at no distant date.
This quota system is no new idea. Thirty-four years ago the late Lord Rhondda brought forward a scheme which aimed at applying quotas, to the mining industry. Had his scheme been adopted at that time we should not be in the position that we are in now. The Liberal party's position seems to me to be just this: Here we have Part I with two provisions, one for regulating output and the other for fixing prices. From the beginning of the discussions on the Bill until now everyone has recognised that those two provisions constitute the basis upon which the whole Bill is founded. Now the Liberal party come along and say: "We are going to oppose you on regulation of output, and we are going to oppose you on the fixation of prices." If they can succeed in carrying their Amendments this Bill will be a dead 2500 letter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] The fact that anyone asks "Why? "is evidence that he has not paid very much attention to what is in the Bill or what is the nature of the problem.
Take those two provisions out of Part I, and you not only destroy Part I, but you undermine the principal structure of the Bill from top to bottom. Having regard to the nature of the coal problem this scheme, in my opinion, is on the right lines. It is a scheme which provides for the doing of some very useful essential preliminary work. First of all, Part I has the effect of eliminating cut-throat competition. There can be no solution of the coal problem until that has been accomplished, and this Bill will do that. In any system of reorganisation of the mining industry we must have grading and classifying of the different kinds of coal, and this Bill does that for the first time. If we are going to have a properly organised industry we must know what is the relative value of the different kinds of coal, and this Bill provides for the grading, classifying and fixing of prices for the different grades and classes of coal.
It does another thing which, in my judgment, is one of the most important things to be taken into account in considering this Bill. It sets up a national body which will have the power to enter into discussions and negotiations and make international agreements, which should have the effect of destroying that cut-throat competition in our foreign markets which has resulted hitherto in our sending all our coal to foreign countries at below the actual cost of production. It is known to everybody in the coal trade that for many years past the Germans have been anxious to enter into discussions and arrangements under which, either by allocation of areas or by a fixing of prices, there should be an end put to the unfair competition that exists between the Continent and this country. But, whenever they have attempted to enter into arrangements of that kind, they have found they could only discuss the subject with some individuals and that they had not got any authoritative body with whom they could conduct negotiations with a view to an international agreement. Quite recently we had conversations conducted between certain coalowners in this country and 2501 the coalowners of Poland, and I understand that arrangements are being entered into which will, in respect of the activities of Poland and of the coalowners of this country, go a long way towards eliminating the cut-throat competition which has taken place hitherto. With the national body to be set up by this Bill we shall be able to conduct these negotiations and bring about wide international agreements, which will be to the great advantage of the coal trade in this country.
I said that this Bill and this scheme may not be perfect; I do not think they are. If you are to have a solution of the coal problem, you want an entirely different Bill. The Government have never suggested that this Bill is a solution of the coal problem. All that the Government have ever claimed for the Bill up to now is that it is a few first steps, that it does some useful preliminary work, and that it will lay a basis upon which further legislation and further steps can be taken in the days that lie ahead. But if this House says these are not the lines on which it is prepared to proceed, then it is up to the Tory party or the Liberal party to say what alternative scheme ought to be propounded, because the industry cannot be left as it is. Something will have to be done in order to bring about a solution. I have never hesitated to express my view that the mining industry has reached a stage when—it is not a matter of whether it is desirable—it is inevitable that you will have to put this mining industry under common ownership. You will have to unify it, to make one single unit of it before you can solve the problem. For administrative purposes you can decentralise as much as you like, but for solving the problem, for getting the necessary capital to modernise and re-equip it, for getting the best uses of the resources contained in our mines, For most effectively eliminating that portion of it which is inefficient, and for producing from the most up-to-date and most highly efficient concerns the best results, that can only be done by a unified system. None of these small group amalgamations will produce a situation that will command the capital necessary to reorganise and reconstruct this industry. But these amalgamation proposals, these grading proposals, these price-fixing proposals, and all the rest of 2502 them will all tend to simplify and to move in the direction of that ultimate end. It is because I realise that will be the case, that I hope that Part I will be carried through and the Amendments proposed to it defeated.
I would like to say a word or two of a general character about the Liberal party. Personally it seems to me that the party opposite are not playing the game in respect of this Bill. On Second Heading the party's position was put to the Government. The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs intimated to the Government the provisions in the Bill to which they objected. By putting four questions they intended to convey the kind of improvement or amendment they desired before this Bill would be acceptable to them. That was repeated after a week's delay. Every point put forward in those Second Reading speeches has been met by the Government to the full, and everything asked for has been conceded. I do not think that any hon. Member will get up on those benches and challenge the accuracy of that statement. We first of all reduced the time limit for Part I to three years, and now, having given them that, the Liberal party come along and ask us to get rid of it altogether. First of all, it is limited to three years for them, and then, when they have got what they ask for, they say that they will not have it at all. This industry is in a position where there must be more revenue, and all this talk about dear coal is only another way of talking about cheap labour.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I am talking about the Liberal party's attitude to this Measure and, as far as their Amendments and their speeches go, all this talk about dear coal simply means cheap labour. Without any attempt to be emotional and simply looking the facts in the face, I say that the miners have had a pretty bad time, they are looking for something better and they cannot get even what they want to-day if the Liberal 2503 Amendments on the Paper are carried. It is only by getting more revenue into the industry that it is possible for the industry to carry on at all. The Liberal and Tory parties may just as well realise this fact, that, if this Bill is defeated and a Tory Government come in to-morrow, the Tory Government will have to deal with this problem, and will have to try to find a solution, because the industry left to itself cannot save itself, as it has got beyond the power of redemption as far as its internal powers are concerned. For the last 10 years, we have been sliding down, the employers have used up all their reserves, they have got millions in overdrafts at the bank, there is no credit in the industry. We have tried every means, we have increased hours, we have reduced wages, we have reduced freights, we have reduced dock charges, we have cut down rates, everything that possibly can be done has been done and the industry is in as bad a condition to-day as any time during the last 10 years. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Members had better look at the statistics. The Secretary for Mines publishes his quarterly statement. In 1928 we lost £10,000,000 on the industry. Last year it was less, I admit, but the the last quarterly figures showed exactly the same financial result for the June quarter of last year as for the June quarter of 1925. After all that has been done since 1925, the position was the same. We have been going down, down, down, all the time. What the President of the Board of Trade is now trying to do is to stop that downward tendency. It is very much easier to slide down than to climb up. He has brought forward these proposals. Up to now nobody has suggested any alternative to them. Unless these proposals are carried we shall have no wages and no profits, and the industry will go rapidly into a state of bankruptcy. It is only by carrying out this scheme, by bringing this additional revenue into the industry, that there is any hope of the industry surviving or any hope of justice and fair play being meted out either to the coalminers themselves or to the miners employed in in the industry.
§ Sir PHILIP CUNLIFFE-LISTER
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) has challenged us, and stated that we must accept the 2504 responsibility for any vote which is given on this question to-night. We accept that responsibility. Throughout the whole course of this Bill we have opposed it. We opposed it as strongly as we could on the Second Reading, because we believed it to be an unsound Measure, and that is why we have consistently opposed it throughout. Therefore we are perfectly consistent in continuing our opposition to Part I of this Bill. We do so with a clear conscience, and we are taking a consistent line of action. We are not reconciled to the Bill by the Amendments which have been made during its passage through the House.
I agree with what the President of the Board of Trade said to the effect that Part I is the essential part of this Bill, and, in defence of that contention, the President has advanced arguments of great force. All the arguments which have been used in favour of amalgamation can be used with equal force in favour of the quota, but they certainly do not convince me. I am going to vote to-night along with those who sit on these benches against this Bill, because we believe it to be essentially an unsound Measure. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) some time ago said that nobody would have complained of a voluntary scheme in the coal trade, and he asked why we objected to this scheme. There is all the difference in the world between a voluntary scheme in which the coal-owners are agreed and a compulsory trust like that which you are seeking to impose by this Bill. The plain duty of the State in relation to combinations in industry is not to compel people to join them, but to pursue a policy of watchfulness and intervene if necessary, not in the interests of one section, but in the interests of the community. That is the duty of the State.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
What my hon. Friend said was that, if a voluntary arrangement were made by the mineowners to increase the price against the consumer, there would have been no complaint from hon. Members opposite, whereas complaint is 2505 being made now because the Government, presumably, is going to force them into that position, his point being that if it had been done voluntarily by the mine-owners there would have been no objection.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
That is precisely the point I am making. The whole point of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale was that if Part I had been voluntary everybody would come forward as free agents and we should not have complained. We are complaining now because the State has come in. Therefore, I do not think that I have misrepresented the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. I object to the State coming in, because the attitude of the State should be one of protecting all the interests concerned in addition to the industry. The real safeguard which the public have in a great combination, which is a voluntary organisation, is that, if that organisation acts unreasonably or to the detriment of the efficient members of the organisation by attempting to curtail legitimate development of trade and the services it can render to its customers, then every member is free to leave that organisation—[An HON. MEMBER: "Blackmail!"]—in order to give good service to its customers and promote the industry with efficiency. That) is the great safeguard you have in any voluntary arrangement. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about tin?"] I am not asking for compulsory amalgamation. I am responsible for taking part in voluntary organisations in which people are free to enter and free to leave, but here you are forcing people to enter into this cartel, whether they like it or not, and you are forcing them to stay in whether they like it or not. What is more, there is no protection for the consumer, and there cannot be any protection for the consumer, because you have taken away the right of the dissentient to conduct his own business.
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale said that, if we do not pass this Bill, we shall force another crisis upon the industry. I do not believe that the rejection of this Bill would have that effect; in fact, my opinion is that this Measure, if passed, will do a great deal of damage, not only to the coal industry, but to other industries and other interests in this 2506 country. The view we take—and I hope it is the view which the Committee will take—is that we ought not to act in the interests of one section, but in the interests of all the parties concerned. In the light of these facts, it is our duty tonight to support this Amendment, and we shall not be deflected from doing what we believe to be our duty by any threat of blackmail.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. William Graham)
This proposal to leave out the word "production" is one which goes to the very root of the Bill, and I propose, before we pass to a Division, to put the facts as plainly and as clearly to the Committee as I can in the light of the discussions which the Government have had with the coalowners, the miners, and other interests since we took office in June last. This Amendment quite clearly, if adopted, would destroy Part 1 of this Measure, and the question we have to ask is whether a case can be made out for the form of the regulation of production proposed in the scheme. The Committee will realise that we are not here dealing with an ordinary industrial problem, and, whatever view we take of the future organisation or ownership of industry in this country—and I am just as keen for public ownership as any of my hon. Friends on these benches—the question here is rather one of the output of coal, and the possibility of putting that coal on the market at a remunerative level and maintaining some kind of economic stability in the industry.
