HC Deb 02 June 1932 vol 266 cc1355-427

I beg to move, in page 1, line 6, to leave out Subsection (1).

After what we have heard from Mr. Speaker, I feel a little diffident in speaking again on this subject, but I assure the Committee that I am not going to address it at any great length. I do, however, wish to raise the Amendment which I have on the Order Paper. Its purpose is to omit from the operation of this Bill Part I of the Coal Mines Act, 1930. I do so because I am satisfied that there is a great and genuine difference of opinion in the country upon this matter, and also because two years ago many of us who are Conservatives spent many days and nights in this House fighting the Coal Mines Bill line by line, and they do not understand why all of a sudden we should be asked to continue Part I of the Act for five years. I thought, therefore, that this was a matter which should be raised in Committee.

Apart from those reasons, my objection to this Sub-section in the Bill is that it will lead to further Government interference with the industry. I have little sympathy with those who talk of the regulation of industry by the State. These new phrases which thinly disguise Socialism mean more interference with the practical conduct of industry. I cannot believe that it can be a good thing either for industry or the country that we should have a further five years of interference with the conduct of the coal mining industry. I do not see how industry is to be carried on if it is limited in this way, because I believe that by Part I of the Act inefficiency is enthroned and progress checked. Representation on committees depends on coal output of one selected year. When times are bad, the good mines are the most busy and the less good mines are the least busy. Therefore in a very good year the latter mines have a greater proportion of output than in a bad year, and their influence on the operation of the Act is greater than it ought to be because the selected year was a good one. In the second place, I think progress is checked because those people who are most efficient and who are anxious to develop their mines have to go to their competitors to ask to be allowed to sell or produce more coal. Therefore, I say it is very unsatisfactory that an industry should be checked in this vital factor.

Then, in extending Part I of the Act for five years, we leave out of consideration entirely the interests of the consumer. I see no reason why when a Bill like this is before the House the coal miners and coalowners should not consider the interests of the consumer. I cannot see why the voice of the consumer is not raised, and why the case for him has not been put more clearly by the Board of Trade. The effect of this Bill, we understand, is to raise the price of coal to everybody by 2s. 6d. a ton. Thanks to the existence of the Act, that 2s. 6d. does not all go to the coal mines. I understand from the papers that Is. goes to the cost of the quotas. The consumer pays Is. 6d., and the balance of Is. appears to be wasted and dispersed entirely in thin air. The railways have to pay 2s. 6d. a ton more than they need, and every industry that uses fire and every householder throughout the country has to pay 2s. 6d. a ton more than would be the case if the Act were not in force.

I should now like to say a word or two about the Government. We are given to understand that various consultations took place and various opinions were taken, that at the end the Government did not know what to do, and they accordingly accepted what was a majority vote. I think we expected something a little better than that from them. We might have had a little clearer lead in this matter, instead of leaving it almost entirely to the majority vote of those particularly interested in producing coal. The last argument I want to put to the Committee is this: We are told that if we repeal Part I of the Act, chaos will ensue. I really do not know why it should, but we had several statements, one I think by the Minister of Mines, and others by Members of the House, that the pits would close down, that cut-throat competition would start again and general chaos take place. I have always wondered why they call it cut-throat competition. It must be because their case is very weak. Competition, it seems to me, is the life and breath of industry, and because they know this is true, they have to call it cut-throat competition. After all, competition is the one thing by which industry retains its vitality, and cutthroat competition really means the survival of the fittest.

In any case no real harm would be done if the Committee agree to this Amendment. There are always prophets who tell you that chaos will come if you take any drastic action. I have been trying to think of an argument that may convince the Minister of Mines by quoting someone like Oliver Cromwell. Perhaps the case of Faintheart in "Pilgrim's Progress" may meet the case. Faintheart was eventually landed in the Slough of Despond. There are many counsellors who say that if you take drastic action and repeal Part I, chaos will arise. Those are the counsels of Mr. Faintheart. What we want is a little more courage and a little greater lead by the Minister of Mines, and I am certain that if they face this question with a little more boldness, the mining industry will get through it troubles much more quickly.


The speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hex-ham (Colonel Brown) shows very clearly the tremendous difficulty which faces Parliament when it is called upon to legislate for an industry with such varied interests as has the coal industry. The hon. and gallant Member has put forward the case for the North Eastern districts, the exporting districts, and he has done so in an extremely able manner. The district in which I am interested is concerned mainly with the inland trade, and I feel certain that were Part I of the Act of 1930 to be withdrawn, confusion would result. We must remember the real objects of Part I of that Act. It was decided that the coal industry must be protected, if it was to set its house in order. The need for rationalisation, even if it was not expressed at that time, was generally recognised, and it is recognised even more forcibly on all sides to-day. Even a Free Trade Government were forced to give this form of Protection to the industry to give them a time of stability in order that they might set their house in order.

Protection has taken many different forms since the War. We have had quotas, tariffs, licences, and prohibition in some instances, but in this case we had the artificial fixing of prices at an uneconomic level, and I think we ought to make it quite clear to the coal industry that these uneconomic proposals contained in Part I of the Act are not permanent and are not a real part of a coal policy for this country, but are only given conditionally and temporarily, to enable reorganisation to take place, and that their continuance is conditional on the industry taking some steps in that direction.

I believe that the only solution lies in the direction of rationalisation. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nationalisation!"] No, not nationalisation. The need for nationalisation arises very largely owing to Government control during the War, but I should not be in order in referring at any length to that question. It is such a tremendous problem, because the uneconomic pits which ought to be closed are not evenly distributed among the coal producing districts. I do not think any solution can be found by artificial price regulation or by restriction of production. The only permanent solution, I believe, can come from internal reorganisation, and I would ask the Secretary for Mines to consider whether it is altogether wise to continue Part I for so long a period as five years without obtaining any definite undertaking from the industry that they intend to put their house in order.


I hope the Secretary for Mines will resist the Amendment and tell the Committee quite clearly that the Government are going to retain Part I of the Act, because if the Bill is to go forward at all, Part I of the Act is essential from our point of view. When the Mines Act was passed in 1930, a lot of exception was taken to it by collieries in Lancashire, but at the annual meeting of Manchester Collieries, Limited, on the 23Td June, 1931, the chairman said: You will naturally expect me to refer to the Mines Act, under which we are now working. The position which we took up before the Act was passed was to some extent one of hostility. There were clauses we did not like and which we opposed to the best of our ability, but when the Act became law we endeavoured, like all law-abiding citizens should, to carry it out and conform to the law, although we thought and still think it has serious defects. He went on to say, in regard to what has happened since: The great advantage which we are obtaining from the fixing of minimum prices is the stopping of sales of spot lots at prices shillings a ton below the market price. The difference in the price in most cases, except where the sale was made for stocking purposes, went into the pockets of the middleman, sometimes through three or four hands, and the consumer received no benefit. The sale of spot lots displaces the ordinary trade of somebody else, and is a most pernicious way of selling any commodity, and if the fixing of minimum prices does nothing else but do away with spot lot sales, it will have justified itself. That is one of the strong features of Part I of the Act. To an extent, it will tend to stop the selling of spot lots, which do a great amount of harm to the Lancashire coal trade. Constantly in the summer months we were met by that difficulty of spot lots being dumped down in Lancashire, and as a result closing all the collieries during the summer season, but the fixing of minimum prices has done something to stop that kind of thing, not effectively, but it is a step in the right direction. It goes a long way towards helping to solidify the coal industry. If Part I were removed, the pledge of the coalowners to pay the existing wages for the next 12 months would be very difficult indeed to carry out, and at the end of 12 months I can visualise that in the coal trade there would be no question of any minimum at all. The coalowners would be under-selling each other, until ultimately there would be a starvation wage for the miner. For these reasons, though I do not altogether agree with Part I in its entirety—I think it ought to be strengthened—I hope the Minister will not give way and accept the Amendment.


I suppose there are very few people in this House who took a greater part in opposing the Coal Mines Bill of last year than I did, and my natural inclination would be to support the Amendment, for one or two reasons. In the first place, when once a thoroughly bad Bill is on the Statute Book, I should be inclined to take the first opportunity of getting rid of any part of it, and unless I had considered this matter with some care, I should vote for the Amendment, but under the circumstances I say quite frankly that I hope it will not be carried. As far as I can understand Part I, you have in it a system whereby you regulate your prices and your output, but I want to know what progress is being made in the elimination of the really inefficient mine that is never likely to be competent in the future. It seems to me that you are using Part I in the coal industry merely to keep going a number of incompetent mines, and when I say "incompetent," I mean incompetent to pay; I am not dealing with the question of organisation. In this way you are doing the industry and the country as a whole a great deal of damage.

I come from by far the oldest mining area in this country, where we have seen, because of incapacity to pay under modern conditions, practically the whole of the tin mines of the West country closed. If you look into the history of mining for many generations and in every country, you will see that you have development in one area and another area going out of production. If you try to keep those areas and pits which are no longer of a payable nature working, you are putting a burden on the competent mines that should be payable, which will make it harder for them to face competition, or, in the other case, if they do not carry the burden, the State has to carry it or the consumers do. If I were Voting purely in the interests of the consumers of coal in this country, I should vote for the Amendment, because I do not think the Act has in any way produced cheap coal, but I should like to give reasons for helping the Government to stick by the original Act. It is really a relief to find certain types of mind in the Government which do not swallow the idea of an inquiry on every possible occasion, and when you get that form of relief, you ought, as a loyal supporter of the Government, to do your best to encourage them.

I congratulate them, but I would like to remind the Committee, as one who has listened to a vast number of coal Debates in the last eight or 10 years, of what has been the position. In this industry we have had continual disagree- ments. If there is one thing on which we are all agreed, it is that it is essential that you should have peace between the owners and the men in this industry. [Interruption.] It is all very well for the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) to gibe, but some of us have a very close desire to see our own people in this country, wherever they are, enabled to carry on their business and not fighting one with another; and for that reason, and for none other—


Stand up for decent wages then.


I do not believe that you will get good wages, much as we should all like to see them, while you have disputes in an industry. I believe that if you can get peace in an industry, you will get better feelings between the men and the owners, better profits in the industry, and better conditions, and better conditions give good wages.


Can the hon. Member give us one instance where the miners ever get anything without fighting for it?


I can give the hon. Member innumerable instances where, whenever they have fought, they have lost trade, and industry and wages have been bad. I do not want to get into this discussion on wages, which is not my point, but as the question has been put to me, I wish to say that in this matter of disputes in the industry, I do not cast the blame either on the miners or on the owners. As someone quite outside the industry, I have never blamed either more than the other. I simply say that, because I do not want the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) to think I am blaming one section of the industry at all.

4.30 p.m.

To return to my point, I state that, though I dislike Part I of the Act, having got it there, the Government having worked out with the parties concerned some form of agreement to carry on for 12 months, and looking at the position of the industry and the country to-day, I shall do my best to get this part 'and the rest of the Bill through, not because I like the Bill, but because I am not in a position to give any alternative which might help us. Unless I were in a position to give an alternative, I should not be justified in trying to cut out this Sub-section. For that reason I regret that I shall have to vote against my hon. and gallant Friend.

The SECRETARY for MINES (Mr. Isaac Foot)

It may be necessary later for me to reply to what may be said further upon this Amendment, but it may help the Committee if I state now the attitude of the Government towards it. If the Amendment is carried, the Bill is gone. I must resist the temptation offered me by the hon. and gallant Member for Hexham (Colonel Brown), and I do not propose to discuss our consistencies or inconsistencies in this House. I hope that we are all wiser than we were two years ago. It is open for one to oppose a Measure, but, when that Measure has been carried, it is in accordance with the traditions of Parliament to do what can be done to further its interests and not for a succeeding Government to set itself immediately to undo what was done by its predecessor. We have had two years' experience that we had not in December, 1929, and we have taken all the best opinions that we could secure. I do not understand my hon. and gallant Friend when he says that we ought in these matters to consult those who have practical knowledge of the industry. If I misunderstood him on that point, I will withdraw, but I understood him to say that, if we referred to those who had practical experience of the industry, we should get some support for the opinion that he put before the Committee. That is the course which we have taken.

Colonel BROWN

I am afraid that I did not make myself plain. I was complaining that the Government had no mind on the subject, and that all they could do was to go round and take a majority vote of those interested instead of forming an opinion of their own.


Are we to be blamed for taking that course? I wonder, if my hon. and gallant Friend had been in my place, what course he would have taken. We had to get the result of the 18 months' experience and we had to go to those who are right up against it from day to day. If the continuation of the Act were wrong, they would be the people to feel it first of all, and, if we had not given first consideration to their representations, we should have been open to condemnation from all parts of the House. I am not personally engaged in the industry; most hon. Members are not engaged in it personally. A few, like my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Slater), can speak from first-hand experience, but where the House of Commons is concerned on a matter of this kind, obviously it ought to go to those who are in the industry, as the Government did. We were presented with a memorandum from those who have their lives and interests invested in the industry. We went to those who are in the midst of adversity and asked them what they had to tell us about the Act, and the opinions of the Miners' Federation and the Mining Association were the main factor in arriving at a decision. I do not say that they were the determining factor, but they were the main factor.

There is another view which we have to take into consideration, and that is the view of the consumer. The hon. and gallant Member raised that question, and I have already stated that we had the strong opposition of the public utility organisations and of others who are consumers. If, however, it is desired to ascertain whether the consumer has been unfairly dealt with, the first thing to do is to consult the experience of the last 18 months. Under the Act of 1930, committees of investigation were set up, and power was given to the smallest consumer of coal, if he thought he was unjustly dealt with, to put his case before these tribunals, which are able to go into the matter fairly and to pronounce a judgment. That power has been invoked by consumers in only nine cases, so that practically there has been no complaint. I was astonished that my hon. and gallant Friend should have drawn the picture of an increased price of coal. It is true that coal would fall in price if we took away Part I of the Act, but that is different from the contention that the Act has raised the price of coal. All that it has done is practically to maintain the price. Perhaps the Committee would like to have before further discussion the figures which I have at my disposal. The average proceeds per ton of coal commercially disposable for the year 1929 amounted, for Great Britain as a whole, to 13s. 11d. per ton. I am taking the pithead prices for comparison. No one is more acquainted than I am with the extraordinary gap between the pit-head price and the price paid by the consumer, but that raises another question. Where is the increase to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred? In 1930 the price was 14s. 1d


Was it not the intention of the Act to increase the price of coal, and is it not the fact that the Act failed to carry out what it was intended to do?


