§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Sir G. Penny.]
§ 12.12 p.m.
§ Mr. PALING
We have been discussing this week questions of international importance arising out of a crisis. To-day we want to raise a question which, in the opinion of many of us, is of great national importance, and which in itself 2180 may bring a great crisis if full opportunities are not grasped between now and the next few weeks, particularly, we hope, by the Government. Whatever may ultimately be the decision, we hope that the Government will take advantage of every opportunity in order to bring this matter to a peaceful end. We are adjourning to-day for Christmas. It is a season of good will and we were hoping, as members of the mining industry, that we should be able to go home with the knowledge that our demands, our rights, 2181 had been granted and that we had reached an end of the business, and that we along with the miners would-be able to enjoy Christmas in a spirit of good will and rejoicing. At the present time that is hardly the case.
Everybody will admit, I think, that for the last eight months, ever since our first claim was made, our people have used every reasonable argument that could be used. They have been constitutional, they have appealed to the public, they have argued, they have been logical, they have been reasonable, and it is fair to say that they have not exaggerated their case, but have been content to put to the Government and the country the facts of the mining situation as they exist, feeling that if those facts were brought home to the people they would be content for the country to judge as to the justice of the miners' case. I am sorry to say that up to the present time our efforts have met, if not with failure, at any rate, with such a small amount of success as almost to amount to failure.
Let me briefly review the last few years. We had a stoppage in 1926. I do not want to discuss the merits or demerits of that. We fought then for what we thought were our rights, and we fought tenaciously, but we were beaten. The coalowners then had an unprecedented opportunity of putting into operation every idea that they had advanced. They asked for longer hours, and they got them. 750,000 of our men were put on an 8-hour day and 250,000 on a 7½-hour day. That went on until 1931, when we all got a 7½-hour day, and we are still working half an hour longer than in 1926. Then the owners asked for lower wages, and they got that concession. Within a few weeks or months of our going back in 1926 we were down to the minimum; every single coalfield and pit in the country was down to the minimum, and we have been there ever since. It has been nine years of undiluted, soul-destroying poverty arising from low wages.
The owners said, in addition, "Give us an opportunity for putting into operation these things and we promise you prosperity within a short time." They said also, "We shall want an extra output of one cwt. per man per shift." I see coal-owners sitting opposite to me now who argued that in a relatively short time 2182 prosperity would come back to the industry and they would be able to give better wages, and possibly to come back to shorter hours. They not only got the one cwt. extra per man, but nearly five cwt. increase per man per day. They got the longer hours and low wages and five or six cwts. extra output that they asked for. They have reduced our standards of life throughout the length of the country. In other words they have had full power to exact their will, as they won, and they have done it. The net result is the position in which we find ourselves to-day.
After nine years of this our people decided, in April of this year, that the time had come when an end must be put to the present state of affairs. They decided that they had endured poverty and had been at the mercy of the coalowners far too long, that the opportunities given to the coalowners had been wasted, and that the probability was that in the future more chaos than ever would exist in the industry. For nine months we have continued our agitation in every constitutional way that is open to us. We have got the public sympathy, and I think it is fair to say that we have the sympathy of a good many Members of this House. There was an unprecedented occurrence here last week, when we were discussing a Motion on the subject. On every previous occasion when the mines have been discussed the discussion has been of the fiercest controversial character. The case that has been put from this side has been violently disputed from the other side of the House. But last week there was almost unanimity in the House, and there were three coalowners who actually agreed with all that we said. In addition the public agreed with us. But I do not know where the Government stand, and I want to know to-day.
There you have the position. All we as miners have got are the promises made to us by the coalowners. We have to go home this Christmas, and that is the rejoicing that will be in our hearts at what should be a time of good will. That is the Christmas box that the Government have given to the miners of the country. The Government made a statement the other day. When I read it, it struck me that they were almost 2183 supporting the coalowners in what the coalowners had done. The Secretary for Mines shakes his head. At any rate the Government statement implied that to me. Here is one paragraph from it:It may be pointed out that very substantial advance has been made recently in three matters of the greatest importance to the mineworkers. These areThat is belated, but it is welcome. It strikes me as on a par with the conversion of the Government to the League of Nations idea. We welcome the conversion to selling agencies, but it has to be remembered that the owners have had this power since 1930. When we were a minority Government in 1930 we recognised that if anything was to be done for the industry it would have to be done on those lines, and an Act was passed which gave those powers to the coal-owners. Since 1930, however, they have consistently refused to use the powers. I think I do not exaggerate when I say that there has been a certain amount of compulsion put upon them now in order to make them use the powers. If you get unwilling participants in a scheme, as the coalowners have been from 1930 up to now, and if now, in face of their unwillingness, they have been compelled almost to adopt these powers, what hope is there of their making a success of the scheme when they have adopted it? In view of their past attitude what guarantee is there that they are going to make a success of it? It will be easy for them to sabotage it and make it a failure. I ask the Secretary for Mines to tell us whether he has any guarantee from the owners themselves. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has been conducting negotiations with them.(a) the organisation of the selling of coal on lines acceptable to the Government, and in such a way as to improve the proceeds of the industry, with advantage to the wage position, has been promised by the end of June.
There is another question I ask. I understand that, even if this proposal comes into operation, it will be June or July next, June at the earliest, before it can be started. That will be the beginning of it, I assume. If that is so, can the Secretary for Mines tell us how much time is likely to elapse after that before the revenue actually begins to accrue? I take it that the coalowners are doing these things with their eyes 2184 open, that they have gone into every detail and must have some idea as to how long it will be after the agencies are set up before any revenue accrues. Suppose that the scheme is put into operation, suppose that it is a success and suppose that revenue does accrue, are the coalowners, when the extra revenue comes into the pool, going first to take out the extra profits to which they claim they are entitled?
Under existing agreements there is a ratio between wages and profits after costs of production have been taken out. We often complain of what is taken out for costs of production, but I am not arguing that point now. The ratio is 85 for wages to 15 for the owners. The owners argue in most cases—they do so in Yorkshire I know—that for months and years they have not got the amount of profits due to them. In other words they claim that they are entitled to about 1s. 8d. per ton, and they say that for months and years they have received only 9d. a ton. They claim to be entitled to another 11d. a ton, or in some cases to 9d. After the extra revenue accrues are the owners to get an extra 9d., 10d. or 11d. per ton before anything can accrue to wages? Surely, this must have been discussed. I am told by the officials of the Miners' Federation that there has been no guarantee whatever that the coalowroers will not claim their full amount before anything can accrue to wages.
