HC Deb 28 March 1934 vol 287 cc2039-124

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

6.0 p.m.


I should like to explain the position that I take up. I was not moved by certain of the arguments put forward by the Minister in his customary persuasive way, but I was much interested in the speech of the Mover of the Amendment; it was one of the most powerful speeches that I have heard for a very long time. I wish certain points cleared up before I can honestly make up my mind whether I shall support or oppose the Bill in the Lobby. It is relevant that we should consider the circumstances under which the principal Act was brought into being. The coal industry was going through a period of unparalleled depression. Substitutes had been found for coal, markets were shrinking, and there was increased production in rival countries, and those of us who lived at that time in South Wales realised the havoc wrought in the industry by the conditions which prevailed. It was obvious that unless the whole of the industry were to be committed to the dominion of jungle law, in which certain collieries would survive because of certain material or personal advantages—a matter of scientific management, and so forth—whole districts would become derelict.

I take it that one of the chief objectives of the promoters of the original Bill was to stabilise the situation, to prevent the rot from going deeper and spreading, and so far as there were orders for coal, to spread those orders over an area as wide as possible. Whatever its defects may be, the 1930 Act has done a considerable amount of good. Since 1926, nearly 300 pits have been closed in South Wales, permanently, I suppose; I wonder what the number would have been but for the existence of the quota and of a system whereby available orders were spread over the pits that were in commission. I have no sympathy with those who are always railing at the 1930 Act and saying that it ought to be abolished. The anarchy which existed in the coal industry prior to 1930 would become greatly intensified were that Act withdrawn. However, while that Act has achieved certain things, its achievements have been limited. It has not put more men into the industry. In 1929, prior to the Act's coming into force, there were in Great Britain 938,128 men on colliery books as wage earners. In South Wales and Monmouthshire the number was 173,533. The return in the last issue of the Ministry of Labour Gazette gives something like 150,000 fewer people. I think the number is 790,000 wage earners on the books of colliery companies; in South Wales 140,000, or something like 33,000 fewer. The achievements of the Act in respect of creating new employment have been limited, and in the matter of extending the use of coal it has also achieved only a limited success. Nevertheless, I believe that the situation to-day would be unspeakable were it not for the existence of the Act of 1930.

I was not a Member of the House at that time, but I studied the discussions with great care, and while I realised the possibilities of evasion and the limited possibilities of the success of the Bill, I hoped that the setting up for the first time of a central organisation would lead to negotiations with other countries for an international cartel. The one thing which I hoped would ensue from the system was the creation, for the first time, of a central organisation, instead of the industry being split up and riven by all sorts of internecine struggles. I hoped that this measure of unification would result in international agreement. Obviously, countries like Poland must be finding the maintenance of their overseas sales of coal an expensive business. There are quotas and subsidies, and those countries that have resorted to such adventitious means of maintaining their coal industry in some degree of prosperity must be finding those measures expensive. I imagined that the shrinkage of markets and the competition of rival fuels would create a susceptibility to international cartel arrangements. I have been disappointed. I do not know to what extent efforts have been made by the Central Council to initiate discussions for the purpose of zoning markets and stabilising prices throughout the world. It seems to me that that is the one hope. Had something of that kind taken place, the need for the legislation that we are considering this afternoon would not have arisen.

I would like to have a point cleared up about which I am somewhat uneasy, and that is with regard to the existence and the maintenance of a minimum price in respect of coal for overseas disposal. The hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) assumed that the removal of the quota from export coal would be attended by a disappearance of the minimum price. I believe that the Central Council, after the Bill becomes an Act, will have exactly the power which it has now.


The Central Council will have the new power, and the districts will have the same power as they have new. The districts will make a complaint, and the Central Council will be able to take action.


In regard to minimum prices for coal?




In that case the Bill makes a very important contribution. At the present moment districts can fix minimum prices which will enable them to compete in the world markets as against other districts, and the co-ordination of those prices will be a bulwark against that collapse which the hon. Member for East Rhondda rather feared.


Districts are selling as much coal as they can under the existing minimum price. The reason why they do not sell a greater quantity is conditioned by a reduction in prices.


It might be claimed that the coal industry in this country is to-day selling as much as it can, but an improvement in world conditions might increase its scope for selling. I would fear the consequences to miners' earnings if the minimum price for exported coal were reduced. I realise the calamity which would be involved in that. I cannot at the moment see that the removal of a quota on export coal need of necessity be accompanied by a reduction in the minimum price. What precisely is involved in the phrase "co-ordination of prices"? We know what happened. South Wales was, I think, the first to establish minimum prices. Scotland was, I think, the last, and they fixed minimum prices well below that of South Wales, and, with traditional acuteness succeeded in exploiting the situation. They obtained markets which traditionally had belonged to South Wales, and they even sold coal to South Wales, bringing coals to Newcastle with a vengeance. Does the phrase mean the stabilisation of existing prices? Does it mean that South Wales will be called upon to reduce its minimum price to the Scottish level, or that Scotland will be compelled to raise its minimum to the South Wales level? What does it mean? Will the matter be left entirely to the Central Council, or will the Mines Department give a lead?

Another point on which I shall require a certain amount of elucidation is the question of evasion. Frankly, I am entirely unmoved by the Minister's statement this afternoon that the Bill will remove the incentive to evasion. So long as there is a minimum price, the incentive will remain. The removal of the quota will not remove that inducement. I have read the long list. I think there were nine items in his indictment of the coalowners. I could have given him another nine, for that matter. I have read them again, and I cannot see that there is one item in this catalogue of wonderful devices in the technique of evasion which would, of necessity, be removed by the introduction of the Bill. Every one of them can be practised, and I have no doubt will be practised. I am not going to suggest new methods of evasion which may be created by the Bill; far be it from me to use the Floor of this House to make immoral suggestions to the coalowners of this country.

The great purpose of the Bill has been stated to be elasticity. It was stated that it was necessary to elasticise the provisions in respect of export coal. I suggest that no argument can be put forward for making more elastic the system in respect of export coal which cannot be pleaded with equal cogency in respect of inland coal. Take a case like that of a part of a country nearest to my constituency, West Wales. During the last year or two a considerable extension has taken place in the production of pig iron, iron and steel, tin plates, galvanised sheets, and so forth. After the War large numbers of those concerns acquired their own collieries, and now a considerable number of them have been seriously hit because the allocation of quota for use at their own works was not adequate, in view of the need. Many iron and steel concerns and tinplate concerns have had to go to the market to buy quotas to provide themselves with coal out of their own mines.

I am afraid that the fixation of allocation on a three-year period will hardly meet the needs of these concerns. In the last few years, a new category coal has come into being as the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) knows, and it is freely known in the Swansea district as the "industrial class." A separate quota is allocated to it. The need for this class of coal is likely to increase in the next few years, and there is considerable perturbation as to lack of elasticity. As a matter of fact, many of those concerns have good reason to fear for they have had to pay sixpence, ninepence and even a shilling for a quota. The increase of elasticity might, therefore, very well be extended to the inland market.

Those are the points which I should like to hear the Minister elucidate before I make up my mind. The coal industry cannot be allowed to drift back into its pre-1930 chaos, when anarchy prevailed. This is an experiment. Some coalowners have honestly tried to implement the Act; they have seriously tried to make a success of it. The experiment may fail or it may succeed, but one thing is certain, and it is that this is the last chance that private enterprise will have of organising in a sane way a basic industry in this country. This degradation cannot be allowed to continue. I do not represent them in the direct way that my hon. Friends who represent Labour constituencies do, but no one who has any sensibility to human suffering can pass through these derelict valleys without being profoundly moved. The situation is one that beggars description. Personally, I feel that I would vote for anything, however it might infringe my preconceived notions of certain economic and political principles to which I owe allegiance. I feel that there is nothing that I would not do to help these men. The flame of hope has long died out of the eyes of these people, and I feel that Parliament would be justified in making any sort of experiment to bring succour to an industry in these circumstances. Some coalowners have played the game; some have not. This is almost the last gesture. If they fail to make a success of this system of tonnage regulation and price limitation, then something far more drastic will have to be done, and I have no doubt that the revolting conscience of the people of this country will ensure that it is done.

6.17 p.m.


One must sympathise with the Secretary for Mines in his present position. He has behind him a long history of legislation in connection with this industry, and he has to administer an Act which was brought in by the present Opposition when they were in power. He now finds himself faced with opposition from that Opposition, and criticism from many of his own supporters oh one ground and another. If we look back, we shall be reminded that some two years ago we were criticising many of the points which had arisen in the course of the working of the Act and which stowed that not only one side, but two sides of the industry were not playing the game; and for two years we have waited for the recommendations of the owners, who were given the authority and the duty to administer the Act. At last, after much cogitation and dispute and argument on the part of the central body, the two main points which they talked about have been taken by the Minister and presented in a Bill. The industry themselves, as represented by the Central Council of Coalowners, have failed to come to a final agreement, and he has said at last, "I cannot wait; I will present them in a Bill." It seems to me that the Secretary for Mines should have our sympathy in that position. But I would ask the House to take rather a wider view than he has taken, and look to the state of affairs which existed when the Bill was first introduced in 1929. I find it very interesting to consider the steps that might have been taken and what has actually happened since that date.

There are, I think, broadly speaking, four ways of dealing with the coal industry. You could have complete laissez faire, and allow everyone to do exactly as he likes, which is what is suggested by many coalowners in my part of the country, on the North East coast. That, as I think most sensible people would agree, would lead to chaotic conditions and a price-cutting war which would mean a far worse state of affairs both for the coalowners and for the miners. The second way in which the industry could be dealt with is that which is now suggested by the Socialist party, though, as the Minister properly pointed out, it was not suggested by them in 1929. That is complete Socialisation. I think, however, that that equally would lead to such chaos and disaster that it would be almost worse than the laissez faire policy which some coalowners would like to see. If we rule out these two methods as being too dangerous and too likely to bring about a chaotic state of affairs in which neither the miners nor the owners would be satisfied, and ask what are the others, it seems to me that they are embodied in the Act of 1930. That Act was really not one Parliamentary child, but a pair of twins. You have in Part I a system which regulates production and sale, and ensures that there would be a spread-over of employment throughout the whole of the industry. You have, in Part II, not a complementary part, but an opposing part, which tries to amalgamate and concentrate production in the most efficient way. It seems to me that we have to face that conflict when we are discussing this amendment of Part I. I would like to ask the Government, are they going to follow out the policy of Part I, or are they going to follow out the policy of Part II? Are they going to say, "This is only a temporary Measure, and we are amending it only as a temporary Measure. We do not believe that this is the final solution. We believe in Part II, but give us this amendment to Part I"; or are they going to say, "We are forgetting Part II. We know that there is an expensive reorganisation commission in existence, but we believe that Part I is a solution of the problem"? Let us see what was said when the Bill was introduced in 1929. It is interesting to note what the present Prime Minister said in that connection. At the end of the Second Reading Debate in December, 1929, the Prime Minister said: First in logic, first in industrial need, comes amalgamation…Amalgamation is to be proceeded with, and proceeded with without delay, in accordance with the Royal Commission on the Mining Industry. That was the Commission presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel). The Prime Minister went on to say: When you have got amalgamations, as we shall have, when royalties are nationalised, as they must be, and without delay, then the conditions which make Part I of this Bill necessary will have completely disappeared…. Therefore, this scheme is bound to be temporary, just as long as the conditions are temporary, and, if it is found to be impossible by any political misfortune to carry out to its completeness the scheme for reorganisation…then this scheme"— meaning Part I— will have a very much longer life than is necessary, and a very much longer life than will be good for the industry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th December, 1929; cols. 1766–70, Vol. 233.] I think we must address ourselves to that problem. If we decide that this is the moment when it is going to be more and more evil for the industry to continue this form of legislation, if we come to the point when we have given up all hope of proceeding on the principle of Part II, are we going to say merely that Part II must go and we will forget it?

Let us consider the results of the principle involved in Part I. The Minister has told us vividly and lucidly what led up to this amending Bill—all the long story of negotiations and failure to carry out in their proper form the provisions of Part I for the regulation of output and selling prices. There are many criticisms against the coalowners for this, but we must remember that the coalowners are more individualistic than, perhaps, any other body of employers in the country. Personally, I regret that enormously, but let us consider the psychological way of approaching it which might make them more amenable to reason, and let us ask whether it would not be possible to bring them into line by some other method than forcing it on them by an Act of Parliament. It seems to me that we must turn to what was suggested by the Prime Minister in the Second Reading Debate last December. Can we, under Part II, bring the coalowners into line, so that the desired object of a regulated, ordered private enterprise in the coal industry will be allowed to have the support of the coalowners in the industry? If we look at the matter from that point of view, I think we must inevitably come to the conclusion that the phrase of the Prime Minister which I have quoted is probably the key to the right course to be pursued. He said that this scheme is bound to be temporary, and that only when royalties are nationalised will that temporary character of the situation disappear.

Many people believe that the nationalisation of the royalties would cost the Exchequer so much that it would be quite impossible at this stage to carry it out. I have looked up the Report of the Samuel Commission to see what they said about the nationalisation of royalties. I could not discover exactly how it was worked out, but I found a report by, I think, the Chief Government Valuer, who said that at that time the royalties amounted to £5,800,000—about £6,000,000. The cost of buying the royalties, he said, would be about £100,000,000. That was on the basis of Government credit at 5 per cent. He concluded that in that case there would be a profit to the Exchequer—and I may say that he allowed for all such contingencies as loss of Income Tax, Super-tax and so on—of £800,000. Therefore he proved, if we can accept his figures, that the State, by owning the royalties, would benefit to the tune of some £800,000. If we consider what it would cost at the present day, we find that the present yield from royalties is £4,730,000, and the cost of buying the royalties would be about £80,000,000, based on Government credit at, say, ½ per cent.; and, working out the calculation in the same way as in the first case, we find that to-day the State would have to pay £2,800,000 and would receive £4,700,000, leaving a profit of £1,900,000. In other words, according to the report of the Samuel Commission and the figures of the Chief Government Valuer, we find that the Exchequer could make, by the ownership of the royalties, nearly £2,000,000 per annum. I only put this forward in order to set at rest the minds of those who believe that it is quite impossible at the present time—and, indeed, I think they would believe it to be impossible at any time in the future—for the State to buy the royalties.

If the statement which I have just made can be accepted, we shall have to consider what would be the condition of affairs if the State owned the royalties. It would undoubtedly be far better for the industry if there were no difficulties of separate leases in each undertaking. It would be easier technically to work the coal if the whole of the particular field was under one ownership. Therefore, we are brought to this, that that might be the first step in reorganisation which would lead to what is desired. I believe, if it were done properly, the State would have only a very limited lever. There would be the question of taking over the coal which is, so far, only mined in one section, or has not been tapped at all. There are many difficulties but, if it is worked properly, I think we can accept the figures of the Government valuer and leave it on that basis. All the difficulties of grading and all the difficulties of leaving pillars here and there between workings would be abolished, the owners themselves would be far better pleased, and I am sure there would not be much difficulty on the part of the royalty owners.

Given that state of affairs, how much easier would it be for the Government to ask the coalowners to develop a marketing scheme which would put them in a much better position than at present. I believe really we can accept the Prime Minister's version, that this part that we are discussing to-day is only a half-way house, and half-way houses were never meant to be inhabited for long. If this is the basis of Part I, I should like to ask the Secretary for Mines—I hope he can give me an answer as to what is the mind of the Government—Is this where he stays? Is he asking us to accept this Amendment merely as a further temporary expedient, or is he going to tell us it is going to lead on to other things? Is he going to abolish the Reorganisation Commission? It was stated the other day that the Reorganisation Commission was being encouraged to continue at work. The report of the Chairman makes very interesting reading. He says that, when they began their work, the coalowners were so busy trying to work Part I that they had no time for Part II. In a public speech he used a very good phrase. He said he was a kind of therapeutic blister, the irritant qualities of which were more apparent than the remedial qualities, which seemed to be hidden in the womb of hope. I should like to know whether the irritant qualities of Part II are going to continue indefinitely without any hope or, at any rate, with a very much hidden hope, or whether the Minister is going to tell us that that is what he is really banking on, and that this amendment of Part I is purely a temporary measure.

There is another aspect of the problem with which I should like to deal. We had a Debate the other day about the depressed areas—the derelict areas—and a great deal of the Debate turned on Durham. A great deal of the difficulties and troubles in that county arises directly from this industry. I should like to ask the House whether it is not better to plan the lives of the men in so far as one can help the industry on which they depend? If we have the coalowners agreeing on a line of policy which will, in effect, decide how many people who are registered as miners can possibly find work; if we knew how many men in the county or in South Wales were going to be supported by the industry on which they had depended for a livelihood, we should get much nearer a solution of the problem of the derelict areas than by any temporary measures. If we can go on these lines, and the Minister of Mines can make a progressive drive and try to bring the coalowners with him on the lines of Part II, though I suppose not with the same powers of compulsion that the Reorganisation Commission now has, but along those lines, I think we should be getting far nearer a solution of the whole problem of long-term unemployment. When we consider the thousands of men who do not understand the problem in its essence, but know only their own work, and know it well, who understand only that the work is finished, who understand only that there is no way, as far as they can see, for them to be removed to other centres of employment, I think we are coming far nearer a true solution of the terrible difficulties that face us. The Minister will have my support for this Bill, because I welcome anything which tries to put an end to these awful evasions and the shocking actions of those concerned in the trade in the past few years. A coalowner recently said to me, "You cannot make us honest by Act of Parliament." I thought that a very damning statement to make. I will support the hon. Gentleman in this attempt to make them honest by Act of Parliament, reserving the right to do what I can to alter this and that point in Committee.

