§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Mr. Batey
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
May I begin with a personal explanation? I know that a good many Members have difficulty in understanding my accent at any time, but this morning I was just finishing breakfast when the upper part of my denture broke, and I have to talk with the upper part out. One of my colleagues, however, said to me in the Lobby, "Joe, I can understand you just as well with them out as I can with them in." I will do my best.
This House has of late years had a good many mining debates, but it is 13 years since it had an opportunity of debating the nationalisation of mines. Those have been 13 tragic years—tragic years of low wages, alarming accidents and chronic unemployment that will live in the memories of the mining classes with bitterness and sorrow. I remember that, when we last debated a Bill for the nationalisation of mines, one right hon. Gentleman then described the Bill as a red tiger. The House killed the red tiger, but it let loose another wild animal; it let loose the grey wolf of poverty, and it has been roaming through our mining villages ever since, entering the houses of our people and leaving those houses desolate and bare. This morning I want the House to give serious consideration to this Bill, and I want the House to give it a Second Reading, because, if on no other ground, the long history of mining is one black history of poverty and misery. We have had only two decent periods in the whole 600 years of our mining history. One was after the Franco-Prussian War, when wages rose to a decent level, and the other was during the late War and immediately after the late War. Apart from these periods, the whole of our mining history for 600 years is a record of poverty and misery for the mining classes. In 1919 the Sankey Commission, after considering the question very fully, said:The present system of ownership and working stands condemned.732 That was not said merely by Mr. Justice Sankey; there were put to that statement, not only his signature, but those of Mr. A. Balfour, a steel manufacturer, Sir Arthur Duckham, an engineer, and Sir Thomas Royden, a shipowner. Their statement in 1919, that the present system of ownership stands condemned, was true then, and it is true to-day; it has been true all along ever since that day.
Various Governments have made efforts the help the industry. In 1925 a Conservative Government gave a subsidy of £23,000,000 to help the industry, but it did not better mining conditions or the conditions of the mining classes in the least. In 1929, another Conservative Government relieved the coal industry, with other industries, of three-fouths of the local rates, and the then President of the Board of Trade, Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister, said in this House in answer to a Question on 8th May, 1928, as to what would be the relief to the coal industry and the iron and steel industry, said:Relief from three quarters of the local rates would, for the year 1927, have been equivalent to about 2½d. a ton on the saleable coal raised. The proposed freight reduction would amount to about 4d. a ton an all coal carried by railways."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1928; Col. 151, Vol. 217.]In spite of that relief, which was given to the industry in 1929, mining conditions have been no better. Then, in 1930, a Labour Government put enormous power into the hands of the coalowners—power to control output, power to fix minimum prices; and on 1st March, 1933, the then Secretary for Mines, who is now Minister of Labour, told the House of seven ways in which the owners were evading that Act. I want to put on record that statement which was then made by the Secretary for Mines. He said that the owners were evading the Act by:
In spite of the power that was given to the coalowners in 1930, we find the Secretary for Mines having to make so serious a statement as that in the House of Commons, and we find no benefit to the mining classes from the power that was put into the hands of the owners at that time. I want also, to say that the miners have left the coalowners with a free hand to install machinery. But, in spite of everything that has been done, the industry to-day is in a most unsatisfactory condition.
- (a) The formation of subsidiary companies, to which coal is sold at the statutory minimum price, the subsidiary companies, in turn, selling it at less than the minimum price, their losses being borne by the parent company.
- (b) Selling coal at prices below the minimum price ruling.
- (c) Selling more than one kind of coal at a time to one consumer, one kind at the minimum price and another at a discount.
- (d) Selling a parcel of coal to a consumer the greater part at the minimum price and the balance invoiced at a nominal price of a few pence per ton.
- (e) The payment of exorbitant remuneration to selling agents whose functions are purely
733 nominal, to sell at prices below the minimum, making good their losses from their remuneration.
- (f) The purchase of stores from customers at inflated prices.
- (g) Coal is outside Part I of the 1930 Act. Selling of coal and coke together, the former at a minimum price, the latter at a substantial discount on the current market rate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1933; cols. 501–2, Vol. 275.]
We are now proposing to end all that by nationalising both mines and minerals. I know we are stealing a part of the thunder of the Government when we are dealing with the question of minerals, because the Government are proposing to nationalise minerals. They would deal with minerals and would nationalise coal but would leave in private hands the shaft which leads from the surface to the coal and which is far more important. We would settle the whole question by nationalising not only the coal but the shaft and everything else in connection with the working and getting of the coal. I would like to remind hon. Members opposite that, in proposing now to nationalise both mines and minerals, we do not stand to-day, on the question of nationalisation, where we stood either in 1919 or in 1924, because the Government to-day clearly are not afraid of the word "nationalisation"; and, if the Government are not afraid of the word "nationalisation," hon. Members need not be afraid of it. The Government in 1935 came to the House and nationalised petroleum deposits. Now they are proposing to nationalise royalties.
By this Bill we are proposing to organise the coal industry into one unit under the name of the Coal Corporation. There is no Member of the House who will argue against bringing the coal organisation into one unit. One of the troubles of the industry is that there have been so many undertakings one competing against another. There are 1,893 coal 734 mines working, and no fewer than 970 separate undertakings. That is less than when the Sankey Commission considered the industry in 1919. Then there were 3,300 mines and 1,500 separate undertakings. We believe that the right step is to bring all these undertakings into one unit under one name. The organisation we are proposing is to consist of a chairman and 10 members, and control the production, selling, marketing, and treatment of coal. Power is taken to establish a Coal Marketing Board. Under Clause paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) we are proposing that the Coal Corporation shall deal with selling and regulating prices. One thing that is needed is one organisation responsible for the whole of the selling of coal, and we believe it is just as essential that it should have the power to regulate prices. Under Clause 14 the Corporation will be able to delegate power to local authorities to sell coal. Under Clause 16 there is protection for fuel consumers, with which, I think, hon. Members opposite will not disagree. It is proposed that to persons shall represent the fuel consumers and shall be known as the Fuel Consumers' Council.