Then there is the question of the deficiency. This is a technical matter, but I will explain it as simply as I can. We have an agreement in Yorkshire on the same basis as the agreement in most other coalfields. We have a standard rate in which skilled men get 7s. 6d. per day and surface men 5s. 4d. We add 32 per cent. to these rates, but if the amount in the pool after the monthly ascertainment has been taken for distribution between the owners and the miners in wages and profit is not sufficient to pay the 32 per cent. then the deficiency, whatever it is, must be made up to the 32 per cent For instance, if in the last month's ascertainment there is only sufficient money in the pool to pay the standard rate plus 16 per cent., the owners have to make up the 16 per cent. out of their profits to the 32 per cent., but that 16 per cent., or any other figure, which accrues in any month—it 2185 may be 20 per cent. or 6 per cent.—is supposed to go into a fund as a debt which is supposed to be paid back to the owners before the miners can get any increase of wages over 32 per cent. That debt sometimes reaches enormous figures. In Yorkshire that deficiency in five years reached a total of £9,000,000. It was realised that it was utterly impossible to get it back, and the owners had to wipe it out and we started over again. At the present moment we have another debt of £8,000,000, and I understand that throughout the Federation the debt at the moment under this heading is £38,000,000. If money goes into the pool through these selling agencies is there any guarantee that the owners are not going to claim this deficiency?
§ Mr. PALING
I am asking whether it is right and just that they should claim it. I am told by the miners' officials that they have asked this question again and again and cannot get any information. In other words, there is no guarantee whatever that if extra money is going to accrue to the pool through these selling agencies the coalowners will not only claim the extra ratio of profits of 9d. or 11d. per ton, but may also claim the £8,000,000 which is owing to them in Yorkshire. I hope the Secretary for Mines will tell us something on this point. Perhaps the coalowners have told him more than they have told us. If he can make a statement this morning that they are not going to make this claim, and that the deficiency will be wiped out so that the revenue will go to help wages, we shall go home in better heart than if we are left with the scanty amount of knowledge which we have at the moment.
The Secretary for Mines has claimed to the credit of the Government that there is actual contact between representatives of the employers and the Miners' Federation. He says that this has been secured. We have been trying to meet the owners nationally, but have not succeeded. The claim that it has been done is likely to give a false impression to the public. We know the actual facts. As a matter of fact, they have met twice. On the first occasion there were two members from the Mining Association and three from the Miners' Federation, but they did not discuss the 2186 situation at all. They met again last Tuesday but did not discuss the merits of the case as a Mining Association and a Miners' Federation. National contact has not been secured to the extent of getting them to agree to discuss the situation. All that has happened is that the owners have met nationally and told the Miners' Federation that they would meet them nationally, that they must go back to the districts to discuss this question. When the Secretary for Mines claims credit for having secured national contact, it is well to bear this fact in mind. He also says that he hopes this method of discussion will be continued andthat it will not again be necessary for the Secretary for Mines to act as intermediary between the parties.That is a pious hope, which I do not think will be realised. I hope that contact will be continued but I hope it will be very much widened. It is just about as thin and narrow as contact can be. But the statement which has been issued by the Secretary for Mines is likely to create a wrong impression in the minds of the public who will think that contact has once again been resumed, and that they are justified in thinking that in future the negotiations are to be continued between the National Federation of Miners and the Mining Association. That is not true, and it should be corrected. Another statement which the Secretary for Mines makes is:An increase in wages in every district, with effect from January 1st next, has been promised.What sort of an increase is it? How much? Surely after all these months during which this claim has been made the coalowners have studied the question and are in a position to say how much they are prepared to offer. Surely, they must know. But they refuse to say. No figure has been mentioned. It might be anything from 1d. to the 2s. I hope it is the 2s. but I have some doubt about it. It might be something less, but whatever it is they refuse to mention any figure. If contact has been secured between the Miners' Federation and the Mining Association surely it is not too much to ask what they are prepared to give. They would not tell our people. They said, "You go back to your districts, dissipate the forces you have collected, shut your eyes and open your mouths and 2187 see what God sends you." They say that if the miners will get back to their districts they will say what they are prepared to give. In my opinion it will not be a uniform amount. We are asking that there shall be a uniform increase in miners' wages throughout the length and breadth of the country. That is what our miners want. Suppose we go back to the districts and we have 2s. offered in one district and 6d. in another. I may be a little optimistic. No doubt they will keep their promise and make an offer, but would such an offer be satisfactory to our people? The poverty of our people is such that there must be a uniform advance of the greatest amount possible. Every member of the Miners' Federation without exception wants that, and we want it to be kept in mind not only that we have not secured contact in the sense which the Mines Department apparently would have people believe, but that we are not likely to get a satisfactory answer in regard to our claim for uniformity. There is another thing. The Secretary of Mines made the following statement to the Executive Committee.The Government is not prepared to adopt the suggestion made by the Executive of the Mineworkers Federation that a subsidy should be granted from public funds temporarily to augment wages in the mining industry, nor the alternative suggestions of a similar kind which have been made namely a direct loan from public funds or a Government guarantee for a loan from other sources.I am told that a subsidy, as ordinarily understood has not been asked for but this statement makes it appear to the general public that such a subsidy has been asked for by the Federation. I suggest that the statement is not as clear as it ought to be and it does not quite convey the truth to the public. Assuming however that a subsidy has been asked for, since when have the Government rejected the policy of subsidies? I have heard it said by hon. Members opposite as well as on this side, that the last Government gave more subsidies than any other Government in the history of the country, and this Government is largely the same as its predecessor. They are prepared to give out money with a free hand to all sorts of industries, when the employers ask for it. Now apparently they have come to the end of the policy of subsidies. Assuming that 2188 we had asked for a subsidy is there any good reason why it should not be given in this case just as in other cases. Or is the reason for the Government's refusal to consider such a suggestion the fact that, if a subsidy had to be given in this case it would go directly in wages to the working class and not to the employers?
Subsidies have been given to the owners of beet sugar factories—sums so enormous that some of the Members on the other side are ashamed of the business and want to end it. Subsidies have been given to wheat growers to beef producers, to milk suppliers. Only a few weeks ago a subsidy of £2,000,000 was given to shipping and the shipowners have told the Government in no uncertain terms that that is only regarded as an instalment that they will not be satisfied with it but that they will want more, and the Government have indicated that another £2,000,000 is in prospect for that industry. Every time that employers have asked for subsidies their requests have been granted but when a subsidy for the miners is mentioned, we are told that it is impossible.