What are the plain facts? The word "production" in this Bill is governed by the world situation. Taking a line from 1913 to the present year, we find that practically there has been stability over that period though, no doubt, with incidental variations in the aggregate output of coal at about 1,200,000,000 metric tons. If we leave out for a moment America, which only in times of crisis sends coal to Europe, the position with which we are immediately concerned in this country and in this House is that Europe has an output round about half of that total, namely, 650,000,000 metric tons. What has been our position in Great Britain? We are producing from 250,000,000 to 260,000,000 tons of coal per annum. We 2507 raised and sold a larger amount than that in pre-War times, and we had especially favourable export years in 1913 and 1923; but, for reasons with which we are all familiar, the output has settled down at round about the figure of 250,000,000 to 260,000,000 tons. There are great forces at work which indicate beyond a shadow of doubt that, even if there were more industrial recovery than, unfortunately, we can expect at the moment, not very much more coal could be sold, because of the introduction of improvements in industry, the adaptation of furnaces to the consumption of oil fuel, and other arrangements with which I shall not detain the Committee to-night. These are the broad facts that we have to bear in mind in connection with this problem, and the urgent and important consideration before us is how best we can regulate the output of coal in this country so as to place that output on the market at a remunerative level. There is no question of overhead restriction of output such as has been frequently suggested in the course of this and other Debates; the real question is the avoidance of the sale of coal at a loss, or, in other words, to secure the disposal of coal at a remunerative level.
Before I come to the methods of attempting to solve that problem, I would remind the Committee of what has taken place in this country. Quota is no new thing. In point of fact, in recent years there has been a scheme, no doubt on a voluntary basis, in the Five Counties, extending to more than five counties in its complete form. It was on a voluntary basis, and covered nearly 100,000,000 tons of output in that area. There has been a scheme in South Wales, which undeniably has had its difficulties, but which has regulated output and price. There was for a time a scheme in Scotland. All these schemes, and other efforts that have been attempted in this country, have been directed to this question of avoiding the placing of coal on the market either at a loss or at an unremunerative level. When we took office in June of last year, the owners were engaged in different districts in Great Britain in trying to make progress with the preparation of schemes substantially on the lines of the proposals of Part I of this Bill. What was the kind of experience 2508 that they had to guide them? They knew that in the Westphalian Syndicate, where, I quite agree, you have a compact area, the quota was the essence of the proposal. They also knew that it was idle to go on while minorities could continue in the districts and undermine the scheme; and so they said to the Government that the only proposal which could be effective was to frame a plan under which they would prepare these schemes, and under which, on terms of fair play, they would be able to bring in recalcitrant minorities in these districts, and to that end there was a very long analysis, extending over many months.
I want to remind the Committee that this Bill is not only connected with the reduction in working time. We were under a pledge, and remain under that pledge, to reduce the working time of the miners; in other words, to go back to the pre-1926 position. But the miners recognised the facts of this industry, the heavy losses which have fallen upon it, and the £22,000,000, if not more, of debt, and they were content with one-half of the reduction which we promised, and which is contained in this Bill, and with the delivery of the other half in July of next year when the Act of 1926 expires. It remains true, and we have never disputed it, because I have been perfectly candid in all these discussions, that under existing conditions that does add a certain amount to the working costs—not the extravagant sum which many of the critics of this Bill or of that reduction of hours have suggested. But at all events, it adds a certain amount. I am satisfied that with this machinery, with certain improvements that are going on in the industry, and with the de-rating scheme, which I am glad to recognise, that additional cost will be reduced to a "minimum: but the contribution of this marketing scheme is still necessary, not only for the delivery of that half-hour without an inroad upon the wages of the miners—already by common consent shamefully low—but for the reorganisation of the industry itself. If this part of the Bill were destroyed any chance of delivering that half-hour would, in my judgment, and in the judgment of the Government, disappear, because we refuse to take the responsibility of passing any Measure through the House of Commons which will not in 2509 justice give the necessary revenue and the necessary organisation to finance that change. We are not going to expose the mining community to the risk of further wage reductions by failing to provide what in our judgment is necessary to safeguard those wages. I do not think I need enlarge further on the question of the relation of hours and wages.
Now I come to the real problem in the organisation of the disposal of coal. Hon. Members, and more particularly the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), have asked how this scheme is to operate and what kind of safeguards we intend to impose. The 250,000,000 or 260,000,000 tons, or whatever the quantity may be, is to be placed on the market. We merely set out to ensure that no more coal will be placed on the market than can be sold at a remunerative level. What is the scheme in this Bill? I venture to think that a very large part of the difficulty will disappear if hon. Members will turn, not to the emotions or excitements of a Debate of this kind, but to the cold facts of the situation. The central proposal is the fixing of a basic tonnage, that is to say, a tonnage related to what these individual pits have been doing over a recent period, and, when that basic tonnage is fairly and equitably fixed, then the district quota is applied uniformly to all the pits in that area.
What are the safeguards in the fixing of that basic or standard tonnage, because that goes to the very root of the scheme? The safeguard is this, that, if any individual owner is dissatisfied with that basic tonnage, which is the controlling factor, he has a right to go to absolutely independent arbitration on the tonnage so fixed., That independent arbitration is competent and outside the industry, and its decision is final. He has got that under this scheme, and, consequently he is in my judgment fully protected. The owners know, broadly speaking, the amount of coal that is produced in the country as a whole. There will be 21 districts under this Measure. I entirely agree that it would be very much better if that number were greatly reduced, and in the Schedule to this Bill there is provision for the amalgamation of districts, and I have never concealed my personal view that it is entirely in the interests 2510 of the industry that the number of those districts should be very much reduced for the purposes of a scheme of this kind. I believe that that will come, but in any case the district allocation is taken on that basis, and is applied uniformly to the standard tonnage of all the pits in that district.
The question arises as to the prejudicial effect on certain industries or classes of demand, and I want to try to meet that argument, which is a difficult argument, but one which, I think, can be completely covered. No hon. Member has pointed out what is one of the most important provisions in this Measure. Let us take the case of the iron and steel industry. That is one of the classes, or may be one of the classes of coal, under this Bill. If it is felt desirable that there should be a 100 per cent. quota applied to that basic tonnage for the purposes of serving the iron and steel industry, this scheme provides for it. If there is any other class of demand in a similar position, for which it is felt that there should be a special quota, that also can be provided in the district scheme. I suggest that that removes a very large part of the difficulty which, in my judgment, unnecessarily, has been raised.
We come now to the question of price. We are dealing here, not with the price to the consumer—I will come to that in a moment—but with the minimum pithead prices which are fixed in the different districts. It is quite true that this Bill seeks to give the owners power in the districts to fix minimum prices below which that coal, or that class of coal, must not be sold, but very often a question would turn on the position of an owner who thought that that price would be too high if he were to dispose of his coal at not less than this price. In that case he is entitled to the very same independent arbitration. He can take the matter to an outside and competent authority, whose decision again is final, and he can be protected, from that point of view, just as he is protected in relation to his basic tonnage under Part I of the Bill.
There is a very great deal of confusion on this question of price so far as pithead regulation is concerned. The question of price to the consumer is, I agree, a different matter, and we have never concealed the fact that it is not covered 2511 by this Measure. There is too great a gap, I have always thought, between the pithead price and the price to the consumer, but I ask the Committee to remember that that is by no means a simple problem. The Royal Commission in 1925 was confronted by evidence offered by the coalowners in this country as to how prices could be mitigated, or in some cases reduced, and in these intermediate processes they suggested many things, such as reduction of railway charges and devices of that kind. But we must recognise that there is on the Statute Book an Act passed in 1921 which makes it the duty of the Railway Rates Tribunal to fix the charges for passengers and freights so as to yield as nearly as may be the standard revenue of 1913 for the efficient working of the railways, and, unless all that legislation is going to be scrapped, and a good deal of other legislation as well, there is no method of dealing in a practical form with this gap, which I quite agree must be treated on sound lines and without injustice to railway workers or any class of workers in this country.
Separate legislation will doubtless come on this subject, but I want to remind the Committee that even in this Bill we do get the beginning of a very valuable form of protection, because already, in the district organisations which exist, the owners are getting into touch with the wholesalers in the coal trade, and are trying to arrive at agreements for the disposal of coal from the pithead in such a way as to bridge that gap and to place the coal on the market at as easy a price as possible to the consumer. It can never be to the interests of the coal industry on the production side to adopt any other policy. Quite plainly, if there is unrest in the community on the question of retail prices, that will react on coal production. Thus, even on these questions of price, particularly the pithead price, and in my judgment, to an increasing extent as between the pithead and the consumer, this plan gives the beginning of a kind of order or organisation which, rightly guided, will be definitely in the public interests.
I would ask the Committee to consider what is going to happen if this word "production" is omitted, and if the obligatory or compulsory part of this 2512 Measure breaks down. The Five Counties Scheme, and such regulation as has already taken place, has always operated under the great disadvantage of having minority elements, and those minority elements have been able to weaken the price of coal by weak selling, and to undermine the strength of even powerful and representative organisations. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs quite clearly indicated the alternative that was in his mind although it was not stated in precise and specific terms. He said in effect that if Part I disappears we can settle down to the consideration of other methods of dealing with the problem. There is no other method in my judgment of dealing with it unless is some effective form we are going to regulate prices. I know schemes have been put up under which it was suggested that you might adopt plans for the fixing of minimum prices in the colliery districts, and that those prices should be at such a level as to cover any increased cost attributable to the reduction in the working time. At the very least, such a proposal would raise tremendous difficulty in the coal industry, and in my judgment in practice would not be possible.
All attempts to regulate prices have been relatively ineffective if you do not at the same time regulate production. The Westphalian syndicate was to a large extent a scheme to regulate output, and as the Lewis Committee Report points out with very great clarity, it rests on the quota system. In every scheme submitted by the owners—and they cover the great majority of districts—the quota principle has been introduced. In other words, it has been found impossible to regulate prices unless you have effective control of the quantity of coal put on the market. The highest authorities in the industry have told us that a very few weak sellers can undermine the whole plan and reduce it to chaos. That is the situation with which we are confronted, and I suggest that there is not an effective alternative to Part I of the Bill.
I want to pass now to the industrial side. We do not own and we do not control the mining industry. Until we get a majority in the country and in the House for public ownership, it is idle to suggest that we can promote a Bill for that purpose. I do not propose to waste 2513 my time in a proposal of that kind, which would only mislead the community and lead to no useful result. We have not a majority for that. Does any Member of the House suggest that we should re-embark upon any form of war time or other control? I suggest that that of all methods is probably the most hopeless for dealing with this proposition. You must make it either a definitely public utility organisation or you must, so far as you possibly can, take the owners with you in any proposal for regulation that you make, provided you are satisfied they have established a case for this, regulation. That is exactly the state in which we found ourselves in June of last year. The owners were willing to prepare schemes for the regulation of the industry.
I want to reply to some criticism that has been offered to-day in terms of the Resolution published in the Press and circulated to Members of the House regarding the views of the Mining Association. The introduction of amalgamation schemes on a compulsory basis is bitterly resented by the great majority of the owners. I do not dispute for a moment that it has altered the attitude of certain owners towards Part I of the Bill. They were willing to co-operate. Some were even willing to accept the half hour, much as they disliked it, but when compulsory amalgamations appeared their attitude changed. I am not complaining. We are a minority in the House. We did everything in our power to meet Members on the Liberal benches. They submitted four points to me on the Second Reading of the Bill, every one of which has been covered by our Amendments. I make not a word of personal complaint of any taunt which has been offered outside or in the Press. I am not concerned with that, but I am tremendously concerned with the position of the mining industry, and more particularly with the very great difficulty which, in my view, will confront the industry if this plan is not adopted.