We give the Coal Corporation power to establish coal treatment plant. I believe the treatment of coal is essential. We need to have clear and definite plans for coal utilisation systematically worked out for the country as a whole. We believe that we ought to link up to the greatest possible extent the operations of coal production and coal treatment so that they are combined in one organic industry. We believe that the whole process from the hewing of coal to the manufacture of petrol should be one trade whose profits are equally diffused throughout. There are three main lines of development in coal utilisation all of which are calculated to achieve the end that we have in view. These policies are, first, the use of coal in powder form, commonly known as pulverised coal, the conversion of coal into oil by the low temperature carbonisation process, and, third, the conversion of coal into oil by treatment with hydrogen. The future of the nation, in my opinion, depends upon the creation of a great fuel production and utilisation industry based on coal, not only in the interest of the miners but of the interest of the coal industry, in the interest of British industry, and in the interest of the nation as a whole. I believe coal treatment is 735 the only way to solve the Special Areas problem.
Under Clause 8 we propose to set up 10 Mines Compensation Commissioners to deal with the question of compensation, three to be appointed by the Mine Workers' Federation, and three by the Mining Association. The chairman and three independent members will be appointed by His Majesty. What we are proposing to do in buying out both the coal owners and the royalty owners will be found in Clause 9 (1)The compensation payable to the owners of any mines or minerals vested in the Corporation by virtue of this Act shall be the fair value thereof on the appointed day.Sub-section (2) almost explains itself:The compensation payable to the owners of any rights vested in the Corporation by virtue of this Act shall be a sum equivalent to the amounts paid or payable to such owners in respect of such rights during the two years ending on the appointed day or a sum equivalent to twice the fair value on the appointed day of one year's enjoyment of such rights whichever shall be the less.There are some hon. Members who find it difficult to accept that. We do not propose to treat royalty owners upon the same basis as the coalowners. Royalty owners are not entitled to be treated upon the same basis as coalowners in the matter of compensation. The coalowner has to find capital in order to sink the pit shaft, which is an expensive undertaking, and to provide machinery to bring the coal out of the pit to the surface. The royalty owner has not had to spend a penny in putting the coal into the earth, and, therefore, we do not propose to treat royalty owners on the same basis as coalowners. We believe that any payment made to the royalty owners ought to be made by the State. The industry should not be saddled with the expenditure to provide compensation for the royalty owners. We are willing that compensation paid to the coalowners shall be debited against the industry.
It is proposed that the Bill shall come into force on 31st October, 1937. I urge upon the House that, if there were no other grounds but the grounds of low wages, safety and unemployment, we are justified in asking it to pass this Bill to-day. I propose to leave the question of wages to the Seconder of the Motion. When the nationalisation Bill was last before the House on 16th May, 1924, 736 1,202,597 persons were employed in the industry, and now only 756,000 are so employed, a reduction of 446,597. The people in the mining villages are different from those in the towns. They bring up their families in these villages, and they have to depend upon the pit, and when the pit stops there is no work for them. It is a serious business for us when there are over 446,000 fewer men engaged in the industry than there were in 1924.
The usual habit of hon. Members on these occasions is to take as long as possible, but I want to set a different example, and will be brief. There is need for a change in the coal industry on the ground of safety alone. The speed of modern machinery is terribly dangerous, and instead of the number of accidents becoming fewer, they are, if anything, increasing. This House was staggered only a week ago by the publication of the report on the Gresford disaster, and though I do not intend to discuss this question because it is to come before the House next week, I would ask hon. Members to think what this means. In this disaster 265 lives were lost at 2 o'clock on a Saturday morning when the men ought to have been in bed. Our pits to-day never get cold. They are being worked day and night without any chance of cooling. There was an explosion which carried 265 lives 'into eternity, and only three weeks ago to-day we were startled when we read in the newspapers of an accident in Derbyshire. When I picked up my paper I saw in bold black letters:Seven killed in Derbyshire Pit Explosion.two others have died since then:Men half a mile away choked with dust. Coal-cutting machine blown to pieces. Wind like a hurricane. A doctor says miners were probably asphyxiated within two minutes.This should make Members of this House pause and think whether the time has not come when some change should be made in order to try to terminate these terrible accidents. Since the House rejected the last Nationalisation Bill in 1924—from 1925 to 1936—no fewer than 11,252 persons have been killed and 1,870,292 have been injured in the coal industry. This is a huge army of killed and injured, but that is not all the tale. In the eleven years from 1925 to 1935 inclusive the cases reported of miners suffering from nystagmus numbered 27,294. The cases reported of miners suffering 737 from beat hands which is an affection of the hand caused by gripping the pick shaft, numbered 14,953, and the cases of beat knee numbered 34,393. Some of my hon. Friends will be able to deal with the question of silicosis, as a large number of men suffer from this disease. I know what it is to experience a beat hand. It is one of the most painful things a man can have. The other day an hon. Member said to me, "Joe, what is the cure for sciatica? I have sciatica badly". Sciatica is nothing compared with beat hand. During those eleven years there have been 76,640 cases of men suffering from nystagmus, beat hand and beat knee. Add that number to the killed and injured, and we realise that it is one of the most woeful tales.
Therefore, if on no other ground, we are entitled to ask the House to pass this Bill. One reads in mining history that there was a meeting of miners in the North of England 300 years ago when they decided to petition the then King pleading that something should be done in order to safeguard the lives of the miners. Here we are 300 years afterwards, and we are scarcely any better off. We have to tell the same sad, sorrowful tale of huge numbers of killed and injured and huge numbers suffering from diseases. We ask the House to accept the Bill because we believe there is no other way of dealing with the coal mining industry. Coal owners are able to leave a lot of money when they die, but that does not apply to the miners. A coal owner in the North of England, Lord Joicey, died recently. He spent his life in the mining industry, he was a Durham coal owner, and he left £1,519,717. It is a disgrace for any man to die and leave such a vast sum of money, made out of the coal mining industry. Although he made this big sum of money, he did not leave a single penny to charity. I knew him for 50 years, and I never knew him to give a penny to charity. As I say, it is a disgrace for any man to die and leave so much money while thousands upon thousands of miners and their wives and families are suffering poverty and semi-starvation. Viscount Sankey, speaking in the House of Lords on 11th June, 1935, said:If I were a miner I would protest and agitate against a condition of affairs in our coal fields which I believe to be unjust to the individual, injurious to my country and a standing reproach to British business brains.738 That is what Lord Sankey would do. What would hon. Members opposite do if they were miners? Would they be content that the present system should continue? The present system stands condemned, and the House this morning ought to be prepared to show courage and to have vision, and to give a Second Reading to the Bill.