Then there is the question of a loan. What is wrong with that suggestion? Are the Government not prepared even to guarantee a loan for this purpose? They indicate to the public that the establishment of selling agencies is almost certain to result in extra revenue and that out of than revenue we shall get an increase in wages. In other words they say "This is a very good asset." If so, is there any more reason why the Government should not gurantee a loan on that asset, than there was in the case a the loan guaranteed to the railway companies last week? We are asking for this guarantee. The railway companies did not ask for it. The Government went out of their way to approach the railway companies and said: "Look here you fellows, if you will only start this work and provide employment we as a Government will take advantage of cheap credit and finance a loan for you." When we ask them to apply the same remedy in the case of the miners wages we are told that it cannot be done. Why this different of treatment between the railways and the mines and in particular why this difference of treatment between the employers and wage workers?
2189 I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will answer some of the questions which I have put and do his best to send us home with more comfortable feelings than those which exist in our minds and hearts at the present time. The conference decided yesterday to give notices which will expire on 27th January if a settlement has not been reached before then. That does not mean that every effort will not be expended by the Federation representatives in every direction, just as every effort has been expended by them in the last eight months, to reach a settlement. But notices have had to be given in and if there is not a settlement soon we shall be in another dispute. None of us likes disputes for the sake of disputes. I have been in a good many, as a working miner and as a miners' representative, in the last 30 years and they are very bad experiences to go through. But I put this to the Secretary for Mines. If people have been condemned to impoverished wages and rotten conditions such as our people have been condemned to for nine years, they are liable to become desperate. They begin to argue that whatever happens their situation cannot be any worse.
The miners are sick to death of the poverty which they have suffered for the last nine years. They have employed every reasonable means during the last eight months—and nobody can say anything to the contrary. Why then should hon. Members or anybody else complain if, having failed to remedy their position by reasonable constitutional means, they use the only weapon which is left to them in order to force the issue? Would they not be less than human if they did not do so? These same miners during the War were held up as examples of British courage. Do not forget that they still possess that courage and that just as they fought in France and elsewhere in the world they can fight for justice for themselves at home. You have no more reason to blame them if they fight for themselves here than you had to blame them for fighting so desperately in the last War, and the things which they will fight for in this case will be just as necessary and good and desirable as the things for which they fought in the War.
I hope that a dispute will be avoided. It is up to the Government to avoid it. Where is the Prime Minister in relation 2190 to this business? I am not belittling the efforts of the Secretary for Mines but he is not the Prime Minister, and this industry is reaching a crisis which affects 800,000 miners and their dependants or nearly 5,000,000 people. We have public opinion in our favour. We have coalowners in this House in our favour. We have a section of hon. Members opposite in our favour. Are the Government going to allow matters to drift to a crisis, a dispute and a stoppage? It is time that the Prime Minister took a hand in the business. We want to see him doing so within the next few days or even within the next few hours. We would like to hear a statement from him to-day before we leave. We have had a crisis in international affairs and the Prime Minister yesterday admitted that he had made a blunder in that case and did his best to retrieve it. Let him be careful that he does not make another blunder in this case during the next few weeks. Let him learn from the experience that has been his in the last week or two that to thousands of people this is just as intense a crisis as the crisis of last week. Let him realise that it is his bounden duty to take a, hand in this business immediately and that it is necessary for him to be just as careful that he does not make any mistake in judgment as he would be in an international crisis. Yesterday the Prime Minister said:I was not expecting that deeper feeling which was manifested by many of my hon. Friends and friends in many parts of the country on what I may call the ground of conscience and of honour. The moment I am confronted with that I know that something has happened that has appealed to the deepest feelings of our countrymen, that some note has been struck that brings back from them a response from the depths. I examined again all that I had done, and I felt that with that feeling, which was perfectly obvious, there could not be the support in this country behind those proposals even as terms of negotiation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1935; cols. 2030–31, Vol. 307.]I appeal to the Prime Minister, in the same spirit in which he made his statement yesterday on the international crisis, to take time by the forelock, to intervene here and now and at once in this question, and to use the utmost of his endeavours, as head of the Government of this country, with a powerful majority behind him, within the next few 2191 days to bring this dispute to a successful and an honourable conclusion
§ 12.46 p.m.
§ Mr. ROWSON
I cannot claim that this is a maiden speech, but I must confess that after four years' absence it feels like starting all over again. I do not want to trace the history of this mining dispute in the way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Paling), who has just sat down, has done, but I want to deal, mainly by way of emphasis, with the point that he made regarding the last nine years. That is a point that ought to be taken into strict consideration by this House and by anyone who gives any consideration to the mining question, because I claim that if it had not been for the miners' agitation, what has taken place during the last nine years would have continued for another nine years probably, having regard to all the evidence that we can find in support of the employers' case.
We in Lancashire—and I am speaking mainly for Lancashire, while joining with my other colleagues—have tried since 1926 to get away from this terrible slough or trough of despair in which we have been suffering ever since the 1926 stoppage. We were exhorted by the employers, by the public, and, I believe, by the then Minister of Mines to try to get something in a district sense. I suggest that we in Lancashire took all the steps that could possibly be taken in 1932 to try to work away from this point. We put our case before the Joint Board, submitted to an independent chairman, who was appointed by the then Minister of Mines, Mr. Isaac Foot, and collected all the evidence that we could. There is no doubt that the case was then, as it is now, for the miners a human thing, largely ignoring the factors in the industry. But what was the reply of the owners? All the time the burden of the owners' reply in that arbitration was that it was utterly impossible for one district, like Lancashire, to get an advance in wages if all the other districts in the Federation stuck at their then level. That is why we have started this national agitation, in order to try to get away from that business of pitting one district against another. After all, we have to agree, as miners, that if one district remains on a low level, it enables the owners in 2192 that district to sell their coal at such a price that it will outsell the next district, and we all sink or swim together in this business. That is why we have this national agitation.