6.39 p.m.


I am sure the House was very much impressed by the speech of the Minister. I would not say it; was built up of the finest material, but it was explained in the best possible manner. Nevertheless, one can understand the position in which he is placed. He probably feels that the Bill could have gone much further, and probably his mind runs in the direction that he ought to have made it much tighter. He said it was to deal with the question of export coal and the controlling or consolidating of minimum prices, also to bring about discipline and to end the irregularities that now exist. In doing that, he is taking on a very big job indeed, because the irregularities since 1930 have been a standing disgrace. The 1930 Act placed the control of the whole industry, so far as concerns selling organisation and that kind of thing, in the hands of the coalowners, and they have miserably failed to come up to the principles embodied in the Act. I am sure neither the Minister nor anyone else desires the coal industry to go back to the condition it was in prior to 1930. The position was so bad that it was almost impossible to carry on, and it was imperative that organisation and distribution should be controlled in order to bring about something better than we had then. I do not think I could do better than read a short paragraph written by the secretary of the Mining Association in the Colliery Yearbook for 1928. It will at least show the position in which we were at that time. He said: The surplus of productive capacity over present demand, both in the inland and export market, has brought down coal prices far below the general level of prices. They have reached a point at which the economic operation of the collieries is impossible, and the capital resources of the industry are being gravely impoverished. Schemes for co-ordinated action with a view to securing more economic relationships between costs of production and prices are already under consideration in most of the large coalfields. Concerted action of this character is vitally necessary, not only to maintain the rates of wages to mine workers in fair relation to those in other industries but to avert the more serious danger to the very fabric of the industry during the abnormal period through which we are passing. Anyone who really understands what the position was in 1928 would not expect the Government to allow it to obtain for very much longer. That was the reason for the introduction of the Mines Act, 1930. It led many of us to believe we were getting near the end of the difficulties we had been facing, because we were giving the owners the opportunity of conducting their industry in their own way, with their own methods of organisation. They have miserably failed. We expected the coalowners to realise that their opportunity had come. We thought they would at least realise that they must make a move and must reorganise their own industry, or they might expect something more drastic to be done. Since that period we have seen all kinds of irregularities. We have seen all kinds of wrong things done in connection with the selling and buying of quotas. We have seen all kinds of inter-district competition, one county or district overlapping another and encroaching upon its area, dumping coal at prices less than the cost of production in the particular areas. The coalowners want us to believe that they have been doing the best they possibly could within the industry. It has been in their hands all the time, so that no responsibility can rest upon the Miners' Federation.

The Minister says that Part I of the Act ought to be given greater elasticity, particularly on the export side. There is something to be said for that, but there is more to be said against it. He also said the power that was given to the owners had not been used to the best advantage. We all know it has not, but we believe that the removing of the quotas from the export trade will intensify that particular side of the business to a degree not yet heard of. We shall have to see whether the new order of things is going to have any better or more lasting effect upon the coalowners. If not, we shall have in later years, when I hope we shall have the opportunity of handling the question from the Labour point of view, to impose upon them something that they have not yet understood.

I wish to quote from an article which appeared in the "Times" of yesterday from Sir Adam Nimmo who, we must admit, understands the coal mining industry from practically every point of view. He deals with the amending Bill, and I wish to read a paragraph which is pregnant with what he thinks about the whole business. He says: I may be pardoned for suggesting that in the Amending Bill just introduced the Government are likely to create evils greater than the defects of the 1930 Act, which they are attempting to remedy. To free exports from quota regulation must undermine prices and jeopardise the financial benefits of the trade agreements. At the same time co-ordination of price (an outstanding feature of the Bill) must become more difficult, if not impracticable. The coal industry must either be entirely free or it must be 'planned'. Half-way houses are occupied only to be abandoned. Temporary expedients are soon exposed and found wanting. Planning must be adequate to the problems of the industry, and the powers conceded to the Central Body must make it possible to bend the whole, and every unit within it, to the general plan. Unless this is done failure is certain. That is rather a definite statement. Even though it is a statement from a man with whom I do not agree from any point of view, as far as politics or economic life is concerned, I think that he has struck the right note here, and that the Bill does not go far enough. Does the Bill improve matters? I ask that question because, under the provisions of coastwise trade in the Act of 1930, places like the Isle of Man were included, but in the present Bill it is stated that every part outside Great Britain will be treated as an export place. Probably the Secretary for Mines will give a clear explanation of the point when he replies later on. The Bill places the responsibility for administering this matter upon those people who have failed during the past three years. Does it tighten up at all the organisation, or impose any greater responsibility upon the coalowners who are not carrying out their obligations to each other? The owners to a large extent have proved themselves unable to provide or to operate a cooperative policy. Unless we have a cooperative policy, we shall not get far in the coal mining industry, or in any other industry. We have to look beyond the ownership side of the business, for although they have millions of pounds invested, there are nearly 750,000 lives "invested" in the industry, and the time has come when the human valuation should be compared with the financial valuation. If any great body is to be set up to control any particular industry, the time has passed when it should be set up by one side of the industry only. The industry ought to be represented not only from the point of view of finance, but from the point of view of the human element engaged in it.

The Bill says that new machinery is to be set up to work this industry, but is it to be new machinery or is it merely old machinery? The Bill still leaves the responsibility of operating the Act entirely upon the owners. That is one of the things which I really cannot understand. The main purpose of the Act of 1930 was to raise prices to a remunerative level and thus ensure a fair margin of profit to the owners, and a proper standard of living to the men. I think that everybody will agree that that has not been done. They have been quibbling and quarrelling, fighting one another and taking a mean advantage of each other until the whole thing has largely become a farce. Unless the Minister strengthens the Central Council by introducing some men representing the other side of the industry, selected by the Government if you like, but somebody outside the £ s. d. part of the business, with power to impose such penalties as would compel the coalowners to realise their responsibilities, I believe that the Bill will be a failure. District competition has persisted throughout the industry and has been responsible for the continued sacrifice of the proceeds of the industry, and the failure to obtain remunerative prices. This can only be remedied by effective co-ordination of prices. I ask the Secretary for Mines what the Bill is going to do to ensure remunerative prices and to prevent the overlapping of areas? Are the powers which are to be given to the Central Council such as will prevent this being done? I do not think that they are.

I do not need to go very much further than my own county of Lancashire. I do not think that any county in Great Britain has suffered more from poaching by other districts than Lancashire. There are thousands of tons of coal coming into Liverpool and other places in Lancashire from Scotland and other areas every week, as a consequence of which many of our collieries are either working short time or being closed down. Men are unemployed, poverty is spreading and the people are in a dejected condition owing to the action of employers who are not loyal to themselves. That is a thing which we want to stop. It is no use camouflaging the whole business. A large number of our municipalities in Lancashire are buying Scottish coal, I understand, at a price less than it can be produced in Lancashire. This is something which should be dealt with. It is a black spot upon the administration, and if the new district committees are not strong enough to deal with it, it must be left to the Central Council. If the Central Council do not deal with it effectively, what further appeal have we? We have none. During the whole of the three years in which we have been carrying out the Act of 1930, we have been suffering. Our men have had hardship after hardship heaped upon them, and now we are to have standard tonnage based upon the last three years, which will be a very low estimate indeed, lower than is warranted, or demanded or required by Lancashire workers. We find almost unrestricted competition in the circumstances I have mentioned. I know that the Minister does not agree with it, and probably every owner who is doing this sort of thing does not agree with it, but they are doing it in the way of self-preservation. It can only go so far; you will meet with inevitable disaster sooner or later.

We do not want anything to be carried which will put the various coal areas in open competition. It leads to many evils, including price-cutting and that kind of thing. Those are things which we do not wish to see carried through; we want to see them abolished. We want every district to have its fair quota and its standard amount of consumption with which it can deal in its own area by its own production, so as to keep together the particular industry in the area. The central council are to be empowered to impose and to recover fines for evasions of the provisions of the Bill. There is a similar Section in the Act of 1930. They had the same power to stop evasions. Will the new Bill have the same result as the Act of 1930? I think that it will, unless drastic reorganisation is imposed. This and control over distribution, I believe, are the two permanent remedies to which we can look forward if that power is continued to the central council. The Bill ought to prohibit all disagreeable practices. Once they are brought to the notice of the central council they ought to have power to put an end to them without any further trouble. No provision is made in the Bill to deal with the sale and purchase of quotas. This has proved to be an evil during the period from 1930 to 1933. Collieries are acting in many ways which are not fair. A colliery may close down, and looking at the mining industry as a whole, it may be said that it matters little if one colliery closes down, anyway. It is not, however, like the closing down of a workshop or a mill. Once a colliery is closed down it cannot be opened again unless at considerable expense, and therefore there is the greatest likelihood that it will not be reopened, and unemployment will remain in the area concerned.

It may be said that the coalowner, or the amalgamation, or whatever it may be, may slightly benefit by the greater output by the purchase of quotas; at the same time, nothing is done at all in the direction of giving higher wages to those employed at the pits. We mention in our Amendment the removal of restrictions on the production of coal for export. This can be justified because there can be nobody, either inside or outside this House, who would desire to open the flood-gates of international competition, though we know that they have been opened in the past. It would inevitably mean a lowering of prices, and a lowering of export prices would mean a strain upon inland prices with the object of bringing down those prices, and consequently the bringing about of a lower condition of life for the miners than that which obtains at present. It may be said that the Government yielded to merchants, coal exporters or the shipping industry because the present supply exceeded the demand. Shippers naturally desire as many cargoes as they can get and coalowners also demand or expect to get, and work for, the largest turnover possible, but there is no question whatever of an economic price for the coal or of a proper standard of life for those who get the coal. Unrestricted production for export is dangerous. Already exports are limited, and to open the flood-gates of international competition would be dangerous, particularly in a time like the present when the markets are very limited. Limited markets and free competition are not healthy either for the producer, the coal-getter, the shipper or the merchant, and consequently the greater co-ordination we can bring about the better it will be for all concerned. I am pointing out some of the things which the Bill does not cover, and the direction in which the Bill ought to have gone. It ought to have been made stronger. The position with regard to the export trade is put very succinctly by the secre- tary of the Miners' Federation in a pamphlet. With permission, I will read it: To-day, when in the export markets in particular, the supply of coal so enormously exceeds the demand, such a step would have the most serious consequences. We should revert again to the worst horrors of free competition in a restricted market. Prices would fall, demands for lower wages would follow, and strikes and lock-outs would occur all over the coalfields. These are bound to be consequences if the Government persists in this proposal. It is useless to say that the regulation of prices will continue. The control of output is a condition essential to the maintenance of prices, and without this prices must inevitably break. That is nearly all I want to say. I want the Minister to believe that we on this side are not opposing this Measure from any mean or calculating point of view; we are simply opposing it because we think it is not strong enough. We think that it is still giving the same opportunity for the evasion of the Act as has existed during the last three years. The Central Council ought to be given greater authority in order to deal with matters which come before it on appeal. It ought to be given greater authority over the industry, the power to impose what it believes to be right upon the districts in order to prevent what has been going on during the last two or three years. It is essential that the Government should set up a central controlling, governing authority for the industry, having power over the various districts and thereby capable of exercising single executive control and direction and promoting that standard of efficiency which modern times demand. This body should not consist of coalowners alone, but also of men specially appointed by the Government for their knowledge and experience of the industry, and their progressive outlook.

That is what we believe the Government ought to have done. We do not believe that the Government are taking the best step by introducing this Measure. It may be tightening-up in some ways, but it is leaving loopholes still open for use by those people who ordinarily seek for a loophole through which they can escape. We want the Government to tighten up the whole Measure, and when the Central Council is re-established, or even at the moment, we think it would be very much better if it were strengthened by the addition of people who are neither coalowners, nor financially interested, but people with a deep knowledge of the mining industry. We believe that these people could play a part which would not be played by people who were working in the direction of self-interest alone. Self-interest always leads to disaster: it may do well for a time but it cannot continue. When there are so many people dependent for their livelihood on the mining industry, it is imperative that the Government should take a step which would give them the greatest security of their livelihood and of being able to provide for those who are dependent upon them.

7.4 p.m.

Captain PEAKE

We have now had three years' experience of the working of the Coal Mines Act, 1930. To all those interested in the planning of industry, the lessons which we have to learn are of great importance. When we debated the Act I took an individual line. I supported the proposal for the quota, and I condemned the proposal dealing with the fixation of minimum prices. The experience which we have had in the last three years has largely borne out the prophecies which I made during those Debates. The quota has worked extraordinarily well; it has worked pretty smoothly, and it has been the sole factor in maintaining a steady price level. The most extraordinary thing about the coal industry in the last three years is that the price level has remained absolutely stationary, and that has been due entirely to the operation of the quota under Part II of the 1930 Act.

In that opinion I am supported by the leaflet of the Miners' Federation and also by the Report of the Chief Inspector of Mines. Of course, it has not worked perfectly, but it is a very remarkable thing that, in spite of the quota, we have been able to get down the costs of production. It has not worked perfectly because it has not secured concentration of output. Those of us who advocated the quota scheme which was operated under what was called the Five-Counties Scheme in the Midlands, hoped to secure two benefits from the quota. The first was that we should regulate the supply of coal to the available market, and the second was that we should get the production of coal concentrated at the most economic pits. That is to say, we provided that the quota should be transferable, and we intended that the price paid for the quota should be the compensation which must be paid to induce anybody to close his mine. On the other hand, the colliery which purchased quota would be able to go on to a larger output and so would be able, by achieving lower costs, to compensate itself for the purchase of the quota.

That concentration from the uneconomic pits to the economic has not been achieved, and the principal obstacle to that concentration has been mentioned in his speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. Martin)—the diverse ownership of the coal itself. Every colliery owner has, on an average, five mineral landlords; to each of those he has to pay minimum rent and with each he has to enter into an obligation to develop and work the coal. The result is that you are pegged down to producing particular pieces of coal at particular places, and concentration is extremely difficult as long as the mineral itself is in the hands of so many different people.

The second obstacle to concentration of output was an Amendment introduced into the 1930 Act at the instance of the Liberal party below the Gangway. They brought forward an Amendment, which was accepted by the then President of the Board of Trade, that in determining the standard tonnage of a colliery you should have regard to all sorts of special circumstances, and although those circumstances look very reasonable upon the face of it, they did, in fact, make it extremely uncertain whether a colliery which was closed down was entitled to a standard tonnage. Obviously, if a colliery closing down was not entitled to a standard tonnage, it was not entitled to a quota either, and if it had not a quota, it had nothing to sell, and if it had nothing to sell it obviously could not obtain any compensation for going out of production. That Amendment has in fact resulted in practically no colliery owner being willing to close down on the chance of being able to sell his quota. In spite of these difficulties, however, regulation has worked smoothly and well, and it is a very remarkable thing that, in spite of the fact that concentration has not occurred, we have been able to lower the cost of production at our individual pits. That is an extraordinary tribute to the technical ability of our colliery engineers. At the group of collieries with which I am connected, our output has gone down in the last three years by something like 30 per cent., and our costs are considerably below what they have ever been before.

The proposal in the Bill is to separate the inland allocation from the export. I think there is a great deal to be said for that proposal. It is a sound thing to do. In the first place, as the Minister explained in his speech, the price of coal in the home market depends very largely upon the price of coal in the export market. Any increase in the price of the export market tends to draw coal out of the home market into the export market. Any fall in the export price tends to drive coal out of the export market back into the inland market. It will provide a substantial amount of insulation for the home industry if we have separate allocations for the inland and export trade. One thing I regret, and that is that the Minister has decided completely to free the export trade from any control at all. I think we ought to retain some central control over the volume of coal put on the export market. I think it would be far easier for the Minister, now that we have embarked upon the policy of trade agreements, to come to an agreement, say, with Poland as to dividing the export market, if we can agree both as to price and as to volume. Subject to that criticism, I think that the proposal in the first Clause is an extremely sound one.

Clause 2 is designed to enable the Central Council to co-ordinate minimum prices fixed in the districts. At the time of the discussion on the 1930 Bill, I ventured to prophesy that price fixation would not work. The events of the last three years have borne out that view. What is the motive behind price fixation? I suggest that it is simply and solely to increase the price of coal. I cannot see any point in price fixation unless it is to increase the price of coal.


Or to maintain it.

Captain PEAKE

Or to maintain it; but I do suggest that we can maintain the price of coal by regulating the production. I dare say we cannot increase it, but we can maintain it. Price fixation aims at increasing the price of coal. In the last three weeks the available market for coal has contracted by something like 20 per cent. It is not only abroad; in this country as well, less and less coal has been burned in the home market. We formed a council called the Coal Utilisation Council to try to stimulate the demand for coal and to encourage people to burn coal, and extraordinarly good work that council is doing. It does not seem to be quite compatible with trying to stimulate demand for coal and to promote a "back to coal" movement, when we are taking powers in this Bill to increase the price. My suggestion is that an all-round increase in the price would simply have the effect of checking the demand for coal.