§ 11.37 a.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
I beg to second the Motion.
The House has had the opportunity of hearing the case put with intense conviction by one of the miners' representatives. He has indicated by personal touch what the vast majority of the 750,000 miners and their families believe. It has been his privilege to state the case on the Floor of the House of Commons, and nine-tenths of our people would state the same convictions if they had the opportunity. They believe, in the first place, that the scheme which we advocate would be better for the State. Secondly, they believe that it would be better for themselves. At the present time the question of wages affects them very much. There is no uniformity in the wages paid in the industry. It is not a case of the harder a man works the more wages he gets. It all depends upon the character of the seam. The miner thinks that, whatever else obtains, there ought to be some uniformity in regard to wages for the mine workers, because, more or less, their work is similar, but it so happens that those men who work in the hardest seams, or have the most difficult positions, get the worst wages. A miner cannot grasp the reason why that should be so. He says: "Coal is a national product, I am working in the most difficult place. Why should I have less wages than the more fortunate man who is working a better seam?"
The miners also feel that the average wages paid in the industry are nothing in comparison with wages paid in other industries, and they feel that they ought to be raised. The average wage of a miner at the present time is roughly £2 10s. per week for all engaged in the industry. Figures were given in the House recently which show that labourers, road men and sweepers at Smethwick, Walsall, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton are paid 51s. a week; brewery labourers at Burton on Trent, 58s.; flour 739 millers at Walsall and general labourers and cleaners, 54s. 6d. and 52s. The miners consider, having regard to the arduous, dangerous and difficult occupation in which they are engaged, that they are entitled to a higher wage. That is the question which the House has to consider.
The position in regard to seams shows that there is something radically wrong with the working of the mining industry. I could quote various cases showing the difficulties in regard to many seams where the lowest wages are paid. During the Christmas Recess, in going round my constituency, I stood among a group of colliers who were waiting for a tram to take them to the pit for the afternoon shift. One man had a large can, which looked like a small milk pail. I asked him what the can was for, and he replied: "It is for drinking purposes, Jim." I asked him how much it held, and he replied that it held nine pints, and that it would be filled several times during the shift. That will give hon. Members some idea of the conditions under which men have to work. I have in my constituency a very deep mine, probably the deepest in Great Britain. It has a 3,000 feet deep shaft and it is 4,000 feet deep to the working places. The temperature is about 96 degrees.
The conditions are terrible, but it does not follow that the wages are the highest. As a matter of fact the wages are low, because they are faced with this difficult position that the mine owner has to try to keep his place in the market. He has intense difficulties to overcome to keep the ventilation right in order to keep down the heat. There are other difficulties due to the excessive depth of the mine and the long way to the working place. These are economic factors that tell in the market, and the mine owner says to the men, "If you insist on what ought to be paid to you, I cannot give it to you. It would mean closing down the mine." He has to compete in the market with richer seams, and the consequence is that although the men are working in the hardest places, the lowest wages are paid to them. We say that by making the industry one unit that difficulty would be largely overcome. The whole of the proceeds would be pooled. Therefore, the first state of the men's feelings would be 740 pacified by the knowledge that something like uniformity was prevailing in the whole of the coal fields.
Another important question is that of safety. The same arguments apply in the difficult mines in regard to safety as in regard to wages. In the difficult mines the question of safety is often put in the background because of the necessity of trying to make a living. In such mines a large amount of repairs is necessary. There is much expense in keeping the packs up to the face, in keeping the roadways in a decent condition, and the hundred and one things necessary for safety. There is also difficulty in keeping a position in the markets. Therefore, the question of safety is relegated to a secondary position and things that ought to be attended to are often neglected. Hon. Members opposite who own mines know of these things. There are roadways that ought to be higher and wider and other things necessary for safety are neglected for the question of profit. Hon. Members opposite know that. On the oldest roads in our mines more accidents take place than ought to take place. Instead of there being a uniform height of roadway, so that the tubs can pass along, one finds low places and the sides are too close in, with the result that the hauler suddenly comes across an unexpectedly difficult place, and he is trapped either between the box and the roof or the box and the side, and death or mutilation takes place. It is one of the main causes of accidents in the mines at the present time. Anyone who studies the figures of haulage accidents will have no doubt about it. In the annual report for 1935 it is said:The number of persons killed and injured by haulage accidents per 100,000 man shifts worked shows little variation from year to year, and unless the conditions under which haulage operations are conducted are improved, there is little hope of any real reduction. As has been said in previous reports, the management are responsible for seeing that these conditions are such that these operations may be conducted in safety. Where roads are narrow and low bridges of roof are allowed to exist this responsibility has not been discharged. Haulage roads should he roomy and were this always so there would be fewer accidents.That is not from a mining man, but from the Chief Inspector of Mines in his report for 1935, and it shows that the management should pay more attention to the condition of haulage roads than they are doing. I wish he had stated where these 741 accidents had occurred. I think we should have found that they were in mines which find it difficult to pay their way and which allow these things to go in order to maintain their place in the markets. We have to put the men's case in this Bill. It is necessary that the men should have a voice in the carrying on of the industry and Clause 15 sets up regional boards and pit councils. The Corporation can delegate some of their powers to these regional boards and pit councils, which it is suggested should be set up in a number of districts in the mining industry. In the Act of 1930, 21 districts were named, and it is proposed that these regional boards should be composed of ten members who shall have experience of the coal mining industry in the district, and that half of them shall be appointed on the nomination of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress. Sub-section (2) of this Clause provides that a regional board, with the consent of the Corporation, shall set up area pit councils for each mine or group of mines, and that they shall be composed of ten members, half of whom shall be nominated by the workmen. By Clause 15 we give to the various districts local autonomy.
§ Mr. Tinker
I cannot say, because it will depend on the decision of the regional councils in the districts, who will decide the number of these pit councils they will set up. In Clause 10 we propose that the Corporation shall have the power to appoint, employ and dismiss managers, engineers, clerks and workmen and other persons, but this power can be delegated to the regional councils and they may delegate their powers to the pit councils.