I think that I had better give the figures first. For 1931 the price was 14s. Those are very remarkable figures having regard to all that was said in the course of the Debate on the Coal Mines Act of 1930. It is another case where we are wiser now than we were 18 months ago. I will take the average figure for the same three years for the exporting districts. Most of those who have taken part in these Debates have come from the disturbed North-Eastern area where, in common with South Wales, a special burden has to be borne. I have the figures for the main exporting districts of Northumberland with which my hon. and gallant Friend is associated, Durham, South Wales and Scotland. Taking these four together, the prices for the three years were 13s. 5d., 13s. 9d. and 13s. 4d. These districts have had to bear the main brunt of the depression.


Can we have the figures for the individual districts?


I have not them by me, but I will be glad to let my hon. Friend have them. I have taken the four exporting areas to show that there has been little variation. In the inland districts the average proceeds have risen from 14s. 5d. in 1929 to 14s. 8d. in 1931, the figure for 1930 being the same as in the preceding year. These are remarkable figures. They show a great steadiness of price. I was asked by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Midlothian and Peebles (Captain Ramsay) whether it was not ostensibly the purpose of the Act of 1930 to raise prices. I think that the ostensible purpose of that Act was to secure a price for coal that would enable two things to be done —to pay a fair wage to the miner, and to secure a fair return for the capital of those who are engaged in the industry.


Will the hon. Gentleman say where the reduction of half-a-crown would come in if the Act were done away with, in view of the comparison of prices which he has just quoted?


Upon that my hon. Friend can speak with an authority I cannot approach. The Department with which I am associated made inquiries from all parts of the country, and we are advised that, if Part I of the Act were withdrawn and nothing took its place, there must be a fall of not less than 2s. a ton and probably more. Of course, we may be wrong, but that is a possibility, and that was the advice that was given to us. What we want is an answer to the suggestion that I made on the Second Reading: If the potential production of this country is something over 300,000,000 tons and we actually produced something like 220,000,000 tons last year, and had there a margin of nearly 100,000,000 tons, what is to prevent, if you take away the system that we have now, a desperate struggle and a hard fight and a consequent fall in price? The only result would be chaos in the industry, and no Government could shut their eyes to the fact that that was a real and palpable danger against which we have to guard.

Reference was made by my hon. and gallant Friend to the condition of things before the Act, and I suggest to him that before the Act there was a condition of things in relation to the industry which we do not want to have repeated. The trouble was so great that the industry tried to overcome its difficulties by a voluntary scheme, and it failed because of the disloyalty of some who were associated with the proposals; it was due to the fact that some were always willing to stand out.

Would it help the Committee if I dealt now with the question of the exporting districts? It is relevant, I think, to the Amendment. Most of those who have taken part in the discussion are concerned with the North-East Coast. That district has a special difficulty, because its coal cannot be readily sold in other parts of the country. Naturally, if an exporting district cannot get rid of its coal abroad, it must look for some market at home, and, if the coal that is produced is not readily saleable at home because of its quality, it means that the area has to endure special burdens. The suggestion made by some is that we should cut coal for export out of Part I. An Amendment was suggested upon that point, and I understand that it was out of order, but it is relevant generally to the question of the quota. I was asked yesterday in a very vigorous speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. Dickie), if I would consider the desperate plight of the exporting areas. He went on to suggest that the fall in the export of coal was largely attributable to the operation of Part I. That is a contention which we find ourselves quite unable to accept, for many reasons into which I cannot now enter.

Will the Committee direct their minds to a point which I mentioned in passing just now, one which we believe is the fundamental consideration in regard to our export trade? Last year, apart from bunker coal, we sold abroad about 47,000,000 tons, and the suggestion of my hon. Friend and of others is that we could have sold a great deal more if there had not been Part I. Where were we to sell it? Where was the market? I have no doubt that an exporter here and there can say that because he could not sell a certain quality of coal, or could not sell it at a certain price, he has lost an order for 100 tons here, or an order for 1,000 tons there; but, putting all those cases together, we believe that all the loss which may be fairly attributable to the operation of Part I is measurable by thousands of tons, and probably not more than a few hundred thousands at the outside. Where were the millions to be sold? In Germany? In Germany, as a result of the very strong opposition of the native coal industry, there are restrictions and quotas, and if we increased our exports to Germany those restrictions and quotas might be extended. Is the market in France? With the accumulating quota and the tightening of restrictions, which have developed in the course of the past few weeks, could it be sold there? Is the market in Italy, where, with the best will in the world to buy our coal, they have not been able to absorb all that they arranged to take under the Reparations Agreement. There is by no means any objection on the part of Italy to take our coal, because they have desired to do so, but they have their accumulated stocks. Is the market in Spain, where there is restiveness on the part of the coal producers and very restricted conditions? The market is not in Portugal, because Portugal takes practically all its imported coal from us. Is it in Holland? As a result of the War Holland developed her own resources. Before the War she was producing only about 2,000,000 metric tons of coal a year, and now her production is something like 11,000,000 or 12,000,000 metric tons, and she is needing no supplies from us. Is the market in Belgium, with her quotas and restrictions, which have been tightened to our disadvantage in recent months? Is my hon. and gallant Friend going to sell our coal to Poland? Is Poland likely to receive it with alacrity and enthusiasm?

Then what have we left? We are left only with the Baltic countries, a most important market, a market of outstanding importance to our industry. What is the trouble there? It is the intense competition from Poland. When speaking in this House only a few weeks ago I went at length into the measures which were taken by Poland, desperate measures, to maintain her position in the Baltic markets. Since that time they have intensified those measures. They have now imposed upon their inland trade an additional burden of 2½ zloty per ton, representing about 1s. 6d. per ton, for the purpose of subsidising their export trade. See how that works today. Not long ago one of our coal industrialists wanted to secure a contract with the Danish railways. It was when we had gone off the Gold Standard, which gave us an advantage at that time of 6s. 6d. a ton. The price for our coal payable by the Danish authorities was 6s. 6d. per ton less than it had been only a short time before when the Gold Standard obtained. That contract was secured, but only, I am informed, because the man who sold the coal gambled to the extent of 1s. a ton on freights. Before we could sell those additional quantities of coal in the Baltic countries two things would have to happen—either we should have to adopt the levy and sub- sidy, or else take orders at a decreased price.

As I have said we sold last year about 47,000,000 tons of coal abroad. If we wish to enlarge that export trade to the extent of millions of tons, as is suggested, there are only two ways in which it can be done. One would be by a levy and subsidy here. If we are going to try that on the same scale as in Poland, where are we going to get the money?. We might put the burden upon other coal producers. Does the House think they will carry the burden on their own shoulders? They would, of course, at once put it upon the shoulders of the consumer, and we are informed by the public utility associations that already there is such a desperate struggle going on between coal and its competitors that that additional burden might mean a great injury to the coal trade itself. Apart from the levy and subsidy, which I do not want to discuss here, the only other way to secure the big markets of which we have been told would be to take a lower price for coal. If last year we had sold those 47,000,000 tons of coal at a lower price, it would have meant that many of the pits which are now carrying on under great difficulties and with immense struggles would have closed down.


I am sorry to interrupt, but there is one point which I think is pertinent to what the hon. Gentleman has been saying. I do not think any of us quarrel with the fact that at the present moment we shall not be able to extend our export market; but the fear which many hon. Members have is that if the quota is fixed too close to the present demand, and there should be social trouble in Poland, or an increased purchasing power on the part of Germany, or some arrangement with the Argentine, of which our export trades could take advantage, the quota, being fixed so close to the present demand, would not provide the necessary elasticity.


I am happy to relieve the apprehensions of the Noble Lord forthwith. When we went off the Gold Standard it was thought we might be able to secure a larger trade abroad, and immediately the allocations for the exporting districts were increased. It was not a case of waiting till the end of the quarter, it was done immediately. Unfortunately, the expectations we had were not realised, but the suggestion that the quota system is not elastic is not borne out by actual experience, and if any situation favourable to us arose I see no reason why another allocation should not be made within 48 hours.


The State could work as fast as that!


My hon. Friend is quite mistaken. The State is not working these schemes. I have a great deal to do, but I have not to decide the allocations. The whole philosophy of the Act is that these schemes are to be worked by the industry itself, and I think that the State should intervene in the working of them only in the last resort and as little as possible. Therefore, while the exporter who has lost his contract for 100 tons or 1,000 tons may widely advertise his grievance, if we had had full regard to his grievance there would have been a general decrease in the whole body of the trade which has been quietly done from day to day and from week to week. In touching upon the export trade I have gone further than I had intended, and have taken longer than I had proposed. As to the limit of time put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), it is difficult, if you are going to continue the Act, to decide the period for which it should be continued. [Interruption.] I will leave that question as to the period as there is to be a further Amendment upon that point, but the Federation asked that it should be indefinitely extended, and the owners asked that it should be extended for five years, and the owners are expected to put their house in order.


That is an old story.


Surely expectation is not forbidden even to Ministers in a National Government. The coalowners are expected to stop these evasions which have grown up, and if they say five years is the period they need for the purpose we should run a serious risk in giving them a. less time. As to the general reorganisation to which my hon. Friend referred, that is something which relates to Part II of the Act of 1930 and not to Part I. I cannot rely upon Part I for the necessary reorganisation of the industry, but I earnestly hope that now, under Part II steps will be taken in the direction he has suggested.


That is with regard to the closing of inefficient mines.


They will deal generally with the reorganisation of the industry, and certainly with the closing down of mines that ought to give place to others. Many other points have been raised in the course of the discussion, but I hope that I have sufficiently covered the general ground.

5.0 p.m.


I am very pleased that the Secretary for Mines has opposed this Amendment. He has used forceful arguments in support of his case. With the economic arguments that he has put forward in regard to the industry itself, we on this side are, I think, in general agreement; but if he will consider again the general situation of the mining industry from its economic aspect, and relate that to the present working of Part I, he will undoubtedly come to the conclusion that a great deal is required in order to amend and to strengthen Part I to make it adequate to the economic conditions through which the industry is passing. The real object of Part I was to organise the industry, to stabilise prices to a certain extent, and, if possible, to improve them. Those who are against Part I justify their attitude on the ground that it restricts the output and the export of coal in the exporting areas. It was stated yesterday that there had been a reduction in output of about 12,000,000 tons, and, inferentially, the contention was that the whole of that reduction was attributable to the operation of Part I of the Coal Mines Act. It was also argued that in order to restore the status quo of the industry it was essential to remove Part I of the Act.


This point arose during the Debate yesterday, and I was challenged upon it. I immediately got up in my place and said that I willingly acknowledged that a portion of this decline was definitely attributable to world conditions, and to the crisis throughout the world. I do not think it is quite fair to repeat this charge, which is demonstrably untrue.


It is not my intention to follow this point any further, but I think my veracity is quite equal to that of anybody else. What are the real facts with regard to the reduction in the production of coal? It is not peculiar to Great Britain itself, because there has been a general reduction in the world's output even since the passing of Part I of the Act. If we take the world's figures, we find that in the seven principal countries, Germany, France, Poland, Belgium, the Saar, the United States and Great Britain, the total production in 1931 was 850,000,000 compared with 989,000,000 tons in 1930; and 1,101,000,000 tons in 1929. Part I of the Act has operated as far as South Wales is concerned, and South Wales is a larger exporting area than any other.

In to-day's Press there is an article by Mr. Gibson, the secretary of the South Wales coalowners, who says, with regard to the general question of output, that taking the United Kingdom, Germany, Saar, France, Poland and Belgium, the position is that South Wales has increased its output and its export. In the quarter ending March this year as compared with the corresponding period of last year the increase has practically been from 48.44 per cent. to 51.87 per cent., or an increase of 3.43 per cent. The German output for the same period has declined from 27.44 to 23.28 per cent., or a decrease of 4.16. Germany has not had the equivalent of Part I in operation, while South Wales has operated Part I, and notwithstanding that fact South Wales has increased her export trade by 3.43 per cent. The contention yesterday and to-day is that the coalowners of this country want to abandon Part I. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] That argument has been used in the House, and I think the Secretary for Mines contradicted it. On this point I should like to read from a cutting a statement made by one of the largest coalowners in South Wales, Mr. Edmund Hann, who is the head of one of the largest combines. He said, at the annual meeting of the Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company: We have had experience of about 15 months of working of the marketing schemes brought into existence by Part I of the Coal Mines Act, 1930. Had it not been for the Statutory powers given to the coalowners to exercise even such control as they have been able and disposed to do, the situation to-day would be infinitely worse than it is, when supply is so enormously in excess of demand the whole world over. The Act and the schemes made under it are far from perfect, but it would be unwise and even calamitous to scrap them on that account. In our opinion the right course is to amend them in the light of the experience that we have gained, and to continue them in force, strengthened where necessary to meet the needs of the home market, and to increase our competitive power abroad. I agree that it would be much easier to amend the Act. The Secretary for Mines stated, in his speech on the Second Reading of the Bill, that there is a great deal of room and necessity for amendment, and it is much easier to amend it while we have it before us than to remove it from the Statute Book. Before removing Part I, I think we ought to consider what has been the experience of its working during the last 10 years. Are we to return to the old business methods of carrying on the mining industry, and are we to give free sway to competition? Are we to return to the old cut-throat policy and keen competition, not only between district and district, but between pit and pit, forgetful of the fact that it means a redaction of the price of coal, and that the wages of the miners depend upon the price?

The extent to which we abolish Part I will reduce the price of coal, and that will reduce the wages of the miners, which are not sufficient to-day. We have had experience of this policy in years gone by, and in 1925 we attempted to meet the German competition. I remember some interesting figures which were given by the late Mr. Vernon Hartshorn, who, if he had been alive to-day, would have been a great power on this particular question. Mr. Hartshorn pointed out the foolhardiness of the continuance of that policy, in the absence of any regulation and control of prices, and he showed that in the first quarter of 1925 we exported 13,102,000 tons of coal; and in 1926, 13,190,000 tons, or 88,000 tons more and the revenue was £1,800,000 less. The result was that the miners had to suffer a reduction of wages. The price was not sufficient to provide wages and the insufficiency of revenue was a consequence of the cut-throat competi- tion with the Germans. The German coal-owners had to go to the German Government for a subsidy, and they received £700,000, and that cut-throat competition resulted in the British Government having to subsidise the coalowners in order to meet the wages of the miners.