We have now reached the point when we have to decide whether or not Part I is to be retained as part of the Bill. We can only secure the operation of this part of the Bill by getting the co-operation of the owners. I should have thought it would appeal to the Conservatives. After all they do not stand for the collectivist action. They say, "You 2514 have to carry these owners with you and rationalise." When we try it they turn on us and say, "You have made an out and out gift to the owners and we do not propose to support you in the scheme." But in an overwhelming majority of the districts schemes have been put up, particularly in South Wales, which most nearly approaches a model scheme. That scheme covers 86 per cent. of the output in that area, and it is proposed by some of the ablest owners in that part of the country, not one of whom so far as I know has ever supported the Movement or is likely to do so. You have an even larger percentage in Yorkshire and neighbouring districts. It is true there is a division of forces to a great extent in the other areas, and it is also true that there is no scheme at the moment in Scotland, and there is substantial difficulty in Durham. But in practically all the other areas schemes have been prepared, and there is not a single scheme which does not rest upon this quota proposal for the regulation of the output, and side by side with that a plan for price regulation.
What is the position in which we are placed to-night if this word "production" is not put in? It is my duty to put the whole facts to the Committee. We can only operate Part I of the Bill by co-operation with the owners. The Miners' Federation—I cannot pay too high a tribute for the manner in which they have acted—have accepted it. If this word is deleted, if the prospect of regulation of output is taken away, the owners tell me you could not operate any system of price regulation, and that it would be absolutely impossible to safeguard yourself against weak sellers who at any moment may appear on the scene and may undermine the whole scheme. Accordingly, they have advised me that, if the Bill is mutilated beyond recognition, they can make no further contribution to the solution of the problem. For that final reason I am obliged to tell the Committee that if this Amendment is carried, the whole Bill, not only Part 1, but the half hour, the National Board, the amalgamation schemes—every part of the Bill disappears. I state that in the clearest and most explicit terms. The only alternative before the Government in a state of affairs of that kind would be directly to impose a scheme upon every 2515 one of these 21 districts. It cannot be done. It is true we could apply a scheme in Scotland or in another area, but that would not be necessary, because, in point of fact, if we carried this in the last resort they would come in. We could carry a scheme in a few districts with the co-operation of the central organisation under this Bill, but it is a physical, political and economic impossibility to impose it in all. We should be driven to the control of the industry and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would, for all I know, be directly or indirectly committed to, it might be a large contribution from public funds which is not available, and cannot be available, because I doubt if any Member of the House would again suggest a subsidy so far as coal is concerned.
But worse is to follow. There has been a certain improvement in the industry within recent times. I have had at my disposal at the Board of Trade, as every Government has, expert advice from the owners, technical experts and others. Last year, in Europe, because of the exceptional cold spell there was very great difficulty in securing immediate deliveries of coal. They took precautions for the present year. They said there might be a repetition of that experience, and over a very large part of Europe there has been an accumulation of stocks, and there is a danger of the price level falling. I am advised by the very ablest authorities that if this scheme disappears, if the Bill is defeated, if the hands of the owners are hopelessly tied, if they are thrown back upon voluntary effort, which they cannot establish, because it is idle to speak of that with a minority standing out, there will, beyond a shadow of doubt, be a further fall in the pithead price level of coal—I am advised to the tune of anything between 1s. and 2s. a ton.
What is the inevitable effect? Wage agreements are going to be negotiated in the next few months. Many of the owners will no doubt press for wage reductions. They will say, "We have been denied the opportunity of the organisation that the Bill proposed." It is an essential part of the scheme that the first part of this Bill should run for a period such as will give the industry a chance to reorganise before a reduction of working 2516 time is introduced in such a way as to enable that reduction to be met without a lower level of wages. That disappears, and the Government cannot be responsible for that state of things. Hare is a method of organisation for the first time, in which owners and miners have come together—because they have come together—to put their house in order on lines which have been adopted in other industries, perhaps not with legislative sanction, but with economic sanction. By the deletion of this word the Committee must realise that the coal industry may lose all chance of progress.
That is not all. I turn to the European market. I have already admitted that last year there was an improvement of 10,000,000 tons in the export of coal. In the peak year of 1913 we exported more than 80,000,000 tons. We are not doing very much more than about 60,000,000 tons at present. Every hon. Member is aware of the repercussions of that loss upon our position in all the other industries over a very wide field. The Five Counties Scheme enabled the coalowners of this country to begin discussions with the German and Polish authorities on the mining position. The coalowners representing the great bulk of the owners of this country entered into the discussions in the hope that they would get some kind of understanding in the European market. So long as price cutting continues at home, so long as you have price cutting in Europe, there is no hope in this industry. They have learned for the first time that with a united front in regard to British coal production they can get consideration. If this part of the Bill goes, then there is no united front in Europe. There will be a further fall in the pit-head prices and there is no chance of recovering the export trade in British coal. I beg hon. Members not to be disturbed by the argument that this regulation means a subsidy to foreign coal. The regulation of this coal under "production" means and means only that this country is to be enabled to put this coal on the European market at the European or world price. Unless we can recover that trade, we are writing the doom of considerable parts of the coalfields of this country. These are the simple facts of this part of the Bill.
I have no desire to use the language of threat. The House will agree that it 2517 is foreign to my whole nature. But I want to tell this House solemnly and earnestly, before it votes, that, on the very highest advice at my disposal, the disappearance of this Bill and of these schemes means a further fall in pit-head prices and a further weakening of the whole economic position. Any chance of the half-hour reduction will disappear, and there will be a state of affairs in which this country will have to pay
§ millions more in various forms of distress and dislocation. That is the choice which is left to hon. Members in all parts of the House. I am satisfied that, if we face the problem on these lines, the decision will be a favourable one for the Government.
§ Question put, "That the word 'production' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 280; Noes, 271.2521
|Division No. 195.]||AYES.||[8.5 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West||Freeman, Peter||Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Lees, J|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigle M.||Gibbains, Joseph||Lewis, T. (Southampton)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||Lloyd, C. Ellis|
|Alpass, J. H.||Gill, T. H.||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Ammon, Charles George||Gillett, George M.||Longbottom, A. W.|
|Angell, Norman||Gossilng, A. G.||Longden, F.|
|Arnott, John||Gould, F.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Lowth, Thomas|
|Ayles, Walter||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Lunn, William|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Coine)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Batey, Joseph||Groves, Thomas E.||McElwee, A.|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Grundy, Thomas W.||McEntee, V. L.|
|Bellamy, Albert||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||McKinlay, A.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||MacLaren, Andrew|
|Bennett, Captain E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||MacNeill-Weir, L.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||McShane, John James|
|Benson, G.||Harbison, T. J.||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Hardie, George D.||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Harris, Percy A.||Mansfield, W.|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||March, S.|
|Bowen, J. W.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Marcus, M.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Haycock, A. W.||Markham, S. F.|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Hayday, Arthur||Marley, J.|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Hayes, John Henry||Marshall, Fred|
|Bromfield, William||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Mathers, George|
|Bromley, J.||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Matters, L. W.|
|Brooke, W.||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Maxton, James|
|Brothers, M.||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Melville, Sir James|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield)||Herriotts, J.||Messer, Fred|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Middleton, G.|
|Buchanan, G.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Mills, J. E.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Hoffman, P. C.||Milner, J.|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Eiland)||Hollins, A.||Montague, Frederick|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Hopkin, Daniel||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Calne, Derwent Hall-||Horrabin, J. F.||Morley, Ralph|
|Cameron, A. G.||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)|
|Cape, Thomas||Isaacs, George||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Jenkins, W, (Glamorgan, Neath)||Mort, D. L.|
|Charleton, H. C.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Moses, J. J. H.|
|Chater, Daniel||Johnston, Thomas||Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Church, Major A. G.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)|
|Clarke, J. S.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Muff, G.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Muggeridge, H. T.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Compton, Joseph||Kelly, W. T.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Cove, William G.||Kennedy, Thomas||Noel Baker, P. J.|
|Daggar, George||Kenworthy Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Oldfield, J. R.|
|Dallas, George||Kinley, J.||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Kirkwood, D.||Palin, John Henry|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Paling, Wilfrid|
|Day, Harry||Knight, Holford||Palmer, E. T.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lang, Gordon||Perry, S. F.|
|Devlin, Joseph||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Dukes, C.||Lathan, G.||Phillips, Dr. Marion|
|Duncan, Charles||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Picton-Tubervill, Edith|
|Ede, James Chuter||Law, A. (Rosendale)||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Edge, Sir William||Lawrence, Susan||Potts, John S.|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Price, M. P.|
|Edwards, E, (Morpeth)||Lawson, John James||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Egan, W. H.||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Forgan, Dr. Robert||Leach, W.||Raynes, W. R.|
|Richards, R.||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Walker, J.|
|Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Ritson, J.||Snell, Harry||Watkins, F. C.|
|Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Romeril, H. G.||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Sorensen, R.||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Rowson, Guy||Stamford, Thomas W.||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Salter, Dr. Alfred||Stephen, Campbell||West, F. R.|
|Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Westwood, Joseph|
|Sanders, W. S.||Strachey, E. J. St. Loe||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Sawyer, G. F.||Strauss, G. R.||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Scurr, John||Sullivan, J.||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Sexton, James||Sutton, J. E.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Sherwood, G. H.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Shield, George William||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Thurtle, Ernest||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Shillaker, J. F.||Tillett, Ben||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Shinwell, E.||Tinker, John Joseph||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Toole, Joseph||Wise, E. F.|
|Simmons, C. J.||Tout, W. J.||Wright, W. (Rutherglen)|
|Sinkinson, George||Townend, A. E.||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Sitch, Charles H.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)||Turner, B.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Vaughan, D. J.||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Charles Edwards.|
|Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||Viant, S. P.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)|
|Albery, Irving James||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Glassey, A. E.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)||Christie, J. A.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.|
|Allen, W. E. D. (Belfast, W.)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Grace, John|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Colfox, Major William Philip||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Colman, N. C. D.||Granville, E.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Colville, Major D. J.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N-|
|Astor, Viscountess||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Gray, Milner|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter|
|Atkinson, C.||Cowan, D. M.||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey. Gainsbro)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Balniel, Lord||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)|
|Berry, Sir George||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Hanbury, C.|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Bird, Ernest Roy||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Harbord, A.|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Blindell, James||Dawson, Sir Philip||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Dixey, A. C.||Haslam, Henry C.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||Henderson, Capt. S. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Duckworth, G. A. V.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.|
|Bracken, B.||Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Eden, Captain Anthony||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Elmley, Viscount||Howard-Bury. Colonel C. K.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||England, Colonel A.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. Berks. Newb'y)||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s. M.)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph|
|Buchan, John||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Iveagh, Countess of|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Ferguson, Sir John||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Fermoy, Lord||Jones, F. Llewellyn. (Flint)|
|Butler, R. A.||Fielden, E. B.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Fison, F. G. Clavering||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Kindersley, Major G. M.|
|Castle Stewart, Earl of||Galbraith, J. F. W.||King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Ganzonl, Sir John||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Moiton)|
|Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Penny, Sir George||Somerset, Thomas|
|Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Power, Sir John Cecil||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Little, Dr. E. Graham||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Stanley, Maj. Hon. O. (W'morland)|
|Llewellin, Major J. J.||Purbrick, R.||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Locker, Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Pybus, Percy John||Stewart, W. J. (Belfast, South)|
|Long, Major Eric||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Lymington, Viscount||Ramsbotham, H||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.|
|McConnell, Sir Joseph||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Macdonald, Sir M. (Inverness)||Remer, John R.||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James||Tinne, J. A.|
|MacRobert, Rt. Hon. Alexander M.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||Train, J.|
|Margesson, Captain H. D.||Ross, Major Ronald D.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Marjoribanks, E. C.||Rothschild, J. de||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Meller, R. J.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Russell, Richard John (Eddlsbury)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Salmon, Major I.||Wardlaw-Mline, J. S.|
|Mond, Hon. Henry||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Samuel Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Morden, Col. W. Grant||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Morris, Rhys Hopkins||Savery, S. S.||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Scott, James||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome||Withers, Sir John James|
|Muirhead, A. J.||Simms, Major-General J.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Nicholson, O, (Westminster)||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfst)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Skelton, A. N.|
|Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine. C.)||Major-General Sir Robert Hutchison|
|O'Neill, Sir H.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||and Major Owen.|
|Owen, H. F, (Hereford)||Smithers, Waldron|
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
I beg to move, in page 1, line 10, after the word "production," to insert the word "and."
