HC Deb 20 April 1934 vol 288 cc1273-4

11.12 a.m.


I beg to move, in page 4, line 25, at the end, to insert: (ii) a notice in the prescribed form, signed by the owner of the coal mine, stating the names and addresses of the trustees for the time being acting under the trust, and of any agent authorised by them to receive notices in connection with the trust; and. This is to be considered in conjunction with the two following Amendments, and the object is to provide some means whereby misstatements on the part of the owner in connection either with the actual existence or with the solvency of the trust may be more readily detected. Under the Bill as drafted there is no simple method available whereby the workmen or their representatives can prove the existence of a trust or verify the annual declaration of the owner that all payments due to the trust have been made. Therefore, the first of these three Amendments lays it down that the names and addresses of the trustees and their agents shall be posted in every colliery office, in common with the other notices or declarations required under the Clause.

The next two Amendments bring the auditor, who must, of course, be a qualified accountant as defined later in the Bill, into the picture. The three Amendments taken together give the workmen some right of access to the trust and to the accounts of the trust, informing them to whom they may apply for the necessary information, and bringing in an outside party, namely, the auditor, who has a professional qualification which he might lose in the event of being found guilty of an offence under the Bill, if he made a fraudulent declaration or was guilty of some other fraud. To sum up, these Amendments tend to prevent fraud and strengthen the position of the workmen, and as such I hope the House will accept them.

11.14 a.m.


I beg to second the Amendment.


I think the House has a right to find out what the Home Office think of these Amendments. The object of the Bill is to protect the position of the men, but although we are here at the Report stage, we cannot get any legal opinion on it. No doubt my right hon. Friend who represents the Home Office has got that legal opinion and can tell us whether this really does strengthen the Bill and make the position of the men absolutely secure. The Government have access to the best legal opinion, and I would therefore ask my right hon. Friend if he can confirm our views on this point.

11.15 a.m.

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Douglas Hacking)

My hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) has stated that my hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. G. Nicholson) has put the matter very clearly. It only remains for me to say that I agree with him. It is a good thing for the workmen to know the names of the trustees. In the Bill as originally drafted there was no compulsion on the colliery owners to put up a notice stating the names. It will be a great assistance to the workmen to know the names of the trustees so that if necessary they can apply to them for any information which they think they should have. The beneficiaries under a trust have the right to know, and it is desirable that the men should know who are the people on whom the responsibility rests in case of an accident.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 4, line 30, leave out "owner," and insert "auditor of the accounts of the trust."

In line 31, leave out "received," and insert "examined."—[Mr. G. Nicholson.]