Those annual subsidies to make up the wages of the miners were the result of the past policy of the coalowners. When what is called the subsistence wage is closely examined, it is tantamount to parish relief. The independent chairman is acting almost in the capacity of a relieving officer, and he has to see that the miners do not receive more than they are entitled to. Because of the economic conditions of the industry, and the cut-throat policy which has been adopted in the past, there is not sufficient revenue to provide a decent wage for the miner. What happens? They have to call in an independent chairman to decide what amount of money is required to enable the miner to live decently, and the independent chairman proceeds much on the same lines as the official of the Government in deciding the means test. A single man is entitled to 7s. per week, a married man to 7s. 3d. and a married man with children 7s. 6d. The system is practically the same as that adopted in the case of parish relief. Those who are contending for the omission of Part I of the Act argue that a reversion to that particular state of affairs will be advantageous to the mining industry as a whole. Each of these problems as they arise is more complex than its predecessor, and consequently it is more difficult to solve.

The problem of the mining industry to-day is not the problem of 20 years ago. The problem of the mining industry to-day as has already been pointed out by the Secretary for Mines, is the contraction of markets. Twenty years ago, a sufficient expansion of markets was possible, and there were plenty of opportunities for developing the mining industry; but the price of coal was not even then determined by the operation of the law of supply and demand, but largely by the internecine competition which took place in Great Britain itself—competition between group and group of collieries, and between pit and pit. Part I will abolish, or at any rate minimise to a great extent, the competition between pit and pit, and what is now required is, not to abolish, but to amend Part I in order to bring about co-ordination, prevent competition between district and district, and regulate and control prices.

I think it was the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) who said that if there were an immediate danger of an increase of price to the consumer he would be suspicious of Part I. The determining factor, however, is not the price of coal to the consumer, but the amount of wages which the miner requires to maintain himself and his family in a measure of decency and comfort. That should be the deciding factor as regards the price of coal. If coal is sold in London to-day at 2s. 3d. per cwt., the labour cost included in that 2s. 3d. is less than 6d., and surely no consumer is going to complain that the miner gets 6d. out of the 2s. 3d. that he pays for a hundredweight of coal. The abolition of Part I would give to the coalowners an opportunity of again reducing the price of coal to what they call a competitive level, and the result would be that it would be impossible for the coalowners even to pay the amount of wages that they pay at the present time. The gap between wages and the subsistence level decided by the independent chairman would be so great that either the independent chairman would have to reduce that subsistence level or large numbers of collieries would have to go out of production, and their going out of production would create more unemployment. For these reasons I oppose the Amendment.

As regards the price of coal, the Secretary for Mines gave figures covering a year, and I want to give figures for certain months of the period during which Part I has been in operation. The average pit-head price for December, 1930, prior to the operation of Part I, was 13s. 7d. per ton. In March, 1931, it was 13s. 6d.; in June, 1931, 13s. 11d.; in September, 1931, 14s.; and in December, 1931, 13s. 6d. At least, therefore, there has been a measure of stability as regards pit-head prices, largely as the result of economies due to organisation and amalgamation; and, as the Secretary for Mines pointed out, there has been a certain measure of stability as regards commercial disposal also. But we are not satisfied with conditions that are going to stabilise the price of coal as it is at present, and thereby also stabilise the wages of the miners. We want an efficient Part I that will bring more revenue into the industry, and, as a natural result, more wages for the miners. The hon. Member for Torquay contended that what is required at the present time is peace in the mining industry, and I echo that sentiment on behalf of my mining friends and colleagues on this side. But to believe that peace in the industry can be based upon the inanition of the miners—and that will be the consequence of low wages—is a great mistake.

The Secretary for Mines mentioned just now that the extension of Part I for five years was at the request of the coalowners. The extension of hours is at the request of the coalowners. What is there in this Bill as a whole that is not at the request of the coalowners? If Part I be removed from the Bill, what will be left? The extension of hours. It is suggested that by removing Part I the mining industry will be removed from the range of politics. It will not. At the end of 12 months this House of Commons will have to deal again with the mining situation. You cannot get peace in the industry by simply removing Part I and leaving the present 7½-hour day established for five years. We want Part I as a measure of defence and of justification for an application for an increase in wages at the end of 12 months, or even before. What is required is the amendment of Part I, control over selling prices, not only in certain areas and districts, but over the whole British coalfield, co-ordination between district and district, and, above all, the forcing on of the provisions of the Act relating to amalgamations, as a preliminary step to the complete unification of the mining industry.


I only want to make my position clear with regard to the Amendment. I am glad that the Minister is resisting it, and am sorry if I shall cause disappointment in any quarter by refusing my support to it. I agree with a great deal that has been said from the opposite side of the Committee with regard to Part I. As I said on the Second Heading, the danger, as I see it, is that, if we deleted Part I from the Bill and tried to carry on without it, we should expose the industry to what might be a very sudden and disastrous fall in prices. The Secretary for Mines said that it was the opinion of certain people that that fall would be about 2s.—


Not less than 2s.


Not less than 2s. I think it is impossible to put any limitation, in present world conditions, on the extent to which prices may fall, and we must have regard to the fact that any contraction in prices will reduce the total proceeds of the industry, and in that way will reduce the standard of life of the miner. While one is quite alive to the importance of a cheap supply of fuel and power for the heavy industries of this country, I am always prepared to deny the suggestion that we are entitled to maintain the prosperity of the heavy industries upon the back of an underpaid miner. There is not merely a danger of prices falling and of a reduction in the standard of life of the miner, but also a danger of loss to that part of the general internal trade of the country which comes from the wage fund of the coal industry. We have a population of, roughly, 4,000,000 people dependent upon the necessities of life being purchased from the wage fund of the miners, and the circulation of that money keeps in operation a tremendous amount of the internal trade in this country. Therefore, I think we should be unwise to accept this Amendment. I should, however, have liked to see the Debate concentrated upon another Amendment which deals, not with the abolition of Part I, but with the limitation of its period of operation; and I should have liked, also, some assurance to be given that immediate steps will be taken to inquire into and amend the operation of Part I itself.


I need not dwell upon it now, but I gave a definite and categorical assurance on that point. I said that we were awaiting from the Mining Association the Amendments that they had under consideration, and that, as soon as those Amendments had been notified to us, they would be correlated with the Amendments that we had in our own minds, and the Government would decide what Amendments would then be brought forward. [Interruption.] I explained yesterday that the Miners' Federation had already submitted their Amendments in a memorandum, and I said that those Amendments would, naturally, receive consideration.


I am glad to have that categorical assurance from the Minister. It will go a long way to remove the misgivings which some people certainly have. With that assurance, given in such definite terms, and for the reasons which I have, I hope, lucidly stated, I intend to support the Government in resisting this Amendment.


I wish to say, in the first place, that I am not going to speak on this matter as an authority. I represent the person who consumes coal and does not produce it. I am very interested to learn that coal, on the average, is produced in Great Britain at about 14s. a ton, whether for the home market or for the export market. What we in the East End of London cannot understand is why we have to pay, on the average, 40s. a ton all the year round for that coal which is produced in our own country. In the newspapers I read sometimes about foreign exchanges. I do not know what they mean, but I try to understand what they imply. I have not any disrespect for a man because he comes from another country, but I want to be treated in the same way as he is, and I should like to be able to discover why he can buy his coal at half the price that we have to pay in the working-class homes of the East End of London.

Why is that done? It is done, we are informed, in order to restore the prosperity of the industry. The prosperity of whom connected with the industry? After all, 75 per cent. of the population of Great Britain get their living by the production and distribution of commodities within the country itself. Have they no rights? Have they always to be sacrificed upon the altar of what may be called foreign trade? Can any Minister or Secretary of State in any Department of the Government tell us the reason for the difference between the price that we have to pay for the coal we consume in our home fires and the price which the foreigner has to pay for the same coal for his own purposes?


It is not the same coal.

5.30 p.m.


It is all British coal. Have we two kinds of coal? [Interruption.] If so, it seems to me that we may get the worst part at home, and pay the biggest price for it. We want to know exactly where we are. If this Clause means that we are trying to organise the coal trade for the purpose of giving the miner a decent wage, there is plenty of room for improvement. The miner is not getting anything like the wage that he ought to get when you come to compare the price that has to be paid for the commodity that he produces. The workers in the East End of London would not be afraid to pay a little more for their coal if they knew that the worker was going to get the benefit of the increased price, but they know from the economics of the situation that they would not have to pay any more if the trade was properly organised.

All the arguments that I have heard today lead me to the conclusion that the only way to get us out of this difficulty is to make this great industry a national industry. It is not a question of the miners or the coalowners. It is a matter of the people as a whole. It ought to be a national industry, nationally organised. Then we could guarantee to everyone in it a real standard of living and of comfort not previously enjoyed. This Bill is only a temporary expedient. It cannot last for very long, and eventually the question will come before Parliament in a more virile form. The question of who is going to control this great industry will become a burning question before very many moons have passed. You may temporise as much as you like, but are you prepared to face the issue? The machinery that you are introducing will fail, and finally you will be brought to the conclusion that there is only one thing for it. Things that are nationally necessary must be nationally controlled in the interests of the people. We hope the Government will stand to their guns and support the Clause.


I rise to correct a certain impression that I have seen in the Press that I am against the continuation of Part I. On the contrary, I am in thorough agreement with it, but it must be considerably amended in the direction of making it more effective in the realisa- tion of better wage conditions and a better return for capital. I wish to bring before the Committee some rather important issues which may seem to affect capital interests most, but which will, in the end, affect the workers most. Let us consider the mining industry as a wasting asset. We are taking out of the bowels of the earth every day something that we cannot replace, and at some time in the history of every mine, and at some time in the history of the country, we shall have to make new developments and sink new collieries. If new collieries are to be contemplated on a level of efficiency which will enable them to face the competition not only of their fellow coal-owners but of all alternative providers of power, light and heat, they must have the opportunity of an outlook for the investment of capital.

What is the position to-day? We sink a colliery with a possible projected production of 1,000,000 tons per annum and, when we have got to that point, we are told by the quota committee that we cannot produce according to our capacity. I know many instances where men have embarked on a capital expenditure of as much as £1,000,000. We go on and we sink pits and we are told, when we are striving our utmost to produce coal cheaply, to put in the most modern machinery and to create the greatest possible wage-earning capacity for the worker, that we must work at an uneconomic output. This point will have to be borne in mind, because investors are being driven away from the coal trade. The banks are overloaded with all kinds of collieries which cannot carry on without their assistance. If you get nationalisation, I can well fancy the amusement of a Chancellor of the Exchequer who has a servant of the Minister of Mines coming to him and asking, "Will you kindly authorise the expenditure of £1,000,000 in order that I may sink a pit, and will you kindly wait 10 years before you get any interest on the money?"

That is what you have to do in the coal industry. It is a serious thing that the type of men who had the courage and foresight to do that, and who built up the industry, are going out of existence. In the end the State may have to do it. Perhaps Members on the Opposi- tion benches will be pleased, but I have known a few State-owned mines on the Continent, and I would certainly prefer the conditions of employment under private enterprise to those existing under State enterprise. Quotas are wrong in principle. Fixed prices are wrong in principle. One of the greatest American industrialists said, "If you do not control production from beginning to end, you cannot possibly succeed in establishing a proper price level for anything." Members of the Opposition will see in that the possibility of my conversion to nationalisation, but I am not going as far as that. The industry depends for its existence on co-ordination and control from one central point, which will stop the competition between districts, will centralise production in the most efficient pits and will give the best wages. May I give an illustration of a new and an old pit under my own control? In the old pit the men can earn 9s. or 10s. a day. In the new pit they can get 14s. or 15s. The paradox is that, in the pit where we pay the biggest wages, the costs of production are 2s. to 3s. a ton less.

We are not competing against ourselves to-day. It is not competition between coal owners. Our real fight is with the alternative providers of power, light and heat. We have been losing the battle for the last two years, and we have been losing it at an accelerating pace. The coalowners must be forced to get on with reorganisation and with the centralisation of the production of the most efficient pits, and we must have a policy of control of exports speaking with one voice and able to negotiate with Ministers of Mines in other countries. We want to get it done. We can get it to-morrow. One day's delay is too much. The North-east coast, Scotland and South Wales are bleeding for it. There must be no waiting for the coalowners. They have had plenty of opportunities. We must go on. Part I is something gained. It is something that we have been able to satisfy the coalowners in the various districts that we are willing to share the national aggregate output at certain fixed percentages. That point gained, let us not recede and allow the Amendment to pass. Let us go on and build from that point. Let us not have redundancy and over-production and a policy of the survival of the fittest, which will go on for years. Let us grip essentials and give the inefficient mine a fair deal, and let us think of the miner employed at the colliery that has to go out of existence. It can all be done for a very small sum. The difference between working 70 per cent. and 100 per cent. of capacity means anything from 1s. to 2s. a ton. We can well afford to pay 3d. in order to put the business in a healthy condition. I ask the Minister of Mines to do his utmost to induce the coalowners to get on with the business of reorganisation. In regard to the question of wages, I should like the agreement in my district of North Staffordshire to obtain in Durham. We have given our miners a three years' agreement, and I should have liked the coalowners to have given them a five years' agreement.

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)

I think that the question of any agreement made between the coalowners and the miners, if it arises at all, should arise on the question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." I cannot see any provision in Part I for dealing with the situation.


I accept your Ruling, Captain Bourne. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition asked, either yesterday or the day before, "What have the Government been doing for the last six months?" It may surprise the Committee to learn that before the Labour Government passed this Act both the late Mr. William Graham and the late Mr. Hartshorn had evolved a compensation scheme. I do not want to feel that I am taking advantage of this kind of reference in making a point, but the question is that we must get on. I feel confident that if we can bring about the co-ordination of the production of coal in this country in efficient pits, have a unified export policy, and a compensation scheme—which according to the Press is gaining adherents every day—to deal with redundancy, this business can become as gilt-edged and provide as high a wage and as high a return to capital as any gas light or electric light undertakings in this country.

Viscount EDNAM

The arguments advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Slater), particularly with regard to co-ordination in the industry, are arguments which are ex- tremely sound, and with which no one here has any quarrel. But I think the Committee will agree that they are not arguments which arise on the Amendment, or under Part I of the Act at all. It is on Part II of the Act that the question of co-ordinating schemes will arise. As the Committee know, and, indeed, as the Minister himself has told us, Sir Ernest Gowers and the Commission are still in session, or have recently been in session—though they have not yet reported—in all parts of the country with the object of reporting upon Part II of the Act, which deals with co-ordination and amalgamation. So that I think that nobody can complain that that Part of the Act with which my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne has been dealing has been delayed in any way. It is going forward as rapidly and as smoothly as the late Secretary for Mines, who produced the Bill in 1930, intended that it should.