I turn to Clause 20, which I know will require some explanation, because it deals with the right of workers to industrial and political activities. If this Bill becomes law, workmen's rights will have to be safeguarded—I mean the political and trade union activities of the men. The Bill does not mean that they would have to give up these rights. The same combination of workmen which obtains now will have to obtain when the Bill becomes law, and Clause 20 provides that they 742 shall have the same freedom and liberty as they have now.
§ Mr. Tinker
I want to explain my reading of the Bill and then hon. Members opposite can put their own point of view. Clause 22 deals with regulations which the Corporation may make affecting conditions of employment, including wages, of any persons engaged in the management of the mining industry. It provides that in the event of a dispute any question shall be referred to a negotiating committee, and, if it is not disposed of by this committee, shall be further referred to a wages board. I know that this Clause will receive some attention from hon. Members opposite. We are giving workmen the final power to strike if they so desire. I shall be asked why, if the Bill is as perfect as we say it is, there should be any need to strike. There is something in that, but at the moment the workers believe that they should have as a final resort the right to dispose of their labour as they think fit, and that if they are not getting satisfaction they shall be able to declare a strike. I myself do not believe in strikes if they can be avoided; and I think in Schedule 2 there is a provision which will make it almost impossible to have a strike of the workers. If any dispute takes place there is a negotiating committee, and both sides will be able to state their case and reason it out. I always find that whenever a case is examined in the light of day, conviction comes along and prevents a rupture, but if the negotiating committee fails then, there is the wages board, and I cannot conceive that with these two bodies to deal with these matters we shall ever arrive at a strike. I believe that a proper examination of the position will make strikes and lock-outs a thing of the past.
I turn to the question of the benefit to the community, for I take it that will be the chief point which will be argued from the Benches opposite this morning. I submit, first of all, that there is no body of workers treated as badly as the miners, and I submit that the rate of accidents is probably as great in that industry as it is in any other. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Greater".] I say that that rate can be reduced, to the benefit of the community. On Wednesday last we were 743 discussing in this House the declining birthrate. There was an academic discussion during which young bachelors on the Benches opposite told the people the position. While that Debate was proceeding, I thought to myself that on Friday I would point out how the falling birthrate could be altered. About 1,000 lives a year are lost in the mines, and if that rate could be reduced by one-half, it would mean that there would be 500 more virile and active men to carry out the duty of what is called family life. The way to deal with the falling birthrate is to reduce the accident rate, and then there will be men in a position to get families to keep the State going.
I would like now to deal with the question of flooded mines, for that is a matter which must be brought to the notice of the House. Let hon. Members think what flooded mines mean to the State. Coal is a national asset, it is something that belongs to the State; and when mines are allowed to go to ruin, it is a direct loss to the community. I have some figures, given to me by the Secretary for Mines, which show that during the last 10 years, 61 mines have been closed down owing to the danger of flooding. That is practically a loss to the nation for ever, for the sinking of the shaft entails an enormous expense. In reply to a question, the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. W. Joseph Stewart) was told that in South-West Durham there are 13,000,000 tons of coal waterlogged because of the mineowners' neglect. Recently a Westhoughton colliery was closed down because of flooding. There used to be a pumping station outside Westhoughton, at Aspull, maintained by a number of colliery companies. One by one they left it, and the pumping station became derelict. West Houghton, being on low ground, was first to experience the flooding caused by the neglect of the pumping station. My own district, the Leigh district, will follow. That is a definite loss to the nation caused by the mineowners' neglect.
The nation has to look at the position from the point of view of the national mineral wealth. This Bill has the dual purpose of trying to put the State in a position to conserve the mineral wealth of the country and to put the mineworker in a better position than he occupies at the present time. When hon. 744 Members opposite speak of the capital invested in industry and of the regard which must be had for that, I would ask them to consider the capital invested on the men's side. After all, the mineral wealth, the coalowners' money, would be of no use but for the manual worker, the mineworker. This morning I make an appeal to the House, as representing the nation, to recognise what ought to be done at the present time in regard to the coal industry. We believe this Bill would be an advantage to the State and certainly an advantage to the mineworkers.
§ 12 noon.
§ Mr. Lewis
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
I would like my first word to be one of sympathy with my Friend—for I may be allowed to call him that—the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey), and I assure him that, while I agreed with very little of that which he said, at least I could hear every word of it. The proposal to nationalise the coal mines of this country is no novelty in this House. Other Bills, differing in detail from this one but having the same purpose, have been introduced from time to time. If any hon. Member turns up the Debates on those previous Bills in the OFFICIAL REPORT, he will find that they have been sustained for the most part by hon. Members who are directly interested in the mining industry, either industrially or politically. By "industrially interested" I mean those who claim to represent some section, at any rate, of the mineowners on the one hand or the mineworkers on the other, and by "politically interested," I mean those hon. Members who have coal mines situated in their constituencies, even, though they themselves may not have any connection with the mineowners' organisation or the mineworkers' organisation.
I ventured to put the Amendment which stands in my name and those of other hon. Members on the Paper this morning precisely because I am not directly interested in the mining industry, either industrially or politically, and because I feel that in this controversy it is time that a little more attention was paid to the point of view of the consumer and 745 the taxpayer. I would ask the House for the moment to consider what is really the source of this constant agitation for the nationalisation of the coal mines. It will not be argued that there is any considerable body of opinion among the coal-owners desirous of handing over their properties to the State. I do not think it can be argued that there is any large or representative body of opinion among consumers, as such, who are desirous of seeing their sources of supply all absorbed by the State. I doubt very much whether hon. Members opposite could show that there is any considerable body of opinion among taxpayers which is desirous of seeing the State take over the financial burden and responsibilities of this great and complicated industry. I suggest that the only considerable body of opinion which keeps this agitation alive is that body of opinion which is represented by the Mineworkers' Federation.