The second Amendment in my name is, in page 1, line 10, to leave out the words "and sale." The Clause will then read:There shall be a scheme … regulating the production and supply of coal by owners of coalmines situated in Great Britain.The principal object of the Amendment is to draw attention to the fact that in this Bill there is practically no reference to the word "sale" except in connection with the phrase which occurs at various intervals for regulating and facilitating the production for sale. Apart from the three cases to which I shall draw the attention of the Committee, there is no specific reference to what I hope to show should really be the most important part of the Bill. If Members of the Committee will look at Clause 2, Sub-section (3, a), they will see that there is a reference there to the collection from the executive boards for the several districts of levies for the purpose of facilitating 2522 the sale of any class of coal. There is another instance in Clause 3, Subsection (2, f). There is a reference there to the word "sale" in connection withthe determination … of the price below which every class of coal produced … may not be sold or supplied, and for securing that the actual consideration obtained by the sale or supply of the several classes of coal shall not be less in valueand so on. There is a third instance in the paragraph dealing with the collection of levies by the executive board in order to facilitate sale. In no case is there any provision in this Bill for the setting up of anything in the nature of a sales organisation. That is the principal point of these Amendments. The words "and sale" should really have no place in the Bill. They are, I will not say misleading, but redundant or unnecessary. The Bill is not dealing specifically with the sale, but with the regulation of production and supply of coal. It is unnecessary to remind the Committee that running right through the Report of the Royal Commission of 1925, and again in the Report of the Lewis Committee is a strong insistence upon the value of sales organisations in any reorganisation of the coal industry. I want to call the attention 2523 of the Committee to a quotation from the Report of the Lewis Committee. In page 14, it says:These economies of marketing would only be fully attainable by a system of pooled sales. The economies possible under a price output control reorganisation, leaving each colliery to continue its own sales, would necessarily be narrower.Nothing can be clearer than that, and it is difficult to understand how these words "and sale" can really remain in the Bill when it obviously does not take account of the recommendations of the Lewis Committee. In other words, it leaves the economies narrower, because under this Bill the economies are confined to a price, output, control, organisation and nothing is done to organise sales in the manner in which they should be organised. We have heard a good deal about Germany, and I understand that to a very large extent we are asked to look to Germany and the Ruhr as a pattern and example of how these Measures should be carried out. The President of the Board of Trade in his magnificent speech which we heard a short time ago stated that the gist of any proposals of this kind in Germany was the quota. Surely the gist of the German proposal is the fact that they have a very fine selling organisation. I do not think that they rely so entirely upon the output, and price regulation, or the quota from the standard tonnage regulation, as on the magnificent central sales organisation which they have built up. As the Secretary for Mines knows, all the mines sell through the ecentral organisation. A syndicate sells direct to a certain number of large customers. The whole thing is carefully regulated and organised, and in my opinion, and in the opinion of many who are far more qualified to express an opinion than I, that is the secret of the success of the German organisation and not the bare price output regulations to which we are confined in this Bill. Without a properly equipped central organisation, I see no way in which we can deal with the middle-man under this Bill. The Bill makes no attempt to deal with him. A phrase was used by the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) on the Second Reading of the Bill, in which he said that the new scheme would produce what the Five Counties scheme has so far failed to produce, namely, 2524 scientific selling agencies. I have gone through the Bill very carefully and I cannot find where there is any creation of what the hon. Member calls "scientific selling agencies" in this Bill. I may be wrong, and perhaps the hon. Member will explain the point later. In the absence of the creation of any such selling agencies I submit that the words "and sale" should be omitted.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. LAMBERT WARD
The hon. Member who has moved the Amendment has given us no indication of what will be the effect of his Amendment. He rather suggested that he was moving the Amendment on account of certain omissions in other parts of the Bill. It seems to me that to move an Amendment merely to point a moral will, in the long run, if carried out, produce unsatisfactory legislation. One ought to consider, first of all, what will be the effect of striking out the words "and sale." It will, apparently, deprive the central scheme of any opportunity of regulating the sale of coal. I have not the least idea how, if they obtain powers, they will use the powers to regulate the sale of coal. Will they use them to do away with what I consider the most iniquitous system of selling coal cheaply to industrial competitors abroad? It is common knowledge that English coal can be bought on the Continent of Europe at an infinitely lower price than it can be bought in this country. It may be necessary for the welfare of the coal industry to do so, but it is doing great harm to other industries in this country. To-day, English coal can be bought in Belgium and Northern France for nearly £1 per ton less than it can be bought by the private consumer in this country.
Situated not far from the Belgian coast lies the industrial town of Liege, one of our most formidable competitors in the industrial markets. One of the most urgent questions discussed in the City Council of the great City which I have the honour to represent is whether they shall buy English tram rails from Sheffield or whether they shall buy them from Belgium, at £2 a ton less. That cheaper price is entirely due to the fact that the sale of coal is not regulated in any way. I should like to have the opinion of the Secretary for Mines whether under this Clause, without the Amendment, the sale of coal will be 2525 regulated to secure an adequate and cheap supply of coal in Sheffield, at any rate at a reasonable price, rather than sending the coal abroad, where it may compete with the industries of this country. If that would be the effect of the Amendment, I would rather see the Clause as it stands in the Bill, because the Clause does give the power of regulating the sale of coal, although I do not know how that power will be used, whether it will be used to maintain cheap coal in this country or to give cheap coal to our industrial competitors abroad. Although it may be to the advantage of the coal industry to sell coal cheap abroad, it is not to the advantage of other industries in this country and it plays into the hands of our foreign competitors.
§ Captain CAZALET
The remarks of the last speaker remind me that, two years ago, when I was in Finland, I had an experience of something rather apposite to this Amendment. In a small port on the South of Finland, where I happened to be engaged in doing certain business, we had an offer of coal from Scotland landed at that port at 23s. 6d. a ton, or between 23s. and 25s., while that same coal was being sold in Edinburgh for 45s. I was very astonished, and I tried to examine the cause on my return home. That bears out what my hon. and gallant Friend has just said, and I hope that whoever replies to the Government will explain to us in what manner the sale of coal under Part I of the Bill will be operated. There has always been one aspect of the coal trade which has been simple, clear and obvious, and in regard to which some definite action should be taken. In the past few years we have lost a large portion of the coal trade which we used to do with the Scandinavian countries, to the Polish mines in Silesia. As I understand it, the Polish coalowners are to-day selling their coal in the Scandinavian countries and also in Denmark and Holland at what is really a loss, and they are recuperating themselves by charging higher rates for the coal sold in Poland.
I want to know whether under this Bill, with or without the Amendment, some organisation in this country will have power to make terms on behalf of all the coal organisations in this country. When I was abroad, I found that they 2526 have an organisation there, and one or two individuals can speak for the whole trade. They said to me: "If only you in England had one organisation or one representative with whom we could do business, we would be prepared to come to terms with him or with them, as the case might be, and charge not an exorbitant or an unfair price, but an economic price to those countries in Scandinavia and Northern Europe who are buying your coal and our coal at an uneconomic price." We have heard that any solution of the coal problem here must mean an increase in the price of coal to certain sections of the community in this country. If the price of coal is to be raised as the result of the last Division, as it may very well be, and it will have to be raised against the mass of the people and against the industries of this country, then I claim that by some organisation we should come to terms with our chief foreign competitors in Polish Silesia and Germany, so that the price of coal can be raised in the neutral markets of Northern Europe who have no coal production of their own and who are to-day buying our coal at the expense of the miners of this country and at the expense of the industries of this country, because they are using that coal to manufacture goods which directly compete with the goods produced in this country.
This is an old story and it is one which is perfectly simple to understand. I cannot understand why some form of organisation has not already been created to deal with this problem. This is a suitable Amendment upon which we might extract some information as to the exact nature of the proposals of the Government in regard to the future development of the sale of coal abroad and, particularly, as to whether there will be one central organisation whose representative will be able to confer with our competitors on the Continent and thereby get a fair price for our coal. We do not want to put up the price unfairly on the Continent. We do not want to put up the price of coal to £4 per ton, the price at which we sold coal to the Italians after the War, but it is possible to get a better price in the markets of Northern Europe which would be absolutely fair to the people who buy the coal and fair also to the mining industry of this country.
§ Mr. SMITHERS
The Committee has just listened to an interesting Debate on the question of the regulation of the production of coal in this country. We are now considering the regulation of the sale of coal, and the first Sub-section of this Clause provides for a scheme to be run by a central council with the object of regulating the production supply and sale of coal. The central council will have enormous powers over what is the basic industry in this country. I want to raise my voice against the regulation of the sale of coal. The obvious intention of the Bill is that by such regulation the price at the pithead will be raised, and this will do harm not only to the mining industry as a whole but indirectly to all other industries in the country. In moving the Second Heading of this Bill, the right hon. Gentleman said:In other words, we are not dealing with an industry in which you have the ordinary economic process of increased output, due to increased efficiency, leading through a lowering of price to an increase in the demand and the better expansion of the market.Later on, the right hon. Gentleman said:That is a fundamental consideration in dealing with this question.I have an enormous respect for the President of the Board of Trade and when he says that it is a fundamental consideration I must contend strongly that it is a fundamental fallacy of this Bill. Later in his speech he said:We are not dealing with an industry which responds to the ordinary economic tests. The demand is not elastic."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th December, 1929; col. 1246, Vol. 233.]I have tried to follow the long Debates on this Bill to find anything which will make the conditions of the coal industry more elastic, but instead of that I find that the tendency of the Bill is rather in the opposite sense. It adds to the difficulties of the coal industry, and it must tend to increase the price if regulation of the sale of coal is carried as part of the Bill. I do not want to give quotations but I think the opinion of some responsible bodies should be heard by the Committee. Let me quote from the resolutions of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, who are a responsible body and who have given a considered opinion on this matter. They say: 2528The effect of the Coal Mines Bill will be to increase costs; the statutory machinery is devised to increase the average price.Later in their report they say:The compulsory shortening of the half-hour of the maximum working day—
This has nothing whatever to do with the Amendment before the Committee, which deals with sales only. We cannot discuss the whole question again.
§ Mr. SMITHERS
I am trying to point out that the regulation of sales will increase the price of the Bill.
§ Mr. SMITHERS
That is the object of the Bill. The President of the Board of Trade admitted that the whole object of the Bill is to increase the price.
The question before the Committee is the regulation of the sale of coal. The hon. Member must keep to that. We have had a very wide discussion on the previous Amendment but we must keep to the Amendment which is now before the House.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
Is not the only regulation in the sale of coal the fixing of the minimum price: which is the question my hon. Friend is trying to make out.