A great deal of criticism has been made of coalowners for having failed to operate the price-fixing powers in the Act of 1930. I want to say a few words about that. To start with, it was not realised when the Bill was passed in 1930 that the, basis of price fixation provided by that Bill was hopelessly unfair. It was a pit-head basis and made no distinction between the freight from one colliery to the market and the freight from another colliery. The pit-head basis is hopelessly unfair as between colliery and colliery. In the second place, people thought that fixation of prices was a very simple matter. They did not realise how many qualities and how many varieties of coal there are. Coal is not one simple article. There are infinite varieties of qualities and of size.

In the practical working of a colliery you produce a large number of different qualities and you have to get those qualities out of the colliery yard at the end of every day's work. You raise, say, 4,000 or 5,000 tons of coal and at the end of the day you have to get it out of the yard in order to clear the siding for the next day's output. Stocking coal is extremely expensive and prohibitive. In order to get that coal out of the yard you must have fluidity of prices as regards individual qualities. You can sometimes adjust your qualities to the demand. You can turn large coal into small coal, by breaking it, or you can turn dry coal into clean coal, or washed coal, by putting it through a cleaner or a washery. You can sometimes adjust your qualities to the demand, but it is absolutely necessary for smooth working if you are to be able to adjust your demand to your qualities that you should be able to vary the prices at short notice.

In the Midland amalgamated district which is the large district in the Midlands which previous to the War used to produce over 100,000,000 tons of coal, we classified our coals under the 1930 Act and we classified no fewer than 500 qualities, each of which had to have a scheduled price. Any alteration in the price of one of those qualities was a matter of discussion, possibly of appeal to an arbitrator, and any alteration in one price obviously involved an alteration of a good many other prices. Under the Bill we are going to have these prices co-ordinated by the central council. That means a further stage and further delay in getting any alteration in a fixed minimum price. Under the Bill, before the Central Council can make any alteration they have to consult the executive board of all the districts. That means that it may be months before we can get a decision upon the question of adjusting a minimum price. In the meantime something happens which changes the demand for coal. There may be a change in the weather, and house coal falls off in demand. Stocks of house coal will be piled up, and the colliery manager will speak to the commercial manager and say, "Unless you can get that house coal out of the yard I shall have to stop the pit." Then all this process of arbitration, appeal and adjustment will have to be gone through.

I assure the House that it is impossible from the point of view of practical colliery management to operate your pits upon a fixed schedule of prices covering every quality. Every change in the national habits, every change in the seasons, every scientific invention affecting the burning of coal has an effect upon the relative value of your different qualities and different prices. These minimum prices will have to be subject to daily adjustment. I do not think that a system of rigid fixed minimum prices can ever be successfully operated in this country. The mechanism of prices is the most delicate part of the whole capitalist system. The mechanism of price, if I may use an analogy from the motor car, is the automatic infinitely variable gear between the engine of supply and the wheels of demand. You can regulate the volume of supply by making some adjustment in the throttle, and you may be able to stimulate demand by taking off the brakes, but it is a fatal mistake trying to fix a beautifully delicate piece of mechanism which is entirely automatic in its operation.

If we succeed in establishing co-ordination of minimum prices, what have we got? We have a price-fixing ring. That is all that it comes to. That is not a new idea. We have had price-fixing rings before, and we have not given any benefit, in my view, even to the industries which have succeeded in establishing them. It seems to me in reading about the different reorganisation schemes in the Press for milk, for iron and steel, or for cotton that if you scratch the back of the scheme you find underneath it our old friend the price-fixing scheme in disguise. The cotton trade is introducing, apparently, a series of price-fixing rings. The spinning section is going to take it out of the weaving section by a price-fixing ring, the weaving section is going to take it out of the finishing section by a price-fixing ring. I do not know out of what the finishing section is going to take it, in turn, but I do not suppose that it will be out of the Japanese.

If we succeed in forcing a price-fixing scheme upon the coal industry we shall have brought the industry down to the status of a public utility concern and I do not see how in those circumstances we can resist the claim of hon. Members opposite or of anybody else for some form of public control. I do not want the great coal industry, with which I am proud to be connected, to be brought down to the status of a public utility concern. I do not want it to become one of those concerns which talk so much about public service and which make such good dividends steadily year after year. I am rather proud of the fact that the coal industry is not a sheltered industry. We have succeeded in weathering a good many storms in the past. The storm which we have been passing through in the last seven or eight years has been one of the worst and one of the most prolonged which the coal industry has ever had to face, but we have come through this kind of storm before, and I believe we shall do it this time.

Speaking for myself, I do not like Clause 2. I absolutely reject the policy of higher prices, quick profits and an easy time. I heard that phrase used by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) so often during the Debates on the last Coal Mines Bill. I believe that similar views, with equal eloquence, were expressed by the present President of the Board of Trade, and I am not at all sure that they were not also put forward by the Minister of Mines. I do not want the Government to embark upon a scheme, under this Bill, which I am quite sure is doomed to failure. I reject the policy of high prices. I believe that with patience and goodwill on both sides of the industry, we are coming in for a period of brighter times. A general recovery in trade will be reflected in the coal industry, as it always has been in the past. The coal industry comes in last, but I believe our turn will come again. I think that the policy of putting up the price to the consumer all round will probably do a great injury and bring no benefit to the industry as a whole.

7.29 p.m.


I am interested in anything appertaining to the coal industry, coming from the north east coast which has been very harshly used during the last 10 years; but I have taken no part in the Debates on coal mining since I have been here because I was interested to see how the Act of 1930 functioned. My first acquaintance with coal mines legislation was in the year 1912 when I sat under the gallery and Mr. Asquith brought in his first Minimum Wage Bill. The question that agitated the House most at that time was whether five shillings per man and two shillings for a boy should be the cash figure in the Act. Ever since that time I have taken great interest in all coal mines legislation, but I wanted to see how the Act of 1930 functioned before I passed any opinion upon it. In the light of the facts of the last three years I have come to the conclusion that an amending Bill such as the one propounded to-day by the Minister for Mines is necessary. I regret the necessity for the Bill, and I regret that the coalowners have not voluntarily, of their own free will and accord, functioned as they ought to have done under the Act of 1930.

This Bill may be considered an arbitrators' award. I have been an arbitrator. Before I made my award I was considered to be the best fellow in the world; it was amazing what kind things both sides said about me. After I had made my award it was amazing the harsh things which both sides said about me. When both sides disagreed very vocally with my award I came to the conclusion that it was a fairly good one. The discussion to-day, particularly the speeches from hon. Members opposite, justifies the Secretary for Mines in thinking that this is a fair award. It will resolve itself into a sheer business proposition, a consideration of the balance of advantages. I say now what I have often said when I have debated this question with the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) and Mr. William Lawther in their own pithead at Chopwell, that I think the Opposition made a huge mistake when they made the mining question a political one. It is an economic question, and ought to be considered as such. It is a business proposition, and the consideration which I have given to the Bill is one which I should give to any business proposition: what is the balance of advantage? Admittedly it is a difficult problem to solve. Pits differ, and there is an almost infinite variety in the classes or grades of coal, in the type of managers and men, and, I have no doubt, also in the district committees and headquarters.

I support the Bill because the first provision of it is to liberate the export side of the coal industry from quota restrictions. It is necessary to deal with the prospective increase in exports as a result of the Scandinavian Agreements. When I am at home at week-ends and hear the warning hoot of the steamers going up the river to Dunston Staithes and hear the reply of the buzzer from the swing bridge, I sometimes wish that I could be kept awake all night, because these are the signs of prosperity. I have seen letters from shipowners on the Tyne and from the chairman of the Tyne Commissioners wishing that there was more ship ping, more freights, more coal exported to foreign countries. I say "amen" to that with all my heart, if the coal is sold at remunerative prices. I suggest that it is far better to "play for nowt than to work for nowt." Anybody can give coal away, but the object of working the mines is to give remunerative employment and decent wages to the men employed. That is the first consideration. I have had figures got out in regard to what has happened in the last few years on the North-East Coast.

The governing consideration ought to be the necessity for an international agreement. The disequilibrium between potential supply and actual demand has intensified the struggle for markets between the European exporting countries, principally between the United Kingdom and Germany and Poland. It is clear to any careful student of this matter that there is no hope that the United Kingdom can recover her high estate of pre-war days by price cutting. It is not likely that the United Kingdom will embark deliberately on a policy of price cutting, as she would at once be met by the lowering of prices by her competitors who are well equipped for such a campaign. We know that Germany subsidises her coal exports to the extent of 5s. to 7s. a ton if necessary, by means of a levy on output. The ability of Poland to conduct a competitive campaign is largely attributable to her low wages, to the fact that she is content with a pithead price of about 6s. a ton for export coal, making good by a higher inland price—now about 16s. at pithead—and to her abnormally low freight rate of a maximum of 3s. a ton on export coal for a haul of 340 miles from the pits to the Baltic ports. That is to say, the haulage rate is less for 340 miles in Poland than it is for 15 miles in Durham. How can we compete with a coal industry which is subsidised in this way? It is impossible. To me it is unthinkable that British coalowners should contemplate having a price-cutting war with Germany and Poland.

The extent to which price-cutting tactics have been adopted by Polish exporters is shown in the fall in the free-on-board price of their large coal from 17s. 3d. in December, 1929, to 12s. in July, 1931, and to 11s. 6d. in 1932. The free-on-board price for comparable British coal is about 17s. 7½d. in December, 1929, about 15s. 4½d. in July, 1931, and 14s. 7½d in July, 1932. Is it not plain to everyone concerned that such a, state of affairs points to the need for an international agreement as being the best hope for our export trade? I was glad to hear the hon. and gallant Member for North Leeds (Captain Peake) say what I intended to say, but so much better than I could have said it in his excellent and well-informed speech. He said that it was time we went to Poland and said: "Here, we have both to live; there is only a certain output required. What about it as business folk? The sooner we do that the better. I think that this Bill will help us in our bargaining position, and we shall be able to go to Poland with free hands and make a decent bargain on the matter.

The north-east coast has borne its full share of the fall in trade in recent years and particularly is this true in the case of Durham. From 1929 the output of saleable coal has gone down from 39,000,000 tons to 27,000,000 tons in 1933. Happily the north-east coast has also shared in the better trade of recent months, and that is my reason for saying that we may fairly expect a betterment in our trade with the Scandinavian countries, and the need therefore for more export facilities. The production in Northumberland and Durham was higher in the September and December quarters of 1933 than in the corresponding quarters of the previous year. In the case of Northumberland the output in the December quarter was higher than in any single quarter of the three years 1931–1933. So far as exports are concerned, the north-east coast stands to benefit particularly from the agreements which have been concluded with the Scandinavian countries. Assuming there is no change in the coal consumption of these countries they represent an increase in British coal exports to them of something like 3,500,000 tons per annum as compared with the exports in 1931. This will give about 3,000,000 more manshifts of work to the coal industry. While the whole of this improvement will not be to the benefit of the north-east coast, yet it will certainly share in these benefits to a great extent.

I have figures showing the improvement in shipments from north-east coast ports which have resulted from the operations of trade agreements. I will not weary the House by giving the details, but they have increased in 1933 as compared with 1932 by 807,792 tons. It will be seen that while exports to countries with which trade agreements are in operation were 828,000 tons, or 22 per cent. higher in 1933 than in the previous year, there was a slight fall in exports to other destinations. In other words, increased shipments to the countries with which trade agreements are in operation are entirely responsible for the fact that there was a considerable increase in the total shipments from north-east ports in 1933 as compared with 1932. In conclusion—I know that other speakers want to say something regarding their own districts—let me say a word in regard to the other two operative Clauses of the Bill, that is the proposal to co-ordinate inland prices on a new minimum basis and, secondly, to give the Central Council, set up by the 1930 Act, the power to penalise infringements of its orders whether as to price or output. In regard to these two operative Clauses the question which this House has to consider and answer is, can we secure better financial results for the industry and—I stress the conjunction—the country by definite co-operative action even with legislative control or by free competition, when the conditions are that the capacity for production is greatly in excess of the available markets?

I suggest that the position pre-1930 cannot now be obtained even if we would do so. I am rather amazed at the Opposition going so far back as they did into ancient history. The great dividing line now seems to toe 1930, and it is useless to go behind it. That was a new definite step forward, and in my opinion it is a waste of time going into ancient history in these matters. I heard a miner's wife say when another hostage to fortune arrived, "the bairn is here and has to be kept." The 1930 Act is here, and whether we like it or not we are committed, by the hard logic of the facts, to the planning of industry. It is impossible to talk about the planning of the agricultural policy of the Government and not to talk about the planning of the coal industry. It is all of a piece, an integral part of the Government's policy. This Bill is really intended to provoke the coalowners to good works. There is no half-way house. There must either be absolute freedom or the central authority must be armed with greater powers. Planning must be adequate if success is to be attained. It has been the repeated failure of this industry to evolve a progressive policy to suit modern conditions that has compelled the Government to take action. The industry might, if it wished and willed, do its best for itself. If it will not try, or cannot, it must not complain if the Government do the second best. I cannot believe that the more enlightened coalowners would agree to be defeated; I still hope, that even at the eleventh hour they will be able to give such assurances to the Minister that the Minister may be able, as I am sure he will be willing, to withdraw the Bill.

7.46 p.m.


I would like to congratulate the Secretary for Mines on the ability he has shown in introducing this Bill and on the work that he has done as Minister. It is the third Bill he has introduced in a very short space of time, and he has introduced it with charm of manner and skill. In the Debate to-day I have been particularly struck by the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Leeds (Captain Peake). I cannot say that I entirely agreed with him about co-ordination and minimum prices, because I feel that the main idea at the back of the Minister's mind was to prevent certain districts, with fixed minimum prices at purely nominal rates, from underselling other districts. That sort of thing has been going on, and it has led to a great increase of competition. One of the objects of the Bill is to forestall that. Instead of the ordinary competition of one colliery against another, we have now the spectacle of district competing against district. That has been very destructive of the whole idea at the back of the Bill.

I had hoped that no Bill of this nature would have been necessary. I sincerely hoped that the coalowners of the country would have been able to work out a solution of their own, and to have brought a settlement up to be decided on by the Minister for himself. But I realise only too well the immense difficulties which lay before them. Hon. Gentlemen opposite know as well as, or probably a great deal better than, I do that there is a great difference between a district like Durham and the district of South Wales. Probably, like myself, they have read an article in the "Times" by Sir Adam Nimmo. That article points out the great difficulties and complexities of the problem, which make it hard for owners to come together and agree on a settlement on a big national question of this type. I feel that though that fact has forced the Minister to introduce this Bill, perhaps the Bill will not be necessary. I am told that the Central Council have already agreed upon a scheme which is under discussion in the districts, and I have a letter from a Durham coalowner, in which he says that that settlement is agreeable to him. I only hope it is true and that a settlement will come about accordingly.

With regard to the separation of export quotas, I rather agree that possibly a separate allocation, with the quota system retained, would be the best for the export trade. I do not foresee the gloomy results prophesied by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I feel that the whole of this scheme was started by the 1930 Act as a great experiment. We are departing from the old idea of non-interference, and the democracy of this country is not yet prepared to go the whole hog on nationalisation. We are, therefore, experimenting with a scheme, and I for one propose to support this amending Bill because I would like to see the Minister's scheme tried out for a period of, say, a year. If the scheme then is not as successful as the Minister hopes and some of the gloomy prognostications of the Opposition are brought about, I have no doubt that the Minister will withdraw his Bill or amend it in order to make it a success.

A few words on the subject of evasion. There are many in this House who would like to see some measures taken to stop this great evil. Hon. Members must realise how very galling it is to those owners who have tried to play the game and have found trade taken away from them by unscrupulous rivals. Two hon. Members this afternoon have read out long lists of evasions. There is no need for me to go further into that question, but I can say that it is a very difficult matter with which to deal. Take one particular case, what is known as the manipulation of grades. That means that a certain class of graded fuel is introduced in small proportion into a higher type. That generally means the securing of contracts at the expense of the man who is trying to pull his weight in a right and fair way.

The trouble in the whole matter is that it is as easy to evade the Act as it was for the Americans to evade the Volsted Act. I am not saying that the 1930 Act was a bad one—not a bit. I have always felt very proud of Members of the Labour Government for having introduced such a statesmanlike Measure. There is no doubt that they would have liked to have introduced a scheme embodying full nationalisation. However, they did something much better; they introduced a scheme of self-government for industry, and self-government, I believe, is going to be the salvation of the industries of this country.

They would like nationalisation. Yet I often wonder whether they really would. I think that under any scheme of nationalisation, especially in the coal industry, they would find that the principal evil would be just as apparent as under the capitalist system. In the long run they would find the State a harder taskmaster than are the coalowners at the present time. If in business I had to strike a bargain, I am inclined to believe that I would sooner do that business with Mr. Evan Williams or Mr. Eddy Edwards than with that very astute gentleman who presides over the Ministry of Mines. I believe that the future of the coal industry will be found based on the principles of private enterprise, not the private enterprise of the old days, free and unfettered, but private enterprise controlled and organised and based on a scheme of self-government in industry. I regard this Bill as a definite attempt to carry on a great experiment which was started by the Socialist Government. It is up to all Members of the House to improve upon that scheme, to amend it, and to make it a success. That, I believe, is what is at the back of the Minister's mind.