I think the speeches to which we have listened this morning from the Mover and Seconder bear out that view. If that be true, it is obviously of great importance that we should seek to understand the true motive of the mineworkers in this matter, and by mineworkers I mean those who are represented by the leaders of the Mineworkers' Federation. Can we say that their motive is a public-spirited motive, or is it a purely selfish motive? We are entitled to ask that question, and I think we can find the answer in the provisions of the Bill, because the Bill shows on the one hand what the miners ask, and, on the other hand, what they are prepared to give in return. They ask that the State should take over the responsibility of financing and managing this great, complicated and speculative industry. There is no proposal that they should put up any funds of their own, however small in amount, in support of this project. I do not see any suggestion that the funds of the Mineworkers' Federation should be invested in the ordinary stock of this Corporation or anything of that kind. The whole financial burden is to be thrust on the State.
What do the miners offer in return? If they came to this House and said, "If the State will take over this great responsibility, we, for our part, will give of our best, and will work for such wages and under such conditions of labour as the 746 State thinks fitting," then, I think, it might fairly be argued that their motive was not entirely selfish. But they do nothing of the kind. Clause 20 expressly reserves the right to strike, that is to say, under the provisions of the Bill, no matter how high wages may be or how short hours may be, no matter how good conditions may be, mineworkers are to have the right to strike against the State. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) made great play with Clause 22. He said: "Look at our machinery for conciliation. Look at our proposals for a negotiating committee and a wages board". He said, I think, that one could not conceive a strike taking place, or, at any rate, that a strike was most unlikely under this machinery. Yes, but those who have drafted the Bill have taken great care to see that the findings of this wages board are not to be binding upon the members of the Mineworkers' Federation. Whatever the wages board may find, clearly is to be binding upon the Corporation, but not upon the Federation. They are to be entitled to strike if the award goes against them.
§ Mr. Ridley
The hon. Member may have observed some figures which were given to me yesterday, and which indicate the disparity between the number of days lost owing to industrial stoppages on the railways and the number of days so lost in the mining industry. In the case of the railways, which are under statutory control, with conciliation machinery comparable to the machinery provided for in this Bill, there has been an almost complete absence of industrial stoppages.
§ Mr. Lewis
Yes, but, as the hon. Member knows, the railways have not been nationalised, and we are discussing here a proposal to nationalise the coal mines which makes all the difference. In the case of a strike against a private company, the men know that in the last resort they cannot take more than the company has, but in the case of the State, as far as the claims of the miners are concerned, the resources are unlimited. While mines are in private ownership it is useless to strike for more than the total profit, but if the mines were in public ownership, it might be well worth while to strike for more than the total profit, because of the resources of the State.
747 Reference has been made to the arduous and often dangerous nature of the miners' calling, and I do not think anyone could fail to have been touched by the remarks on that subject of both the hon. Members who have spoken, and particularly the hon. Member for Leigh. I hope there is no hon. Member, whatever his views on this question, who does not agree that the miner is entitled to reasonable wages and reasonable working conditions. But it is obviously difficult to determine, in a given case, what reasonable wages and reasonable conditions of labour are. It is bound to be a subject of controversy. I would, however, submit this general consideration. The ultimate reward of labour in an industry must depend upon the ultimate value of the products produced, and in the mining industry the ultimate value of the product produced is largely governed by considerations of the export trade.
I submit that the position of the Mine-Workers' Federation in this matter amounts to this: They feel that, broadly speaking, they have got what it is possible to get from the mine-owners, the margin left is so small, and they feel that if only they can get the State to take over the industry, there is an unlimited prospect of squeezing the State for the benefit of the members of their Federation. There is no protection for the consumer or the taxpayer, and any burdens which might in the future be thrown on the consumer in the form of higher prices for coal, or on the taxpayer in the form of losses in the conduct of the industry, would ultimately react to the disadvantage of workers in other industries. No body of workers, I contend, is entitled to ask Parliament to put them in a posiiton to hold up to ransom all other workers in the State.
From the consumers' point of view we have had no evidence that there is any prospect under this Bill of the more efficient conduct of the operation of mining, and what has happened in other parts of the world leads us to suppose that it is much more probable that there would be less efficiency under nationalisation. I see no evidence in the Bill of any desire to produce a reduction in the price of coal. Attention has been called to Clause 16, under which a Fuel Consumers Council is to be set up. I invite hon. 748 Members to read the actual wording of the Clause. It says that the Corporation, that is the operative body, may from time to time convoke meetings of the Fuel Consumers' Council. Not only is the Council given no powers, but it cannot even meet, unless the operative body which it is to criticise cares from time to time to call it together. I wonder that the hon. Member troubled to put so farcical a provision into his Bill.
There is one other point which I would like to make following what the Mover said with regard to the machinery for carrying on the business as provided by the Bill. He told us there was to be an unspecified number of regional councils. He said something about 21 mining districts. He did not say definitely whether he thought that would mean 21 regional boards or not, but he went on to remind us that each regional board is to be able to appoint pit councils. I was very interested at that stage in trying to draw from the hon. Member for Leigh a statement as to how many councils they had in mind, but the hon. Member was too canny to be drawn. But, taking the figures given by the Mover of the Second Reading, of 1,893 mines open, and seeing that you can have a pit council under the Bill for each mine, that would be a maximum number of something like 1,800. The hon. Member, however, talked about 100 undertakings, and that might be the figure—700 pit councils. Whether it is 700 or 900 or 1,800, there are to be 10 members of each of these pit councils, five members of which are to be appointed by the Mineworkers' Federation. If we take the lower number, 900 pit councils, that means 9,000 members, of whom 4,500 are to be appointed by the Mineworkers' Federation, in addition to the members of the regional boards, in addition to the members of the Coal Corporation, in addition to the members of the Mines Compensation Commission. There is in each case provision that these members are to be paid such salaries, emoluments, pensions and so forth as may seem proper.
Really, when we come to consider who is likely to benefit under this Bill we are driven to the conclusion that with the exception of any benefit which may come to the ordinary members of the Mineworkers' Federation, the only persons who can possibly benefit under the Bill will be the hordes of officials which the Bill 749 will set up, and of these officials a considerable number are to be members of the Mineworkers' Federation. I think that the hon. Member who drafted this Bill made one slight slip and that was in the title of the Bill. He should have described it as a Bill for the endowment of the members of the Mineworkers' Federation at the expense of their fellow-workers and the rest of the community.