I am not ruling on that point. The hon. Member is discussing the general principles of the Bill, and on this Amendment he must confine himself to the regulation of the sale of coal.
§ Mr. SMITHERS
I contend that the regulation of sale must affect the price of coal to the consumer, and it is the avowed intention of the Government to increase the pithead price of coal—
§ Mr. SMITHERS
The President of the Board of Trade said quite frankly that the pithead price of coal must be increased if the object of the Bill is to be attained, and I am arguing that to increase the price of coal will do harm to the industry and will not carry out the intention of the promoters of the Bill. 2529 The right hon. Gentleman in his Second Reading speech also referred to the general conditions of the industry in Europe as being static. The only reason they are static is because the price at which coal is produced is too high. He also remarked that the price of coal had been affected by the increased consumption of oil—
The question before the Committee is whether or not the sale of coal shall be regulated. The hon. Member must keep to that. He cannot go beyond it.
§ Mr. SMITHERS
I contend that if the sale of coal is to be regulated it must affect the price. I want to speak on the question of price. If I am not allowed to do so my argument is finished. I was referring to the price of coal being affected by the competition of oil.
The hon. Member cannot introduce extraneous matter into the Debate. The point before the Committee is a very simple one, namely, whether or not there shall be regulation of sale. The hon. Member is entitled to argue that the regulation of the sale may, possibly, increase the price of coal, but he is not entitled to go into a general discussion introducing such matters as the price of oil and other commodities.
§ Mr. SMITHERS
I would put a fresh point before the Committee. The coal industry and the other basic industries are inter-dependent, and the prime need of the country to-day is cheap coal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) said all this talk about dear coal meant cheap labour, but the experience of other industries, such as the artificial silk industry and the motor car industry in America, has been that a reduction in the price of an article leads to an increase in the demand and the industry is thus enabled to pay more wages.
§ Mr. SMITHERS
If that be a principle and if it has succeeded in its application to those industries, I contend that it can be applied successfully to the coal industry. If we cannot produce coal at a price at which it will be bought by people 2530 abroad and in this country, then we shall not even have the wages which the industry can pay at present—there will be nothing left with which to pay wages at all. I hope that the regulation of sale will not be decided upon, because I think it would be against the best interests of the industry.
§ Commodore DOUGLAS KING
There sems to be still some doubt as to what this Amendment really means. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am surprised at hon. Members opposite cheering the statement that there is any doubt, because the matter seemed so clear on the face of the Bill. The actual words relating to the purposes of the scheme are "regulating the sale of coal by owners. That provision raises two points. The first point is with regard to the pooling of sales and the only misapprehension likely to arise would be that anyone reading these words would at once think that the owners were to be put in the position of selling coal in a combine form as recommended in the Lewis Committee's Report. When I first read the Clause I thought we were going to have some combine system of pooled sales such as was advocated by the Lewis Committee. They said that this method would effect the greatest economy that could possibly be obtained. We thought so and we were very disappointed to find that, so far from there being any organisation to pool sales, it was really merely a system of price-fixing which was set up in this Bill. There is no other regulation of sale in the Bill except in the Clauses which deal with the fixing of prices and from that point of view, I submit that we must refer to the question of prices if we are to argue this Amendment at all. I refer to Sub-section (2) of Clause 3 which provides as follows:Every district scheme shall further provide for the following matters ….(f) for the determination, at such times and for such periods as may be decided in accordance with the provisions of the scheme, of the price below which every class of coal produced in the district may not be sold or supplied, and for securing that the actual consideration obtained by the sale or supply of the several classes of coal shall not be less in value than the price so determined.
The question of price would be quite in order on other Clauses of the Bill, but at present 2531 we are dealing solely with the question of the regulation of sale. If the Committee wish to discuss the question of price, it can be done on Amendments to Clauses 3 and 4.
§ Commodore KING
I only wish to emphasise the submission which I have just made, that, as far as this Bill is concerned, the regulation of sale is to be dealt with in the manner of price-fixing, and if we are debarred from dealing with the question of price—
I ruled in the case of the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Smithers) that it was quite in order to argue that the regulation of sale might increase the price of coal, but that a detailed discussion of prices, introducing such matters as the price of oil and other questions of that kind, could not be allowed on this Amendment.
§ Commodore KING
I was not proposing to go into a general discussion, but I desired to refer to paragraph (f) in Sub-section (2) of Clause 3, which is the main part of the Bill dealing with the regulation of sale. It is not a question really of regulating the sale of coal, but is merely a question of price-fixing. That is all the Government are attempting under this scheme. They say that they are fixing a minimum price for each class of coal. That is the way in which they intend to regulate the sale. I contend that that is going to hit industry very hard indeed. I have said already that, so far from facilitating production, the Bill actually restricts it, and I further object to the description of the Bill as one to regulate the sale of coal when the whole idea is merely to fix a minimum price. If you fix a minimum price it is bound to hit the whole production and supply of coal. If you fix a minimum, the minimum is bound to be sufficiently high to cover the least economic pit. They have to take the circumstances of every pit into consideration, and it is obvious that, in doing so, they would have to set a price which might be only barely sufficient for the smaller and less economic pits, but more than sufficient for the better pits that have perhaps been carrying on at a profit for some time.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the intention of organised regulation for Bale of coal may conceivably be used for a totally different purpose from that about which the right hon. Gentleman is arguing? Price is not so much a question under this particular part of the Bill as it will be under Clause 3. To regulate the sale of coal may conceivably reduce the number of intermediaries between producer and the ultimate consumer, and to that extent may very well reduce the price of coal. Take a very important part of Yorkshire where, before the War, we had 20 exporters. To-day we export about one-quarter of the coal that we did previously, but we have four times as many exporters.
May I again point out that I think we must keep this Debate to the strict Letter as to whether or not there shall be regulation of sale.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Commodore KING
I will try to keep within your Ruling. I was going to put another submission to you if you had allowed me, namely, that I was quite sure that you would not allow discussion on Clause 3, Sub-section (2, f) unless the words "and sale" were there. I should have said from that argument alone that it would show how relevant those words were to the price fixing under that paragraph (f), because you will agree that, if we deleted the words "and sale," that paragraph would not be covered by the Title of the Bill, and you would have ruled it out of order. I am obliged to you, and I will certainly try to keep as near to the point as possible. The last Amendment was to remove the word "production," because we objected to the restriction being put on the industry by the regulation of production. I would like to argue this on the same lines, and contend that when sales are regulated by the Government the free sale of coal is also interfered with. At the present time, anybody can sell coal quite freely—except under a voluntary arrangement—for any purpose without interference by the law; so long as they sell it honestly, and do not come against the criminal law, there is nothing to prevent owners of collieries from selling coal as and how they please. Here there is to be compulsion whether the owners like it or not. We 2533 know that in many cases where districts have quota schemes, there have been dissensions. There have never been, as the President of the Board of Trade said in his speech on the other Amendment, complete agreements, and the failure of the voluntary schemes has been due to the fact that there has always been a minority which has stood out, and by their opposition prevented the success of the scheme. I saw something of these schemes when I was at the Ministry of Mines, but in the Department we saw really more of the regulation of production than of the regulation of sale. The South Wales scheme was about the only scheme that proceeded on the regulation of sale, rather than on the regulation of production. The Five Counties scheme, and the Scottish scheme relied mostly on the regulation of production. The South Wales scheme always proceeded on the idea that they did not control production or output. Their idea was that they could do the whole thing by the regulation of price. I was astounded to see the wonderful work which their committee did in attempting to regulate sale. They made out quite a large book showing the regulation of sale of every kind and size of coal, and it was a revelation to me to realise how one district had such an enormous number of different classes of coal, each of which had to be regulated with a price.
I did not have a great experience of that scheme, because, although it nominally came into existence, it did not work with any success for any length of time. They had what is called a gentleman's agreement for a certain length of time, whereby somewhere between 80 per cent. and 90 per cent. of the whole of the coal output of South Wales was regulated by sale, and there were 10 per cent. or 15 per cent. dissentients who finally, I suppose, made the scheme impossible. That has been the only scheme so far for the regulation of sale, and I contend that on this question we have to look to a certain extent to experience.
The Five Counties scheme has claimed to have been successful in various ways, but the South Wales scheme never had a full trial. I do not know the details of the South Wales scheme which the President of the Board of Trade was eulogising this afternoon. He said that he considered it to be the finest scheme 2534 of the whole lot, but the South Wales scheme, as previously existing, was absolutely for the regulation of sale. I submit that we want a good deal more knowledge about the matter, for it has been by no means an unqualified success in the only place in which it has been tried.
The Chair will not allow me to refer to prices, but I feel that the regulation of sale is going to hit not only the industry but all the consumers of the country. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite may not believe it, but we have been perfectly frank with each other: we wholly disagree with each other on every point in this Bill, because it is a compulsory scheme. I remember when I was occupying the position of Secretary for Mines how hon. Members opposite used to question me regarding how these different voluntary schemes were going on. [Interruption.] Oh, yes they did. One after the other they would get and put questions as to what was happening in South Wales, in Yorkshire and elsewhere. In the case of every pit that was closed, in the case of every man who was thrown out of work, I was told, "That is the result of the schemes."
§ Commodore KING
I dare say it is inconvenient to some hon. Members opposite to have the past raked up. As the House rose somewhat early last night, I spent some of my time in going through old Press cuttings; but I will not harrow hon. Members by recalling the questions they put to me during 1928 and 1929 with regard to the schemes for regulating sales as well as regulating production.
§ Commodore KING
But they all failed in their point, because I always had to tell hon. Members that the schemes had not really had a fair trial, and, therefore, I was not in a position to express an opinion. I always said then that the voluntary schemes ought to be given a fair trial, and I was entirely in favour of them; but there is all the difference when it comes to regulating sales compulsorily. You are forcing on people something they do not wish for, something they do not think is going to be 2535 good for the industry. They must be given credit for having some knowledge of how to deal with the business in which they have been engaged for so long. [Interruption.] I know there are many things in that Measure that the hon. Member did not like, but I have not noticed that the Bill for its repeal has been put down. [Interruption.] I have registered my complaint with regard to the sale of coal, and if I have not made all the points I was going to make it is because I did not know the Chair was going to limit us in this way; but I think in what I have said I have supported the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend.
§ The SECRETARY for MINES (Mr. Ben Turner)
The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment has been answered so completely by another hon. Member that I have been left practically nothing to say in reply. The previous discussion on the word "production" showed that its retention was necessary for the purpose of the Bill; and if these other words are taken out it is also true that one part of the purpose of the Bill will be removed. I think the very conclusive success which we have just achieved in the Division Lobby—[Interruption]—an absolutely fine success in face of the combination of circumstances and of persons from all parts of the world who were brought in this afternoon—justifies me in the observation which I am about to make. I do not want to waste the time of the Committee, and all I have to say is that we resist the Amendment because it would defeat the purpose of the Bill.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
I have seldom heard a speech which was less to the point than that of the Secretary for Mines. When a serious Amendment has been moved the courtesy of a little further consideration might be extended to it. It is perfectly true that a great deal of the discussion which might arise over the omission of the words "and sale" had taken place before the Division, but it is very difficult to put the restriction of output and the restriction of sale into water-tight compartments because as my hon. and gallant Friend on the Front Bench said just now, although the Bill purports to regulate and facilitate the production, supply and sale of coal in reality it does 2536 nothing of the sort. The Bill is simply a restricting Measure, and a restriction on sale immediately raises the question of the minimum price. The President of the Board of Trade dealt too little with the question of price in his speech. He made a most telling speech, with a considerable amount of pathos, and much appeal to our feelings, and he ended up on a very sombre note, saying the world price of coal to-day was tending to fall, and inevitably would fall, and that therefore this Bill became more necessary than ever. That seemed to me a most extraordinary argument to come from the right ion. Gentleman. If only he had mentioned that during the Election, when he and his supporters were promising a reduction of hours he would have been to the point; but to first give a reduction of hours and then to tell us that unless he has this price-raising Clause the coal industry will end in disaster, is leaving his tale a little too late.