I do not want to go too deeply into the economics and deficiencies that have been submitted to us from time to time. The previous speaker has given us something about deficiencies and so on, but I am not going to argue, and I do not think any other miners' representative would, that the employers have been making unheard-of profits during the whole of these last nine years, taking it by and large. Many of them have suffered losses. I do not claim that they have made handsome profits, because I know of companies that have gone out of existence and have had to go bankrupt and into liquidation, but if figures, information, statistics, and so forth would feed our men, women, and children, we have had sufficient to put them in an El Dorado. The figures, statistics, and economics of the industry, as put forward by the employers are of no avail when you are talking to the housewife of the miner, and we have got, to this stage, that apparently the employers and the Government will not move at all unless the miners show their teeth.
We have asked for a uniform advance in wages, and we want it to be uniform. We do not want one district pitted against another. If we are to have one district getting, say, 3d. a day on the suggestion of the employers, and another district getting 1s. 6d., what will be the position? It will only be a very short time before those who are getting the 1s. 6d. will have to come down to the 3d. and then I suppose the 3d. too would go. We want this House and the general public to understand that we have not wavered in our demand for a uniform advance in wages applied to every mine worker, on the surface and below ground, throughout the length and breadth of the land. We want uniformity, and some people are taking it that we are asking for a uniform advance in wages of 2s. per day for every adult, to bring everybody up to the same level. Every Member who represents the miners and every owner on the other side knows perfectly well that what the Miners' Federation is asking for is not something to equalise the rates in every district.
2193 The basic rates, about which the previous speaker was speaking, are quite different in the districts, and the 2s. per day, if it is granted, will leave districts at variance in the rates of wages that are paid. Apart from the factor of difference in output per person employed, if this 2s. per day is granted throughout the length and breadth of the industry, it will leave every district in practically the same relative position as at present. If it can be granted in one district, it ought to be granted in another, apart from the export districts, where there may be some difficulty. But let us face the difficulty. If we can get this uniform working on our side, surely it is not impossible to devise ways and means of unifying the industry or of doing something which will make the proceeds unified, so that what is granted in one district can be granted in another. If, for instance, it is granted in Yorkshire, then the miners in South Wales can be given the same amount, and the same in Durham and in Scotland.
There is one further feature regarding these differences in rates. I am not going to follow the economics of the industry too far, but one thing that has been mentioned in previous Debates is the question of the skilled workers who are employed on the colliery surface. The hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Ritson) spoke last week of the different grades and rates of wages paid in Durham and the different classes of workers. I want to say to this House that there is as much skill in the colliery and above the colliery surface, among the craftsmen and skilled men, as there is in any other industry. But I cannot understand why these people, with all their skill, because they are employed in the mining industry, have to accept wages from 15s. to 25s. a week less than those paid in the building and other trades. There are men brought up in the building trade or the electrical industry, or as blacksmiths or engineers, who, by their craftsmanship and skill, get a better rate of wages than the men in the mining industry who merely because they are in the mining industry must accept 15s. or 25s. a week less. Does not that show that there is something wrong? It is a serious anomaly that we have to face, and we say to the public that we are tired of being the Cinderellas of industry. We want it to realise that this great body of men employed in the mines are rendering a 2194 useful service to the nation and that they ought to have a decent rate of remuneration.
I am sure my colleagues will agree with me when I say that we owe a debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) for the speech he made last Wednesday week. Very few coalowners would speak in the same strain at this moment, but there are some others, and I want to quote from a speech made by a Lancashire coalowner. He was speaking to the Coal Industry Society in London and he said of the miners:Their wages were not comparable with those enjoyed in the sheltered trades, and all but the export trades were sheltered now. In view of the arduous nature of their work they deserved, and should get, better wages than obtained to-day. It was their duty so to organise the industry that those wages might be paid.I would ask the Secretary for Mines, in view of expressions of that kind from employers, to take his courage in his hand and exercise a little pressure to get recalcitrant owners to fall into line. I do not want to go through the whole speech of the Secretary for Mines the other night, but I would like to draw attention to one passage in his speech He said:If the Mineworkers' Federation through their Delegate Conference take the drastic action of precipitating a stoppage in the coal industry, they will prejudice the possibility of bringing more money into the proceeds of the industry and also lose the opportunity of the increased wages now offered to them. In the interests of themselves as well as the interests of the whole country, I most sincerely hope that they will think long before they take any final line which would prejudice that."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 18th December, 1935; col. 1905, Vol. 307.]The question I should like to ask the Minister for Mines is why all these exhortations to sweet reasonableness are addressed to the Mineworkers' Federation. Can anybody be more reasonable, as the previous speaker said, than we have been during the last two months? I submit that he should not apply these exhortations to this side, but that he should go to the employers and, with the Cabinet behind him, he should say to them, "Too long have you people messed about with this industry." And I am going to say that the result has been a success neither for them nor for other people.
2195 The vast mass of our people are on a level of poverty that is a disgrace to this nation, and I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that until the two bodies meet again he should not come to this side asking for reasonableness, but should go to the other side and get the recalcitrant owners to fall into line with the people who have expressed opinions such as those of the hon. Member for North Leeds and of the other gentleman I have just quoted. Figures have been quoted in this House from time to time to show the rates of wages paid, but one thing that is not always realised is that through the application of machinery to the industry a greater number of men are being forced into the low wages class. That is a very important fact. We are getting more workers in the subsistence classes. The average wage of our men in Lancashire has come down in the last few years more than 9d. per shift as the result of this. Yet, when you get economies in this way, any gain is frittered away on the selling price. While I admit that wages higher than I am going to quote are paid, nevertheless more than 60 to 70 per cent. of men in our county receive only from 7s. to 7s. 9d. per shift. When the number of shifts they are allowed to work is reckoned up it is appalling to contemplate the standard of life to which they are condemned.
There is a case which I have quoted so many times in the country that I need no notes about it. It is stamped on my memory. It refers to a man not in the lowest-paid class. The best way of ascertaining the average earnings of the workmen is when you get a compensation case. In this case the man was killed, and I got his average earnings for three years. I wonder how many hon. Members in this House would believe that a man could work for three years at a job—he was a skilled underground worker, working four and two-thirds days per week—and that then when he was killed his widow would be unable to claim £300 as compensation. His full earnings for those three years only amounted to £282 and some odd shillings. That is not the case of a man in the lowest-paid class, but it is a sample of thousands of cases, and it shows the standard of life to which our men are condemned. In the Forest of Dean, in 2196 Scotland, Durham, Northumberland and, I believe, in South Wales, you will get cases of men paid at much lower rates than that.