I did not mean to intervene in the Debate, for although I have been engaged in the industry for a considerable number of years, and I think I am the only Member of the House who is a member of the Central Council set up under Part I of the Coal Mines Act, I feel that it is impossible for anybody representing only one district to speak for the industry as a whole. The Committee will realise that conditions and interests in each district are so diverse and so different that it is impossible for one person to lay down the law with regard to other districts. That is why I am very reluctant to speak on behalf of the industry, and I do not wish to speak in any way, except for the district which I represent. I am one of those who were actively opposed to the Coal Mines Bill when it was introduced. I saw so many defects in detail that I felt it should be opposed in toto, but I am one of many who have been converted to the Measure. I should like to add my tribute of praise to the great foresight of the late Mr. William Graham, whose loss we all deplore so much on all sides of the House. The industry will always owe a deep debt of gratitude to him for his foresight and for having introduced the Coal Mines Act. I am sure that that is the opinion of all the members of the Central Council.

I hope that the Committee will resolutely oppose the Amendment, because it would be a disaster if Part I of the Act were to be done away with after it has worked so successfully for the last two years. No one says that Part I is in any way perfect, but, as the Minister himself pointed out, it has at least saved the industry from complete disaster during the past two years. It has been most interesting to find how harmoniously the representatives of all districts—considering how divergent are their interests and the conditions of coal-getting and of sale—have worked together on the Central Council, and how easily and readily, and without any ill-feeling, they have arranged the national quota, and the quota for each individual district. The Committee realise that any district which is not satisfied with the quota allocated to it for any particular quarter has the right to go to immediate arbitration. There is a special arbitration board set up for the purpose, and I do not think that any appeal to arbitration has been refused. Altogether there has been only about 12 applications for arbitration in respect of increased quota in individual districts. It is a very remarkable figure, and nobody can say that the quotas have been restricted hardly either to individual districts or to the consumers as a whole; in fact, the total district outputs have not reached the total allocations in the last four quarters, so that there can be no complaint of restriction of output in any way.

I am sorry that I was not present to hear the hon. and gallant Member move the Amendment, but I gather that he was talking entirely from the point of view of the exporters. The exporting districts have been most generously treated by the Central Council, because everybody is anxious that the exporting districts should have the largest quota possible, and that they should sell as much coal abroad as possible. The hon. and gallant Member will realise that when an exporting district is not selling its coal that acts very hardly upon an inland district such as I represent. They must have an outlet for their coal, and if they cannot turn their eyes outwards, they have to turn them inwards, and we suffer accordingly. Therefore, we are anxious that they should have the highest possible output, and we have helped them in the past by subsidising schemes. The Central Council have asked the exporting districts individually whether they have any complaint under Part I of the Act, and they have all said that they have no complaint whatever. I hope that the Committee will give the fullest possible opportunity for the continuance of this part of the Act. The Central Council will be able to improve the administration now that they know that they are to have this part of the Act for a further period, and defeat the evasions which have naturally cropped up. It is really remarkable that a greater number of evasions have not arisen. On the whole, the atmosphere of the Central Council is extremely cordial, honest, frank and open, and everybody wishes to defeat evasions in every possible way.

I want to correct a statement which was made by the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) in the speech which he made at the opening of the Second Reading Debate when he referred to the profits of the industry during the past two years. He said that the profits of the industry as a whole exceeded £2,000,000 during last year and the previous year. I do not think he will deny that he said that. Those were entirely fictitious figures. They are the figures upon which the guaranteed minimum wages are based, and they are arrived at after all the credit balances have been lumped in and before any charges in respect of bank overdrafts and a hundred and one standing charges have been made. They are not even the gross profits. The Secretary for Mines will not deny that I am correct when I say that the correct figure is well over £1,000,000 less in each of those years.


What I said was that they were the credit balances as shown in the returns of the Mines Department.

Viscount EDNAM

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has made it clear. It was not clear to me, and I think that it was not clear to the Committee, and I hope that he will forgive me if I make it clear. It is not even the gross profit figure. Indeed, the net figure is a loss of over £1,000,000. It is well known that for the last year only two of the smaller districts have earned sufficient profits to pay the guaranteed minimum wage prices. The outlook for the year ahead is very much blacker, and if it had not been for Part I of the Act it would have been quite impossible for the industry to have maintained those guaranteed wages. No one will deny that. The owners have been able only to guarantee those minimum wages for a further period on the assumption that Part I of the Act would be further guaranteed. As an instance of the disaster which would occur if Part I of the Act was done away with, I think that it has already been brought out in the Debate—contracts have already been made by certain merchants at a rate of 2s. a ton lower than the present prevailing prices on the assumption that Part I would come to an end this year. That is only the beginning. The whole structure of price levels would fall to the ground at once, and it would be a disaster both to the owners and to the miners. I am sure that hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the Committee will not deny that fact.

6.0 p.m.

The Secretary for Mines pointed out that it has in no way increased the price of coal. The working of the Act has in no way increased the price of coal; it has only maintained it more or less at the level it was when the Bill was introduced. The Committee will remember that the price of coal was falling to a far greater degree than the general index figure of other commodities. By the introduction of the Measure, we have been able to maintain that price. Although we have not increased the price, we have prevented it from falling to the extent to which the general index figure of commodity prices has fallen. I hope that I have said enough to make the Committee realise that the owners all over the country are in favour of continuing Part I of the Act. Under Part II of the Act, as soon as the Committee set up by the Secretary for Mines have made their report, they intend to do everything possible to co-ordinate the industry and to maintain a good living wage for those whom they employ, and nobody is more anxious to do that than the owners themselves. I think hon. Members know that if they go down to the districts they will find far less ill-feeling and far greater cordiality between owners and miners in those districts than sometimes hon. Members above the Gangway try to make out. The miners know perfectly well that when it comes to district negotiations the owners are not going to do them down. The owners are anxious to earn sufficient profits to maintain good wages, but without the continuation of Part I that will be impossible. Therefore, I hope the Committee will defeat the Amendment thoroughly in the Lobby.


In supporting the Amendment I should like to speak particularly from the point of view of the industry in Scotland, a district with which I am personally connected. In opposing the continuation of Part I, or suggesting that it should be continued for a shorter period, I am expressing the point of view of practically half the coal industry in Scotland, and I should like to assure the Noble Lord the Member for Wednesbury (Viscount Ednam) that the coal industry is not unanimous in supporting its continuation. Much has been said about the quota and the operations of the quota, but no one has suggested that the quota has really worked in an efficient manner. The best that can be said of it is that, unsatisfactory as it has been, they hope that it may work a little better in the future. There are many people experienced in the coal industry who are supporting us in condemning and criticising the quota. I might mention Sir Richard Redmayne, who, writing of the quota recently in the papers, said: It is the sterilisation of the fit in order that the unfit may live. Never was trade as a whole more uncertain than to-day, let alone a speculative trade like coal mining. To tie the industry to the quota for a further period of five years when no one can foresee what is going to happen is running a very serious risk, particularly for the export coal industry. I listened with very great interest to the remarks of the Secretary for Mines regarding markets for export coal and I was profoundly depressed by his survey. I had hoped that as a result of our going off the Gold Standard we might have a chance of regaining a large part of our markets, including Scandinavia, but he told us that in consequence of the quotas in countries like Belgium, Germany and France, we were unlikely to regain our trade. I was very disappointed that he gave no indication that the Government are going to use their great influence, now that we have changed our fiscal system, to put pressure on those countries to give us better treatment. I would respectfully urge the Government to do all they can to assist the coal trade in that direction. If they cannot do it now, perhaps after the Ottawa Conference they will try to persuade Denmark and other Scandinavian countries to buy more of our coal in exchange for the very favourable balance of trade which they enjoy with us at the present time.

Experience in the operation of the quota has shown that many difficulties arise. It is extraordinarily difficult, for instance, in accepting contracts, perhaps a year in advance, when you do not know whether you will be able to purchase a quota or not, and even if you can purchase it, what the price will be. Many of us yesterday when we were listening to the Debate in the House were perhaps speculating on what was happening somewhere else. Gambling may have its proper place, but such speculation is not the sort of thing you want to add to in the coal trade, as you do by the quota proposals. If there is one thing that has impressed me in the Debate it has been the clash of interests between different areas, between inland and export areas. We cannot avoid realising that that clash is there, and there is a serious risk to the export trade which is in the minority and has already suffered under the operation of Part I of the Act. There is a risk that if an export demand developed the inland areas might try to prevent expansion of export. We are told that if a demand developed the quota would automatically and quickly be abandoned, possibly in 48 hours, but what guarantee have we of that? The inland areas are in the very big majority, and the interests of the export collieries are not adequately safeguarded by the continuance of this part of the Act.

There is an extraordinary difficulty, almost an impossibility, in fixing minimum prices. The hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) referred to qualities of coal, and seemed to be surprised that there were many different kinds of coal. I have here the price list of a colliery with no fewer than 26 different varieties on the market. That emphasises the great difficulty of fixing minimum prices. The point of view of an inland area like Yorkshire or the Mid- lands is different from our point of view in the export areas in Scotland, the North-East Coast and elsewhere. I think the criticism that was made by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) and the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Ellis) of the speech in support of the export point of view by the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. Dickie) would have been more convincing had they not both been closely associated with an inland area. We realise that inland areas may have found the quota satisfactory, but we in the export areas are entitled to some consideration. My right hon. Friend opposite will appreciate the point of view that minorities should receive representation and fair treatment.


Hear, hear!


We in Scotland in particular have been criticised in this Debate for sending coal to Liverpool, "to destroy the trade of the Lancashire collieries." It is true that we have sold coal in Liverpool, but I would remind hon. Members that coal has been sent from England to Scotland and that such coal is being sold regularly in Scotland, even in Aberdeen, at the present time. Therefore that criticism comes ill from hon. Members representing the point of view of the English coal trade. We are told that we are reactionary in Scotland and do not know our business. We are told that we are "the most backward of the coal-owners," but I would point out that the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham), who knows the Scottish coal trade very well, put a completely different and a more correct point of view. In presenting our point of view in Scotland, and in asking the Government either to abolish or to reduce the period of the operation of the quota, we do so because we are up against an extraordinarily difficult problem. The Scottish coalfields represent as difficult a proposition as will be found anywhere else in the coal trade of the world. In spite of that fact our results show that we are efficient and that our point of view is entitled to representation. Our industry in Scotland compares favourably with any other district, even with Yorkshire, which we are told is so up to date. Let me give a few comparisons.

In Scotland our output per annum per person employed is 328 tons against 260 tons in Yorkshire. If you take the application of machinery in the collieries you find that the horse power of electric motors per person employed below ground is 3.13 in Scotland against 68 in Yorkshire. In Scotland we are cutting 66 per cent. of our coal by machinery, against 20.4 in Yorkshire. Our record in regard to the tonnage of coal conveyed by machinery is 32.5 per cent. against 12.1 per cent. in Yorkshire. So in other aspects of our trade we stand favourable comparison. I give these figures in order to take away, if I can, the conception that it is only new and modern pits which can be efficient. We in Scotland as a whole are working a coalfield which is not a new coalfield like South Yorkshire but an old coalfield. By the application of machinery we have made it efficient, and we can only get the benefit of that efficiency if we are allowed to have a large output and are not hampered by restrictions.

We are told that the removal of Part 1 of the Act would mean a reduction of over 2s. or 2s. 6d. a ton. I can only say, speaking from my own knowledge of Scotland, that I doubt very much whether our figure would be anything like that. With all due respect to the Secretary of Mines, I very much doubt that figure as applying to Scotland. Some people think that the quota has failed because it was not imposed for a long enough period and was therefore unworkable. That point of view was put by the hon. Member for Eccleshall (Sir S. Roberts), and the hon. Member for Winchester. I take a different point of view. The quota has failed because it is inherently unsound and something which is unsuitable to the efficient conduct of the coal mining industry and the production of coal. I would ask the Government to consider whether, if they cannot entirely abolish Part I—one cannot expect them perhaps now to scrap half of a first-class Government Bill—they cannot agree to limit it to a shorter period. In putting this point of view I am expressing what is felt by large numbers of people in the industry in Scotland, the North-East Coast and Kent, and a point of view which is held by many consuming interests, who are also entitled to a certain amount of consideration.

I represent a constituency which has many new and highly efficient industries, and any undue forcing up of the inland price of coal would undoubtedly have a most unfavourable effect upon those industries. I would seriously ask the Government to consider whether they cannot limit the operation of the Act to a shorter period, in order that further consideration may be given to the matter in the lifetime of the National Government. I say this not from a party point of view but because the National Government, representing wider and more varied interests than any mere party Government, have a better opportunity of settling such an important question regarding the coal trade. For that reason, even now, I ask the Government to consider reducing the period of the quota to a shorter period, perhaps two years.


I should not have intervened in this Debate but for a statement by the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Mitchell), who told us that he represents half of the Scottish coal interests and that they are opposed to the continuance of Part I of this Bill. It would be quite wrong if the impression got abroad that the coalowners in Scotland are in favour of dropping Part I of the Bill.


I said that I was speaking for 46 per cent. of the Scottish coalowners, not for all the Scottish coal-owners.


I accept that statement. My point is that there are very strong interests in Scotland in the export and inland trades who take entirely the opposite view and regard Part I as vital to the interests of the coal trade. In this matter I am in agreement with hon. Members opposite, and my only quarrel with them is that they claim to have a monopoly of sympathy with the miners. I can assure them that their point of view is shared by many hon. Members on this side who know the lives of the miners as closely and as intimately as they do themselves. It is impossible to judge the importance of Part I unless two conditions are fulfilled. It is only possible to judge its value if it has been in force for a sufficiently long period to test its efficiency. Part I has only been in force for a comparatively short time, and it is idle to say that it should be condemned on the trial it has had. The second point is that during its operation it should have been fairly administered and full advantage taken of the machinery set out in Part I. So far as Scotland is concerned I am certain that due advantage has not been taken of this machinery and that a great many of the criticisms levelled against the way in which the Act has been administered in Scotland are more than justified.

I agree with the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Slater), who spoke so strongly on the subject, and has not hesitated to criticise in the strongest manner the action of certain coalowners. I hold no brief for either side. My own view is against restrictions on trade and Government interference, but it is impossible for the Government, having put their hand to the plough, to turn back. We all regret the necessity of the quota system, but surely the hon. Member for Chiswick, who attributes such evils to the quota system, must remember the extraordinary world depression of trade through which we are now passing, which has affected the operation of this Act as it has affected all kinds of commercial activity. I see nothing for it but to support in the most cordial manner the action of the Government in insisting upon the retention of Part I in the Bill.

Colonel BROWN

In order to suit the convenience of the Committee, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.