It might be possible to criticise in detail other provisions of the Bill, but I do not want to be drawn away from the main consideration which I am trying to put, the point of view not of the mineworker or the mineworker but of the consumer and taxpayer. I maintain that from the point of view of the consumer and the taxpayer there is no possible benefit to be derived from any provision in this Bill, and that on the contrary there are very grave responsibilities, fraught with the possibility of loss, enclosed in the visions of the Bill. Having regard to the terms of the Bill, I submit that the Mineworkers' Federation through their reprosentatives in this House are not entitled to ask the House to agree to the Bill, and with some confidence I venture to hope that the Bill will be read a Second time in six months.
§ 12.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Raikes
I beg to second the Amendment.
May I, first of all, like my hon. Friend who has just spoken, express my admiration of the way in which the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) contrived to show that one tooth is as good as two in any circumstances, and, like my hon. Friend, I want to say that I heard every word of his speech, and that a fairer or more pleasant exposition of the case I could expect from no hon. Member. I find myself in a happy position this afternoon. I said last week that almost all Bills were bad, and since I have had an opportunity of looking at this Bill I have in no way changed my opinion. Before dealing with the various Clauses of the Bill I wish to make one or two observations on a more general matter. The hon. Member for Spennymoor referred to the great growth of poverty which had spread over the mining industry since 1924. Quite true; but the hon. Member did not refer to the general strike of 1926. [HON. MEMBERS: "The 750 lock-out."] My hon. and learned Friend opposite may, if he likes, call it a common lock-out. I merely say that hon. Members opposite have to take that long dispute—whether it be a strike or lockout, it was a dispute, and even my hon. and learned Friend will not deny that—into account when considering the state of the mining industry, and in particular the state of what was once the export trade. Beyond that, we have been told that since 1924 the Government have accepted the principle of nationalisation in various forms, and that therefore the position is different to-day. I cannot imagine that anyone opposite seriously imagines that because the Government are prepared to accept the principle of the unification of minerals, that is an argument for nationalisation of the working of the coal industry. When we come down to the question of petroleum, I can at any rate say for myself that I was one of those who opposed the Secretary for Mines when the Petroleum Bill came up.
We have had a picture, and rather a dirty picture, painted by the Proposer and Seconder of the Bill, of the accidents in the mines and the conditions in the distressed areas, where the men at work have been reduced year after year as pits and steel works have closed down, but not one argument was adduced to show that by nationalising the coal industry it will be possible to bring a single man back to work in the distressed areas—not one. The only way in which you can put a single man who has fallen out of the coal trade back into the coal trade is by stimulating a greater demand for coal. Unless you do that, to change your ownership from one side to the other is merely beating the air. With regard to the question of accidents again, what reason is there to suppose that simply by changing over to some form of nationalisation—I shall endeavour later to show that this Bill is a very curious form of nationalisation—you can rationalise the amount of mistakes that can be made in human nature; and beyond that there is the further question of certain things arising which are beyond any man's control. Indeed, I think it is only fair to say that for last year, 1936, the rate of fatal accidents in the coal mines of this country was lower than in any year since the War. [HON. MEMBERS: "Higher!"] My hon. Friends 751 opposite say it was higher. I have before me the figures of the death rate per 1,000,000 tons of coal raised in the principal coal-producing countries. For the year 1936 the figure appears to be 3.3 for Great Britain, as against 3.7 for 1935, 4.7 for 1934, and so on, going back to 4.9 in 1926.
§ Mr. Mainwaring
Is the hon. Member aware that the figures which he has just quoted are related to the tonnage output, and not to the number of men working?
§ Mr. James Griffiths
When the hon. Member uses the figures for 1934 and compares them with 1936, he should remember that the figures for 1934 are swollen by the terrible Gresford disaster.
§ Mr. Raikes
That is true, but I should be prepared to give my hon. Friend the figures for a considerable number of other years. Thus, for 1933 the figure was 3.8, for 1932 4.1, for 1931 3.8, and so on. I am not suggesting that there are not serious accidents in the coal industry. I am merely endeavouring to show that at any rate per ton of coal raised there has been a decrease in accidents of recent years, which, in my view, is a hopeful sign and not one that should be swept aside.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
Does the hon. Member realise that the output per man-shift is increasing every year, and that in proportion to the number of persons employed, the number of accidents is not less, but rather more?
§ Mr. Raikes
That is a perfectly fair point, which I do not for a moment object to the hon. Member's raising. I will now come for a moment or two to the actual provisions of the Bill. It has been said that it is a wise child who knows its own father, and I think this Bill would be a wise Bill if it could say whether its father was the report of the Sankey Commission or, in fact, the Trades Union Congress. Its mother is obviously the Labour party.
§ Mr. Batey rose—
§ Mr. Raikes
Really, I cannot continually give way. If hon. Members tempt me, I do not mind going on and making a long speech, but Mr. Speaker would probably not call me again for a long time if I did. I therefore propose 752 to get back to the Bill. The Sankey Commission lays it down that if you have nationalisation, you should have it by consent, for the benefit of the nation, and that you should have a national advisory board, but it was to be an advisory board for the purpose of advising the country. This Bill does not secure that at all. It bears a resemblance to the Bill of 1924, and a very curious resemblance too. You have in Clause I your Coal Corporation set up, and it is, I gather, to be a body of 11 persons, a chairman and 10 others. In the 1924 Bill it was laid down that there should be a Coal Council of, I think, 20, of whom half should be appointed by the Miners Federation direct. Clause 2, Sub-sections (1) and (2) of this Bill have not yet been read, so that I will read them. They are as follow:(1) The chairman and members of the Corporation shall be appointed by the Minister, and shall be persons of wide experience in industrial, commercial or financial matters or in the conduct of public affairs, and shall include representatives of consumers organisations and of those employed in the coal mining industry.(2) The representatives of those employed in the coal mining industry shall be appointed after consultation with the General Council of the Trades Union Congress.I think it would have been of assistance if it had been stated in the Bill what proportion of these 10 were to be appointed after consultation with the General Council of the Trades Union Congress. We are left completely in the dark. Those representatives, of course, are representatives of the Miners Federation, because the Trades Union Congress would obviously, in a matter relating to the mines, send as their representatives persons well known to have the backing of the Miners Federation, but in this Bill we are given no idea as to the numbers. Are they to be a majority or not of the Corporation and, beyond that, is the Corporation to appoint any other persons representative of any other section of the coal trade who are not trade unionists?