It is time that hon. Members opposite realised that the miners have a good case. As the previous speaker said, we do not want a stoppage—we have bad too many—but we have made up our minds that we cannot get anything out of the industry, that we cannot get away from the bottom of this trough of despair except by drastic action and a definite threat to fight against the conditions under which our men exist at this moment. The miners' leaders all over the country are as reasonable as anybody can expect them to be, but they have come to the end of their tether. The men and women in the coalfields have been pleading with us for months to get them out of their terrible position. I ask the Minister of Mines to use all the influence he can to get the employers into a reasonable frame of mind and to concede to the miners the measure of justice for which they are asking.
§ 1.6 p.m.
I should like to open my remarks with a word of warm commendation to the Govenment for having carried through an agreement whereby the owners have undertaken to introduce into their organisation a, scheme of central selling. The best way to serve the interests of the miners is to provide the necessary revenue for the industry out of which better wages can be paid. I am not certain that hon. Members above the Gangway are quite fair when they do not point out the very strong line which has been taken by my hon. Friend the Minister with the coalowners. I have an intimate connection with and knowledge of the coalowners' organisations, and I know that my hon. Friend must indeed have had a very hard fight. At any rate, speaking from my own point of view and that of many of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, we are proud that the Government have been able to say, "We believe in the justice of the miners' criticism of the selling side of the industry, and we are determined to force the owners to take proper action to try to get that additional revenue into the industry."
I cannot, however, disguise from myself or from the House my apprehension as to 2197 how the exporting districts will come out of the present arrangement whereby the districts have promised to offer a rise of wages as from 1st January. Whether the exporting districts will get a similar advantage to that which may be offered to the inland districts is a matter of conjecture. Those of us who know the trade intimately realise that the real problem of wages lies in the wages which are paid to the miners in the exporting districts. It seems to me that as the situation stands now there is a grave fear that in the inland trade a reasonable offer may be made to the miners, but that a less reasonable offer may be made in the districts where an increase is the most necessary. That is why I want to put in my word to the Government to urge them to insist on trying, at any rate from 1st January, to get uniformity in the offer which is made. I am not unappreciative of the difficulties of the owners in the exporting districts. They have had for a period of years a difficult and a hard time, but when they, as they do, perpetually state that district machinery is available for the discussion of wages, I would point out that when a case is presented in the districts by the miners to an independent arbitrator, the arbitrator can only formulate his decision on the facts as stated, that is to say, on the natural position of the industry as it stands at the time the application is made for an increase of wages.
There is a great weakness in that district machinery, because it is now common knowledge to the world—and I am confining myself to my district, because that is the one I know most intimately—that the selling organisation in my part of the Country has obtained unreasonable prices for coal. This has resulted in losses which a great many of us think need not have been faced. With the exception of Scotland, we have the lowest wages in the country. Our cost of production is practically equal to that of Scotland. The proportion of our export trade to our inland trade is more in Northumberland than in Scotland. We export now about 40 per cent. of our output. For the quarter ending 30th June, Northumberland made a loss of something like 5d. a ton, whereas Scotland made a profit of something like 3d.; in the quarter ending 30th September, Scotland made a profit of about 2½d. per ton and Northumberland a 2198 loss of about 2½d. It seems to me that when the miners claim that the district machinery is not satisfactory when negotiating wages, they are making a perfectly legitimate statement. That is why I am thankful that the Government have been strong in their demand that the owners should introduce a scheme of central selling. I hope that between now and 20th January the Government will take a firm line as far as the exporting districts are concerned in order that the people whom I have the honour to represent will get the same consideration as the inland districts with regard to an increase of wages.
With regard to contracts, it is difficult to insist upon the cancellation of all contracts, and I know that in certain industries there is some apprehension lest, if the price is pushed up too high, we open the road again to further competition from oil. Have the Government considered whether if there is any increase in oil consumption for fuelling purposes as a competitor against coal, they would increase the tax on oil in order to protect the mining industry? That is an important point which should be borne in mind. In relation to the deficiency question, it is common knowledge in unofficial talk that the deficiencies will never be made up out of the pool which is available for the payment of wages and profits, and that has the support of every right-thinking man and woman. I cannot see any legitimate reasons why the owners cannot behave graciously in this matter. I know my miners, and am proud of the fact that I can go into any colliery village and be known by the man-in-the-street and stopped for a chat. I do not think that the owners understand the propaganda of my hon. Friends above the Gangway among the miners when they use that very argument. It is extraordinarily ungracious of the owners not to come out with the statement definitely that deficiencies will be wiped out, and that we shall start afresh with the new period and a clean sheet. I hope the Government will take equally as firm a line with the owners over this point as they took over central selling agencies.
To sum up, I hope that between now and 20th January the Government will be extraordinarily firm on these points of uniformity in an increase of wages 2199 immediately and on the complete wiping out of the deficiencies and will to the best of their ability insist on these two points being met. It is very difficult for a Conservative Member of Parliament who believes in private enterprise and disapproves thoroughly of Socialism to find herself in the position of having to condemn a system in which she believes. It is not the fault of the system, it is the fault of the way in which the system is being operated. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] After all, there are some industries run by private enterprise in which adequate and good wages are paid, and it is only where you get, if I may say so, stubbornness and unreasonableness and not a broad enough vision that a problem of this kind arises. I know that I am speaking rather hotly, but you cannot come from my part of the world, cannot know my part of the world and know the conditions in the mining villages, without feeling very strongly. I feel that it is my duty at the present time to stand by my miners, and that I am going to do, but I do place my faith in the Government, because they have shown courage, have shown very real courage.
I rather suspect my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) hopes that I shall be disappointed, but I can tell him that he is wrong. I very much hope that before very long we shall have from the Secretary for Mines some guarantee that the position of the exporting districts, which are the ones which need the most help, will not be overlooked.
§ 1.18 p.m.
§ Mr. CAPE
I have a few words to say on this very important matter. With a great many things which the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) has said we on this side feel ourselves in absolute agreement; but with other points of a controversial character which she raised there is not time to deal to-day. She said she was rather surprised that the owners had not come out in a generous fashion to say that will forgo their claims to the deficiencies existing in the districts. We are amazed at something 2200 more than that. We are amazed that the mineowners will not come out to tell us what they are prepared to do to meet this wage demand. The one great thing that we have against the coalowners generally is that they will never come out to tell us anything generously, or in any other fashion, until we have forced them to do so. One cannot discuss this matter without reiterating statements which have been already made and I am not going to apologise if I repeat observations which have been made by any previous speaker, but I would like to say that in my opinion the discussions in this House on the miners' case and on the position of the mining industry which have taken place during the last fortnight have been of the highest order that ever I have heard since I came to the House, and I have been here long enough to be present at every Debate prior to any of the big disputes or stoppages.