On a point of Order—


I must protest against this proceeding, which is becoming a very common one. It is not treating the Committee fairly for hon. Members to put down Amendments when they have no serious intention of presing them to a Division. It is a waste of time.


Hon. Members put down Amendments for the purpose either of expressing their own views or of eliciting information from the Government, and that is a perfectly proper and legitimate practice on the part of any hon. Member of this House.


I agree that it is a very common practice, but we have only a limited time for the Committee stage, and much of it has been taken up in an academic discussion, with no intention of pressing the Amendment to a Division. There will be no time for a discussion of the hours' question. It is monstrously unfair, and the Government should have moved the Closure long before this.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move, in page I, line 17, after the word "until," to insert the words: the seventh day of July, nineteen hundred and thirty-three, or until. The object of this Amendment is to limit the operation of the Clause in respect of hours for 12 months, unless the Mines Convention is ratified before the 12 months is up. The Government understand the position. Last year the five-year operation of the Eight Hours Act finished, and the miners were legally entitled to a seven-hour day. That is not questioned. The miners agreed, as a result of getting a minimum wage put into the Bill last year, to forego half an hour to which they were legally entitled. Yesterday we asked the Government if they would agree to include wages in this Bill, and they refused on the ground that they did not believe that wages should be incorporated in an Act of Parliament. We pointed out that to separate wages from hours placed the miners in a very bad position; it weighed the scales down in favour of the coalowners. Now we are asking that if the guarantee for wages is to last for 12 months that the question of hours—


I should like to make my own position as Chairman quite clear. The hon. Member is moving an Amendment referring to hours and is bringing in the question of waged; I do not suggest that he is out of order, but if wages are to be discussed on this Amendment, it should be understood that we do not have a further discussion on the question of wages on the Clause standing part. If that would suit the hon. Member and also the general convenience of the Committee that is the course I suggest. I do not rule the hon. Member out of order, but I think we should have an understanding that we do not debate the question of wages again.


I am much obliged for your Ruling, and shall be pleased to accept your view. The questions of wages and hours are so interwoven that it is impossible to separate them. All I wish to say on the question of wages is that the Government have refused to put them in the Bill and have, therefore, placed the miners at a disadvantage. They have given a guarantee for 12 months on the word of the coalowners on the question of wages but continued the question of hours indefinitely. We are asking that the miners should be in an equal position with the coalowners. The miners have already given away one half-hour on the understanding that wages were put in the Bill of last year, and we ask that the miners and the coalowners should be put in an equal position by limiting this Clause to 12 months, so that the question of hours will come up for consideration at the same time as the question of wages. The Government have no right to place the coalowners in an advantageous position. It is a bad thing for the trade. Everything that has been said during these Debates has gone to show that the industry will have to meet conditions and circumstances during the next 12 months outside the control of the industry itself, and if the trade is to have a chance there must be no suspicion in the minds of the miners on the matter of wages. It would be good for the country generally if the men felt that at the end of the year hours and wages would be dealt with at the same time. I do not see how the Government can refuse this proposal. It evades the Government's difficulty of putting wages into the Bill; and I cannot see what argument there is against it.

Will the Committee forgive me if I draw attention once more to the fact that the hours are not seven and a-half but at least eight? That is a moderate statement. Customs and traditions have grown up in every part of Europe in the same way as they have in this country, and nobody knows better than those who have had to take part in international negotiations how much time it took to get to know the hours which were really worked. The present Home Secretary in the Debate last year pointed out that the actual time of the miner from the time he left the surface until the first cage began to ascend the pit was eight hours. But that is a moderate estimate. That eight hours is a period of work under conditions that most hon. Members can only imagine. During the War there was a phrase coined that "the miners were always in the trenches." That is truer than most people know. If Members of this House could see some of the men at work they would realise that the average stage contortionist is a back number. As a matter of fact the professional contortionist would not live very long under some of the conditions.

6.30 p.m.

The conditions of heat, particularly in deep mines, are exhausting. It is perilous for a miner to drink the water that he has with him. To work naked is common. Most of us have done that. The men have to work in small seams, two feet or three feet thick, lying in water, water pouring on them and working under the most amazing conditions. Is anyone going to say that eight hours is a reasonable time to work under such conditions? I have seen most classes of work in this country. I do not think there is any workman or any intelligent person who would say that in having a seven-hours day the miner was getting more than elementary justice. Yet here we are with eight hours. And conditions are getting worse. The pressure of the machine is felt in every part of the country, in every workshop and factory, but the machine bears no more hardly anywhere than upon the man who works in a mine. In my day we worked in our section of the coal face. We had our sense of independence, but now, of course, men are on a long face, working in rhythm, driven by a machine, and the pressure is becoming very great. I am prepared to say that it is becoming very great upon all classes, whether workmen or officials.

But it is doing more than that. These shifts are of a most amazing kind. The men have to fit themselves in to start work at all times of the day and night. I am sometimes very agreeably surprised and brought back to ordinary earth when I hear the argument that people should not begin work before seven o'clock in the morning. I am delighted when I hear that there is a sentiment abroad in some parts of the country for that system. But that would be heaven upon earth to the workers in the mining industry. They begin at eleven and twelve on a Sunday night, they go in at every hour of the day and night. A light is thrown on the humorous outlook of the miner by an incident that occurred the other day. Humour comes out sometimes in rather unexpeected form. I was travelling in. an omnibus on a Sunday night, when the Sunday Entertainments and Sunday Games Bill was being discussed. Two men in the omnibus were going to the pit. One was grumbling about it, the other smiled about it and suggested that that kind of thing was coming to an end. I asked him whether they were going to stop the shift. He replied: "Yes, they were going to include it among the Sunday games and get it prohibited."

In the light of present-day conditions and the kind of work that has to be done the eight hours is really too long. But if the miner has agreed, as he did in 1931, to an increase of half an hour on the time that he could legally be asked to work in return for getting wages put into the Act, and if the Government refuse to put wages into this Bill, then the least we can ask is that the Government should accept the Amendment, which limits the hours arrangement to one year and brings the arrangement to an end at exactly the same time as the wages guarantee. If the Government refuse to accept the Amendment I ask hon. Members to assert themselves in the name of equity and justice. Hon. Members must understand that the attendance during these Debates is no indication at all of the importance of this subject and the feeling of people outside about it. At the Miners' Federation meeting yesterday a certain decision was reached. This is the real point at issue. Bad as wages are, difficult as conditions are, there is nobody in a mood for anything but temperate and balanced judgment. But you have amongst the miners a sense of wrong that has struck deep. It is running right through the coalfields. I cannot see any ground whatever on which the Government can refuse this Amendment. The Amendment is in the best interests of the industry, in the best interests of the coal-owners as well as of the men, and I trust that at least we shall get good judgment upon the matter.


Of course, we recognise that what the hon. Member has said brings again before the Committee what we discussed upon the Second Reading. It is not a new point. It is fair to say that the effect of the Amendment is to limit the extension of the seven and a-half hours day to a period of one year, that is that it should be coterminous with the guarantee that has been the subject of our discussions. The hon. Member has taken what is common ground as to the hours that are now being worked in the mines. I suppose that if someone came from another planet and saw the conditions under which men were working he would have to say, "Here we are producing a great deal more coal than we can consume, and yet admittedly men are working too long in getting the coal out." It is an irony on our capacity to govern. But we cannot deal with that in this Bill. Anyone who has the slightest experience with present conditions would say that if there should be a short day anywhere it ought to be for the men who have to work under these conditions. No one can say that the conditions are natural. Some people talk about the healthy condition of the miner. They speak of his freedom from certain sicknesses. But the miner's life is admittedly a most unnatural life, and if there is any worker who is entitled to a larger measure of leisure it is the man who in the production of coal is deprived of his share of sunlight and fresh air.

I hope it will not be thought that I am acting too weakly in this matter in saying that I go fully with the hon. Member in deploring the hours of the miner. I wish they could be made shorter. I say that quite sincerely. When I have been down the mines, as I have been on some occasions, and have gone to the coal face and come back, I have done enough. I think the leader of the Opposition would have difficulty in getting back as far as I did. The prospect of a day's work of that kind is one which certainly would not exhilarate me. But is it not true to say that this subject was all argued last year? Is it not true to say that these arguments were relevant to the last Bill that came before the House? That is my submission—that at that time the last Government—there are some here who were Members of it—would not have failed to carry out a pledge that was honestly given unless they had been overborne by circumstances. Otherwise it would be a very serious confession to make. A pledge was given and it was intended to be kept. A big effort was made under the 1930 Act to carry out the pledge, and the whole system of marketing was set up, not because there was a desire for marketing but because somehow the pledge had to be redeemed. In the circumstances that arose the Government could not redeem the pledge fully. I remember Mr. Hartshorn saying that they were obliged to wait for the redemption until the following year. In the following year the pledge could not be redeemed. Those were considerations upon which my predecessor laid much emphasis. He spoke at that time of the competition that was then arising. He said that the menace of foreign competition was greater than ever.

A comparison is there between the conditions that my predecessor had to face and the conditions with which we are faced to-day. He spoke of the menace of foreign competition at that time, but he was a man immune in comparison with the experience of his successor. What did he know of the pressure of quotas abroad or of the severity of restrictions? What did he know, in speaking of Poland, of that competition being increased so much as it has been? If the argument was right then, to justify the failure to carry out the pledges of his party, surely I am entitled to say that what he found impossible to do at that time, we cannot do to-day. If there was any justification in the circumstances of that time, then we have to face difficulties ten-fold greater in what has arisen during the last year.

I am not here to defend the seven and a-half hour day, and my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade declines to defend it, but the argument which was relevant before is relevant now, that you cannot discuss this question separated from all the other issues involved. It must be dealt with against the background of facts which are as hard for us as they were hard for our predecessors, and in the circumstances the seven and a-half hour day, most unhappily, has to be continued. I would count my time at the Mines Department well spent if I could reduce it. I would rather stand at this Box to propose a Measure reducing the seven and a-half hour day than propose a Measure maintaining it. My hon. Friends opposite know that nothing would give me greater personal pleasure than to be able to do so. But they also know what the circumstances are. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) is in close touch with the industry and he knows how increasingly heavy is the competition which we have to meet. Therefore we are brought back to the point which I indicated in the Second Reading Debate. The only alternative to this Bill is another 12 months of the seven and a-half hour day, another 12 months of the guarantee, and then back to Parliament again. What would happen? As soon as this Bill got through the House of Commons and was passed, as I assume it will be passed in another place, and as soon as His Majesty's assent to it had been received—which would be perhaps before 8th July, supposing that we were detained until then—what would happen? Everyone would at once begin to mark 8th July, 1933, on his calendar.


They will have to mark it now in connection with the wages.


I have dealt with that argument, as the hon. Member knows. Everyone engaged in the industry—the Secretary and President of the Miners' Federation, and all those concerned on the side of the workers, and all the owners would mark 8th July, 1933, on their calendars and before July, 1933, whatever the need for legislation, we should have to be at it again. The Miners' Federation would have to come together, their Executive would have to meet, the Mining Association would have to meet and, over in the Mines Department, instead of dealing with the subjects which have been submitted to us for consideration we should have to spend the last three or four of the ensuing 12 months in meeting what might be a purely political crisis just as we are doing now. Why are we talking upon this Measure now? My hon. Friends did not want this Bill and nobody else wanted it. We had no request from the Miners' Federation or anyone else for legislation. We are not legislating because of any request from the industry but because of the calendar which was marked at 8th July, 1932. We submit that what the industry needs is freedom from apprehension and a chance to look forward without having other legislation looming ahead. [Interruption.] If I have made any mistake I will give way at once, but I say that we must all have regard to the circumstances which I have indicated. That is the only answer that I make. The Amendment means that we should be creating that crisis in 12 months' time and devoting to merely political issues the time and attention which ought to be given to solving economic problems. For that reason we are obliged to resist an Amendment which would strike at the whole philosophy and at the very foundations of the Bill.


This question is being discussed from the economic standpoint alone, and unfortunately from the Tory economic standpoint. Notwithstanding what may be said by supporters of the Government on that aspect of the matter, there is not any doubt in the minds of the miners that the question of hours is more important than the question of wages. Health is far better than wealth and this is a question largely of health as far as the miners are concerned. The Secretary for Mines is anxious to get the Committee to relate this question to the happenings of a year ago. I have no doubt that he and most Members of the Committee are aware that the shorter working day has been a subject of discussion by the miners, among themselves and with the owners for over 60 years and that we have not got beyond it yet. Some Tory Members last year proposed to introduce a Bill to give pit ponies an 8-hour working day and some of the very same people are supporting a proposal here which means that a big proportion of the miners will work 9 hours a day—because being in the pit is working.

Any hon. Member who cares to consult the report of the Samuel Commission will find there tables showing the output from mines at certain depths and in coal seams of certain thicknesses. They will find evidence of the fact that millions of tons of coal were being produced, particularly in Yorkshire in 1924 and 1925 from pits half a mile deep. We are told by the scientists that for every 10 or 20 yards you go downwards the temperature rises one degree, so that men working in mines from a quarter to half-a-mile deep, may often find themselves at the very bottom of a pit in a temperature close upon 100 degrees. Then, a miner may have to travel anything from half a mile to three males from the bottom of the shaft to his working place and when he gets there, without having done any work at all, he is in a lather of sweat. To ask those men to work an eight-hour day and to consider their situation merely from the narrow economic standpoint is not worthy of gentlemen who have been sent to represent the British public in this House.

As a matter of fact the conditions border upon slavery. There is no section in this Committee more anxious for peace in the mining industry than the section sitting here. Nor is there any section in this Committee which has to face trouble in the mining areas but the section sitting on these benches. You may create a situation which wall make it impossible for the men to avoid a stoppage. When they do stop they will remain idle until they are completely starved into subjection, and, when that time comes, it is the Members on this side of the Committee who are expected to go to them and get them to return to work. They will follow our advice and not yours—

Captain RAMSAY

The hon. Gentleman refers to us as if we were callous and indifferent to these conditions, the existence of which I admit as freely as he does, but that is not so. What we are discussing here however is the choice between those conditions and no employment at all and not being able to raise any coal at all.


I submit, in answer to the hon. and gallant Member, that with proper organisation and with the capacity of our mining engineers, we could, from the British mines, produce 300,000,000 tons of coal with less than a seven hour day. As a matter of fact one of the great difficulties with which our men have to contend is that after they go down to their working places on many occasions they have to lie on the coal face doing nothing for hours on end because of lack of transport and the bad methods of organisation in the industry. We on this side are not putting any obstacles in the way of real organisation which would mean supplying the public with coal at a lower price. We are consumers as well as producers and we ask this Committee and the Government to consider the matter from the humane as well as the economic standpoint. Nobody is more ready and willing to face the economic issues than we are, but we object to the economic consideration being the only consideration when it comes to dealing with the miners' conditions. Probably the reason why so many Members look at it only from the economic point of view is because they do not see the miner. He works underground miles away from them. He is not to be seen. If hon. Members saw him I think they would agree with us in the claim that we are making.