7.55 p.m.


So far no one has said a word as to the attitude of the industrial coal consumers. We in industry are extremely interested in this Bill. We fully appreciate the very distressing times through which the coal industry has been passing, especially that portion of the coal industry which is interested in the export trade. We also have met with our difficulties in the export trade, but they have been nothing compared with the difficulties experienced by the coal industry. There are nations producing coal which take apparently little interest in the actual cost of coal and the price they get for it. They are merely interested in placing a proportion of their production. It is extremely diffi- cult to know how to deal with such competition. It appears to me that the only hope is in international agreement. I was glad to hear that subject mentioned by one speaker.

The export business is to be uncontrolled, but it will be dealt with, I presume, under minimum prices, in relation to inland requirements. But that minimum price is bound to be based on the price that is charged by our competitors overseas. We can very easily have a very low price being paid for that export coal. The position of those of us who are industrialists and are exporters makes us very nervous about the price which is going to be paid by possible competitors of ours overseas, whilst the inland price may be very considerably higher to those of us who are producing in this country and exporting. We have no wish that the coal trade should suffer from low prices, but at the same time we want to maintain our export business. I hope that the difficulty will be met, either by trade agreements with the opposite numbers in foreign countries or possibly by a Government arrangement with the Governments of other countries, so as to get a reasonable price fixed for the coal which is going to interfere with the export trades of all of us. I mention these few facts because they have not been dealt with by anyone else.

I was very pleased to hear from the Minister that those in the coal trade are themselves getting out proposals for dealing with these difficulties. I can say that the industrial consumers of coal who are associated with the Federation of British Industries are all most anxious that the proposals of the coal trade may be such that the Minister will be able either to incorporate them in his Bill or allow them to supersede his Bill. We know that the people in the coal industry fully appreciate our difficulty in industry. They are anxious in no way to upset our particular trades. We live together and we benefit together. Their product is our raw material, and to a certain extent we supply them with their raw material. We want to work amicably together, and I hope that this Bill will be a starting point of a Measure that will bring prosperity to the coal trade.

8.0 p.m.


We have had such a variety of speeches in this Debate that I am sure I shall be pardoned if I do not follow the Noble Lord who has just spoken into the question of whether nationalisation would be better than private enterprise for the mining industry. I think that most hon. Members would agree with me that the problem confronting the industry to-day, as it has been the problem for many years, is really one of markets. Although I may be charged with referring back to ancient history one can best indicate the nature of the problem by comparing the amount of power produced by coal to-day and in 1909. In 1909 over 90 per cent. of the world's power was produced by coal; last year only 73 per cent. of the world's power was produced by coal. One can see, therefore, that the coal problem is part and parcel of the general economic problem which is confronting all nations. At a moment when world markets are contracting, we find that with rationalisation and the application of science and invention to industry there is increased productive capacity and an increased production of commodities which have to be sold in the world market.

The place of coal in the production of world power has been affected by many things. One knows the part which oil has played and the part which the turbine has played in that connection. Engineering skill becomes each year more efficient. I know cases in South Wales in which in pre-war days 3 lbs. of coal was required to produce a quantity of steam which 1 lb. will produce to-day. An enormous concentration of energy is taking place, and with all that coal has to compete against, one can only expect to find that the problem confronting it is one of marketing. If the problem of the mining industry throughout the world is a problem of markets one would imagine that those interested in the industry would be sensible enough to try to allocate the markets, giving to each section an ascertained portion of the market consuming that particular quality of the product. I fear however that that would be impossible within the confines of our present economic system.

In the world situation we have the same elements as we have here within the industry among the different units competing for the internal market. One sees what is taking place, for instance, between Scotland and South Wales. I had occasion to draw the attention of the late Mr. William Graham when he was at the Board of Trade to this matter and others have since drawn the attention of the present Ministers at the Board of Trade to the fact that Scottish coal has been coming coastwise to South Wales and taking the markets there away from collieries some of which are situated only five or six miles away from where the coal is being consumed. As the world market contracts keener competition may be expected in the inland market. In that situation the present Government not only have failed to help the industry but have seriously aggravated the problem.

The present Government might have found a solution of the hours problem in Europe. They could have helped to bring about a uniform working-day in Europe, but, instead of taking the point of view of their predecessors on this matter, they have actually been representing the coalowners' point of view. Mr. Shinwell had actually almost reached a solution of this question and a convention was about to be ratified when the present Government ran away from it. It is essential that we should try to get an international agreement on hours and, as far as possible, on wages if we are to help the industry. I know that there will always be diversities in regard to cost of production, but these variations and vagaries in the industry are no greater as between nations on the Continent, or as between districts in this country, than they are as between one pit and another in a particular district. Those pits are obliged by the terms of the agreement to recognise uniform rates. The variations arising from geological conditions alone are as great between one pit and another in a particular group as between districts or even between nations competing against each other.

We are bitterly opposed to the Bill because it is again setting free an enormous quantity of coal for un-restrictive competition. The export market is to be uncontrolled. I was not in the House when the 1930 Act was passed, but I welcomed it because, in it, for the first time, there was an attempt to apply science to industry and to have some kind of plan. I may be told that some of us endeavoured to get a levy for the export trade. I advocated that in our federation conferences. We know that we were beaten on that. I think we were beaten by those who are now supporting the present Government and by the Liberals. The late Mr. Graham could not get that proposal for a 3d. levy passed. Had it been passed the inland market might have helped the export trade and substantially assisted coalfields like Durham and South Wales. No doubt that will be thrown in our faces now. Obviously, it meant a subsidy from the inland market to the export trade, and we are prepared to face what may appear to be the inconsistencies involved.

We have had three years of this experiment. I believe that it has done some good. It broke away from laissez faire and I submit that now to depart from planned export trade will result in irreparable harm. The Minister said it would be possible in the case of a colliery with an annual output of 500,000 tons that its allocation would be 80 per cent. or 400,000 tons and of that 200,000 tons might be allocated to export and 200,000 tons to the inland market. But what of the remaining 100,000 tons? Will not that be thrown on to the export market to compete against Poland or Scandinavia or Germany? If it is, obviously that will be for the purpose of bringing down price levels generally and, in bringing down the Continental price levels, it will tend to drive down the cost of production by the cutting of wages. The general standard of life will be lowered by this method and that will react upon this country.

Much has been said about the managerial side of the industry and I am prepared to pay my tribute to those engaged in it. I know they have passed through a severe time but it is the men who have had to pay the heaviest price. The average wage of a miner is not £2 5s. a week. As the hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) has said, in South Wales the coalowners are obliged to pay subsistence allowances because the miners cannot obtain from the ascertainment a wage of more than 6s. a day. If we are to free export coal from control it must be for the purpose of selling more coal. More coal cannot be sold except by cutting prices. Let us face the stark facts. It will be necessary to sell cheaper than Poland for instance. Poland is or was subsidising up to 5s. a ton, and coal is being brought from Poland to Scandinavia against North-East coast, Scottish and Welsh coal. Coal is being carried for hundreds of miles from Poland, even to Italy, under a subsidy. If we are to defeat Poland in the export market it can only be done by substantially cutting prices and that inevitably means cutting wages, because wages represent a substantial portion of the production cost per ton.

It will tend to produce no harmony and no revival of trade but only more chaos and that will react in turn upon the inland market. It will tend to produce internecine competition to a greater extent than existed before 1930. We shall ultimately get back to pre-1930 conditions and then, neither scheme nor plan can save us, as far as I can see, from utter ruin. The world market is contracting year by year, and we find new methods of coal-getting being introduced at an ever-increasing rate. We find that since 1926 20 per cent. fewer men employed in the industry are producing the same quantity of coal, and where the output was roughly 16.8 cwts. per person employed in 1925, it is now nearly 21 cwts. This increase in output per person employed is going on year by year, while the world's demand for coal is contracting. It means that the nation will have to go on subsidising the mining industry by having to pay unemployment benefit or transitional payment for large groups of men in areas like South Wales, because the mining industry in those valleys is becoming derelict. It means that as a nation we have to pay the price for the chaotic state of the industry, either by restricting social services, or by advancing something to settle the people, whether unemployment benefit or half-time wages.

We believe the Bill is a bad Bill because it is throwing industry back upon itself, and that that will tend to greater competition, particularly in Europe, on the world market, and ultimately, I think, to greater competition internally. It will be impossible for the Government, if the Bill is passed, to retrieve the position. Ultimately the scheme that applies to the inland trade will become useless. It is not a question of bad nature on the part of the coalowners. They have capital invested, and their managers have to do their jobs, working from morning to night and scheming how best to get their quantum of coal. They have to work their collieries in pockets; they cannot hope to carry out the Mines Regulation Acts. We find that miners' nystagmus and silicosis are taking place where they might be prevented, and falls are taking place also which might be prevented. In giving to the industry more freedom from any restriction by Statute, you are not only doing irreparable harm to the mining industry, but it will react detrimentally upon the miners' standard of life, ultimately on the social services, and finally on the amount of taxation which the Government expect to get from the industry. For these reasons we are supporting a very reasoned Amendment to the Bill. The Government are pressing the Bill, hoping that in their pressure they may intimidate the coalowners to do something for themselves. I trust they will. We all hope that we shall have more prosperity and a semblance of order in the industry, that the men now unemployed will be reabsorbed, and that those working normally may be reasonably paid for the work that they do.

8.19 p.m.


In the course of this Debate the only reference which has been made to the consumer has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wirrall (Sir C. Clayton), and he dealt with the position of the industrial coal consumer generally. I would like to direct the attention of the House to the position of an important body of coal consumers, namely, the big public utilities of water, gas, and electricity. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Leeds (Captain Peake) spoke rather contemptuously of these utilities as sheltered industries, but I would remind him that the law very strictly restricts the dividends which they pay, and that they are very good customers of the coal industry, consuming between them over 30,000,000 tons of coal per annum. The Bill which we are considering perpetuates, to all intents and purposes, from the point of view of the consumer of inland coal, the coal policy which was laid down in the Act of 1930, and to that policy there is a large number of objections, as the Minister himself admitted. I am not going to attempt to deal with them all, but I would like to refer to two.

The first is of general application. Coal can never be raised and marketed as cheaply and as profitably as it should unless production is concentrated at efficient and low-cost production mines. Schemes which spread production over a number of pits, efficient and inefficient, irrespective of cost of production, must be unsound from the economic point of view. The second objection—and this applies very directly to the public utilities—is that a statutory power of price discrimination as between one customer and another is unfair and contrary to public policy so far as the public utilities are concerned, particularly having regard to the fact that gas and electricity for many purposes are in direct and strenuous competition with raw coal. Not only does the Bill perpetuate that policy, but, in the opinion of those who are very well able to judge, the ultimate effect of the Amendments now proposed must be to favour export coal at the expense of inland coal. The hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Parkinson) took an opposite view, and I am not going into the question in detail, but it is almost certain that the tendency will be for the price of inland coal to increase, and if that is so, the result must be that not only the public utilities, but industry in general, will be severely handicapped.

In that connection, I would remind the House that the gas and electricity industries are endeavouring to assist industries in this country by supplying them with gas and electricity at as low prices as circumstances permit. It is obvious that if the price of coal, from which these commodities are produced, is raised, these public utilities will be hampered in their endeavours to give them assistance. I would therefore urge that if the Bill is to be proceeded with, the Amendments necessary to safeguard the interests, not only of public utilities but of the consumers whom they serve, should be introduced into the Bill at a later stage. I may be told that under the Act aggrieved industries can appeal to committees of investigation. That is true, but in practice that procedure is ineffective, because it is impossible to obtain the information with regard to the operation of schemes necessary to prepare a case for the Committee, because that information is not officially available. I do not wish to develop these arguments any further, but I do submit that the public utilities I have mentioned deserve the consideration of the Government, if only for the fact, which I have stated, that they use over 30,000,000 tons of coal per annum, and that they supply to the community neces- sities of life catering for all classes, rich and poor alike, and meeting all demands both industrial and domestic.

8.26 p.m.


The hon. Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Ross Taylor) has voiced the real concern of people who are engaged in the undertakings which he mentioned, and I am sure that the plea which he has made to the Minister will be given close consideration. Early in the Debate this afternoon the hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) made use of the expression "between the devil and the deep blue sea." That expression pretty well summarises the position in which any impartially-minded legislator finds himself in connection with legislation of this character dealing with the coalmining industry. It is an industry of extraordinary complexity. There are so many varied and divergent interests, so many different markets and different classes of coal, so many variations in the geographical and geological circumstances of the hundred and one mining districts, and so many jealousies and antagonisms through the industry. There are the interests of the owners on the one hand and the interests of the miners on the other. The owners on their part seek to be permitted to carry on their business with a minimum of Government interference and to obtain a profit on their undertakings. The men on their part demand that the industry to which they devote their labour and in which they risk their lives, should guarantee them at least a certain standard of life commensurate with modern ideas. That is a modest and legitimate enough demand, and this House would strongly resist any attack being made on the already low wages of the mine workers.

It is felt by some of us that this Bill might possibly open the way to price reductions in the export markets. We are afraid that there might be a mad scamper among the competitors for overseas orders, with the result that prices would be forced down and foreigners would enjoy cheap fuel at our expense, and that ultimately wages would be depressed. That is the fear which many of us have. I am not going to indulge in the exaggerated language which has been employed by certain hon. Members opposite, but it is indeed a very real fear. I know it is an extraordinarily difficult position, and I do not under- estimate the difficulties which confront the Government in this matter. Indeed, I sympathise with the Minister of Mines, who has to hold the balance as fairly as he can between the interests concerned, and he has, at the same time, not to overlook the paramount interests of the State. That is a far from easy task, and the hon. Gentleman will not be surprised that grave doubts exist as to whether this Bill in any material way deals adequately with the difficulties which beset the coal industry. The general principles of the Bill have been fully discussed by other hon. Members, and I do not propose to traverse the ground which has already been covered.

My chief object in intervening in the Debate is to deal with the position of composite concerns. This is a matter of great moment to more than one colliery company in my division, and I should like to give a specific case, that of the Bear Park Coal and Coke Company. This company utilises practically the whole of its output of coal in its own coke ovens. Its trade is, in fact, 80 per cent. coke. The coke ovens of this company have a capacity of 223,000 tons per annum, and they are at the moment, owing to the increased demand for coke, working almost to capacity. They have not been in that fortunate position for very long—only for the last few months. They have been having a very lean time during recent years, and it is here that their difficulty really arises, because the new inland quota under this Bill is to be based on the average of the last three years. They were three of their worst years and that average will give them a very low standard. Incidentally, such an average will hit hardest those colliery concerns which have refused to resort to trickery and have not juggled with minimum prices. During the last three years this colliery has been working short-time, and it will now be quoted on the figures for the time during which it has been suffering from the general depression. There is now a basic demand for coal and indeed something of a shortage, and I believe that there has been some inquiry into the shortage owing to the difficulty of steel-making concerns being able to obtain all the coal that they require. The average output of this concern during the three years that I have mentioned was 269,000 tons, of which only 3,800 was sold as coal in the inland market; 164,000 went to the coke ovens on the colliery itself, as against 223,000 tons which they could have taken as their capacity. Of the total output 82,000 tons was exported.

Those were three very bad years, but as the quota is to be based on those years it is clear that this colliery company, in order to keep their coke ovens going, will be compelled to buy about 75,000 tons of quota per annum at a cost of approximately £2,000. In other words, here is a colliery company which, so far as the inland market is concerned, produces only such coal as it requires for its own purposes, which will be compelled under this Measure to buy coal from another colliery company while its own pit stands idle and its own men remain unemployed. It is really too farcical for words. I know that the Minister for Mines has stated that this position is covered by the wording of paragraph (c) in Subsection (2) of Clause 1 of this Bill, but, as he is aware, that interpretation of the wording is not accepted by everybody, and I hope that when he is winding up this Debate he will find it possible to give an assurance that in the later stages of the Bill he will insert words which will, beyond any shadow of possibility, prevent such a farcical and anomalous position as that which I have indicated. My district has, goodness knows, been badly enough hit as it is without piling any more on to the agony which it is suffering.

8.37 p.m.


In common, probably, with a good many other coalowners, I welcome the action of the Government in bringing forward this Bill, mainly for the reason that I think it will help to crystallise opinion and to compel action in the industry itself; and I say frankly to the Minister of Mines that I hope he will stick tightly to his Bill until he does get agreement in the coal industry. It has been a difficult thing for those of us who wanted to get agreement, though I think we have been, really, in the majority. There was always a small minority that never intended to be anything but intensely individualistic, and whom nothing would have satisfied. There was also a middle section who, in American politics, I believe, are called the "mugwumps," who carefully sat on the fence and would not come down on one side or the other until they were quite satisfied that they, at any rate, were not going to suffer under any agreement that was made. I believe the action the Government have taken will make the "mugwumps" come rapidly to a conclusion that they had better come down on one side or the other.