After the disastrous Division through which we have just passed, in which hon. Members on the Treasury Bench have sold their souls to keep the support of the mining Members, and when we are inevitably faced with an increase in the cost of coal, it behoves us to consider exactly what provisions the Government really are making for regulating and facilitating the sale of coal. I should have thought the great object of the Government would have been to bridge the gap between the producer and the consumer, trying to bring the prices more nearly together, but in this Bill there is no mention of any attempt to provide better selling organisations or the other improvements which have been suggested from time to time for the better organisation of the industry. All that is proposed is a crude price-fixing "ring," which is given statutory power to exploit the whole community in the interests of the mining fraternity. That is what the Government understand by facilitating the sale of coal. If I had been asked what would most facilitate the sale of coal, I should have said, "The Government ought to turn their attention to some method of improving the selling organisation such as is mentioned in the Lewis Report, where they say:We think it desirable that price output organisations, in their own interests as well as in the interests of the consurner, 2537 should have, as selling pools have intrinsically, a constructive side to their activities."—This is what I wish to bring to the attention of the Minister:as well as a merely defensive or protective policy. Mere price output regulation tends to become argumentative business, and the members of a district marketing organisation are more likely to work and hold together effectively if they make common cause as well in more inspiring activities directed to achieving greater efficiency in transport and distribution.I should have thought that that was the obvious direction in which the President of the Board of Trade would have moved. I should have thought that he would have paid more attention to the distributive side than to crude price-fixing. Suggestions have been made for improvement in that direction. The pooling of railway wagons, for instance.
I have already ruled that, in so far as discussion affects the regulation of the sale of coal, it is in order. I would remind hon. Members that on the last Amendment I allowed a great deal of latitude, and that I would not have done so had I thought that we were to have a repetition of the same discussion on this Clause. The question of price will come up on Amendments that are to be called later.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
I have no wish to transgress your Ruling. I was merely trying to show that the Government had paid no attention to the regulation of the sale of coal at all and that all that it has done is to fix the price. Therefore, I submit that I am in order in demonstrating the directions in which I should have interpreted the words "regulating and facilitating the sale of coal." The two questions do impinge one on the other, and it is very difficult to discuss the narrow question of sale without touching lightly upon some of the other issues which have been discussed. In suggesting that the Government could have done something in this Bill to facilitate the pooling of wagons and so on, I was only putting forward a suggestion by which the Government could have made the words "regulating the sale" have some meaning.
The question before the Committee is not what the Government might have done, but the Government's definite proposal to regulate the sale of coal. We must confine ourselves to that subject. On the first Amendment I did allow a very broad and general discussion, and I concluded that that discussion would cover many of the points that are now being raised on this Amendment.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
That leaves me in a difficulty, because the Government have done nothing to restrict the sale of coal.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
The Bill is a Bill "to provide for regulating and facilitating the production, supply and sale of coal." It is true that this Clause only mentions regulating the production and sale of coal. That is why I have not discussed the question of "facilitating." The only regulation of the sale of coal that I can see in the Bill is the fixing of a minimum price. I do not wish to discuss the whole question of the desirability of cheap coal, but certainly if you are to regulate the sale by fixing price, you are not tending to facilitate the sale of coal, but you are tending to restrict the sale and to allow the mining fraternity to exploit the consumer. That seems to me to be a most remarkable thing for hon. Members opposite to do, for the very thing that industry wants most now is cheap coal and no increase in the price of a raw material which enters into production at every stage. I think the whole country will deplore the passage of a Clause such as this. Already the public utility undertakings up and down the country are passing resolutions deploring the passage of this portion of the Bill. I have a letter here from the Conjoint Conference of Public Utility Associations, consisting of associations of gas, water, electricity and tramway interests. It "desires to record its strong opinion that the passage of the Coal Mines Bill will result in an undue and unfair increase in the price of coal to public utility undertakings."
We are not discussing the price of coal at all. The question before the Committee is the regulation of the sale of coal. There are at least half a dozen Amendments dealing with the price of coal, and they will come up later. In view of the wide discussion on the previous Amendment, I appeal to hon. Members to keep within reasonable limits.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
I am sorry if I am trespassing again. It is rather difficult, in discussing this very vital Amendment, to keep strictly to the terms of your ruling. I do not know whether I should be in order in referring to the effect which this regulation of the sale of coal will have upon the export trade. We have an export trade which was beginning to develop of its own accord and which, if it were not for the increased cost due to the reduction of hours, would have gone on expanding. In this Clause there is an interference with that natural growth. This increase of price for inland coal is going vitally to affect the growth of the export trade unless that trade is subsidised at the expense of the home consumer. Hon. Members opposite are always talking about the dangers of the export of capital for the setting up in other countries of industries in competition with our own.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
The hon. Member says, "Not at all," but certainly I have heard that argument used time and again, particularly by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), who is one of the leaders of the party opposite. He has always maintained that it was fatal to this country to permit the export of capital to India, because it enabled people to set up factories which competed with this country.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
The hon. Member opposite led me astray. The Government have been driven into this Bill by their pledges at the Election, and I can only express my sympathy with the President of the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. KELLY
I have listened throughout the whole of this discussion for a reason which would justify this Amendment. It is clear what is the opinion of 2540 those who voted from the fact that not one of them is present in the Committee. If the hon. Member had been a few minutes later he would probably have left the Committee.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
My name is down to support the Amendment, and I regret that I was not called earlier.
§ Mr. KELLY
I regret it, too, because it would have been an advantage to have heard the hon. Member's statement before. There is a point in favour of the deletion of these two words, but none of the hon. Members opposite has put it, and I am not going to make a present of it to them. Hon. Members opposite have referred to a number of points which have nothing to do with this Amendment, and I am amazed at the waste of time there has been over it. I hope that the Front Bench will resist this foolish Amendment, which has not yet had a single argument advanced in favour of it.
§ Major GEORGE DAVIES
The hon. Member says he has heard no reason advanced for this Amendment. I am willing to give him one, and I will tell him that the reason why the benches are not full, as they were a short time ago, is that man cannot live by bread alone and, as there is a rule against the introduction of newspapers and foodstuffs, it is necessary for some of us to refresh ourselves after a late Division. I am not going to transgress the ruling of the Chair, as we have been given very great latitude, but I want to confine myself to the point at issue, which is the regulation of sale. I have had experience in the past of efforts to regulate the sale of sugar. Like the coal industry to-day, there has been in the past an over-production of many of the fundamental articles of the life of a nation. I will not dwell on the case of rubber, but the sugar situation was entirely on all fours with this situation, as it was a question of the regulation of sale. Facing a situation very similar in kind and not dissimilar in degree to the problem now before us, those connected with that particular industry in certain countries thought it an advantage to control and regulate the sale. As soon as you use the word "regulation" in this connection it is idle to suggest that it does not mean restriction. Obviously, that is the point—to restrict—and, while 2541 it is true the word "restrict" is not in this particular Clause, and cannot be argued in connection with this Amendment, yet behind the word "regulate" is the word "restrict," in other words, controlling what has been uncontrolled, production thrown on markets not able to receive it.
The reason to which the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) alluded in a cryptic fashion and refused to divulge is that, in the case of any article of universal consumption, and in many countries of universal production such as coal, sugar or rubber, if one country proceeds to regulate and restrict its sale, to that extent it is an encouragement to other parts of the world to regulate their sale, not on a restrictive but on a developing basis. So far from achieving your object of regulating your coal sales in proportion to the absorptive capacity of the world, you are merely regulating one particular part and encouraging and stimulating what is already over-production in other parts. Now that by an unfortunate decision we have decided to enter on this dangerous task of interference by the State with the control and regulation of an important industry like this, it is necessary for us to realise what the repercussions are going to be in other parts of the world. I am sure in saying this I am interpreting the speech which the hon. Member opposite would have delivered, only his innate modesty prevented him. If you seek to enforce these regulations, which are admittedly uneconomic and artificial, and which constitute a control and interference with the whole operations of an industry, you stimulate the production of those engaged in the same industry abroad, and you multiply your difficulties in competition with them. That is why I wish to register my vote in support of this Amendment, because we are making a bad Bill worse by not leaving out these words.
Sir N. STEWART SANDEMAN
This first Clause reminds me of the first chapter of Genesis. There is a scheme which is going to regulate production, but it is not a universal scheme. It is going to hamper sales, and if there is one thing about which I do know it is salesmanship. In sales, you want to be hampered very little, and, as far as I can see, there is going to be a hampering 2542 of sales. Take the man who goes out to sell goods; he has got to know his customers very well, indeed. He knows one man will give him the preference at the same price. This is going to be a question of the same price all round. He knows the next man will, if he gets a chance, put in a claim against him. What provision is there against people making a claim against this minimum price? I do not see any at all. The question of salesmanship is just as important as production. Look at the chances of money there are in your selling organisation if you use your brains. I have sold far more stuff than many of my hon. Friends opposite, and I have known how to get round the customers better than they can, except perhaps at the polls.
Sir N. STEWART SANDEMAN
You tell the truth, but you are not believed very often. You get all sorts of tricks in selling. I was told that at our works we had to be very careful about the coal coming in. We had to weigh it, and perhaps to try it. What about the person organising these sales who turns a good hose on the top of the lorry delivering coal? How are you going to regulate that sort of thing? A decent selling organisation must be run on a personal basis, and not on the block scheme laid down here. There is a scheme to organise sales. It is not the scheme however, but the man behind it that matters. These words should be taken out, because otherwise I do not think you will be getting the best price for your coal, and the miners want the best price for the coal, so that they can get something extra for themselves. The miners do not want a minimum wage. If you want sales properly organised it is not necessary to provide for that in a Bill like this, but it ought to be left to private enterprise. If you could get the coal-owners to sell the coal theselves and cut out the middleman that would be the best way, but that is not provided for in this Bill. For these reasons I think it would be sound policy to leave out the word "for sale."
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I should like to put one or two questions to the Secretary for Mines. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) asked if we 2543 could give a good reason for striking out these words. I would like to have a good reason stated why they have been put in. Surely these words have been placed in the Bill for some reason. I was under the impression that by moving to strike out the words "and sale" we should raise the question of price control. I gather the proper place for us to raise the question of price control would be under Clause 3, paragraph (f), where this question of price is raised in explicit terms and which deals with the power of district boards to determine prices. I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we were told that that is the Clause where this important matter ought to be discussed.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I thought that would be so. If price is not included in the term of sale, I do not know what the word "sale" is put in for at all. I thought these words were inserted in order to give the district board power to regulate prices, but evidently the subject of prices is dealt with in another part of the Bill. If the Board of Trade are taking power in these words to control sale as well as production, then we are entitled to ask what use they are going to make of those powers. If it is not the intention by using those words to control prices, then we ought to be told what is the object of putting them in. There is the power to make levies on certain classes of coal, and that is control of sale. The power to make levies on domestic coal and to subsidise export coal will arise under the general words "and sale" and if we strike out those words we shall still leave the power to regulate prices. I ask the Secretary for Mines, apart from the power to make a levy for a subsidy on export coal, what are the powers which arise from those initial words? Are there any other powers which will flow from the initial right to control sale, and, if so, what are they? I want to know exactly what it is that we are asked to give the Secretary of Mines power to do in this matter?