In the Debates on this occasion the speeches in support of the miners' claim have not all come from this side of the House. We are in a rather unique position. In 1921 we were condemned by the Parliament of that day, condemned by the press and condemned by the general public, and nearly every so-called moral organisation spoke out in condemnation of the miners. The same state of affairs prevailed in 1926. It was said that we had been too precipitate in rushing into a general stoppage, that we had given neither the Government nor the country any chance to consider our claim. On this occasion all those sections who were against us in 1921 and 1926 are now openly supporting us. Every organisation of any standing in this country has without any hesitation espoused the justice of the miners' claim. We have never had the press of this country propagating the miners' claim to the same extent as now; and even in this House we have up to now had more support morally than ever we had before in my time as a Member of Parliament.
As hon. Friends who have preceded me have said, even coalowners in the House have made eloquent and forceful speeches on behalf of the miners' claim, and I have been informed, unofficially, that a large number of coalowners in the country are in favour of the claim being treated nationally and uniformly. I wish the Secretary for Mines to take note of 2201 this point. It seems to me that the whole crux of the situation is in the hands of one or two, probably half-a-dozen, recalcitrant coalowners, who will not come into line with their own front. I suggest to the Minister that if that is so the time for persuasion has gone by. I want to believe that he has made a genuine endeavour to bring the two sides together for negotiating purposes and that—as far as we are able to judge—he has thrown out some useful suggestions on what might be done towards effecting a settlement. We can only assume that of him, but we want to assume the best as long as we possibly can, because before many weeks are past we may have strong condemnation for him. I suggest that he should consider whether it is not possible to use some force to bring these recalcitrant coalowners into line with the rest.
I shall probably be told by the Minister that the Government cannot do that, that these men are citizens of this country, that they are private employers, and that consequently the Government cannot put any compulsion upon them to do certain things. But it is difficult to say what a Government cannot do. I know that if, unfortunately—and I hope it does not happen—the miners should have to resort to a stoppage, then the Government will use compulsion against them. If that happened, the Government would put into operation the Emergency Powers Act as they did in 1926, and would avail themselves of all the power at their disposal to compel the miners rigorously to obey the rules and regulations conforming to the government of this country. I am a believer in constitutional government, and if the obligations which that entails are to be insisted upon in regard to one section of the community, they should be applied also to other sections. Before we arrive at the position in which we are involved in an industrial fight, it is better that force should be applied to the people who are provoking the fight than that we should wait until the fight has begun and then take action against those who, at the present time, are anxious for a settlement of the dispute.
In regard to the negotiations which are going on, it cannot be said that we have sprung the present situation upon the coalowners or upon the Government. I shall not go back as far as April, but it cannot be denied that since July the 2202 officials of the Mineworkers' Federation have been making every effort to arrive at a satisfactory settlement. The Secretary for Mines has met the negotiators from the Federation on several occasions. In the negotiations, the representatives of the coalowners represented their districts and had no power to make arrangements to come to any agreement with the officials of the Mineworkers' Federation upon a national basis. The only thing they said was that they were prepared to make advances in every district. If they were prepared to do that, surely the advances could be made nationally if the extent of the advances in each district were known, but when we met the coal-owners they assumed that they did not know what those advances would be. I suggest to the Secretary for Mines that it is not impossible for the Mining Association to find out from every district what it is prepared to pay. It is possible for them to send a wire to every mining district in the country in order to find out what advances the districts are prepared to make. If the Mining Association cannot do that, they do not know their own business.
It is said that there is no revenue in the industry, and figures have been put forward to show that there is not sufficient money in it to meet the miners' demands. I think I am right in saying that every district in Scotland, England and Wales seems to have made arrangements to raise the price of coal. I will speak for what has taken place in Cumberland. There the price of coal to domestic consumers has, between October and now, been raised to the extent of 5s. per ton. I do not know whether the price has been raised to industrial consumers or what figure is now being asked per shipment. A large amount of coal is also consumed in coke and by-product plants largely by the colliery owners' selling to themselves. The owners have received the benefit of those advances during the last few weeks, and we are still negotiating in order to get benefit from the industry. We have received none of that benefit. The general public as well as the miners are entitled to consideration. Unless the miners' demands for a national advance on a uniform basis are conceded, the coalowners ought not to fleece the general public by putting up the price of coal. They should give something to the men who risk their 2203 lives to obtain the coal which they are selling.
Without going into details of the wages in the district from which I come, or into the economic and technical points concerned in the dispute, it is fair to say that since 1926, in the district which I have the honour to represent in this House and in which I am general secretary of the Miners' Federation, the reductions have been very extensive. In 1932 we suffered a uniform district reduction of 7½ per cent. in the wages of everybody employed in the coalfield, and we have not yet been able to obtain restoration of that reduction. We have taken part in three arbitration proceedings presided over by gentlemen appointed by the Ministry of Labour and we have been able to obtain slight advances, but there, again, it is a district wage. We were advanced by one arbitrator from 6s. 10d. to 7s. 1d. That is the subsistance wage paid in Cumberland to men both underground and on the surface whose standard basic rate and percentage do not bring in that amount. We have had our miners' minimum advanced by 6½d. through arbitration—through negotiation.
The hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Rowson) referred to the case of the skilled mechanic on the surface. Ever since I became a miners' agent, some 30 years ago, I have been struggling to try to raise these men to the standard of their fellows in the various shops in the towns, but I have never been able to succeed. Last summer we were able to get their standard basic rate advanced, but, notwithstanding that advance, the rate is still considerably below the standard rate in the district for engineers, joiners, blacksmiths and other skilled workers. The consequence is that there is not only discontent among the colliers—the coal-getters, the men who are producing at the face—but there is discontent among these exceptionally skilled men also. They are not asking for anything exorbitant, but are only asking that they should be paid the same rate as their fellows in similar crafts employed in other shops in the locality.
I do not want, if I can possibly help it, to assume that there is going to be a stoppage. I am going to take the other view; I want to take an optimistic view; 2204 and I feel sure in my own mind that, if the coalowners, even if it had to be brought about by the application of some measure of force by the Government, would meet the miners' representatives in conference as a national body to discuss this question, a settlement could be arrived at. We are net an unreasonable set of people to deal with; we have always been prepared to negotiate fairly with our employers; and therefore I feel sure that, if they could once settle down, in a very short time a settlement, satisfactory probably to both sides, could be arrived at.