7.0 p.m.

We are only asking that the miner should be put in a position analogous to that enjoyed by other workmen, who are regarded as essential to the well-being of the State but who are employed above ground. He is the only workman in the country who suffers the indignity of having to pay for his own light. Not only so, but his wages depend upon prices—upon output. Further, he has to tax himself in order to put a man on the pit bank to see that he gets full weight and fair credit for his work. I am sure that nobody could stand up here in defence of people who showed themselves willing to rob the blind. At the present time in the county part of which I represent here men are being asked to pay for the dirt which it is impossible for them to see. The men have nobody to see even that they have better light, yet the employers say to them: "You have to pay for every ounce of dirt that comes out of the washer." I submit that we have made a case, and I am sorry that the President of the Board of Trade, the Lord President of the Council and also the Prime Minister are absent from this Debate. This is an important matter to us. I read an article written by one of the principal journalists of Scotland a week or two ago. Writing to the "Glasgow Evening Times" on the Mines Bill, he was arguing that it was essential, if from no other point of view, that the miners' hours should not be extended for a period of more than 12 months, because, he said, it was practically the only bargaining power the miners had left. We have to go to our men to-morrow and tell them that every concession claimed by the owners has been granted, but nothing we have asked for has been conceded to us, and that the struggle next year will not be on hours but on wages. We are fooling ourselves if we imagine that 12 months hence the miners will be prepared to submit to reductions in wages that will inevitably be claimed.

It is clear, in the arguments advanced by the Government, that they do not anticipate, assuming willingness on the part of the owners to reorganise the industry or even that the owners will have liberty to reorganise it, that the industry will be reorganised within five years. If it is essential that the mineowners should have that time, it is much more so that the period of the agreement should be coterminous with the hours of work. It will be a spur to the owners to get organisation really carried out. The Sankey Commission, the Samuel Commission, and all the commissions and committees, have on every occasion recommended the need for organisation. Yet it has not been done. It will not be done now unless you put something in the Bill that will be held in front of the owners as something with which they must comply. If you make the hours coterminous with the agreement regarding wages you will make possible the better feeling that is necessary.

I do not for a moment say we disagree with the owners. There is no reason why we should. We meet them practically every day. I do not know any other trade in the country which has more constant negotiations with the employers than have the representatives of the miners on matters of this kind. There is absolute good feeling as far as we are concerned. We are not arguing in this Bill that the employers should not get a, profit. We are arguing that the industry shall be organised so that it shall receive a decent profit and the miners shall get a decent wage. We are not arguing for a purely class advantage. We are arguing that the industry must be organised, and we are asking the Government to make this Bill such that everybody in the industry will be equally interested in trying to get it organised in such a manner as will make unnecessary these continual discussions of miners' questions in the House.

There is no doubt in our minds of the sympathy and good feeling of the Secretary for Mines. I say that with absolute sincerity. I am not so sure of the Cabinet. That is one of the reasons why we on this side have always been anxious that the Secretary for Mines should be in the Cabinet. I think we should get very much further progress, and that fewer difficulties of this kind would arise if that were so. Nothing said upon this side of the House should be taken by the Minister as a reflection on himself. We are quite satisfied that there is any amount of sympathy in the House. But you are unwilling to believe the statements we make, as some of you imagine we do not represent the miners. You are making a big mistake. If you want peace, then peace is to be secured by the men in the industry having the feeling that this House is willing to give them equitable treatment with the employers.

I would appeal to the Minister even now to take this question back and ask the Cabinet to reconsider the position. Nothing will be lost. If 12 months hence the industry is not reorganised, then if we are treated in an equitable way which will satisfy the men, the question of continuing will be a much more easy matter to deal with than will be the case if, at the end of 12 months, there is no reorganisation, the economic conditions of the world are no better, and the miners are asked in the interest of the community as a whole to submit to further reductions in wages. You may take it as absolutely certain that the miners will not agree, and, speaking for myself, I would not advise them to. Between now and then my business will be to advise the miners to prepare for the day. I would prefer not to. I would prefer peace in our industry. There is much need for it, and there is an easy way to get it. No men are more willing to give confidence to their leaders, political and industrial, than are the miners, but they do not forget when they are being played with—as has been the case by Liberal, Labour and Tory Governments during the last 12 years.

One of the reasons why some hon. Gentlemen are in this House representing mining districts is the feeling the miners had of the manner in which they were betrayed by the Prime Minister during the negotiations in 1930–31. I hope the National Government will take a wiser view. If they do so, I can promise that there will be peace in the industry, and it will be possible for it to be organised in such a way that it will be able to produce coal to be delivered in the house of every member of the community at a much lower price than now, and for the miners to have considerably higher wages and to produce as much coal in seven hours or even less as they are now producing in eight. It can be done. If the Minister would have as much courage as he has sympathy, and ask the Cabinet to reconsider the whole question, it would redound very much to the credit of the National Government, and 12 months hence you would have an industry very much better organised and very much better able to pay wages than will be the case if there is no legal agreement making sure that wages and hours will be treated on the same footing.


I want to draw the Minister's attention to his statement in his reply to the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) in regard to this Amendment. He has conducted this Bill in a most admirable way so far, but I think he has missed the whole point of the Amendment. He talked about the impossibility of having a seven and a-half hour day at the present time. This Amendment is not asking for that. The Amendment is asking that the provision with regard to hours should have a limitation of 12 months, and that at the end of that time we should start equal with the owners and the Government in regard to wages. It must be admitted that is only a fair and reasonable request. If it is not conceded, the position 12 months hence will be that wages and hours will tome into the arena again for further discussion. If his Bill remains as it is, wages are bound to be reconsidered at the end of 12 months. Probably by that time we shall have the coalowners asking for a reduction of wages, and we shall be then without our chief bargaining power, namely, seven and a-half hours.

In the conference with the Miners' Federation, I opposed the bargain that had been made, but I was told, after my resolution was defeated, that as a member of the federation, the federation having made a bargain with the Government and the coalowners, it was my duty to stand honourably by that bargain. But this time we have had no chance of making any bargain. Somebody else has made the bargain for us. They have said, "We want a bargain, but you chaps must stand outside the bargaining job, and we will tell you what we have done." Both the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary for Mines have admitted that, owing to outside influences, we have got this Bill. They had to come to the owners' point of view and be satisfied with the guarantee given on wages, and on those terms the owners were prepared to say to the Government, "We will let the hours continue for an indefinite period." We were never asked, as a federation, what would be our part of the bargain in endeavouring to get an amicable settlement. Therefore, we are in a different position from last year. Last year's Bill was the result of a bargain between the three parties concerned, but this Bill is the result of a bargain by two parties only, namely, the Government and the owners.

Everybody here will claim to be British, and the slogan to-day is "Buy British." Everybody also points out that the British stand for fair play, and I say that, from that point of view, we are entitled to be given the same opportunity 12 months hence as was given us last year to bargain with the owners over our conditions of wages and hours. We could go on giving our experiences of the arduous toil in the mines and all that sort of thing, but I want to make this bold venture. I am not certain if the output of the coal has not increased under the seven and a-half hour day as compared with what it was under the eight hours day. The men have exerted themselves to meet the demands of the industry by giving as good an output, if not better, in the seven and a-half hour day.

I submit, finally, that I think the Government should give us this Amendment. It would put both sides in the same position, and although the Secretary for Mines will doubtless do his best to avoid this matter having to come before Parliament again, I am afraid that he will not succeed, because, as sure as the sun rises, if an attempt is made 12 months hence to reduce the wages of the miner, unless he can get some protection from this House, he will take the matter in his own hands and fight the issue to a conclusion; and that will not be good either for the country or for the industry. If we could get this Amendment accepted, i believe that when the whole matter comes to be discussed next year, we may find the industry in a better position than it is in to-day. A bargain might then be come to by the Government and the two contending parties and a non-controversial Bill brought in and passed through rapidly. Even if things have not improved, I feel in my own heart that there might be a willingness on the part of all concerned to come to some accommodation and to get a Bill to meet the requirements of the times.

When I say that the men have exerted themselves and have produced as good an output under the seven and a-half hour day as before, if not better, I ought to add that the managers of the mines have improved the transport facilities and that the men have the tubs at their disposal to fill more rapidly than was the case before. In conclusion, I want to compliment the Secretary for Mines on the admirable way in which he has succeeded in seeing that no Amendments have been accepted on the Bill so far, but I still hope that he will accept this one.


I should like to pay a tribute to the eloquent speech delivered by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham), who has such an intimate knowledge of the coal trade, but I want to explain why I cannot support the Amendment. I cannot support it because I think it is a bad policy on the part of the miners' leaders towards their own men. They ask us to stabilise for five years the present rate of wages.


No. If the hon. Member will read the Amendment, he will see that that is not the case.


I understood the hon. Member for Hamilton to say that he wished the same agreement in regard to wages as with regard to hours, and if that is the case, I think I must be permitted to make my own interpretation of what he said. If I am right, my idea is that the rate of wages at present paid to the miners cannot possibly be lowered. I do not think it is possible, but I think it very likely that at the end of a year the wages may be materially higher. We are asking for this Part I to go through in the hope that it will bring increasing prosperity to the industry, and if that is the case, surely this increasing prosperity will be reflected in the wages of the miners. We have heard also from hon. Members opposite that they expect that the cost of living will be affected by the fiscal policy of the Government, and if that is the ease, I think it is very dangerous on the part of the miners' leaders to ask for the stabilisation of wages.


May I endeavour to clear up the misconception in my hon. Friend's mind? I have not suggested that the agreement should last for five years. I said that the hours and wages agreement should end co-terminously, and that would be a year hence.


Or five years.


When speaking of five years, I mentioned that if the agreements on both wages and hours ended co-terminously a year hence, it might be possible for an agreement to be reached to enable the pits to be carried on for the period suggested in the Bill, the five years, during which the reorganisation of the industry could take place.


I accept my hon. Friend's explanation, although he so frequently used the word "co-terminous" so far as wages and hours were concerned, that I was bound to assume that he meant the five years period. If I am mistaken, I am sorry, but I still think it is an extremely dangerous policy on his part and on the part of his colleagues to advocate the adoption of this Amendment.


Nobody will doubt the fact that the Secretary for Mines has every sympathy with the miners' conditions, and we all know that if he had the power, and if the economic condition of the industry would allow it, he would like to reduce their hours of work. I hope that he will not have any doubt in his mind that that is what we feel, but our point is that he did not answer the argument put forward by the mover of the Amendment. We do not claim that the hours should be reduced now. We simply say that the period of the seven and a-half hours working day should come to an end simultaneously with the wages agreement.


Then the hon. Member's only alternative is another Bill in 12 months' time.


I agree. I am very glad the President of the Board of Trade has come back, because I think the justice of our Amendment can be proved by extracts from his own speech when moving the Second Reading of the Bill on Monday last. We claim that the Amendment is merely one of ordinary justice. The justice of it has been admitted during the Debate by several supporters of the Government belonging both to the Conservative party and the Liberal party. It was admitted last year by the present Home Secretary, who has been quoted already. He said, for example, that the agreement should be a guarantee of wages for a year in return for longer hours for a year, and he said that the position of the owners in demanding an unlimited period for hours with a limited period for wages was an unreasonable one. It is that unreasonable condition which has been embodied in this Bill, and that is, I suppose, one of the reasons why the presence of the Home Secretary in these Debate's has not been so conspicuous as his absence.


I have already referred to the Home Secretary's statement. I think it is fair to say that he said that at the end of the 12 months it would be open for the miners, through their properly constituted federation, to say, "We are prepared to work your seven and a-half hours if you will continue our wages." That was the Home Secretary's argument, and nothing prevents that negotiation. Further, in the speech to which the hon. Gentleman refers, the Home Secretary entered his protest against a statutory statement of wages.


I am not talking about a statutory statement of wages. I am talking about the agreement which exists now and which is not in the Bill. When the Minister said that it is open to the miners to say at the end of the year that they will refuse to work, ho is inciting them to strike. To say that unless the wages are continued they will not work, means a strike, an industrial dispute, I want to deal, first, with the speech of the President of the Board of Trade. He said that it was impossible to disconnect hours and wages. That is precisely what he is doing in this proposal. He is connecting hours and wages for a period of 12 months, and at the end of that time he is disconnecting them; and then the coalowners will ride off on the horse of the longer hours, and the miners, as usual, will be left in the cart.

I want the Committee to consider the position in which the miners will find themselves at the end of 12 months when the agreement comes to an end. The President of the Board of Trade has admitted that it was only with great difficulty that he was able to get the coal-owners to come to that agreement at all, and he had a very strong hand to play. In the first place, he was representing the National Government, whose power is enormous, even if its prestige is not what it was. It has absolute power, with an absolute majority, and it can impose its will in any way it pleases. Secondly, he was able to give to the owners Part I of the Act, which, he says, meant an additional 2s. 6d. per ton on the coal which they produced. He stated that: Part I was another essential element in the maintenance of price and, therefore, in the maintenance of wages. Thirdly he was able to give them the seven and a-half hours day. To use his own words, he said: We are giving to the coalowners stability and as great a degree of permanence in an ever-changing world … as is possible by any Act of Parliament."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th May, 1932; cote. 860–1; Vol. 266.] 7.30 p.m.

Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman has given the owners everything he could possibly give them. He was able to use that triple weapon, and yet he only got them to give an agreement on wages with the greatest possible reluctance. What will be the position of the miners in 12 months' time? They will have nothing. They will have no weapon except the weapon of the strike. The owners will be in the position of having had everything given to them and not needing to concede anything. Previously the miners had the bargaining weapon that if the seven and a-half hour day were not continued industry would automatically go back to the seven hours. The Government are taking that power from them, and in 12 months' time they will go into the discussions unarmed except for the weapon of the strike. It is said that the strike is a bad method. Hon. Members opposite do not believe in it and say that it is a weapon that should not be used except in the last resort, and that it is an act of war. Now the Government are taking away the miners' bargaining power and thrusting into their hands the very weapon of the strike the use of which they deplore. As the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. G. Nicholson) said, in 12 months' time there will be every probability that an attempt will be made to lower wages in the worst-paid districts.