Logically, I fail to see how the Government could adopt any other plan than that of compelling the regulation of the industry, and within the industry itself. After all, the coal industry has probably looked upon itself for too long as one apart from every other industry, but it must now take its place with all the other regulated industries which modern economics and modern circumstances have forced on us, and work in with those industries and endeavour to meet the new planning system as best it may. I agree to some extent with what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Leeds (Captain Peake) said. I sit with him on the same board and know something of his opinions. I believe that if the quota had been effective the question of price would have settled itself, and I still have some hope that a scheme may be devised by the industry itself to make the quotas effective and to make appeals against quotas so arranged that it will be not to the interest of a number of people to go on giving increases of quota in the hope that further applications will take place.

The hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Parkinson) put in a plea for Lancashire. All of us might put in pleas for our own districts. My hon. Friend now sitting on the Opposition Front Bench would never be behindhand in putting in a plea for Scotland, and quite rightly so. But I do not think that is the way in which we can any longer face this problem. We have to face it as a united industry, and if we cannot do so then the industry is bound to fail. But I must say that while I was listening to the hon. Member for Wigan it struck me that perhaps he did not quite follow all the implications of his own argument, because if we accept the theory that Lancashire is to produce all her own coal, and that no one is to be in competition with her, then if the costs of production in Lancashire were to rise the cost of coal to the industries in Lancashire would obviously be higher than the cost of coal in those districts which were better circumstanced, and to that extent the coal users of Lancashire would suffer by contrast with, coal users elsewhere. I do not think that is what he intended.

What we really have to face, and it is not a new problem, though it is an unpleasant one, and the whole world of labour has to face it, is that the change in technique and the increased use of machinery in every industry, and more particularly to-day in the coal industry, is throwing out of work a large number of men, especially the older men. Our problem really is this: Remembering the competition we have to meet in the international market, are we to keep on in the old way, employing a larger number of men in an inefficient manner, or are we to accept all the implications of modern science and train up a smaller number of our men to become good mechanics in the coal pits, and thus have a lesser number of men earning a real living wage in preference to keeping on a larger number of men at a wage which nobody can call a living wage? That is a difficult problem, but it is the problem which this country has to face. Personally I cannot see how we can face it in any other way than by taking the utmost advantage of what science can do for us.

I do not hold the pessimistic views about the future of coal which some of my friends hold. The march of invention to-day is such that one never knows quite where one is. We may, as was the case in parts of Yorkshire, have a class of coal above ground which none of us believe to be worth anything at all, and then suddenly somebody comes along and invents a new form of fire grate which enables us to use that particular coal and to get for it a price far beyond that of some coal which we had regarded as being saleable at a good commercial figure. I give that merely as an instance. Then there are the other uses to which coal is being put to-day. I do not in the least see why we should be pessimistic about the future, and assume that ours will be the only industry which, to put it vulgarly, is going to "get it in the neck" in the march of science; feeling that every other industry will benefit while ours is to be left behind.

Hon. Members are all making suggestions as to remedies, but I am sure that the Secretary for Mines does not expect any of us to swallow his Bill whole. I believe that we are wrong in the industry to-day, as is the case in a good many other industries, right at the beginning and right at the very end. It has been pointed out that we are wrong in the coal industry because of the difficulties which we have with royalties. I would like to see the State cut that Gordian knot straight away, and take royalties over. Until that is done we shall not be in a position to make the necessary amalgamations—or I will not say that we shall not be in a position to make them, but the process of making them and of having to deal with royalties as they exist in all the leases will be so inordinately long and difficult that many people will hesitate to agree to the amalgamations rather than meet all those difficulties. Many pits own a good proportion of the coal which they are working, and there will be no difficulty about that. Wherever a pit is up against minor difficulties—under the existing law and even with the Mines Facilities Act we can be held up in a most inordinate way—it can be caused a great deal of difficulty and expense.

Then we get to the other end of the industry, the selling portion of it. Nobody in the coal industry to-day can throw stones at our engineers for the way in which coal is got, or at our men for the way in which they get it. We are behind no country in the world. Of that I am certain. That is the scientific side of it, and that side is perfectly right, as far as we know. The progress that we are making is a daily wonder in many respects. The problem of selling is not peculiar to coal. It exists in Lancashire cotton and in the iron and steel trade. It has happened throughout this country because of the hitherto entirely individualistic line which we have taken in the marketing of our goods. We shall never be successful until we have a scheme of district marketing. Such a scheme has been mooted in my district of Yorkshire with a considerable amount of acceptance. It would then be much easier to arrange with the great public utility companies. The hon. Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Ross Taylor) spoke about that. His point was a perfectly just one. If the public utility societies would meet the district boards and would buy throughout the country, the whole question then may become much more easy of arrangement, and the price that could be asked would no longer be regarded as exacted as extra profit between one colliery company, but as a price which the industry had to demand from those who were using its product in order to give a decent living to all concerned. A basis of that kind is obviously much easier to work if there is a selling organisation. I am quite aware that many people in the merchanting and factoring sections of the coal trade view any advance of that kind with very great suspicion and intense dislike, but a similar position is having to be faced in Lancashire cotton. There will be no success in the industry unless we get some sort of common selling basis which would solve a great many of the difficulties about which we have been hearing, and which would cope with the various ways in which prices can be evaded. There would no longer be any need to evade prices.

We have been hearing about the result of a lowering of prices in the export trade. I ask hon. Members to consider the position in the world to-day. You cannot speak of coal alone. The position to-day is one of super-Nationalism throughout the world. Every State is watching like a cat to see what every other State is doing with its trade, and they are all endeavouring to get some favourable balance of trade. I do not think there is anything like the fear which has been expressed during the Debate that there will be a rush to sell coal, because it is perfectly well known that with systems of quota and separate treaties, the opportunity to sell coal is being more and more restricted by the importing nations. However much we may regret it, that is the position that we have to face. I hope that the Secretary for Mines will stick to his guns until he has got such an agreement in the trade that he is satisfied that it is watertight.

8.51 p.m.


I welcome this Bill, and I desire to congratulate the Secretary for Mines and His Majesty's Government on having at last decided to remove some of the objectionable features of the 1930 Act. I very much regret that these proposals were not introduced sooner, and that they do not go further. The Bill makes two or three changes in the con- duct of the industry, two of which are fraught with grave potentialities either for good or for evil, as far as the future of the industry is concerned. The Bill is as notable for what it omits as for what it includes. We may be too ready to blame the Government. The mining industry has been the subject of so much legislation that it is perhaps not surprising that the Government should have been somewhat reluctant to embark upon more. One would have thought, however, that having decided to embark upon legislation, the Secretary for Mines would have allowed himself to take the opportunity of removing some more of the objectionable features of the Act of 1930, and of profiting by the three years' experience of the working of that Act; and that he would have endeavoured to turn it into a more efficient machine for doing the work for which it was designed.

The Bill will make for a small improvement only in a very narrow compass. Its proposals are confined to the co-ordination of prices, the freeing of export coal from the quota restriction, an enlargement of the powers of the Central Committee and the extension of authority of the Board of Trade, as defined in Clause 3. It leaves entirely untouched the question of the uneconomic productive unit, and that is where the Government have made a mistake. The Bill does nothing to remove the irritation caused by the transfer of the quota system, and it makes no effort to deal with the admittedly difficult question of evasion. There is the very anomalous and unsatisfactory position of the company which is mining coal entirely for its own use, marketing either none or only a small percentage of its coal production, and yet subject for the whole of its output to the quota and the minimum price restrictions under the Act. Those are all highly important matters, and, sooner or later, it is almost inevitable that Parliament will have to deal with them. The conflicting interests of the Central Council are of such a character that it will be almost impossible for that body to deal with those matters satisfactorily. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Sir G. Ellis), I trust that if the Bill goes forward, as I hope it will, the Minister will be prepared to consider Amendments dealing, at all events, with some of the points that I have mentioned.

I am glad that the Minister has decided to remove the quota restrictions on the export section of the industry, because I have been advocating that ever since I came to this House in 1931. Now that it has been decided to take that course, I do not propose to repeat the arguments or deal with the objections, because they have been dealt with again and again. I would only say that I have never been able to understand why, in the Act of 1930, the same sort of Rules and Regulations were applied to the export market as were applied to the home market. Rigid rules and regulations may be applied to the home market without doing a great deal of harm, because, comparatively speaking, it is a straightforward proposition, but it is a totally different matter when you are dealing with the delicate fabric of the export trade, and rules and regulations applied in the same way to that section of the industry might quite conceivably ruin our position in the export world.

While I am glad to see that the quota restrictions are to be abolished, I am not quite sure what is going to happen with regard to prices. Like many other Members, I am puzzled about that question, and I hope that when the Minister replies he will give some indication of what is in his mind with regard to the method of co-ordinating export prices. I think that all who are associated with the industry—both those who are in favour of these restrictions and those who are against them—agree that quota restrictions and minimum prices must go hand in hand, that the one is the complement of the other, and that, if the one is dispensed with, the other must be dispensed with also. Under the Bill one of them goes, and I, for one, am glad of that. Again, like my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester, I do not share the pessimism which has been revealed in some of the speeches this afternoon as to what is likely to happen, and I certainly do not share the pessimism of the Miners' Federation as revealed in the extract from their pamphlet which says: We should revert again to the worst horrors of free competition in a restricted market. Prices would fall, demands for lower wages would follow and strikes and lock-outs would occur all over the coalfields. The use of exaggerated language of that kind does no good to the industry at all. It should be remembered that our export trade in coal amounts only to something like 40,000,000 tons, or about 20 per cent. of the total output. How this sort of thing is going to occur because there may be a slight variation in export prices as a result of the Government's action, I, for one, am quite unable to understand. Minimum prices will, I take it, remain, and they must be observed, to some extent at all events. I believe that none of the things which the federation fear is likely to take place.

I hope that any arrangement that may be made as regards minimum prices in the export market will result in a greater measure of freedom for our exporters, so that they may go into the markets of the world and capture as much trade as they can. Everyone knows that the market now is a restricted one, but Poland and Germany are actually increasing their exports, and there is a possibility of our recapturing a portion of the trade which we have lost. If our exporters had greater freedom, I think they would be able to do that. I have always advocated the co-ordination of home prices. In the first speech that I made in this House, over two years ago, on the mining industry, I pointed out that, in view of the large volume of production over which prices could be co-ordinated by co-operation in the districts and co-ordination between the districts, the price level could be raised without doing a great deal of harm to anyone, and with great advantage to the nation and to both sides of the mining industry.

My hon. Friend the Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Ross Taylor) spoke of the public utility concerns, but I am in flat disagreement with him there. I said last week, and I repeat now, that the public utility concerns are getting their coal too cheaply, and that is a field in which a better return ought to be given to the coal industry, in order that it may receive a better return on the capital invested and be able to give a better wage to the men for the service they render to the community. No one desires to exploit the consumer in this matter, but we are at least entitled to point out that the mining industry and those who work in it are entitled to a fair reward for the services they render to the State, just as are the workers in any other industry. There is one assurance that I should like to have from the Minister, if he can give it to me. The point arises out of an observation which he made during his speech when he spoke of competition through the medium of low coastwise freights. I should like to have an assurance from him that, under the scheme when it is finally approved by the Board of Trade, there will be no danger of our coastwise shipping suffering in any way.

I want to protest against the loose language which is used in reference to exporting and inland districts. Northumberland and Durham are generally spoken of as though they were solely exporting districts, but they are nothing of the kind. We consume a large proportion of our own coal, and, in addition, we send very large quantities by sea to London and the South Coast. We produce in the two counties something like 40,000,000 tons per annum, and export only 13,000,000. We send large quantities to the South, and have done so for centuries. Nature was kind to us in the North-East. Our seams of coal are planted right alongside our seaboards, and the first coal that ever came to London was brought by sea from Newcastle. Ever since then the whole country has enjoyed the advantage of cheap seaborne coal. We regard the South of England as being one of our natural markets, and we are not prepared to sacrifice it even for freedom in the export trade. The Thames market, in particular, was built up by the North-Eastern coal producers after many years of very hard work, and I would remind the House that that part of it which we lost was lost during the War as a result of the action of the Coal Controller, who was much concerned as to the position of the public utility companies and the danger in which they were owing to the fact that their coal was transported by sea. It was then that the Midlands captured a portion of that market. We want our share of the home market just as any other part of the country does, because it is vitally important to us, and not only to us, but to the consumers. We can deliver in London, or Poole, or Shoreham, or any of the ports round the South Coast, for a few shillings, whereas the rail carriage from any of the Midland coalfields is something like 15s. to 18s. a ton. I can see no justification for compelling the consumer in these places to pay 10s. or 12s. a ton more for coal either in the interest of the Midland producer or of the great railway companies. The Minister spoke of cheap transport by sea as though it were something of an evil.


I did nothing of the kind. I merely pointed out that that assisted the process.


I have no desire to do the hon. Gentleman an injustice, but that is how I took it. If it is not so, I am happy to have his repudiation. All I would ask is that, when the amended schemes are submitted for approval, the Minister will see, seeing that we are a great maritime nation and that coastwise shipping is of vital importance to the nation, that no harm is done to it as the result of the operation of the Act.

In my judgment, the most fatal omission from the Bill is the omission of anything that will regularise or safeguard the interests of the composite concern—the company which is producing coal for its own use. I speak particularly of the iron and steel industry, but my observations will apply with equal force to such industries as brick-making, shale oil or pottery works, or any industry that mines coal for its own purposes. The question is not only of vital importance to the mining industry, but to the iron and steel industry. Under the Act of 1930 this coal never comes on the market for sale, but under every district scheme it is subject to the operation of the quota, despite the fact that the Act itself, in the main, is a marketing scheme and that its chief justification when it was introduced was that it would stabilise prices and prevent cut-throat competition.

The inclusion of these particular classes of coal in the 1930 Act was, in my judgment, a very grave mistake, and in the three years of its operation it has led to the really ludicrous position that these composite undertakings have been compelled to purchase coal from other concerns while their own pits have been standing idle. This sort of thing has operated harshly, and it is going to operate with even greater severity under the Bill. These concerns are to have their standard tonnage fixed on the basis of the average of the three years 1931–33. As it stands now, the tonnage is fixed on the 1929 basis and, if the district allocation is 80 per cent. of the 1929 district production, the composite undertaking is entitled also only to 80 per cent. of the 1929 output. If it requires more it must make a representation to the local executive board, which, in turn, makes a representation to the Central Council. If the application is conceded, the local executive board proceeds to dole out the additional quota, and the composite concern receives only the same share as every other colliery in the district. It does not desire to sell any of the coal on the inland market and the coke, or iron and steel, which it is manufacturing may never come on the market at all and yet, if they need more, they must either buy quota from those who have been unable to use it, or purchase coal which they might produce themselves or be prepared to be fined 2s. 6d. per ton for overproduction.

I would like to illustrate how this works by quoting the actual figures for one particular company. I do not instance it because it is in my constituency. I believe, with others, that there is too much of that sort of thing and, with the change in our fiscal system, it is more essential than ever to maintain the national as against the sectional outlook if we are to avoid the worst evils of a tariff system. I am not speaking either for the owners or for the men. I am speaking for the industry as a whole, and for all those who depend on it in my constituency. I instance the Consett Iron Company because I am familiar with the facts, and because it is a typical composite undertaking. It produces iron and steel of various kinds, and is the largest single producer of metallurgical coke in the country. Their 100 per cent. standard tonnage is 2,350,000 tons. In common, with every other coal-producing concern, they have been quotaed, and they have had to buy coal and quota from neighbouring concerns. They could have produced this coal themselves had they been free to do so. The fact that they have had to purchase it has added to their costs of production at a period when competition is extremely fierce, particularly in the markets which they supply abroad. Under this Bill, the position will be infinitely worse. For the purpose of arriving at their standard tonnage for inland purposes, the average of the last three years is to be taken, the inland and export being separated.

I am not making the mistake to which the Minister referred. I understand that the Central Council will have power to give additional allocation if asked for, but trade in the Middlesbrough and Consett districts is steadily improving, thanks to the policy of the National Government, and the Consett Iron Company, along with others will require more coal this year than the average for the three-year period. How are they going to get it? Under the Act, even as amended by this Bill, or even if the Durham scheme is amended, the Central Council will, on application received, grant an additional allocation of tonnage to the county. It may be 500,000 tons. Consett may require 300,000 tons, and the rest of the collieries may require none. Under the Bill it matters not. The local executive board will divide the additional tonnage between all the collieries concerned, and the Consett Iron Company will again be placed in the invidious position of having to buy quota or purchase coal, or be fined half-a-crown for over-production.

The position is that standard tonnage is 2,350,000 tons, and the production for the last three years is 1,820,000 tons. Here is the important factor in the situation. It is divided up as follows: 64 per cent. is used in their own works, 33 per cent. is exported, and only 3 per cent. is thrown upon the inland market. I am giving round figures, and ignoring the decimal points which were so dear to the heart of the Secretary for Mines in one of the speeches he made recently. Under the Bill, the quota restrictions on exports are abolished, so that they can be ignored. The inland sales are from 50,000 to 60,000 tons, and can also be ignored. The crux of the whole position is the 64 per cent. of tonnage used in their own works. For the last three years this was over 1,206,000 tons. Trade is improving, and it is estimated that the requirements of this company in 1934 will be 1,800,000 tons, only a few thousand tons short of their total output for the last three years.