§ Mr. Raikes
I understand that they are to be…persons of wide experience in industrial, commercial or financial matters.
§ Mr. Raikes
Certainly. It goes on:…or in the conduct of public affairs, and shall include representatives of consumers' organisations.
§ Mr. Raikes
I realise that there are to be representatives of consumers' organisations, but I am only asking whether, beyond the representatives of those who shall be appointed by the Trades Union Congress, it is intended that any persons who are in the mining industry, but not trade unionists, are to have any representation on the Corporation?
§ Mr. Raikes
Then I understand that the members of the Spencer union have got to come into the Miners' Federation before they can have any representation on this Corporation, and that shows that this Bill is really a Miners' Federation Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is."] Of course it is. It is not a Nationalisation Bill at all, and it is of great assistance to know from hon. Members opposite that this Bill is not a Bill to produce as much coal as efficiently as possible in the national interest, but is a Bill for the purpose of the Miners' Federation deciding the methods by which coal should be raised and the prices which should be charged to the consumer. I will carry the argument as to what the Corporation consists of a little further.
Reference has been made to the regional boards, in Clause 15, and to the pit councils. I notice that the regional board is to be not exactly of the same composition as the regional board in the 1924 Bill; that is to say, half of them are to be appointed by the General Council of the Trades Union Congress and half of them by the Corporation, and the fact that in this Bill you have the same proportions in everything except the original Corporation as in 1924 rather leads one to assume that if it had not been for the devastating speech which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) made in 1924, laughing that Bill to scorn, hon. Members opposite would have boldly put in the present Bill, in Clause 2, that they proposed to have half the members of the Corporation appointed either by the 754 Trades Union Congress or by the Miners' Federation. Anyhow, if any members of the Corporation—and we know some are—are to be appointed through the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, obviously on the regional board, quite apart from the members who are representatives of the General Council, the other five are to be appointed by the Corporation. It is obvious that if there is representation of the Trades Union Congress on the parent body, that is, the Corporation, at any rate one of their five nominees would be appointed by the Trades Union Congress, through the Miners' Federation, and there would be on the regional board a permanent majority responsible to the Trades Union Congress through the Miners' Federation. The same would apply in regard to the pit councils.
We come to Clause 16. The hon. Member for Spennymoor, with a charming smile, assured us on this side that we would be happy to find that the consumer is not neglected and that there would be a Fuel Consumers' Council. The council, however, will be used purely for the purpose of giving advice and will have no powers whatever, except that its expenses will be paid by the Corporation.
§ Mr. Raikes
I am not dealing with what they have got now, but am merely pointing out that in this nationalisation Measure, by which you are giving complete powers to the Miners' Federation, you put in a Clause to set up a Fuel Consumers' Council which is pure eyewash so far as the consumers are concerned.
I pass on to what the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) said about the wages Board and the negotiation committee. He said that these bodies would make a strike by the workmen almost impossible. I agree, and I propose to point out why I agree with the hon. Member although it is not perhaps quite the reason that he would have expressed. The negotiating committee is to consist of six representatives appointed by the Corporation and six appointed by the trade unions representing employés of the Corporation. That means that part, at any rate, will be Miners' Federation men, and the other half will be appointed by the Corporation 755 itself, on which the Miners' Federation is again represented. If there is only one of the representatives of the Corporation who is a Miners' Federation man, there will thus be a permanent majority of the Miners' Federation upon the negotiating committee. I do not think there is likely in the course of the negotiations to be a strike, but suppose the matter goes to the wages board. That is to consist of an independent chairman, six representatives of the Corporation, of which one will be connected with the Miners' Federation, and six representatives of employés of the Corporation, which brings the number of workers' representatives up to seven; of the remaining four, one is to represent the Trades Union Congress, one the Co-operative Union, and two the employers' organisations. There will, therefore, be a permanent majority of trade union representatives on the wages board as well as upon the negotiating committee.
How does the hon. Member arrive at that? My calculations lead me to a different conclusion.
§ Mr. Raikes
I will explain it again, because I have no desire to be unfair. First, you have under the chairman six representatives of the Corporation to be appointed by the Corporation. As there is trade union representation on the Corporation under Clause 2, you will, if the representatives are to represent the Corporation as such, have at any rate one, or perhaps two, of their six who represent the trades union representatives upon the Corporation. [Horn. MEMBERS: "No!"] That is how I read the Bill. Hon. Members may object, but it is perfectly obvious.
§ Mr. D. Grenfell
Does not the hon Gentleman understand that these negotiations take place between the Corporation, which is a party in the dispute, and the workmen in the industry?
§ Mr. Raikes
I agree with the hon. Member, but in view of the fact that even officials of the Corporation are permitted to strike against the Corporation itself, I hardly see how it affects my argument. If there is a dispute between the Corporation and the workers on what wages are to be paid, I maintain that under the Second Schedule the majority of those discussing the dispute will be representatives of the Trades 756 Union Congress. With regard to the power to strike, I appreciate that there is an anxiety on the part of hon. Members opposite that in no circumstances should the worker be in any way endangered, but I should like to turn to Clause 20, because sometimes by examining a Clause we find one or two interesting points which are overlooked if we talk about generalities. Sub-section (1) of that Clause states:Notwithstanding anything in any Act, order or regulation, any association of workers, all or some of whose members are wholly or partly employed in or about mines, or in any other manner employed by the Corporation, or by a Regional Board or pit council or otherwise under this Act, may be registered or constitute themselves a trade union.I suppose that means that the very members of the regional board themselves who are appointed and employed by the Corporation can make themselves into an association and join in a strike against the unfortunate ten people at the top. I think it would lead to an extremely lively time on the Corporation.