But let us look at the other side of the picture, because it is always well to look at both sides. If, unfortunately, a dispute should take place, what will be the price that will have to be paid? We cannot forget 1921; we cannot forget 1926. The Government at that time spent millions of pounds—£300,000,000 I believe—to defeat the miners' claim, which at that time would have cost somewhere about £12,000,000. It is absurd and ridiculous that, while in every other big important industry in this country there is a national contract, the only industry of vital importance in this country in which there is no national contract is the mining industry; and, when these unfortunate stoppages take place, they not only paralyse the mining industry, but every industry in this country is in a state of paralysis during the same period and for some time longer. Governments, ordinary citizens, everybody suffers because of that; but the man who is really in the front trench, the miner, suffers most of all. Therefore I want the Government to count the cost which would be entailed upon this country if a stoppage should take place. My hon. Friends have been trying to tell the Government about the national situation from some other points of view. They know it as well as I do, and it may be better. But I would put it to the Secretary for Mines that a stoppage in the mining industry, if it should take place in January, would place this country in one of the most embarrassing and difficult positions that it has been in for many years. Why should a few men who have control of this industry be allowed to dominate, not only the lives of the miners, but the lives of practically everyone in this State?
2205 I endorse what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth, namely, that with so big a case, with so big a problem, while the Secretary for Mines has undoubtedly played a man's part in exerting himself in every way that he possibly could in negotiation, it is a big enough problem for the Prime Minister, at some time during the discussions, to have come to this House and told us what the Government's intentions were. But he has simply ignored it. He has ignored the Miners' Federation Executive. I say, without any disrespect to the Secretary for Mines, that it should not have been left to him to be the only man in the Government to bear the full responsibility of dealing with such a situation. Surely the Prime Minister, even if he has no regard for the miners, even if he has no respect for them, must have some regard and respect for the general body of citizens in this country, and I submit to the House that, on the eve of a crisis of this kind, it ought to be the duty of the Prime Minister to be here to-day to let the country know what progress has been made in trying to settle this question, which eventually, if not settled, will land the country in an economic condition in which it has not been for many years. I want to add my plea to those which have been made by others that this dispute may be brought to an amicable settlement, and that we may be saved the terrible disaster of having to go into a stoppage. I beg the Secretary for Mines to use his influence in every direction he can towards that end, and to convey a message from this side of the House to the Prime Minister that we think the time has arrived when he should let us know exactly where he and the Government stand with regard to this question.
§ 1.44 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY for MINES (Captain Crookshank)
We have had once again a very useful discussion on this problem. I am glad that the Opposition have taken the opportunity afforded by the Adjournment Motion to raise it, because, after all, those hon. Members who have been speaking this morning have been voicing the troubles and difficulties of their own constituents, and that is the object of our Parliamentary system—that there should be an opportunity of putting the grievances of constituents before this House for its discussion and its consideration. I 2206 know there will be many who will lose no time, as soon as the OFFICIAL REPORT of our proceedings to-day is available, to read, and read carefully, everything that hon. Members have said.
I must just take up one point with which the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Cape) concluded his speech, when he referred to the Prime Minister himself. I must tell the hon. Member that he must not say that the Prime Minister is ignoring the claims of the miners, or is not fully seized of the serious position in which we find ourselves to-day. He must not assume anything of the kind. He must also call to mind a reply which the Prime Minister gave not very long ago, when some reference was made to that, in which he pointed out, very properly, that nowadays there was a Department of State, over which I have the honour to preside, which was set up by the House in order to be primarily responsible, under the general responsibility of all Members of the Government, for the problems of this great industry. That is why these matters have been left in my hands for day-to-day negotiations. The Prime Minister is fully seized of everything that has occurred, and the hon. Member need have no fear of his not being aware of everything that has taken place.
§ Mr. LAWSON
It has always been the complaint of the Miners Federation that there is no one in the Cabinet to settle matters of policy, and this is a matter of deep national policy.
§ Captain CROOKSHANK
In all the negotiations I have made it clear that I have been speaking for the Government and the Cabinet as a whole. There I leave it, because there are other matters to be raised, but I wanted to make it quite clear to the hon. Member, at any rate, that he must not assume that the Prime Minister himself and other Members of the Government are not anxious over the situation. The position to-day, of course, is slightly different from where we left it on Wednesday night, because yesterday the Delegate Conference met and, as the press reports to-day point out, came to a certain decision.
The hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Rowson) referred to something that I said the night before last when I made an appeal to that conference to think very carefully before they rejected the suggestion 2207 that there should be a thorough investigation of the position. He asked why I only make an appeal for sweet reasonableness to the Mineworkers' Federation. He is not entitled to assume that I have not made appeals in other quarters. If the hon. Member will refer to the closing part of the speech that I made on the Estimates this year, he will find that I definitely asked all concerned in the industry to try their best to watch the problem. If he looks up the OFFICIAL REPORT, I do not think it would lie in anyone's mouth to say I have not tried my very best to make—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why not make it again?"]I am sparing no effort in making it again. The reason for making that particular appeal was that the Conference was to meet yesterday. I believe, from the result of it, that they must have responded to that appeal, because the decision that was taken yesterday was not for any immediate handing in of notices. It was only that they should be handed in next month, and then only if wage proposals satisfactory to the executive committee were not obtained in the meanwhile. I take it that that really was in some way a response to what I said, that there should be time for a full investigation of the offer that was made.
I want to express my profound gratitude for the statesmanlike attitude that was adopted in that regard. I assume, naturally, that the meeting which it was understood would be held at an early date will still be held. I have heard nothing to the contrary. The hon. Member who opened the Debate said that the use of the words in the statement that I made, that actual contact had been established between representatives of the employers and the Mineworkers' Federation, gave a false impression. I have no wish to give a false impression, but it is an actual statement of fact. Contact was established. I did not say there were any negotiations. I said contact had been established. Some hon. Members must know that even to get contact is not easy, but contact has been established and a further meeting was arranged. I was glad of that, and I hoped that this method of discussion would be continued and widened. That is my view on that subject, and it not a view which I have at any time concealed.