If this Bill becomes law in its present form, and the composite concerns remain within its framework, the allocation of the tonnage to these big concerns in every district will still remain with the local executive board. Assuming that they get it on the basis of 100 per cent., they will be 300,000 tons short. If the allocation is only 80 per cent. of the dis- trict allocation, it will be over 500,000 tons short, and once again they will be in the invidious position of having to buy quota or buy coal, or be fined for overproduction. Parliament really ought not to put obstacles and difficulties in the way of enterprising concerns which are exercising their own enterprise and foresight in order to assist the economic recovery of the nation and to help that recovery, particularly in the export market.

I would ask the Minster for a reply to this point. I have heard only two reasons why the proposal to give complete exemption to these composite concerns cannot be conceded. The first is that it would not be fair to the company which does not own pits. I cannot see that the position of that particular company is going to be in any way affected. At the present time they have to buy their coal in the open market. The second objection is, that it is difficult if not impossible to find a form of words, or to frame legislation to give exemption to these composite concerns without opening wide the door to applications for similar exemptions for any concern that cares to apply. This matter is of such vital importance to large industrial concerns all over the country, that the Secretary for Mines might consider the possibility between now and the Committee stage of granting certificates of exemption to those concerns which could say at a certain date that the main output of their colliery was used for their own purposes, and should reserve to himself the power to receive applications so as to provide for the possibilities of new concerns arising or for bona fide amalgamations. It was said that a planned solution was almost certain to involve delay and trouble. This would involve no delay at all, and be extremely easy to carry out in practice. It is causing very grave and serious concern to a large number of Members of this House who are associated with the iron and steel and similar industries. Those of us who are asking for this are not animated by any spirit of hostility to the Measure or to the Minister; we are genuinely and gravely concerned as to what may be the effect of the Bill upon these great enterprises.

I would remind the House that this matter was discussed very fully during the course of the Debates upon the exist- ing Act when almost every Minister in the Cabinet to-day was in favour of taking the very course which I am advocating to-night. Every one of them, including the Lord President of the Council, the Secretary of Mines, and his predecessor, the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot), the Minister of Health, the Minister of Labour, practically every Member of the Cabinet, was committed to this course which I am now asking the Government to carry out. I am completely at a loss to understand how it comes about that those who, only three years ago, were in favour of such a procedure as that which I am now suggesting cannot now grasp the opportunity to put the matter right in the interests of all concerned. This is a matter which vitally concerns the export trade. The Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department was one of those who were strong in his advocacy of the course I suggest. During the course of the Debate on 1st April, 1930, the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department asked with great heat, what on earth was the sense of putting these difficulties in the way of industries which had looked ahead and had made provision for obtaining their coal and thereby causing unemployment on such a great scale? I ask the Secretary for Mines the same question to-day, and I hope that when he replies he will be able to give an assurance that these great industrial enterprises which are doing, and have done, so much to help towards national recovery in industry shall not be prejudiced by the operation of this Measure.

9.24 p.m.


The voice of Durham has been heard often and long this evening, and, that being so, I think it is high time that one should have an opportunity of voicing the views of Lancashire, and particularly South Lancashire. I congratulate the Secretary for Mines upon having tackled this problem and introduced this Bill. I desire to associate myself with my hon. Friend who said, "Let us leave all that happened before 1930. Let the dead bury its dead." Let us start a new era, at any rate, in coal mining and coal operations, and let us see if we cannot do something, not only to improve the industry generally, but also to improve the lot and the conditions of the men who are working in that industry. I have ad- mitted unashamedly that here I am representing my own particular area, South Lancashire, and am putting forward the views of the coalowners of that area. I am also representing the men of that area, and the men who work in the pits of that area; for, if the coalowners are doing well there, then it follows equally that the men must be doing well.

Much was said earlier on concerning why this Bill is necessary and what are its objects. I can give two objects, at any rate, so far as South Lancashire is concerned. The first is that within the last 12 months something like 10,000,000 tons of coal from other countries and from Scotland have been imported into Lancashire, thereby showing that the minimum price as between district and district has broken down, and that the Minister of Mines is quite right when he says that, in the event of a central scheme not forthcoming, the Board of Trade will act. It is the hope of Lancashire owners, at any rate, that someone will act, and that someone will be able to use a big stick. The Lancashire coalowners have tried to play the game. They have fixed their minimum prices and have had full regard to the wage levels of the men. Anyone who forgets that is, to my mind, not worthy to undertake the management of any industry.

I have said that one of the reasons was the importation of something like 10,000,000 tons into Lancashire. I am going to repeat what is now becoming the classic example in Lancashire of a really good reason for this Bill. That is the importation of 200,000 tons of Scottish coal into Liverpool, supplied to the Electrical Engineering Department of Liverpool, at the power-house, at the rate of 13s. 7½d. a ton. It was delivered at that price. The average wage of the man below ground in Lancashire is 9s. 4d. a shift, and the average wage of the Scottish man below ground is 8s. 9½d. a shift. The average wage of the surface worker in Lancashire and Cheshire is 7s. the average wage of the surface worker in the Scottish coalfields is 5s. 8d.


May I ask the hon. Member from what authority he is quoting these figures? They do not correspond to those that I have.


Certainly, the hon. and gallant Member can find the figures in the Ministry of Mines Report for 1933, and they are figures that have been prepared for me by persons interested in the coal industry who were well able to get them out. I made quite sure that they were correct before giving them to the House.

Captain RAMSAY

I should not like to doubt the hon. Member's word, but they do not correspond at all to the facts that I have.


I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that these figures, so far as I can ascertain, are correct. I said that the price at the power-station, delivered, was 13s. 7½d. a ton. Hon. and right hon. Members will realise how much it costs to get the coal there. Let us take, first of all, the charges for conveyance. From the Clyde to Liverpool the freightage is 2s. 9d. per ton. The charge at Liverpool is 1s. 6d., the rail charge to the Clyde is another 1s. 6d., the wagon hire is 7d. The total charges are therefore 6s. 4d. To these charges must be added the factor's charge, so we get a cost at the pithead of 6s. 11d. a ton. If any more reason were asked for this Bill, I should say that that alone was a sufficient reason. Lancashire today, to its everlasting credit, has not attempted to bring its price down under that price, so far as the coalowners are concerned, and the men have stuck by them loyally. Do not think for one moment that I am blaming either the Corporation of Liverpool or the electrical engineers for being able to buy at that price. Far from it; a man who can buy good coal at that price and can get it into the city must have one's admiration. A system which allows coal to come in at that price which, taken at the pithead, is nearly 2s. below the cost to the worker underground, ought not to exist. I hope that the central scheme will be able to deal with cases like that, and that we shall be able to maintain a really good co-ordinated arrangement of mineral prices, so that such things shall not happen in future. Lancashire asks no favours; all she asks is a fair field and to be allowed to make such charges as are equitable and will give the minimum amount of profit, and will attain for her workers a fair wage throughout. We are all agreed that the wages throughout the industry are too low, but none of us would want to see them going lower still, as they might easily go if this sort of thing which is happening in Scotland were to happen throughout the length and breadth of the land.

Many hon. Members have said that the penalties can-not be inflicted. The Board of Trade, however, as I read the Bill and the Act of 1930, still has power to bring into being the operation of the penalty under Section 9 if it so wishes. I am glad to hear that the Minister of Mines hopes that the industry of itself will not make penalties necessary under the various schemes which may be brought into being under the Bill. I simply desired to give one or two reasons why Lancashire supports the Minister in this effort and I can say to him that so far as we are concerned Lancashire is entirely behind him.

9.35 p.m.


I propose at this hour to keep my remarks to the very minimum. I should not have risen but I think there are particular reasons why the views of Northumberland should be put forward. An apology is certainly due to the House from any hon. Member who makes what I might call a purely regional speech. It is essential that we should regard this problem from the point of view of the country as a whole, but I regard this Bill as framed with particular reference to Northumberland. So far as the Bill is concerned I am rather in difficulties. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Minister introduced it under the impression that it is the best possible Bill as it is drawn or whether he introduced it under the impression that it is the worst possible Bill as it is drawn. I think it is a halfway house and that he wishes the Bill to be distasteful enough to the coalowners to force the industry to reorganise itself. I strongly suspect that he is under the impression that if the worst comes to the worst and he cannot ignore the possibility that it may have to pass into law, it is a fairly workable Measure. I disagree with him fundamentally on that.

I believe that this method of freeing coal for export will mean increased competition and reduced prices. I cannot really see that any sane man can expect minimum prices to exist successfully without quota restrictions. That has, however, been covered before, and I will not go into it now. I am very much alarmed by the effect that the introduction of this Bill has had upon foreign inquiries for Northumberland coal. Since the Bill was introduced those inquiries have almost completely stopped, which obviously means that the foreigner thinks that he is going to get his coal cheaper if this Bill passes into law. I desire to speak particularly from the point of view of Northumberland, and I should like to say to my hon. Friend the Minister—I hope he does not think me impertinent—that I have the impression that, perhaps quite unconsciously, he has a definite bias against Northumberland coal. I say it quite frankly. There has been a certain hold-up at Blyth of foreign ships in regard to coal to be provided under the Treaty. I am not here to whitewash every single colliery in Northumberland, but I do not think my hon. Friend has been just to Northumberland. I do not think he realises, or perhaps he has forgotten, that the Northumberland coalfield is a difficult one. It has thin seams and can only exist by working to the maximum capacity and, I regret to say, by paying the lowest wages in England. Before the War our trade was very largely export, but for various reasons since the War we have gained ground in the coastwise trade.

I have come to the conclusion that the Midland Amalgamated district have got the ear of my hon. Friend and that their complaints that we have stolen their markets have appeared true to him, and that is the reason why he is prejudiced against Northumberland. We have not taken any markets from the Midlands. All that we have done is that such markets as have arisen have more naturally fallen into the hands of the coastwise trade from the North East Coast. There are various reasons for that, which one might call economic. There is the fact that there is more of a market for sea-borne coal in London than for rail-borne coal. I do not think that Northumberland is to blame because the rail charges are higher than the coastwise charges. I think my hon. Friend should reconsider his ideas about Northumberland.


What are my ideas about Northumberland?


If my hon. Friend has no ideas about Northumberland, I think he ought to have. I am pleading for a certain amount of justice for the Northumbrian coalfield. If my hon. Friend assures me that he has no bias against it, I accept his assurance. I am merely trying to point out that Northumberland must have a slightly freer hand than the Midlands. We have had experience of the Midlands in the export trade before. We depend more than any other district on export and coastwise trade, and if this Bill is in any way going to result in giving a freer hand to the Midlands than it will give to Northumberland, I sincerely hope that the worst will come to the worst and that the Bill will not proceed any further.

9.41 p.m.


I rise to make one brief point in relation to the speech made by the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. Dickie). I find myself in a difficulty, because I appreciate the fact that in introducing this amending Bill the Minister is endeavouring to serve the very real interests of the coal trade, but I am rather apprehensive with regard to the removal of the quota restriction for export coal, and when the hon. Member for Consett goes on to add that he would like the minimum price restrictions removed, I feel that it is absolutely essential for me to protest and say that it would be disastrous for the trade of the north-each coast. As a Member for a mining constituency it is my duty, in so far as I can, to represent fairly and equally in the interests of the nation, the interests of the coalowners and the interest of the miners. I think the hon. Member for Consett has lost sight of the fact that in our trade agreements certain arrangements are made with regard to the price of coal. I would use the illustration particularly of Finland, which country has undertaken in the trade agreement for reciprocal conditions to buy British coal at an increased cost of 4s. a ton over Polish coal. I do not suggest that the hon. Member for Consett would deprecate a trade agreement, because if any part of the country has benefited from these trade agreements it is the north-east coast.

If one is going to remove the minimum price restrictions, or even if one suggests that they should be removed, it must be for one purpose only, and that is that there should be a scramble for the markets of the world among the expirting counties of Great Britain. If the price is to be reduced for one country in the provisions of a Trade Agreement we should then be obliged to reduce the price of our coal to other countries with which we have at the present time Trade Agreements. It would be a little curious if just when Finland has introduced a Bill into her House of Commons to implement the provisions of the Trade Agreement we gave an intimation that, although we have arranged with her to buy coal from us at an increased price of 4s. per ton, we now prefer to go into the open market and surrender the advantage we have gained in price control in the Trade Agreement in order to get a little extra trade from our competitors. I understand that the value of the open markets now available to Great Britain and other coal-exporting countries amounts to something like 16,000,000 tons, which is a comparatively small amount compared with the trade of the world. From the point of view of my constituency, if the result of trying to obtain a portion of that market is price cutting in all the markets of the world, I would rather do without that portion of the 16,000,000 tons which would accrue to my district.

I wish that we could occasionally through the appropriate Government representatives point out to our coalowners some of the weaknesses of our trade organisation. Take the question of Poland. It is obviously quite useless to expect that we as a country can continue an indefinite and open competition with Poland ad infinitum. Poland has behind her coal trade the State organisation, and behind the State, as we know for political reasons, there is the support of France. It is useless to suppose that after having struggled for a long time to obtain a footing in the markets of the world Poland is going to allow us to have free play in those markets in which she herself thinks she might have a hand. If we could come to some common basis of agreement as to sharing out the markets on agreed and arranged prices, it would be extraordinarily beneficial to the coal trade of this country as a whole, I congratulate the Secretary for Mines. He has been extraordinarily successful in getting the coalowners to come round to his point of view, but I should like him to go one step further. Unless we speak as a united coalowners' organisation when negotiating trade agreements, we might easily find ourselves in a difficulty, Poland has only one representative, who speaks for the whole of the Polish coal trade. We know the difference in wages paid to Polish miners as compared with those paid to miners in this country, and I should like to add my word to that of the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. G. Nicholson) and say that I view with the gravest concern the continuance of the low wages now paid in the county of Northumberland and on the North-East Coast. I think it is up to the coalmining Members of this House to make it plain that we are not only fighting for the coalowners' side of the question but fighting equally for the miners' side.

With Poland speaking through the mouthpiece of one representative, we run a grave risk, unless there is united action on our part, on this export question, of finding that one part of our organisation has come to some agreement and another section trying to undercut prices because they have not come to an agreement with that section of the industry which has made the agreement. I feel strongly on this matter. We have an idea in this country that we are the sole and only people who can produce reasonable coal at a reasonable price. When I was in Finland I walked round the harbours and examined the cargoes of Polish coal; I saw also freights of Scotch coal. Even with my inexperienced eye I could see that the Polish coal was in excellent condition, of good quality and properly graded. It is not a question of this nation being able to offer the best coal in the world at cheap prices. We have to fight another country with a better chance of producing coal at low prices and which is determined to get a footing in the world's markets. The sooner we can come to an agreement on this matter the better for this country.

I regret that in this amending Bill we have not been able to obtain a revision of some of the obvious disadvantages under which the coal trade has been operating for some time. I should like to have seen some planned action for establishing a really good selling organisation. There is only one thing upon which the coalowners are agreed, and that is that there might be a better selling organisation. We go on trying to batch things up in the hope that the industry will emerge from the trade depression, whereas it would be a great benefit so the trade as a whole if the National Government, in possession of all the Dowers it has, would make it plain that they expect united action on the part of the coal industry itself. The Imports Advisory Committee can talk to other industries, but as the policy of Protection is of no real benefit to the coal industry we are driven to deal with it through the ordinary Parliamentary channels. While I regret that we have not been able to include provisions to provide against these weaknesses I shall have pleasure in supporting the Bill, in the hope that it will put a portion of our industry into a sounder condition.

9.53 p.m.


I have sat through the whole of the Debate, and in view of the fact that no Scottish Member has so far said a word on this subject, although there have been several indirect attacks upon Scottish coal, which is being sold at such a profit at the Englishman's door, and also in view of the fact that about six months ago I introduced a private Member's Bill with a similar object to this Measure, I hope the House will bear with me for a few moments. My first observation must be on the speech of the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Essenhigh) who pointed out the princely wages paid in Lancashire as against those paid in Scotland. I will not pursue his personal point, but I will content myself by saying that the Scottish miner is not doing badly when he takes home at the end of the year a substantially larger sum of money, that he produces more coal per man shift—


May I point out that the average week for a Scottish miner is six shifts per week, whereas the average week for a Lancashire miner is four shifts?

Captain RAMSAY

The average production per shift in Scotland is 24 cwts. of coal as against 18 in Lancashire. The average cost per ton in Scotland is 11s. 10d., as against 16s. 10d. in Lancashire. I suggest to hon. Members that it is not Scottish wages that are in question, but Scottish efficiency and thrift, which have been put into the machinery of the industry in past years. It is important for hon. Members that there are some restrictions of this kind; otherwise Scottish coal would be at every doorstep in this country.

Just a few words to the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham). He was amongst those who were kind enough to back my Bill last July. I think the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) also backed the-Bill. The whole crux of this matter depends upon the export quota for two reasons. First, because it is only in the export markets that the real chance of expansion can be found. In putting a crippling quota on the export of coal we were handicapping our one and main export of raw material. We were brought up against a position in which the export quota system became a reductio ad absurdum. Just before Christmas in 1932 there were men in Midlothian, and I believe in other districts, who were idle while the owners had orders in their pockets, and shippers who had orders to ship this coal had to pay a forfeit because the mines were not allowed to-supply the coal.