§ Mr. ERNEST BROWN
If the interpretation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hendon (Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister) is right, then this is a very serious 2544 matter. I will not deal at this stage with the difference between export for ordinary purposes and for bunkers, but hon. Members will realise that this is a very important question in the Leith district. If these words can be used to lower the price of export coal so that our bunkering coal may be diverted from our own ports, then it is a very serious matter. I think we are entitled to know whether the interpretation placed upon these words by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hendon is correct or not, because in that case they might have a very drastic effect.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
My constituency includes the port of Immingham, which is one of the most important export ports on the East Coast, and any restriction on the sale of coal will have a very deleterious effect, because it is quite possible that by the control of the sale—
I have ruled very clearly that the question now before the Committee is whether or not there shall be power under the Bill to regulate the sale of coal. The question of prices and details arises on subsequent Clauses, and, while it is quite proper to argue now that the regulation of the sale of coal would eventually increase prices, I cannot permit a general detailed discussion of such illustrations as ore now being given.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
I was not going to deal with prices at all. Prices, if I may say so, have nothing to do with this argument, but I do say that any control of sale will certainly tend to control the direction in which the coal supply may be diverted, and I think that that will be particularly bad for the port of Immingham, which has been going through very bad times, and is now gradually recovering, and, therefore, I do not want to see any interference with sales at the present moment. During the bad times of 1926, the exports passing through Immingham amounted to £226,000, increasing in the following year to £461,000, to £851,000 in 1928, and to £1,741,000 in 1929. That is a very conclusive argument for not desiring this interference, because that is not the only port where things are improving.
If we take the position as regards the foreign countries where the coal arrives, we see that France, in 1929, took in 2545 13,000,000 tons, as compared with 9,000,000 tons in the previous year. That is about the most remarkable year that France has had since the War. In the case of Italy also there has been an increase, the exports to that country being 7,000,000 tons, as compared with 6,500,000 in 1928. The exports to Germany were 5,500,000 tons, as compared with just over 5,250,000 tons. Even in the case of Russia the exports have increased to 33,000 tons as compared with 24,000 tons. I do not think it can be said that the increase is entirely due to frost troubles; it is due to economic reasons. Why should we interfere with the economic progress of increasing exports to those countries? Let me give some more figures. Belgium is a case in point. The exports to Belgium were 4,139,000 tons, as compared with 2,259,000 tons in 1928. I cannot find any previous year in which the exports to Belgium have been so good. In the case of the Netherlands the exports were 3,123,000 tons, as compared with 2,430,000 tons in 1928. There again I cannot find any previous year in which the exports to that country have been so good. These are the countries closest to the East Coast, where my constituency is, and for that reason I regard this interference with sale with very grave suspicion, and I hope very much that the Government will accept the Amendment.
There is another side of the question which also affects my constituency, and that is the side of the country districts. Who is going to suffer if there is going to be a restriction on sale? It is not going to be the big towns near the pits, but the country districts, and perhaps the small towns in the country districts, which are not so easily get-at-able. Under this organisation, people are not going to sell where they cannot make the biggest profits, whether there is control by the Government or not, and therefore any restrictions on sale will hit the country people. They will hit the agricultural labourer and his wife, and will also hit the farmer, because he will not be able to get coal when he wants it for threshing. That is going to be one of the effects of sale restriction under this Bill, and I could quote a great many cases in which it is going to hit the country districts. Hon. Gentlemen opposite probably do not care, but we feel very 2546 strongly on this point. I felt it to be my duty, during the time of the last Government, to protest very much against the tax on petroleum, because it would raise the price in the country districts. This Bill, unless this Amendment be accepted, will certainly raise the price of coal to agricultural labourers and their families, and for that reason I hope very much that the Government will accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. TURNER
I think I mentioned before that the Government cannot accept this Amendment. It would cut into the scheme itself, which is a schemeregulating the production, supply and sale of coal.I think that the word" themselves are a sufficient explanation, especially as the question of prices will come up for discussion on a later Clause.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I do not want to press the hon. Gentleman unduly, but, honestly, I do not see what is the object of these words. I quite see that he wishes to reserve, and naturally I also reserve, all discussion on the question of prices, because that question does not come in under these words, but I am bound to say that I do not see what else comes in under these words "and sale" except the power which there is to enforce levies upon domestic coal for the purposes of assisting the export trade or the sale of other classes of coal. That, I think, is the only power which is given by these words, and it is carried out in detail later in the Bill. Therefore, I think that the Committee plainly ought to vote against the inclusion of these words.
§ Mr. TURNER
I cannot say anything further, except that the matter seems to me to be quite plain. It is a schemeregulating the production, supply and sale of coal.I am mystified by the turn of mind which the right hon. Gentleman has displayed. The matter seems to me to be so obvious.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I am afraid that the intervention of the Secretary for Mines has not really elucidated the position at all. If the matter were entirely obvious, the question would not be raised by a number of hon. Members, and it is no answer merely to keep on reading the words of the Bill, which are before us. 2547 The point is one of very real substance. A number of hon. Members, rightly or wrongly, do not think that there ought to be power to regulate prices, and also do not think that there should be a power to make levies upon mineowners in order to give subsidies to export coal or to other classes of coal. That view may be right or it may be wrong; I do not propose to argue it now, because obviously it would not be in order; but the point which does arise, and which I think is in order, is this: If the Committee allow these words to remain in the Bill, will they be held to have admitted this principle when we come to an Amendment which raises the substantial point as to whether there ought or ought not to be power to regulate prices and impose levies for these purposes? If these words are merely formal, and do not prejudge that discussion, then I imagine that the Committee would allow them to go through, but if, at a later stage, it is going to be ruled that we have already decided that there shall be power to regulate sale, and that therefore the later provisions are consequential and must be passed, it would place the Committee in a position in which they would not desire to find themselves.
§ Mr. TURNER rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but the CHAIRMAN withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Mr. HASLAM
I feel the greatest disappointment that the Government has not given us further elucidation of the very important issue which this Amendment raises. We have had it from you, Sir, that the principle underlying the Amendment is whether the Government is to regulate the sale of coal. That, obviously, is a very important issue which touches every interest, every business, and every householder in the country, and it is an immense departure from all the ideas on which the commerce of the country has hitherto been conducted. We had experience of regulations for the sale of commodities during the War, and the experience has not been such as to make anyone who suffered from it desire that the Government should intervene to regulate the sale of any commodity, least of all an important commodity such as coal. Therefore, I 2548 press the Government to give us more information as to the way in which this Regulation is going to be carried out and, above all, to show us how it is going to benefit the country, or any industry or householder, agricultural worker or farmer, all of whom are dependent very much on the price they pay for their coal. Although this is not an Amendment to regulate the price, it is obviously the case that the question of price lies behind the regulation of sale. If the regulation of sale is done by Government officials and is not well done, is done so as to creat difficulties for the consumer, it is obvious that the price will have to be raised and, therefore, I ask that we shall have a little further information on the point.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I understand that the President of the Board of Trade is not well. I am sure the whole Committee will be extremely sorry, and the last thing any of us would wish to do would be to try to bring him into the Debate again. This, I think, probably raises a point of substance in which the Committee would wish to be protected, and, as the Prime Minister is here, I make this suggestion to him, that if we take a Division now, I understand we are in no way prejudiced from raising the essential issues of the control of price and the question of levies and so on upon the direct Clauses in which they occur in the Bill. That, I think, is obviously for the convenience of the Committee and would be plainly within the Chairman's Ruling that, provided we take a decision now upon these words, we shall not be prejudiced from raising the issue on the question "That the Clause stand part." If we passed these words now, we should not in the ordinary course be able to revert to them, but, obviously, if there is some implication in them which is not at present apparent, it will be quite convenient that we should discuss it later. Provided that all our rights are reserved in that way, a convenient course probably would be to take a Division now and then to report Progress. I should like to have an assurance that that is a course that commends itself to the Prime Minister.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald)
Unfortunately, for the reason the right hon. Gentleman has indicated, we cannot exactly explain the situation, but it is evident that we cannot 2549 allow at this moment, without a Division, the omission of the words "and sale," because there are certain things hanging upon them, and, if those words were left out, there are certain subsequent provisions which I doubt—I do not put it stronger than that—would be in order. In order to protect ourselves, we must ask the Committee to keep in the words "and sale," and, if there is an objection to that, we shall go to a Division. But let me give the Committee my pledge that, if it is found that Clause 3 requires any alteration backward on this Clause, the alteration will be made on Report stage. Moreover, when the Report stage comes, if there are any questions which have to-night remained unanswered, I will inform my right hon. Friend that he will have to answer them then. I hope that pledge will be accepted and, when we settle the Amendment now before us, I propose to move to report Progress for a reason which I will give when I make the Motion.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I think that satisfactorily preserves all our rights. We can debate essential matters on later Clauses, and, when we have taken any decision on these later Clauses, we shall get, if necessary, consequential Amendments on Report. That is a very reasonable undertaking.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I think the course suggested is an excellent one, and I do not propose to make any difficulties with regard to it. At the same time, I must make one observation. We all extremely regret the indisposition of the President of the Board of Trade, who commands the personal good will of every Member of the House. I think it hardly fair to leave the whole burden of the Bill upon one Minister. We cannot expect the Prime Minister to be acquainted with the details of the Bill, and it is unfortunate that, in the absence of the President of the Board of Trade, the Committee
§ has to adjourn its deliberations. With Bills of this character there has always been previously a Law Officer in constant attendance, and in previous Governments that was the normal course of things. I suggest that, during the subsequent stages of this Bill, it would be desirable, now that we are getting into technical and legal details, that the Committee should have the advantage of the attendance of one of the Law Officers.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The right hon. Gentleman cannot, however wise he may be in a Government, provide for sudden emergencies such as has happened to-night. Everything was properly arranged. The Attorney-General has gone out to an official engagement, and if, an hour ago, anyone had foreseen that it would be impossible for the arrangements, which were very carefully made, to be carried out, the Attorney-General or another Law Officer, would have been here. It is one of those things that belong to the decrees of Providence rather than to the designs of man. I wish to say that, in view of the extraordinary remarks which have just been made.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
In reply to the observations of the Prime Minister, there was nothing in the least extraordinary in what I said. On more than one occasion during the Debates in the Committee stage the Committee has been much inconvenienced by the absence of any Law Officer. I was perfectly within my rights and within the ordinary customs of the House in making complaint on that score.
§ Mr. SKELTON
May I point out to the Committee the extraordinary fact that there is a Minister of Mines who cannot answer questions on the coal mines?