2208 A great number of questions have been addressed to me. What is going to be done about this and about that?—questions which it is not for me to answer. I am not speaking for the coalowners. If questions are asked such as what is to happen about deficiencies and ratios, it is not to the Government that they must be addressed. The Government are not concerned to state the case for the coalowners. They must do that for themselves.
§ Mr. E. J. WILLIAMS
There can be no success for the Government's selling scheme improving wages unless all these things are cleared up.
§ Captain CROOKSHANK
I am not questioning the propriety of putting those questions. I am merely saying that I am not here to state the case on behalf of the coalowners or to reply to questions to which, in point of fact, they are the only people who can give an answer. I take it that these have been rather in the form of rhetorical questions which will be on record and to which the people most directly concerned, recognising that they are put by responsible Members of Parliament, will endeavour to provide a reply. I merely state that it is not for the Government to answer questions which should properly be addressed to the other part of the industry than that which is represented by those who put the questions. The hon. Member said the Government were almost supporters of the owners, and the other night another hon. Member said the owners had taken the Government on their side. No one has any right to say that.
§ Captain CROOKSHANK
I am not talking about 1926. I am talking about the responsibility of the present Government and of myself as the Minister who has been dealing with the subject. No one has any right to make any such statement, and I repudiate it from the Government here and now. If anyone remembers what I said daring the debate last week, I was particularly careful to make that point, and no one is entitled to assume anything of the kind. During the discussions I have been the channel of communication from one side to the other. That was my function. But as for taking sides, I hoped that I had made my position quite clear: if I did not do 2209 so before—it may have been through faulty words of mine—I say now that no one has any right to make such a statement.
I am much obliged to the hon. Lady for the kind reference that she made to myself, because, having ruled out any attempt to reply to questions which should properly be put not to me but to the owners, there are only two questions still remaining on which the Government have been challenged this morning. The first was with regard to central selling. The hon. Member who opened the debate did not, perhaps, speak of it as enthusiastically as he might have done. He did not seem to think that there was any great future for it. Let me remind him not so much that it has been a matter of Government policy—perhaps this would not appeal to him in that light—but that, in this campaign to which he referred which the miners have been carrying on during the last few weeks and months in this country, they did specifically settle on that point. In the first sheet which they issued as part of their campaign they definitely say:The owners … must be compelled to treat the industry as an industry, and to get a price for their coal which will enable decent wages to be paid to the miners.In the second number they carried this specific point further, continuing to refer to the owners, by saying thatthey must adopt a national scheme of centralised selling.Fortunately, the views of the Government and of the miners were running on parallel lines, because the Government have had this matter seriously under consideration for a long time. The hon. Gentleman who spoke second referred to what is being done in his own district and spoke of how they were pioneers of the movement. As a result of that, the Government were able to get an assurance from the owners that they would set about drawing up schemes for every district in the country. While I cannot give a reply to the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Paling) who asked whether I can guarantee that it is going to be a success—no one could do that—I can say that I am convinced that it is the right line along which to advance for the purpose we have in mind, and that is to improve the proceeds of the industry as a whole.
§ Captain CROOKSHANK
That is what the second edition of this "Campaign Special" also pressed for, so that on that point I leave it, because the other questions which have been raised now about the deficiencies and ratios and all that are questions for exploration with the parties concerned. They are not questions to address to me, because I am not speaking on behalf of the coalowners to-day.
§ Captain CROOKSHANK
The hon. Gentleman said that he objected to the phrase that we could not accept any suggestion of a subsidy for a temporary purpose, and that that was slightly incorrect. The word "subsidy", I take it, means—whatever its particular application in one case or another—some form of grant for some purpose, short or long, from public funds. My statement went on to saynor the alternative suggestions … namely, a direct loan from public funds or a Government guarantee …Whatever the particular description or suggestion might have been—I am not proposing to reveal what passed in conversations—anything which authorises money from public funds is generally held to be a subsidy, and it was that with which the Government said they were not prepared to deal.
§ Captain CROOKSHANK
. The hon. Member for Wentworth was dealing with the first part of the statement which was made the other day and which dealt with a subsidy, and he said that it was not exactly what they had in mind. All I say to him is that, whatever people have in mind, anything which is a direct grant from public funds is ordinarily called a subsidy. I will not go into any detail of any particular proposal. The statement of the hon. Gentleman is not ruled out. I was dealing only with the subsidy point. My statement went on to say:a government guarantee for a loan raised from other sources.2211 I have nothing to add to that statement except to welcome the fact that the appeal which I made that more time should be given—for, as th ewords say,Full investigation of the offer made"—has been granted. At the moment the situation is that there is to be a further meeting in the way—I should be very careful—of contact. There is to be a further meeting. I hope that, as the result of what has taken place to-day and what has been said and the expression of views of hon. Members, the interval between now and whenever that meeting may be will be used for very carefully weighing up, by all parties concerned, the great and serious issues which are involved. I said in the statement which I read out the other day that the Government are by no means disassociating themselves from all this.
§ Captain CROOKSHANK
I am only quoting the statement which was made, and it has not been challenged by anyone. As a result of the communiqué on Tuesday night which I read out to the House on Wednesday it was understood that a further meeting would be held at an early date. As far as I know, there has been no alteration. If anyone knows of any, I shall be glad to hear of it, but, as far as I know, that is the case. I hope that all parties—everybody—will very seriously weigh up not only what has gone on up till now, and not only the issues arising from the Delegate Conference yesterday, but the very moderate speeches which have been made in this House to-day. As I said on Wednesday, it will be my business to keep in close touch with all these matters. I have every intention of doing so. In fact, I do not see much prospect of a holiday at all, but if it is for the public good, well, so be it.
I do hope that we may find some solution for these difficulties amicably. As the hon. Gentleman said at the beginning of his speech, and as I re-echo as the last words on this problem now we are just at that season of the year when we should be all hearing about good will towards men, I hope that all parties in this dispute will weigh up their responsibilities, and will realise that here again, 2212 at the beginning of a new Parliament, with many changes in front of us, we are at the beginning of new policies with regard to this industry. Certainly new policies were outlined in the King's Speech, and I hope that it may be my good fortune to have some share in establishing them. I am sure that the success of anything we have in mind will be tremendously delayed if there should be any stoppage in this industry, or anything but a peaceful outcome of the present dispute, which up to now has been carried on with such wonderful good temper and no bitterness. I hope that as a result, what has been said in this House on two separate occasions will be frankly considered by anyone who has any share of responsibility whatever for matters of such importance as these.