I am sure the collieries will be grateful to the Secretary for Mines for what he has done in this Bill. I would put a question to him. At the time my Bill was being drawn up we saw a great many coalowners and colliery companies in this country, and as far as I remember their outstanding argument was this: You cannot release your grip of the export coal production without involving yourselves in endless chaos with your inland coal. In many collieries for every five tons of export coal raised it is necessary to raise two or three tons of inland coal. What pressure can you devise which will prevent illicit sales of coal so raised? We have learned to be thankful for small mercies. In this Bill I think we have a considerable mercy, although there are drawbacks. Would the Secretary for Mines make it clear how the extra stock of inland coal, which is bound to accumulate owing to the raising of the extra export quota, can be kept from illicit sale and from the doors of consumers.

10.0 p.m.


I have to thank the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Essenhigh), for having drawn attention to the fact that the wages in Scotland are less than those in Lancashire. It is not because the Lancashire miner is better than the Scottish miner. It has been pointed out quite correctly that the Scottish miner produces per man a considerably greater amount of coal than the Lancashire man. That is not because the Scottish miner is better than the Lancashire miner; it is due to other causes. We are entitled to give credit where credit is due. The engineering in Scottish mining is of a higher standard than that to be found anywhere in the world. I do not think our mining engineers have any reason to fear facing the competition of engineers in any country. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Sir G. Ellis) I am not a pessimist regarding the future of the coal trade, so long as we are gifted with men who are capable of dealing with engineering difficulties in the way that mining engineers have dealt with them in the past. I have no doubt that the engineering in the mining industry has resulted in a considerably greater number of men being employed, particularly in Scotland and more particularly in my own part of Scotland, than would otherwise have been the case.

We have no particular quarrel with the coalowners as coalowners. But I must make some reference to the statement made by the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. Dickie), who said that he spoke for neither masters nor men. He rather brought to my mind the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester, who drew attention to the fact that there were men inside the mining industry, on the coalowners' side, who blew neither hot nor cold. I am bound to say that every Member on this side who is connected with the industry is in favour of a much more drastic method than this Bill of dealing with the situation in the coal trade. But like others I am quite willing to give a meed of praise to anyone who deserves it, and I believe that it can very fairly be given to the Minister for his presentation of the Bill to-day. Again we have no particular quarrel with the individual. But in introducing the Bill he drew attention to the failure of the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) to be a true prophet about the coal trade. That reminded me of the fact that the Secretary for Mines happened to be in the House at the time when the 1930 Act was being discussed. He took a prominent part in the Debates on that occasion and he made more prophecies than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen and his prophecies have been no more correct than those of the right hon. Gentleman.

I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman, or anybody else who ventured into the region of prophecy, if it has happened that their prophecies have turned out to be wrong. I can carry my memory back over a period of 56 years in the mining industry. I belong to that part of Scotland where the miners have always believed in regulating output. We regulated output—and we had to do it ourselves—in order to compel the public of this country to pay a reasonable price for coal and that is the only object which can justify regulating output in an industry such as ours. That is a sufficient reason to justify us in taking exception to this Bill because this Bill instead of seeking to regulate output so that the industry will be made advantageous both to the men employed in producing coal and the employers makes proposals which will have the contrary effect. I do not wish to enter into the region of prophecy myself, but as result of our experience—and we have some little knowledge of the working of the industry—we look with considerable doubt on proposals such as those contained in the Bill.

The Secretary for Mines made some reference to the form in which our Amendment was drawn. Apparently he thought that it was not sufficiently well drafted and that, on that account, we ought to withdraw it and that we ought to refuse to vote against the Bill. What does our Amendment say? I do not profess to be an expert in drafting but I have divided this Amendment into six parts. In the first part it draws attention to the futility of legislation, the administration of which is vested solely in the coalowners. That brings me to the point of drawing the attention of the House to the fact that 15 years ago, a man occupying an exalted position in the present Government was chairman of a Royal Commission which reported that the time had come to consider the question of organising the industry so that it should be taken part in both by the miner and the coalowner. That was the Royal Commission of 1919.

I am speaking the views of my hon. Friends on this side of the House when I say that many of the gentlemen con- nected with the working of this industry are as broad-minded and patriotic as any other section of the community. The hon. Member for Winchester is not the only man of that type in the ranks of the coalowners. I venture to say there is no section of workmen in any industry who have had as much experience of negotiation with employers as the miners. It is only when we come to deal with the division of the small proportion of money which comes to the industry, and decide the share which is due to each of us, that we have sufficient difference of opinion to warrant us in declaring war on each other. One of the objections that we take to the Bill is that it fails to deal effectively wih the co-ordination of prices.

We attach high importance to the question of price. We miners are rather peculiar people. Any number of people have tried to understand us, but all who have attempted to do so have apparently failed. We find considerable argument in various newspapers about the miners, but we miners are not one whit better or worse than other members of the British community. We are just as much concerned for the interests of the country as any other section. But we work in the dark. If miners were working on the surface and if the public saw them at their work, the probability is that the conditions under which they are living would be very much better than they are. The result is that we seek to get some sort of arrangement such as was intended to be provided in the 1930 Act, to ensure that fair prices shall be paid for the commodity which we produce. By fair prices we mean prices that will mean a fair wage to the miner and a fair rate of profit to the men who have invested their capital in the industry.

As I say, the 1930 Act intended to provide that. It has failed—at least in the opinion of the present Government it has failed. It has certainly been responsible for creating a great many anomalies and difficulties but I venture to make this suggestion to the National Government which ought to be a patriotic Government and which ought not to draw any unfair distinctions between one section of the community and another. Since it has been placed on record that we have within our ranks men qualified to give reasonable guidance in the conduct of the industry, surely it is not unreasonable to ask the National Government, if they are going to deal with the question at all, to introduce a Bill which will more effectively provide for such prices being paid by utility concerns, and other concerns of a like character, as will ensure to the miner and the employer a reasonable return for the services they render.

The Bill does not check the evasions on the existing law, and it does not eradicate the evils resulting from the sale and purchase of quotas. It proposes to remove restrictions on the production for export, and it limits the advantages intended for the industry under Part I of the 1930 Act. The Minister in introducing the Bill, made as good a case as could be made for it. He himself has been more or less a false prophet, when one goes back to his former utterances, just as much as the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) has been. I should like to ask the Minister whether, when he replies, he will be more explicit with regard to what was meant by his statement that the Bill will be withdrawn if he can get satisfactory assurances from the owners as to their intentions. We would like to know whether he has been in consultation with them already, and whether they have submitted any proposals to him. In any case, we take strong exception, following the example set many years ago by the Prime Minister, to anything in the nature of secret diplomacy. If there are any discussions going on between the coalowners and the Government, certainly the miners' representatives and the public ought to be made aware of it.

As to the Bill, I do not propose to deal with the Clauses separately, because they have been dealt with from various points of view by the speakers in this Debate, but I want to draw attention to the fact that the whole Bill is designed to abolish quotas for export, and we believe that once you begin to make the way open for unlimited competition between coalowners for the supply of foreign markets, you cannot control prices in the inland market. That is our belief, and we have some justification for holding it, because we have had some experience behind us in that mater. I should like to know whether the Minister will answer the very weighty criticisms of my hon. Friend the Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring), who put some very pertinent questions dealing with the condition of the industry generally.

I asked the Minister if he would define inland and exporting areas, because I have heard complaints, such as that voiced by the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Essenhigh), about certain actions of the Scottish coalowners. Scotland is an exporting district, and I understand that it exports coal to Lancashire. The Lancashire and South Wales people take exception to that, naturally, but as against that, you must remember that Durham exports coal to the North East of Scotland. The reason is, for I have made inquiries, that I believe it to be true that the coal produced in Northumberland and Durham is of a better quality than that produced in Scotland. That does not mean that the Northumbrian or Durham man is a better man than the Scotsman. It appears to me that the Highlanders—or those of them at least who inhabit the North East coast, around Inverness and along the Moray Firth, for which I have a special regard, because I belong to it myself—are perhaps more thrifty than the Scottish people who inhabit the West coast, and they think they get a greater value in the coal that they buy from England. That is something to our credit. It shows that we are not animated by narrow prejudice of any kind, and that we have forgotten all that happened at Flodden and Bannockburn.

Will it be unfair to say that Northumberland, Durham, Wales and Scotland are exporting districts? Will it be a fair representation of the facts if I state that Lancashire, Stafford, Warwick, Forest of Dean, Somerset and Kent are inland districts? In the exporting districts which I have named 364,995 persons are employed. That is roughly one-half the total number employed in the whole country. The districts which I have named as supplying the inland market employ only 146,411 persons. That leaves the counties of York, Derby and Nottingham, which form the Midland amalgamation, and it is fair to say that about one-half their output is export coal and it is a growing proportion. I want to suggest to the Minister of Mines that if this is a fair statement of the position of these various districts, then all that he has said about the advisability of securing something like uniform stable prices goes by the board. The exporting areas will fix the price, and it wil[...] be fixed on their ability to secure trade in competition with various countries or the Continent.

I would like to draw the attention on the Minister to another fact to which should like him to make some reference There is a large proportion of small collieries employing anything from 10 to 100 men. For the purpose of dealing with the question of eliminating uneconomic pits in order to put the industry on; sound and stable basis, the 1930 Act provided for the setting up of a commission to inquire into the best means by which collieries should be amalgamated. I do not believe that the Government are giving as much support to that commission as they ought to do, and I should like to know from the Minister whether the Government propose to assist it in carrying out their very necessary and useful work, because it will be a consider able advantage to the industry later on Knowing my own country better that other districts, I should like to draw the Minister's attention to the fact that les than 20 companies in Scotland control and dictate the conditions in the Scottish mining industry. It is probably a great deal less than 20, because the companies are interlocked. I could name quite a number of companies in which if you followed them from the head to the tail you would find no difference between the head and the tail.

On the question of allocations, I do not think the Minister has made out a case to justify this Bill. I have the figures of the allocations made to the various districts over the four quarters December, 1932, to September, 1933—the latest figures—and they show, I think that whatever faults the coalowners may have they have a fair knowledge of mathematics. I find the total output dealt with was 219,000,000 tons and the coalowners allocated 210,000,000 to the various districts, but, according to this report, not a single district filled its quota. If they had filled their quotas the probabilities are that there would have been 40,000 fewer men on unemployment benefit in the mining counties. Even the Act of 1930 would be quite sufficient if it were properly worked, if the Government would pay attention to remarks such as were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Sir G. Ellis), who knows the subject as well from the employers' side as I and my friends know it from the miners' side, and who is broad-minded enough, liberal enough and progressive enough to recognise the necessity for real co-ordination inside the industry for the purpose of providing reasonable wages to the men engaged in it as well as a reasonable rate of profit for the employers.

One of the difficulties which I have long contended against personally is that there are far too many parasites in the mining industry. Men have come into it not for the benefit of the industry at all but merely for the purpose of getting cheap coal. They can afford to lose profits in the mining industry because of the profits they will make on the other industries. I look upon that element as being the bane of the mining industry, and if this Bill had contained any provisions which would have dealt with those interlopers I venture to say that the majority of hon. Members on this side of the House, if not all of them, would have supported the Government, but, as it is, unfortunately we cannot do so, and we have no resource except to vote against the Bill.

My final words will be something in the nature of a peroration, I suppose. When the Minister reads the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda East I hope he will reflect sufficiently on it to induce him to reconsider his whole attitude to this problem, and that he will have the courage—as he is an ex-Service man he should not lack courage; he had the courage to go to my constituency last Friday night and I had not the courage to meet him—to recommend to the National Government the withdrawal of this Bill, and summon a representative meeting of miners and employers to consider jointly how best to restore prosperity to an industry which because of its services in the past, deserves better treatment than it has had for some years past. If the Government will work along those lines, they will deserve the name of statesmen rather more than anybody else in the mining industry.

10.30 p.m.


I am sure that every hon. Member who has taken part in the Debate will agree with me that it has been full of interest and detail. That is particularly true of the speeches that were made by the hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) and the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham). It is true that I was in the constituency of the hon. Member for Hamilton last Friday night, and I had hoped to see him there. I did find a few people who were neither friends of his nor of mine. But that is by the way. He was quite right to talk about the ex-service man. If I remember rightly, his father was in the Crimea, and his grandfather was at Waterloo, so that he naturally thinks in those terms. We are not divided so widely or so differently. I remember a miner who was with me on the Somme. He was a most amusing and courageous person, and like many of us, could not keep a straight face on parade. He found it hard to get promotion. He hated cleaning brass buttons. After three general parades in 10 days, he came to me and said "We are going up the line to-morrow. Thank Heaven for that. We shall get a bit of peace now." That is the miner, whether from Durham or Scotland or anywhere in this country—wholly delightful, courageous people, sometimes humorous and sometimes cantankerous men.

We have been discussing this Bill, and of course the miners' interests are bound up in it. I can assure hon. Members that the Government have taken no step in this matter without considering the interest of the miners. The question of price control is of vital importance to the miner. Before I deal with the issues arising out of the Bill, may I refer to one or two points which have nothing to do with the Bill but which have been raised since its introduction? It is the right of hon. Members always to praise or to blame a Measure rather more for what it does not contain than for what it does. Some hon. Members blame the Bill because things are out of it that ought to be there, and others praise it because things are not in that they are glad are not in it. The issues of hours and of national agreements have been raised by the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) and the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. Williams). They will not expect me to make any reply fuller than has been made before in answer to questions in this House and in the country, about the question of agreements. It has been made public to-day about national agreements that the Government, if they find any method which is not compulsory arbitration, and which will be acceptable to the two sides, will be only too glad to see such a national agreement, because they know that things are not easy on that problem. In regard to hours, hon. Members know that discussions are taking place at the moment in regard to a convention at Geneva.

The hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Martin) discussed the question of re-organisation and of royalties, and the latter subject was also mentioned by the hon. Member for Winchester (Sir G. Ellis). Two or three other hon. Members also asked what was the Government's view about Part I and Part II. The Government's view has been quite firmly stated. Part I was a temporary measure until 1932. This House, by its own vote and will, and Parliament as a whole, voted it for another five years. Part II is now operating in two distinct ways, one of which might not have been foreseen by those who put it into the 1930 Act. The Commission is going forward with the preparation of schemes under Part II for compulsory amalgamation. Those who talk so much about it overlooked the immense difficulties in the preparation and the bringing to a solution of such schemes.

There are not only the technical difficulties connected with the preparation of schemes, the calculations, and the interests of the various undertakings, but there are those subtle and difficult personal relations which are vital to the success of anything of the kind. That is going forward, but it will take time, and, of course, where it is not possible to get agreement, there is only one thing to do under Part II—it must be taken to the tribunal for arbitration. At the moment I do not know of any scheme proposed by the commission about which there is agreement in the area concerned.

My hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon and my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward), as well as my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester, raised the question of selling. It is very interesting to notice that the Reorganisation Commission have attacked the problem on other lines, that is to say, on the lines of adopting the voluntary scheme of the West Yorkshire owners. My hon. Friend the Member for Walls-end was, I think, a little optimistic. That scheme has been the subject of a great deal of hard work, but it is quite wrong to suggest that there is agreement in regard to it. There is no agreement. That is the hard thing about all voluntary arrangements. It is not stupidity; it is just that there is a conflict of interests. Therefore, the commission are proceeding with plans for testing that matter, and we shall have to wait and observe what happens in regard to it.

The question was raised by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. R. T. Evans), and also by the hon. Member for Blaydon, the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Magnay), and one or two others, of international agreements, and I was interested in what my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend said about them, especially with regard to Poland and Finland. I can only say, in the first place, that the Government are entirely in favour of international agreements with regard to markets and prices if such agreements can be arrived at; and, secondly, that, on the suggestion of the Government, the British coalowners have invited a delegation of Polish coalowners to come to this country and discuss matters with them. I make no comment about that; it is not a Government delegation, but a delegation of coalowners to meet coalowners. They will arrive in London, I think, next week. Once again we must wait and see how the owners concerned on both sides can approach the problem before we can have any idea as to what result may accrue.

The hon. Member for Ogmore talked about markets, and there I think we may fairly claim to have done our very best, in extraordinarily difficult world circumstances, to secure every advantage that can be got for the coal trade in the markets of the world. As the House knows, the situation is difficult. I will not stress the point of Polish competition, but the fact is that since 1924 there has been no such thing as a Polish price for coal; it has been at whatever level below our price was necessary to get the business concerned. That state of affairs will not continue to exist in Scandinavia, because there we have a definite agreement; and here my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend made one of her very few slips—she said that tariffs would not do any good for the coal trade. We should never have got that agreement but for the tariff negotiations. But for give-and-take, and for the fact that we had the lever there, we could not have secured those extra quantities in the Scandinavian countries.