The Secretary for Mines to-night made a statement similar to a statement made by the President of the Board of Trade the other day. The President of the Board of Trade said that they were removing industry for a period of five years from the arena of politics and avoiding an unseemly crisis. It is very unseemly to bring the wretched conditions of the miners on to the Floor of this House where they can be discussed in the light of day so that the whole nation can know the conditions under which the miners have to work. It is very unseemly to have that on the Floor of the House, so the crisis is to be removed into the districts where the miners can be bludgeoned and starved into surrender and where their conditions are not reported in the papers. The trouble is simply to be removed from the House of Commons to the districts so that an unseemly crisis will be avoided. The President of the Board of the Board of Trade will then be able to wash his hands like Pontius Pilate and say, "Thank God the Government have nothing to do with it." The Secretary of the Miners' Federation has been commended on all sides for his broad, statesmanlike and reasonable attitude. What has he had in return for that? Simply a Bill of betrayal. The miners have been betrayed by a Government which contains in the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Dominion Affaire two specialists in treachery. I hope that the Government will make this concession. If they do not, I warn them that they and society will one day pay a heavy penalty for the fact that they have denied justice to the most loyal and finest band of workers in the world.


I intervene in this Debate for the first time, because I think that this Amendment may claim to be extremely reasonable. The miners' representatives are simply asking that the Bill shall continue in effect for 12 months. The major Act lays down that the miners are entitled to work seven hours a day. Some time ago Parliament decided to suspend temporarily the seven-hour Measure and passed an eight-hour Measure. When the Labour Government were in office, they decided to continue the seven and a-half hour level. They did not restore it to the seven hours and the miners at that time, rightly or wrongly—I think wrongly—accepted the seven and a-half hour compromise. I think that it would have been much better for the miners if they had insisted that the seven hour day should be maintained. They would have been in the position that there would have been a larger number of miners employed, though not many more, and they themselves would have been in a stronger bargaining position to meet the situation of the present moment. Now Parliament is asked to face the position of a continuance of the seven and a-half hours. The major Act guaranteed a seven hours day; it has been suspended for a seven and a-half hours day, and in return for that this Amendment asks that it shall be only for 12 months.

The reason for that is that the question of wages is guaranteed only for that period. It is guaranteed only on paper. There is absolutely no legal right to it. All the miners have is a sort of guarantee on the Floor of the House. They have absolutely no legal right. There is this difference which has never been driven home in these Debates: Individual owners may break a wage agreement, but, if they break an Act of Parliament, they can be prosecuted. In the next 12 months any individual owner can break the agreement, and we shall be told in the House that the owners in the main are keeping their bargain and that the Government cannot be expected to intervene when only one owner here and there is breaking it. The Mining Association cannot speak for every owner any more than the Miners' Federation can speak for every individual miner. They can speak for them collectively, but not individually. All of us know hosts of cases in Scotland where individual owners have often sought by individual action to get outside even the law with regard to hours. All the miners have in regard to wages is a written word, and, curious to say, the Government have not even put it in the Statute.

Why is this being demanded now? The truth of the matter is that the miners, as a trade union, are not the powerful body that they were formerly. Strikes and lock-outs—call them what you may—over a long period of years, attack after attack have left them to-day in nothing like the strong position that they enjoyed a number of years ago. The owners know that, and in 12 months time the miners will be attacked in the districts. It is not right for the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Wallace) to say that wages cannot go any lower. If, however, they are as low as they can be, why cannot the guarantee be put into the Bill? It is because the employers know that they can be made lower that they refuse to have a guarantee inserted for any particular period. There are districts now in which the owners frankly and openly think that the miners are earning in excess of what they should be paid, and at the end of 12 months the owners will attack the districts as it suits their convenience and their particular purpose.

I have heard the hon. Gentleman who is piloting this Measure complimented for his Parliamentary skill. If it is a compliment to say that he has got his Bill through without conceding anything, he may well have earned the compliment, for it is a fact that he has given the miners nothing. If the concession that has been granted in the Bill had not been given, there would have been war to-morrow—internecine war. All that is happening now is that for a period of 12 months war will be suspended in order to allow the owners the better to prepare to attack the men. There is nothing to be said in favour of the hon. Member for introducing this Bill. There is nothing humanitarian in it. One can imagine him on great questions like Sunday opening or if the Presbyterian faith were at stake. He would stand in his place and say: "This cannot be done; I will go out of the Government." Indeed, on Free Trade he almost got to that point.


I was nearly put out.


The question whether employers are to have free imports or regulated imports aroused great passions and the hon. Gentleman differed from his colleagues on that question, but, when it comes to humanitarian principles and to the awfully meagre right for which the miners are asking, the hon. Gentleman refuses to be moved. If there is one criticism that I would direct against the miners, it is that they have been too meagre in their demands. All that they ask is that this Measure should go on for 12 months, so that at the end the position may be again subject to mutual negotiations between the parties.


Can the hon. Gentleman name any other industry where that may be done?


I say that circumstances are not the same, and the hon. Gentleman ought to know it. Parliament, for good or ill, has not said that there is to be a seven-hour day for any other industry. As Parliament has altered what a previous Parliament has done in this respect, Parliament ought to hold the balance with some show of equality. The hon. Gentleman asked me if there is any other industry. He is like the rest of the Free Traders, antediluvian and anxious to go back to the days of Cobden. Who in this House says that the miners are in the same position as, say, the engineers? The existence of the Department of Mines gives the lie to that. Time after time the miners have been picked out for legislation. The fight over the minimum brought them out from the rest of industry. To say that there is no other industry which can be taken as a parallel indicates a mind that has gone back to ideas which I had hoped were long forgotten.

It is said that we should not introduce sentiment into this matter. I heard one miner's Member sneered at for introducing human sentiment. Last night I listened to human sentiment about a bridge. The cry was, "Keep the old bridge up; keep it going, this beautiful bridge." [Interruption.] The Secretary for Mines may not have said that, but I heard him pouring out sentiment over old books, trotting out old classics, and I always envied him, because I know nothing about them. Why should it be wrong to introduce sentiment in a House of Commons where we have only 50 Members, where we have no voting strength, no men to appeal to, where the miners as an organisation are almost smashed, where they have no economic, industrial or political power? Where are their leaders? It is not only the Prime Minister who has wronged them, but other men as well—other leaders who have left them; men to whom they had given place and power have now thrown them over. Hon. Members often think we are terribly hard on the Prime Minister. I wonder how hard they would have been on a man who had been served by them as well as the Prime Minister was served by the miners and then had treated them as he has treated the miners?

In view of our numbers why should we not appeal for human sentiment? It is the only appeal we can make. We have made a business appeal. We have appealed for reorganisation. We have appealed for the linking-up of the selling and other agencies in the industry, and we have met with no response. If sentiment has saved a bridge, why cannot sentiment save the miners? All we are asking for is the acceptance of a meagre Amendment to say that for 12 months the wages guarantee should remain and the hours guarantee should remain. I was tempted to differ from my hon. Friends and to say that the seven hour day should operate, but they in their mildness have not asked for that. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) has said this may mean war at the end of 12 months. I do not think it will mean war, because war pre-sup-poses equality between two forces. It is not war when one nation is small and incapable of fighting the other nation, that is massacre; and when next the miners go to war it is likely that they will be massacred, through the power of a Government. But the miners will go to war, and possibly they will lose, and in the struggle they will not only pull themselves down but, possibly, pull down others with them.

I say the Secretary for Mines ought to accept this Amendment, ought to show some clemency towards the miners. They have asked for little. Let him give them this meagre demand of theirs. The Secretary of State for the Dominions has said that this is a Government of all parties; that it is not anti-Socialist; that it is sympathetic, in some ways, towards socialism. They say, "We will give you a Town and Country Planning Bill" and "We will give you a Transport Bill." I looked to see what else they were going to give us. Nothing! I ask them to prove that they are a Socialist Government, a Labour Government—not wholly of course, because a Socialist Government would establish the seven hour day. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why did not the late Government do so?"] Because it was not a Socialist Government, and the hon. Member who made that interjection, if he had been here in the last Parliament, would not have twitted me about it. The Government should let the Measure continue for 12 months, and in the interval let the Minister of Mines apply his capacity and power to seeing that a settlement is reached, so that when he demits that office to take up any other he may leave behind him a permanent mark of what he did to make mining better for human beings.


I am sorry the President of the Board of Trade has left the House, and I think we have a right to complain of his absence during this Debate on hours, because this is a most important Amendment to my own county of Yorkshire. There they set a good deal of store on the idea of returning to the seven-hour day, and are prepared to go a long way to get the Miners' Federation to take definite steps to secure it. They were largely responsible for the Vote yesterday in the conference, on account of the position as to hours. I do not think we have been treated fairly by the Cabinet in this Debate. After all, the Secretary for Mines is a junior Minister, and as everyone who has been a junior Minister knows, it is impossible for him to make any alteration in a Bill of his own volition; but Cabinet Ministers have made alterations in Bills during Debate, and have accepted Amendments some of which have cost this country millions of money. Had the President of the Board of Trade been present he could have said another word as to the attitude of the Government. I know that if the Secretary for Mines gets up again he can in the absence of higher authority only say what he has said before. Therefore, I beg that before we close this Debate some Cabinet Minister, and particularly the President of the Board of Trade, may give expression to the Government's views on this Amendment.

After all, there is nothing definite for the miners in this Sub-section. It says that it is to continue the seven and a-half hour day until the Geneva Convention is ratified, which may be in one year—I wish it could be said that it was to be ratified in a year—or in five years, or never. I am not going to threaten, because I am not in a position to threaten, what will happen at the end of 12 months in the mining industry, but I can say that there is now a better feeling in the industry than there has been for a long time, and a possibility of continued good feeling, but nothing is more likely to dispel it than the refusal of the Government to accept this Amendment. To insert this Amendment in the Bill would at least give a hope to the mining industry of a return to a legal seven-hour day at some time, but in the absence of it there is no guarantee that at the end of 12 months they will get back to the position they desire. I have listened to all the Debates in this House on miners' hours since 1908. I sat in the Gallery for eight hours when the late Stephen Walsh moved the Second Reading of the Eight Hours Bill in 1908. It is no use talking about getting this question out of politics. We cannot take it out of politics. What argument can there be against the question coming up again in 12 months' time?

This is supposed to be a, National Government. Many of the Members of the Government have cast aside life-long principles to join it. The President of the Board of Trade has held and defended certain principles for a generation, but they have all gone to the winds in order that he may serve the purpose of what is called a National Government. If they are to be regarded as a National Government, let them look at this question in the interests of the nation, and I am convinced that it is in the interests of the nation that this Amendment should be inserted. We shall, naturally, go to a Division upon this Amendment, because we feel so strongly upon it, but we would withdraw it if we could have an assurance that what we want will be included in the Bill. We are told that the Government were negotiating for many months with the mineowners to get a guarantee on the minimum percentage, but they did not negotiate with tine Miners' Federation at all. They never took the miners into their confidence in connection with this Bill until the very last minute before it was introduced.

We on this side of the House have a right to say, without any threats at all, that in this matter, which is the important matter, and the one which is creating dissension and feeling, this Amendment should be accepted. I hope that the Secretary for Mines, after his colleagues have given him some instructions, will say a word before we go to a Division, and if he can concede us this Amendment we shall feel that the four days spent on this Debate, which has been a remarkably good Debate on mining affairs, have been very well spent. I can tell hon. Members that there will be many many Debates on mining in the future, and that it will not go out of politics. To suggest that it will keep out of politics for five years is beside the mark, because before very long it will come up here again, and if this Amendment is not inserted, much sooner than otherwise. I ask the hon. Gentleman to concede this one point to the miners, because it will give some substance to the expressions of sympathy which have been expended upon them.

8.0 p.m.


On the last occasion when I spoke I referred to the question of miners' wages, and I supported the wages section on the assumption that either the Mining Association would introduce an Amendment to Part I, or, if that was not possible, that the Government would introduce an Amendment themselves. If I thought that that would nor, be the case I should support this Amendment. Am I right in assuming that the Government undertake to carry on the wages guarantee for 12 months on the assumption that before 12 months are up Part I will be amended?


The Minister for Mines has made a very important statement in regard to the bargaining powers of this Bill. I should like to ask the hon. Member what he meant when he said that, at the end of the 12 months, the miners would be in a position to make suggestions to the owners. Although the statutory hours are fixed, I think the miners would be entitled to claim that, in any negotiations, wages should be included. Is it the intention to throw back into the industrial field next year warfare not only on wages but on hours as well?


I have already spoken on this Amendment, and really there is nothing that I can add. I will try to deal with the question put to me. As to the position at the end of 12 months, I have made two statements. I have made them in the Debate and I stand by what I have said. I think we have now had a thorough discussion on Part IV, and I should like to see a strengthening of Part IV of the Act of 1930, or the substitution for the machinery of Part IV of the Act of a new board. I think that the question of wages should be discussed before any change takes place, and I am going to deal with that matter later on the Third Reading. Within the last day or two suggestions have been made in regard to Part IV of the Act of 1930, and I hope those suggestions will be carefully considered. I would like to point out the admission which was made last year on the passing of the Act of 1931. We were told that the Miners' Federation at that time not merely agreed to the suspension of the reduction of the hours of the working day, but that there was an admission on the part of the Federation and of the last Parliament that seven hours was impracticable. The Act of 1931 says that the seven and a-half hours shall continue in force until the coming into operation of an Act to enable effect to be given to the draft International Convention limiting the hours of work underground in coal mines adopted by the general conference of the International Labour Organisation of the League of Nations on the eighteenth day of June, nineteen hundred and thirty-one. That was an admission that seven hours was impracticable. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Hon. Members must accept responsibility for that Measure, and its terms were that there should be seven and a-half hours, and it was limited to 12 months, although here reference was made to seven and a-quarter hours. Suppose that Convention had been signed within the 12 months, what would have been the hours of miners to-day?


I do not wish to interrupt the Secretary for Mines, but I wish to point out that he is trying to convey to the House that what appeared in the Bill of last year was in agreement with the Miners' Federation, and that is not so. There was an international convention held dealing with hours long before that, and the representative of the Government, the late Secretary for Mines, discussed the question of a seven and a-quarter hour day.


The hon. Member could not have been in the House when the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Cape) said that he did not object to the Bill of last year, strong as his claim was for a seven-hour day, because he understood that the Bill was the result of an arrangement between the Miners' Federation and the Government. I am not trying to make a debating point in regard to this matter. The Bill was passed last year. It was not my Bill, and it provided that the seven and a-half hours should continue until the coming into operation of the International Convention. During the Debate the suggestion was made that something might be done even before 12 months—


I made that point clear in my remarks. I pointed out that the seven and a-quarter hour day proposed by the Convention was equal to our seven-hour day.