§ Question put, "That the word 'and' be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 200; Noes, 261.2553
|Division No. 196.]||AYES.||[10.8 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel.||Beaumont, M. W.||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)|
|Albery, Irving James||Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Brown, Ernest (Leith)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)||Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Brown, Brig,-Gen, H. C (Berks, Newb'y)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Bird, Ernest Roy||Buckingham, Sir H.|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Birkett, W. Norman||Burgin, Dr. E. L.|
|Astor, Maj. Hon. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Blindell, James||Butler, R. A.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Boothby, R. J. G.||Butt, Sir Alfred|
|Atkinson, C.||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bracken, B.||Carver, Major W. H.|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Castle Stewart, Earl of|
|Balniel, Lord||Brass, Captain Sir William||Cautley, Sir Henry S.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Briscoe, Richard George||Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S)|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Harbord, A.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Christie, J. A.||Hartington, Marquess of||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Haslam, Henry C.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Colville, Major D. J.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Ross, Major Ronald D.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Rothschild, J. de|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Ruggies-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Hudson, Capt A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Iveagh, Countess of||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Jones, F. Llewellyn, (Flint)||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)||Scott, James|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||Knox, Sir Alfred||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome|
|Duckworth, G. A. V.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfst)|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Moiton)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n& Kinc'dine. C.)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Llewellin, Major J. J.||Somerset, Thomas|
|Elmley, Viscount||Long, Major Eric||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|England, Colonel A.||McConnell, Sir Joseph||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s. M.)||Macquisten, F. A.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||MacRobert, Rt. Hon. Alexander M.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Stanley, Maj. Hon. O. (W'morland)|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Margesson, Captain H. D.||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Ferguson, Sir John||Marjorlbanks, E. C.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.|
|Fermoy, Lord||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Fielden, E. B.||Meiler, R. J.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Fison, F. G. Clavering||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Foot, Isaac||Mond, Hon. Henry||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Forestler-Walker, Sir L.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Train, J.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Muirhead, A. J.||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)||Nathan, Major H. L.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Glassey, A. E.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Granville, E.||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Gray, Milner||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Owen, H. F. (Hereford)||Withers, Sir John James|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Peake, Captain Osbert||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Penny, Sir George||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Preston, Sir Walter Rueben||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Purbrick, R.||Sir Frederick Thomson and Captain|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Pybus, Percy John||Sir George Bowyer.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Bromley, J.||Dalton, Hugh|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Brooke, W.||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigle M.||Brothers, M.||Day, Harry|
|Alpass, J. H.||Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Amnion, Charles George||Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Devlin, Joseph|
|Angell, Norman||Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Dukes, C.|
|Arnott, John||Buchanan, G.||Duncan, Charles|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Burgess, F. G.||Ede, James Chuter|
|Ayles, Walter||Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Eiland)||Edmunds, J. E.|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Calne, Derwent Hall-||Edwards, E. (Morpeth)|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Cameron, A. G.||Egan, W. H.|
|Batey, Joseph||Cape, Thomas||Forgan, Dr. Robert|
|Bellamy, Albert||Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Freeman, Peter|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Charleton, H. C.||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)|
|Bennett, Captain E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Chater, Daniel||Gibbins, Joseph|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Church, Major A. G.||Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)|
|Benson, G.||Clarke, J. S.||Gill, T. H.|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Cluse, W. S.||Gillett, George M.|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Gossling, A. G|
|Bowen, J. W.||Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Gould, F.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Compton, Joseph||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Cove, William G.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Daggar, George||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)|
|Bromfield, William||Dallas, George||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)|
|Groves, Thomas E.||McShane, John James||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Shield, George William|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Hall, G. H Merthyr Tydvil)||Mansfield, W.||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||March, S.||Shinwell, E.|
|Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Marcus, M.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Harbison, T. J.||Markham, S. F.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Hardie, George D.||Marley, J.||Sinkinson, George|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Marshall, Fred||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Haycock, A. W.||Mathers, George||Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)|
|Hayday, Arthur||Matters, L. W.||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Hayes, John Henry||Maxton, James||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Melville, Sir James||Smith, Rennle (Penistone)|
|Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Messer, Fred||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Herriotts, J.||Middleton, G.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Mills, J. E.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Milner, J.||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)|
|Hoffman, P. C.||Montague, Frederick||Sorensen, R.|
|Hollins, A.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Hopkin, Daniel||Morley, Ralph||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Horrabin, J. F.||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Strachey, E. J. St. Loe|
|Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Strauss, G. R.|
|Isaacs, George||Mort, D. L.||Sullivan, J.|
|Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Moses, J. J. H.||Sutton, J. E.|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Johnston, Thomas||Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Muff, G.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Muggeridge, H. T.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Naylor, T. E.||Tillett, Ben|
|Kelly, W. T.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Kennedy, Thomas||Noel Baker, P. J.||Toole, Joseph|
|Ken worthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Oldfield, J. R.||Tout, W. J.|
|Kinley, J.||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Townend, A. E.|
|Knight, Holford||Palin, John Henry||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Lang, Gordon||Paling, Wilfrid||Turner, B.|
|Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Palmer, E. T.||Vaughan, D. J.|
|Lathan, G.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Viant, S. P.|
|Law, Albert (Bolton)||Perry, S. F.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Law, A. (Rosendale)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Walker, J.|
|Lawrence, Susan||Phillips, Dr. Marion||Wallace, H. W.|
|Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Picton-Turbervill, Edith||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Lawson, John James||Pole, Major D. G.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Potts, John S.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Leach, W.||Price, M. P.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)||Quibell, D. J. K.||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Rathbone, Eleanor||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Lees, J.||Raynes, W. R.||West, F. R.|
|Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Richards, R.||Westwood, Joseph|
|Lloyd, C. Ellis||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Logan, David Gilbert||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Longbottom, A. W.||Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Longden, F.||Ritson, J.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Lowth, Thomas||Romerll, H. G.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Lunn, William||Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Rowson, Guy||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Winterton, G. E. (Lelcester, Loughb'gh)|
|MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)||Wise, E. F.|
|McElwee, A.||Sanders, W. S.||Wright, W. (Rutherglen)|
|McEntee, V. L.||Sawyer, G. F.||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|McKinlay, A.||Scurr, John|
|MacLaren, Andrew||Sexton, James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|MacNeill-Weir, L.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Mr. T. Henderson and Mr. B. Smith.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
The reason is not only that assigned as a result of what happened a few minutes ago, but also that, on account of the defeat of the two main Amendments which have been moved to-day, the Order Paper has got into a slight state of confusion, and it would be far better if the representatives of the Government and those who are responsible for Amendments, which were very largely consequential 2554 upon the Amendments that have been defeated, should meet and clear up the Order Paper of, I am informed, some pages of superfluous Amendments. I am sure that it will be for the convenience of the whole Committee that when we meet finally to dispose of the Committee stage of the Bill, a clear Order Paper should be put before us.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
The Prime Minister had the sympathy of the whole of the Committee, I think, when he based his proposal to postpone our 2555 further consideration of this Bill on the unfortunate indisposition of the President of the Board of Trade, who has the sympathy of every Member in this Committee. If his Motion had rested upon that ground alone, I should have passed it with a murmur of sympathetic assent. The Prime Minister has made a Motion which must be treated with the respect that we always accord to a Motion made by a Prime Minister. He proceeded to say, with those generous and ample gestures of which he is such a master, that there were other reasons for our not going on. On that, I am bound to make two observations. I am perfectly ready to go on with the consideration of the Bill now, but the Prime Minister has thought it necessary to address certain observations to the Committee, which has treated him most considerately to-day. From the observations which the right hon. Gentleman has addressed to the Committee, it is quite apparent that he did not expect to have been as successful in the Division on an important Amendment, as he was. It is a novel suggestion that the Committee is unable to proceed with its business because there are a number of Amendments on the Order Paper, some of which would now be out of order. That is really putting the matter a little too far. "We on this side would have been prepared to go on with the discussion. The only reason why, in the lamentable absence of the President of the Board of Trade, the Committee is unable to continue its discussion, is not because there is some confusion in the Order Paper but because there is no one on the Government benches competent to conduct the Bill.
§ Mr. MILLS
We have been treated to a typical speech from the ex-President of the Board of Trade, who began by suggesting all sorts of sinister motives as to the reason why the Prime Minister has made his Motion to report Progress In these circumstances, I hope that we shall continue, in order to show our resentment at the assumption that no one is competent to carry on. So far as the merits of the Bill are concerned, I am certain that when we come to an understanding of the various Amendments we can find people on this side who will be willing and able to explain them.
§ Mr. GEORGE BALFOUR
It is highly regrettable that the Prime Minister 2556 should have added the second reason. We would have responded at once to the first reason which he gave, because it is well known that the ordinary courtesy of this House would cause us to respond to an appeal on the first reason alleged by the Prime Minister. I would, however, remind the right hon. Gentleman that, only a few days ago, when we wanted to report Progress on the sound ground that the Order Paper was in a muddle because we had been suddenly switched off from Part I of the Bill to Part II, we could find no response from the Government. Hon. Members on this side have no reason whatever to press the argument unduly, but I am right in reminding the Prime Minister that on that occasion, when it was quite clear that the business of the House could not be properly conducted in such a state of confusion, that we had no response. On the first ground he mentioned the Prime Minister will receive the help and sympathy of Members in all parts of the Committee.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am exceedingly sorry if anything I have said should be the occasion of misunderstanding. I certainly understood that the second reason I gave had been agreed upon by the three parties. It was discussed and, indeed, it was perfectly apparent that there were a large number of supplementary Amendments on the Order Paper, not in the name of the Government, but in the name of hon. Members who anticipated the defeat suggested by the right hon. Member opposite. This is a question of the convenience of the Committee. I made no statement from a party point of view, but it is very convenient that as we go on with the further consideration of Part I the Order Paper should be cleaned up. There was an understanding, I understood, between the three parties, certainly between two parties, and it is no shame to mention it, that those representing the Government and hon. Members concerned in the Amendments that are now to be out of order should meet and consider what Amendments should be taken off the Paper before we meet again, and what Amendments should remain. I am sorry if there has been a misunderstanding, but it was only because I understood there was general Agreement upon it that I mentioned the 2557 second reason. No one appreciates more than I do the heartfelt sympathy expressed in all quarters of the House at the absence of the President of the Board of Trade. Except for the understanding that there was an agreement on the other point it would have been the only reason for moving to report Progress.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. If I or anyone on this side had entered into any arrangement with regard to the Order Paper I should have been the first to accept what the right hon. Gentleman said, but I have made careful inquiries and no one has approached me or those who are associated with me in the conduct of the opposition to this Bill. There have been other discussions between representatives of the right hon. Gentleman and his associates, but we were not a party or privy to them. I quite agree that as the President of the Board of Trade is not here we cannot go on discussing matters upon which he alone can answer. I was taken entirely by surprise by what the right hon. Gentleman said in regard to the Order Paper and it was only natural that I should intervene. On the other point, the desirability of adjourning the Debate until we have the person present who is capable of answering we are all agreed.
§ Major-General Sir ROBERT HUTCHISON
I wish to join with other Members in expressing sorrow at the circumstances in which the President of the Board of Trade has found it impossible to continue this evening. I 2558 should like to say that I had a conversation with Members of the Government regarding the Order Paper, it being perfectly obvious that, as a result of the Division taken earlier in the evening, a number of the Amendments on the Paper, although within order, had ceased to have any meaning. I suggested to the Government that it would save time if we reported Progress and allowed an opportunity for looking through the Order Paper and examining the other Amendments to see what was really of substance and what was not. I still hold the opinion that a number of the remaining Amendments, in view of what has happened, have lost their meaning, and that it would be a waste of time to consider them.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Wednesday next.