There are two things that I should like to say about markets. In the first place, there is a number of markets where, no matter what the price is, no matter how good the coal is, we are allowed so much and no more, and other people are allowed so much and no more. Against that there is only one kind of action that can be taken, and that is to seek every possible opportunity of making reciprocal arrangements, as we did with Germany recently. It is very interesting to see that the returns for the last month or two show that the arrangement there is not only working out so that we are getting the 80,000 tons of extra quota, but we are getting a proportion above that, as was arranged under the agreement, because the German consumption of coal had gone up above a certain level. There is a certain amount of free market, but the House must realise that there is intense competition there, and it comes in the Eastern Mediterranean from Turkey and Russia as well as eastern European countries. I am sure a survey of world conditions will rather make the hon. Member for East Rhondda hesitate to adopt so fully as he did the view of the Miners' Federation in its pamphlet that the release of export quotas must lead to a dreadful result in price dropping. I must admit, however, that no one could have put the case more power fully than he did.

There are two other points outside the Bill. One is with reference to public utility societies. They made very great prophecies about the operation of the Act of 1930, but, when they came to see me recently about other matters, they were bound to admit that their worst fears had not been justified. On the other hand, the hon. Member for Hamilton gave the answer of miners and owners. Some of them think that the public utility companies could afford to pay more than they do. I express no opinion. With regard to trade organisation, raised by the hon. Member for Wallsend, if better agreement is got about the internal arrangements of the industry through this Bill or by other arrangements, it ought to lead to better trade organisation, which we agree is vitally necessary.

The hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. G. Nicholson) suggested that I have a bias against Northumberland. I was astonished to hear it. I went to Northumberland and spoke at two meetings. I hope I did not do any harm. On the following evening, a fortnight ago, on neutral ground I was violently attacked by a Northumberland coalowner, one of the hon. Member's own constituents, and I felt so kindly about Northumberland that I did not even reply. I restrained myself.

There is no bias against any particular district. If the hon. Member wants to know why other people are discussing Northumberland, he gave the answer in his own speech. He referred to wages and output. Let anyone analyse the figures impartially, as I have done my best to do before giving any advice about the matter. Let them see what the trend of trade has been during the last three years. Let them, on the other hand, sit in my office and analyse such complaints, happily few, as come from the Scandinavian countries about delays in delivery. I am sorry to tell him that, if he sat where I sit examining all these facts, he would find his attention drawn very frequently to Blyth. It is not bias, it is fact. The hon. Member is entitled to his point of view, but he must not impute bias to me. Everything connected with the Act of 1930 is a balance of advantage against disadvantage. We have to move sometimes more slowly than hon. Members would have us move, but, when we do move, everything is calculated with the utmost possible care on the basis of advantage against disadvantage. No one can bring in a national Bill which will please everyone. If it happens that certain people who have been doing things that they ought not to have done have their corns pinched, the Minister may perhaps think that he has found the right solution to do the right thing.

Turning to criticisms about the Bill itself, the hon. Member for Hamilton asked whether there were any negotiations going on with the owners about this. The answer is No. He knows everything. The Government have made it plain half-a-dozen times that they much prefer the industry itself to set these things right. We have brought the Bill in because we could no longer stand the delay. Equally we make it plain in public to them, to the miners and to the community that, if they get their solution and it satisfies us that it will do what we think ought to be done in the interests of the industry, we are not going to stand on false pride or impose legislation which is not necessary. We believe in all these things. It is far better that Parliament should do less and the industry itself do more to organise and to help itself. That is the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for East Rhondda. In the one infelicitous simile in his speech, he called the coal industry the Cinderella of the industries. I think not. Cinderella, I understand, was neglected until the very last hour. Perhaps the trouble of the coal industry from the point of view of statesmen and politicians in the last 40 years, is that it has had too much attention. Certainly the coal industry is not the Cinderella of industries.


We are still wearing the rags.


That may be so, but the name is not Cinderella. Let me take the issues that have been raised. The hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Parkinson) raised a very important point about Ireland. It is a very difficult and complicated situation because the Customs regard cargo shipments of coal to the Irish Free State as export, and bunker shipments for vessels proceeding to the Irish Free State as foreign bunkers. They regard cargo shipments and bunkers to Northern Ireland as coastwise, so that coal going to Ireland may be inland for one purpose, and export for another. I say, in answer to his question, that I do not think that there would be any insuperable difficulty in classing coal for Northern Ireland for one purpose in the Coal Mines Bill, output regulation as inland, and for the purpose of the Coal Mines Act, 1930, price regulation as export. I shall be glad to consider sympathetically any Amendment to bring coal for Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man within the category of inland coal and coastwise bunkers. It will not be easy, but I do not think that there will be any insuperable difficulty.

As to the export point which the hon. Member for Hamilton raised, it is a very important item, but I think he has got it on a wrong basis in putting the conclusion which he made. The principal exporting districts with their voting strengths on the Central Council are: Northumberland 6.10, Durham 13.64 per cent., South Wales 17.43 per cent., and Scotland 13.67 per cent., a total of 50.84 per cent. He has to remember that the executive board must vote as a whole at a meeting of the Central Council and cannot split its vote. In these circumstances Scotland, which is more of an inland trade than an export trade, does not generally throw in its lot with the exporting block of Northumberland, Durham and South Wales, but votes with the inland districts, thus giving the latter districts a voting power of 64 per cent. Therefore, as a matter of fact, his fears will be unjustified. Normally speaking, the inland vote exceeds the export vote. That, I think, will relieve the apprehension he had on the basis of the very natural conclusion which he made. It must be said that Durham, South Wales and Northumberland do not always agree about trade issues. Sometimes two are in one camp and one in another.

On the question raised with regard to delivered prices, it is now possible under the present Act for the district boards to put up amendments to the Mines Department of the Board of Trade, and two boards, the Midland and the Lancashire, have done so. The procedure which I have adopted has been to refer them to the Central Council. Until we can get effective co-ordination of district prices, if one district takes action and another does not, it may be used against other districts. I go no further than to say that if the Bill becomes law, or if there be effective co-ordination of district prices, the matter will be open for reconsideration when a scheme can be worked out which will place it upon the basis of standard prices.

The next point which was raised was the question of ancillary undertakings and also of composite undertakings. There is no more to be said about that than I said in my speech. I will ask the hon. Gentleman who raised the point, the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. McKeag) and the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. Dickie), to read carefully what I said. That is a Committee point; if they are not satisfied with what was said in the original exposition, we must try to meet in Committee their arguments that something further is needed.

The issue of ancillary undertakings is, however, an entirely different one. It appears to have been forgotten that this matter was discussed at length during the passage of the 1930 Act. At one stage an Amendment for freeing coal for ancillary undertakings was carried against the Government in another place. May I remind the House that, commenting on this matter in a leading article on 29th May, 1930, the "Times" said: The resultant difficulties in the organisation of the coal industry would be almost insuperable. In the Ruhr a similar arrangement has been tried and found unworkable; and here"— meaning in Great Britain— so large a proportion of the total output would escape control that the severity of control on the remainder might well prove intolerable. The argument in the House of Lords was rather one-sided. Fuller consideration of all the facts might have produced, although reluctantly, a different conclusion. Indeed, on fuller consideration, it produced another conclusion. The fact is that free coal for ancillary undertakings would cut at the root of the system of regulation of output even when amended as proposed in this Bill. I can hold out no hopes to the hon. Member for Consett. In the course of his speech he referred to the sectional pleas which were made, and at the end of his speech there was a sectional plea for Consett. There will be no Bill for regulating coal in this country which shows any bias whatever in favour of Consett, Northumberland or any other part of the country.

The two main issues raised were dealt with by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. R. T. Evans), in the main passage of the speech of the hon. Member for East Rhondda, and in other speeches. They are that we ought not to have left this organisation in the hands of the coalowners. The hon. Member for Hamilton mistook what I said. I was not objecting to the drafting of the Amendment; my surprise was at the form of the first phrase, and it has never occurred to me that the Labour party would, in 1934, put down an Amendment expressing in terms their judgment on their own Act, on which they raised such high hopes in 1930. I should like to put this in a different way. I do not want any injustice done to the Labour party; am I to understand that this means that they want to scrap the Act? That is what I should like to know, for these words bear that interpretation. I have always understood it to be the considered policy of the Miners' Federation and of the majority of the mine-owners that it would be disastrous to scrap the Act, because the price of coal would immediately drop and immediate trouble would be caused. I take it that the Amendment is an expression of opinion not meant to influence the mind of the country in favour of scrapping the Act.


Certainly not.


I am glad to hear that.


Our objection is that it is not strong enough.


The hon. Member goes further: he says that they want another kind of tribunal. There we are in difficulty. The hon. Member for Spennymoor gets up and says, "Give us a mixed tribunal of owners and men with a neutral chairman."


I should not trouble about the chairman.


I thank the hon. Member very much. I am not quite sure that the Committee would not trouble about the chairman, and that in the end it would not be the chairman who would have to fix the allocations and the prices in all disputed cases. There may be something to be said for national ownership; there is a case for that. There is a case for putting control of the industry, as it is at present, in the hands of those who have the financial responsibility.


Have the men no responsibility?


That is another issue. I am not discussing that. You are not giving the men responsibility. If you say that you propose to have another form of control which has not been mentioned or argued in this case, by men only, that is another issue. The point I put is that it is not enough to make this general statement; we have to get it down to workable machinery. I cannot see any case for a body exercising public control in an industry of this vital importance which has no financial responsibility. There is a case for public ownership, there is a case for private ownership, but for giving to a body power to exercise public control in this industry there is no case. It is very interesting to note that the Miners' Federation have admitted that their scheme for national ownership is not ready. They use a very unfortunate phrase in their pamphlet: Yet, while public ownership and control are on the make"— I do not know who revised that. I presume they mean "in the making." That means that although they talk in the country about national ownership and public control they have no scheme ready. It is in the making or, as the pamphlet unfortunately says, "on the make."


I think the Minister must know that the case of the Miners' Federation was submitted by a witness before the commission that sat recently, and in quoting that statement surely he is misrepresenting the Miners' Federation?


I am doing nothing of the kind. I am quoting a pamphlet of the Miners' Federation, called: "Coal Problems: a Plea for a National Fuel Policy," issued from Russell Square in March of last year. Mr. Tawney is a back number in this regard. This is the latest from Russell Square. He is dead and buried so far as this scheme is concerned. The pamphlet says: Yet, while public ownership and control are on the make it is the duty of the Federation to use, at all times, every possible influence to increase the organisational efficiency of the industry. In that new pamphlet of 8th March they come out with a very different thing. They come out from what was mentioned

by the hon. Member for East Rhondda, the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey), the hon. Member for Hamilton, the hon. Member for Wigan, who asked for plenary powers for a committee which is neither one thing nor another. If they suggest that there is somebody not like the present coalowners capable of running the coal industry they will have to put that plan on paper and go to the country with it, and then we will argue it.

There is another point, the most important of all in connection with the Bill, and that is, what will be the effect of the release of export control of quantity upon prices. I do not believe that the fears of hon. Members will be justified. The points are (1) there is only a very limited free market where competition can take place, (2) you cannot co-ordinate prices effectively in that market without drawing a distinction between the inland and export trade; you are bound to do it. If you get virtual freedom then, in effect, do you not get actual freedom? We shall co-ordinate prices between the districts in the export trade as well as the inland trade, and I do not think that the grave fears of hon. Members will be justified. I thank the House for the kind things they have said about me personally and I ask for a Second Reading of the Bill.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 150; Noes, 36.

Division No. 186.] AYES. [11.0 p.m.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Croom-Johnson, R. P. Grimston, R. V.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.
Albery, Irving James Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Hanbury, Cecil
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Denville, Alfred Hanley, Dennis A.
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Dickie, John P. Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)
Balniel, Lord Doran, Edward Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.
Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey Duckworth, George A. V. Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)
Bateman, A. L. Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Horsbrugh, Florence
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney. N.)
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Eillston, Captain George Sampson Hume, Sir George Hopwood
Buchan, John Emrys-Evans, P. V. Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)
Burghley, Lord Essenhigh, Reginald Clare James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H.
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Evans, David Owen (Cardigan) Janner, Barnett
Cadogan, Hon. Edward Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen) Jennings, Roland
Calne, G. R. Hall Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)
Carver, Major William H. Fox, Sir Gilford Kerr, Hamilton W.
Castlereagh, Viscount Fraser, Captain Ian Law Sir Alfred
Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Leckle, J. A.
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Goff, Sir Park Leech, Dr. J. W.
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Gower, Sir Robert Lees-Jones, John
Conant, R. J. E. Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.) Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Cook, Thomas A. Graves, Marjorle Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)
Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry Grenfell, E. C. (City of London) Liewellin, Major John J.
Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle) Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.) Loftus, Pierce C.
Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Peaks, Captain Osbert Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Pearson, William G. Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Lyons, Abraham Montagu Penny, Sir George Spens, William Patrick
Mac Andrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick) Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bllston) Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)
MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham) Ralkes, Henry V. A. M. Stevenson, James
McKeag, William Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Storey, Samuel
McLean, Major Sir Alan Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Macmillan, Maurice Harold Ramsden, Sir Eugene Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Macquisten, Frederick Alexander Rea, Walter Russell Sutcliffe, Harold
Magnay, Thomas Remer, John R. Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot Renwick, Major Gustav A. Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Ropner, Colonel L. Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Martin, Thomas B. Ross, Ronald D. Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Runge, North Cecil Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy) Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Milne, Charles Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tslde) Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tt'd & Chisw'k) Rutherford, John (Edmonton) Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)
Moreing, Adrian C. Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen) Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Morrison, William Shephard Scone, Lord Womersley, Walter James
Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J. Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell) Worthington, Dr. John V.
Nail, Sir Joseph Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar) Young, Rt, Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine. C.)
Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Somervell, Sir Donald TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
O'Donovan, Dr. William James Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor) Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward and Lord Erskine.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Milner, Major James
Attlee, Clement Richard Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Parkinson, John Allan
Banfield, John William Groves, Thomas E. Salter, Dr. Alfred
Batey, Joseph Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Hicks, Ernest George Tinker, John Joseph
Buchanan, George Jenkins, Sir William Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Cape, Thomas John, William Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Lawson, John James Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Daggar, George Logan, David Gilbert Wilmot, John
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Lunn, William
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) McEntee, Valentine L. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Dobbie, William Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Mr. G. Macdonald and Mr. D. Graham.
Edwards, Charles Mainwaring, William Henry

Bill read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Bill be committed to a Committee

of the Whole House."—[Mr. G. Macdonald.]

The House divided: Ayes, 35; Noes, 145.

Division No. 187.] AYES. [11.9 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Milner, Major James
Attlee, Clement Richard Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Parkinson, John Allen
Banfield, John William Groves, Thomas E. Salter, Dr. Alfred
Batey, Joseph Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Hicks, Ernest George Tinker, John Joseph
Buchanan, George Jenkins, Sir William Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Cape, Thomas Lawson, John James Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Logan, David Gilbert Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Daggar, George Lunn, William Wilmot, John
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) McEntee, Valentine L. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Dobbie, William Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Mr. John and Mr. D. Graham
Edwards, Charles Mainwaring, William Henry
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Cadogan, Hon. Edward Doran, Edward
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Caine, G. R. Hall[...] Duckworth, George A. V.
Albery, Irving James Carver, Major William H. Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Castlereagh, Viscount Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey
Balniel, Lord Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Elliston, Captain George Sampson
Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Emrys-Evans, P. V.
Bateman, A. L. Conant, R. J. E. Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry Essenhigh, Reginald Clare
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle) Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Croom-Johnson, R. P. Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)
Buchan, John Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Foot, Dingle (Dundee)
Burghley, Lord Denville, Alfred Fox, Sir Gifford
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Dickie, John P. Fraser, Captain Ian
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Bt. Hon. Sir John MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham) Rutherford, John (Edmonton)
Goff, Sir Park McKeag, William Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Cower, Sir Robert McLean, Major Sir Alan Scone, Lord
Graham, Sir F. Fergus (Cmb"rl'd, N.) Macmillan, Maurice Harold Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Graves, Marjorie Magnay, Thomas Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Grenfell, E. C. (City of London) Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine. C.)
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.) Martin, Thomas B. Somervell, Sir Donald
Grimston, R. V. Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Hanbury, Cecil Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Hanley, Dennis A. Milne, Charles Spens, William Patrick
Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k) Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)
Head lam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Moreing, Adrian C. Stevenson, James
Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford) Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Storey, Samuel
Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J. Strickland, Captain W. F.
Horsbrugh, Florence Nail, Sir Joseph Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Sutcliffe, Harold
Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H. O'Donovan, Dr. William James Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Janner, Barnett Peake, Captain Osbert Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Jennings, Roland Pearson, William G. Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields) Penny, Sir George Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Kerr, Hamilton W. Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pfn, Bilston) Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Law, Sir Alfred Raikes, Henry V. A. M. Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Leckle, J. A. Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Leech, Dr. J. W. Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)
Lees-Jones, John Ramsden, Sir Eugene Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Rea, Walter Russell Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock) Remer, John R. Womersley, Walter James
Llewellin, Major John J. Renwick, Major Gustav A. Worthington. Dr. John V.
Lloyd, Geoffrey Ropner, Colonel L. Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)
Loftus, Pierce C. Ross, Ronald D.
Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Runge, Norah Cecil Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert-
Lyons, Abraham Montagu Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy) Ward and Major George Davies.
Mac Andrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick) Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tslde)

Bill committed to a Standing Committee.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

  1. ADJOURNMENT. 16 words
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