The seven and a-quarter hour day was equal to seven and three-quarter hours bank-to-bank. I do not put that forward as a debating point, but as a fair statement, because hon. Members opposite must accept responsibility for that Measure. We were convinced by the argument used that there were insuperable difficulties to going back to seven hours, and therefore, if the Convention recommendation were carried through, the hours would be seven and a-quarter, which corresponds to seven and three-quarter hours bank-to-bank. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I will produce the terms of the Convention if necessary. After a very long discussion, it was agreed that seven and three-quarter hours bank-to-bank was to be equal in this country to seven and a-quarter hours plus one winding time. It seems to me that that was an admission on the part of all concerned that a seven-hour day was impracticable. I think I have now answered the questions which have been put to me.

We have been told again and again that wages must come up for consideration within the 12 months period, and I have also been told that there must be a crisis in 12 months. I do not believe in the reality of that crisis. I am quite satisfied as to the genuineness of the fears expressed by hon. Members opposite, but I do not think that that crisis will come. How can it come? The question of wages will only come up for consideration if and when the owners propose a decrease of wages, or the miners demand an increase. It does not follow that either of those things will happen. It has not been suggested in the course of the Debate that at the end of 12 months there will be a demand for an increase of wages, and I am not going to assume that at the end of 12 months the owners are going to demand that wages must be decreased.

I want to secure some safeguard in this matter, and the best safeguard is something that can be done under Part IV of the Act of 1930. It would be unfair for me to hold out any assurance that that can be done, but a promise has been made in regard to that matter. I do not want to see a crisis in 12 months. What more can I say than that Part I of the Act of 1930 has, for primary purposes, secured economic conditions, and those who have this monopoly must remember that the people of this country have great regard for the welfare of the miners, and neither the Government nor the country would be satisfied if an attack were made upon wages after those guarantees have been given. If such an attack were made, we should want to know the reason for such action. I said at the beginning of the Debate that that represents the opinion of this House. The carrying of this Amendment means another 12 months Bill, and all this political bubble and excitement maintained for another 12 months. I think that that in the end will do the mining industry no good. I believe that everyone is involved in the success of this industry, and that the best thing that can be done to save it is to take it for the time out of the political arena and give it a chance to recover.


I should have had great hesitation in offering any suggestion or criticism if I had not found that continually in this Debate, as in all such Debates, Amendments have been put down by Members on the Government side which they did not intend to carry to a Division, simply because they wanted to get their voices across the country. I was told in the Lobby that the last Amendment, after it had been moved, was not going to be carried to a Division. If Members of the Government carry on in that way, I have no apology to offer for rising to my feet in connection with this Amendment.


Members of the Government?


Supporters of the Government. I support this Amendment which has been moved by the Opposition, and intend to go into the Lobby with them, in order to show at least in a practical sense my sympathy with the miners in their struggle for a shorter working day.


On a point of Order. Is it not the case that we are discussing an Amendment moved by a Member of the official Opposition, and not by a Member on the Government side of the House?


That is not a point of Order.


When the hon. and gallant Member is sufficiently alive and awake, be will be aware that this Amendment is going to a Division. In the case of the Amendments that I was criticising, there was no intention of carrying them to a Division. I realise that a great amount of sympathy for the miners has been thrown across the benches of this Chamber by people who will walk into the Lobby and vote against the Amendment. There is always every opportunity in the House of Commons, as in all public bodies, of getting something for the workers in an industry so long as it does not cost anything. You can always get that practical sympathy which means nothing at all. It is a sort of salve for the consciences of the people who rise up.

I must confess that, taking a practical view of the matter, I am rather surprised at all the appeals that are being made to the Secretary for Mines to grant concessions. Every Member who rises to his feet knows that the Secretary for Mines has no power to grant any concessions at all. He has received his orders from the Cabinet, and the Cabinet have received their orders from the coalowners. The Government come down here with the intention of rushing this Bill through and granting no concessions in any shape or form. I agree that Parliamentary government is being brought into contempt in the country because, when the Government bring in Bills, although there is ample discussion and plenty of helpful suggestions from the Opposition, they do not intend to accept any of those suggestions or any of that criticism in a proper manner, or to grant concessions to the people involved. Therefore, it becomes a waste of time to talk on the Floor of the House at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why do it?"] Because I am not going to appeal for anything. I shall get exactly what I expect, and that is nothing.

I simply rose to point out that it is a waste of time for Members continually to appeal here to a hard-faced Government who have no intention of granting anything in return. This proposal to limit the hours for a period of 12 months does not disturb me in the slightest. I do not worry as to whether it is 12 months or five years. The Government may bring in their Bill, and it may be passed, but that does not mean that the miners are going to accept it, and, after all, they are the people who have to determine whether the Bill is going to operate for six months, 12 months or five years. They could upset the whole of your apple-cart next week if they so decide. I believe that the miners, like all other sections of the working class, can only get from capitalist society that which they have the power to enforce—


Then the hon. Members suggests that the agreement which the mineowners have come to is a unilateral one?


I am not a miner, and have never had any intention of being a miner. You would require to go down the mine and dig your own coal so far as I am concerned, and, if the miners adopted the same attitude, this Government could not enforce the Bill which they are rushing through the House at the present moment. We are always told, and we might agree, that the industry cannot concede a six-hour day or a six and a-half hour day to those engaged in it. It may be that a collapsing capitalist system of society is compelled to ask the workers in the industry to work longer hours for lower wages. But we contend that, if a scheme of reorganisation were brought into operation in the mining industry, it would be possible to grant a seven-hour day, and perhaps even a six-hour day, to the miners of this country. Everyone will readily acknowledge that an efficient industry means a greater output per man, a lessening of the amount of waste in the industry, and, consequently, the power to give to those engaged in the industry a shorter working day, or a shorter working week, or higher wages, as the case may be. But every system of reorganisation means the forcing of more men out of the mines. I am not disturbed at that, because, the fewer the men engaged in the mines, the better for them and their families, since they are much better above ground than below ground.

My only experience of mines was gained on six occasions when I happened to be in mining areas doing propaganda, and went down the mines to see exactly how the miners worked. Having seen, sometimes for a period of five or six hours, how they worked in the mines, I could understand why it was BO easy to get the miner out of the mine and so difficult to get him back into it. I realised that it was a sign of the miner's intelligence when he refused to go back into those conditions, and that only starvation and poverty of the most extreme kind could compel him to do so. The Secretary for Mines says that he is prepared to guarantee that reorganisation will be brought about, but that is just the claim that has been put forward by all Governments in order to carry out their proposals for the time being.

The point has been made that the Secretary for Mines in the last Government postponed the seven hour day, and that is true. It may also be true that capitalism is in a greater state of decay at the moment that it was 12 months ago. But the present Secretary for Mines must remember that he was part of the previous Government which postponed the operation of the seven hour day, because we can never divorce the Liberal party from the Labour party when we talk of the last Government, since the Liberal party were the people who cracked the whip, and the Labour party carried out the orders which were imposed upon them. During the period of the last Government I was in the House on one or two occasions when the mining industry was being discussed, and when our old friend Sindbad the Sailor was in charge of the Mines Department, and the self-same speeches that have been made by the Secretary for Mines to-day were made by him at that period as arguments for the postponement of the seven hour day. The people who get on to the Government Bench, no matter what their political complexion may be, become the apologists and defenders of mineowners and of the capitalist class, and carry out the instructions that they receive. Therefore, I am not a bit disturbed by the fact that the Secretary for Mines gets up in his place and tries to make the best of a very bad job.

When the Secretary for Mines in the last Government was defending the postponement of the seven hour day, the Members of the Labour party were behind him and were supporting him. Anyone who offered criticism of the late Secretary was looked upon as an opponent of the working class in every shape and form; therefore, we get repetition on that bench. I am going into the Lobby to record my vote for the limitation to 12 months, as being the best that is proposed and the best that we can get, to indicate our defence of a section of the working class who are at war continually with the ruling class of the country. I accept the dictation of the ruling class through their representatives on that Front Bench. Mineowners, bankers, every section of the landlord class get behind the Government and lay down the terms upon which the working class shall work.

There is talk about the threat of war. My hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) said, rightly, that you cannot have war between two sections, one unarmed and the other armed to the teeth, one with not a crust in the locker and the other with its cupboard full of the goods which the working class produce and which they themselves never labour to produce at all. It is not war. It is simply massacre. I remember an old woman discussing the late War. She said, "The Boer war was a nice war; it was plain shooting and killing; but this war is bloody murder." I am inclined to think the same treatment would be accorded to the miners if they were on strike. They are defenceless, they have no funds, they have nothing but homes which are completely stripped of everything that they could be stripped of. Every semblance of decency has gone out of those homes as far as furnishing is concerned. They are down in the gutter, and you are pounding them down further by every action you take. I accept the position, I accept the war that you are continually carrying out on the working class. A friend whom I met last night said: "I believe the complete collapse of this system is coming this year, and I am making no arrangements for

next year, because I believe it will not be necessary." I am the same. I believe your system is marching to complete collapse. You may try to close your eyes to it, but you are going right down into the abyss of destruction. I am looking for the creation of a system where we shall not be appealing for a seven and a-half hour day limited to 12 months, but shall be engaged in the building up of a different system of society and the wiping out of those who are governing and ruling the working class in such an autocratic manner.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 49; Noes, 224.

Division No. 207.] AYES. [8.30 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)
Batey, Joseph Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Milner, Major James
Buchanan, George Hicks, Ernest George Parkinson, John Allen
Cape, Thomas Hirst, George Henry Price, Gabriel
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Janner, Barnett Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)
Cove, William G. Jenkins, Sir William Salter, Dr. Alfred
Cripps, Sir Stafford John, William Thorne, William James
Curry, A. C. Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Tinker, John Joseph
Daggar, George Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Wallhead, Richard C.
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Kirkwood, David Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Dickie, John P. Lawson, John James Williams, Dr. John H. (Lianelly)
Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross) Logan, David Gilbert Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Edwards, Charles Lunn, William
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) McEntee, Valentine L. Mr. Groves and Mr. Duncan
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) McGovern, John Graham.
Grundy, Thomas W. McKeag, William
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Caporn, Arthur Cecil Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Fuller, Captain A. G.
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.) Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Ganzoni, Sir John
Aske, Sir Robert William Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton
Atholl, Duchess of Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Gluckstein, Louis Halle
Atkinson, Cyril Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric Goodman, Colonel Albert W.
Baillie, sir Adrian W. M. Clarke, Frank Gower, Sir Robert
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Clayton, Dr. George C. Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas
Balniel, Lord Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Greene, William P. C.
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Colfox, Major William Philip Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Conant, R. J. E. Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.
Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey Cook, Thomas A. Guy, J. C. Morrison
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Cooke, Douglas Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.
Belt, Sir Alfred L. Cooper, A. Duff Hanley, Dennis A.
Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton) Courtauld, Major John Sewell Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Boulton, W. W. Crooke, J. Smedley Hartland, George A.
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Davison, Sir William Henry Hepworth, Joseph
Boyce, H. Leslie Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert Holdsworth, Herbert
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Donner, P. W. Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston)
Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Doran, Edward Hornby, Frank
Broadbent, Colonel John Duggan, Hubert John Horobin, Ian M.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Eastwood, John Francis Horsbrugh, Florence
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd, Hexham) Edmondson, Major A. J. Howard, Tom Forrest
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Ellis, Robert Geoffrey Hume, Sir George Hopwood
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Elmley, Viscount Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.
Burghley, Lord Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Jennings, Roland
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Ersklne, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Joel, Dudley J. Barnato
Burnett, John George Ersklne-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool) Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)
Butler, Richard Austen Essenhigh, Reginald Clare Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)
Cadogan, Hon. Edward Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Ker, J. Campbell
Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley) Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) Kerr, Hamilton W.
Campbell, Rear-Admiral G. (Burnley) Ford, Sir Patrick J. Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton
Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.) O'Donovan, Dr. William James Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Leckie, J. A. Oman, Sir Charles William C. Skelton, Archibald Noel
Leech, Dr. J. W. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)
Lees-Jones, John Palmer, Francis Noel Smithers, Waldron
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Peake, Captain Osbert Somerville, Annesley A (Windsor)
Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Pearson, William G. Soper, Richard
Levy, Thomas Penny, Sir George Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Liddall, Walter S. Percy, Lord Eustace Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.
Lindsay, Noel Ker Perkins, Walter R. D. Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick Peters, Dr. Sidney John Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.
Lloyd, Geoffrey Petherick, M. Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)
Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Pickering, Ernest H. Stones, James
Lyons, Abraham Montagu Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada Storey, Samuel
Mabane, William Potter, John Stourton, Hon. John J.
MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick) Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H. Strauss, Edward A.
MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Procter, Major Henry Adam Strickland, Captain W. F.
McKie, John Hamilton Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.
Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton Ramsden, E. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Corn'll, N.) Rankin, Robert Sutcliffe, Harold
McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Ratcliffe, Arthur Templeton, William P.
Macmillan, Maurice Harold Reid, David D. (County Down) Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Magnay, Thomas Reid, James S. C. (Stirling) Thompson, Luke
Maitland, Adam Remer, John R. Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Renwick, Major Gustav A. Thorp, Linton Theodore
Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot Reynolds, Col. Sir James Philip Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Robinson, John Roland Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Margesson, Capt. Henry David R. Rosbotham, S. T. Train, John
Martin, Thomas B. Ross, Ronald D. Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Runge, Norah Cecil Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Milne, Charles Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy) Watt, Captain George Steven H.
Milne, John Sydney Wardlaw- Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Wells, Sydney Richard
Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tfd & Chisw'k) Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside) Weymouth, Viscount
Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Rutherford, Sir John Hugo Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres Salmon, Major Isidore Wills, Wilfrid D.
Morris, Rhys Hopkin (Cardigan) Salt, Edward W. Wise, Alfred R.
Moss, Captain H. J. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney) Withers, Sir John James
Muirhead, Major A. J. Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart Worthington, Dr. John V.
Munro, Patrick Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Savery, Samuel Servington
North, Captain Edward T. Shakespeare, Geoffrey H. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Nunn, William Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell) Sir Victor Warrender and Mr.
O'Connor, Terence James Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar) Womersley.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

The following Amendment stood upon the Order Paper:

In page 1, line 17, to leave out from the word "until," to the end of the Clause, and to insert instead thereof the words "Parliament otherwise determines."—[Sir A. Baillie.]


Does the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Sir A. Baillie) desire to move his Amendment?


In view of the late hour and of the fact that the Committee are obviously restless to get on to another stage of the Bill, I must very reluctantly refrain from putting forward my Amendment.