It is a bit hard from the point of view of those of us who represent the non-mining industry to find this up against us. First, it is almost certain that, in regard to the question of wages or anything else, it will be decided by the Trades Union Congress. We have no right of appeal against the decision. On the other hand, if the consumers' representative on the Corporation disagree with the miners' representative, then instead of the consumer for once coming into his own, everybody, under the Bill, can go on strike until the consumer bows down to them. It is a case of heads you win, tails we lose all through the Bill. I could go on at considerable length, but I will not. I should like simply to close by saying that I am delighted that the matter has been brought up again. It is time that the question of nationalisation was debated again in the House of Commons, but I hope, for the sake of hon. Members opposite, that the next time they produce a Bill it will be one which is rather less grotesque.
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
The Members of the House of Commons have been criticised this week for failure to attend to their duties, and complaint has also been made that what is called the old cut-and-thrust of debate is missing from our discussions.
757 I did prepare a speech for this morning, if I got the opportunity to speak, but, in view of those criticisms, I have abandoned that speech, and will attempt the cut-and-thrust of debate in reply to hon. Members opposite. First, I would join in the tributes which have been paid to the two hon. Members who moved and seconded the Second Reading of the Bill; and I would add, as one who spent his life in the mining industry, that I make no apology for claiming that our miners are the salt of the earth and the salt of the kingdom, and that I believe it is worth while for us to say that. I have read the Debates on this subject which have taken place in the past, I have gone through the OFFICIAL REPORT, and it is interesting to point out that to-day we find the rejection of this Bill is not moved by representatives of the coal owners. That task has been left to the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) and the hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes), who have admitted frankly that they have no knowledge of the industry but speak as consumers. I suggest to them that the only way in which the consumers' interests can be protected is by voting for this Bill.
One day this week we were discussing Supplementary Estimates—I do not think either of those hon. Members was present—from several Departments which are under the control of the Office of Works. We were discussing them here as consumers, as representatives of the taxpayers and of the nation, and the hon. Gentleman who represents the Office of Works in this House told us that we, the Government and the nation, must pass those Supplementary Estimates because we had been asked to pay 5s. to 6s. a ton more for coke and 2s. to 3s. a ton more for coal than we paid six months ago. Where were the consumers then? Why did not those hon. Members come here to defend the nation as consumers? They left that task to the miners' representatives, and we said that the consumers of this nation, and the nation itself, were being shamefully exploited at the present time. The hon. Member for Colchester knows perfectly well that between coal consumers in Colchester and the pits in Nottingham or Derby, or South Wales from which the coal comes are a host of middlemen, a horde of middlemen, who take fabulous profits out of it. I have never heard the hon. Member protest against the enor- 758 mous disparity between prices at the pithead and the prices charged to the consumer. Does the hon. Member know what is the difference between the price paid for coal at the pit head and the price paid by consumers in Colchester, and who gets the difference? If he is concerned to protect his consumers, will he, before he speaks the next time on nationalisation, please enquire why it is that there is a difference of 20s., 25s. and 30s. a ton between the price at the pit head and the price consumers have to pay in Colchester? If he is the champion of the Colchester consumers he ought to be after those middle men and not after the poor miners.
The next point which he made was that this Bill gives no guarantee of efficiency in the industry. Does he say that the industry is efficiently managed now, under private enterprise? If the industry is efficiently organised now, why do the Government bother about it, why have they come here for powers to enable the coal owners to rationalise, to cut out competition, to organise sales? If the industry is a perfect industry, why bother about it? The legislation on the Statute Book is in itself sufficient testimony to the complete inefficiency of this industry. The hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) said that the last 13 years have been 13 tragic years. In 1919 the Sankey Commission urged the nation and the House to nationalise this industry and make it a great public service. Is there any one here who denies that the history of the country in the last 15 years might have been written differently had we listened to the Sankey Commission?
The hon. Member for South-East Essex talked about strikes. There has not been a strike of miners since 1912. Then there was a strike to ask for a minimum wage, and the justification of that strike came when the then Liberal Prime Minister, the late Lord Asquith, passed the Minimum Wage Act. What occurred in 1921 was not a strike but a lock out, and what occurred in 1926 was not a strike but a lock out. Each time there has been conflict in the mining industry it has been because the owners have attacked the men, and not because the men have asked anything from the owners. I have heard a reference to my distinguished fellow - countryman, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). He is not 759 here to-day; I wish he were. If any one man bears more personal responsibility than another for those tragic years in the mining industry it is the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, who decontrolled the industry overnight, who threw it to those grey wolves referred to by the hon. Member for Spennymoor. The tragedy of the industry is that it is not an industry—
§ Mr. Raikes
Will the hon. Member tell us how much money the State was having to pay for the mining industry during the last months of control in 1921?
§ Mr. Raikes
I had meant to use this figure in my speech. Over the whole period of control it was about £50,000,000, and for the last month the Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking in April, 1921, said:I find that we lost £5,259,209 in the March working. That was a dead loss. In arriving at that loss nothing is allowed for any profits to owners, nothing for depreciation, nothing for the interest on loan of money. Estimated per ton, the loss amounted to 6s. 10d.
§ Mr. Griffiths
May I ask the hon. Member to go back a little further, and to think of the immense profits which were made on coal during the War? May I put against that figure this simple figure, that the owners, in locking out the miners for seven and a-half months in 1926, cost this nation more than £300,000,000? The sum he mentions is trivial by comparison with the total social loss to this nation through the policy pursued by the coal owners ever since 1926. Since 1921 we have seen in this industry not an industry facing its problems, but a series of warring groups, a series of conflicts, until this industry was heading for disaster. I make this claim for the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. It is said that it is our Bill. Of course, it is our Bill, and we make no apology for that. When it is said that the Miners' Federation claim so much representation in this industry, I ask "Who are the Miners' Federation?" They are the representatives of the men who put their bodies 760 and minds and souls into this industry, and if anybody is entitled to a majority they are.
In the last 12 months the Miners' Federation saved this industry from disaster. It was heading for disaster. Some 12 or 14 years of price cutting had driven down the price of coal to such levels that everywhere the industry was becoming bankrupt. The owners said "We cannot help it; we cannot get a penny more for our coal. The consumers in Colchester make an awful row if they are asked to pay 6d. a ton more, and for all those reasons we cannot stop what is going on." Then the Miners' Federation began a campaign, in which I and other Members on these benches were privileged to take part. We went to Colchester and to South-East Essex, as well as to other Divisions, and told the people: "This is the job that these men do, and this is the money that they get for it." We asked them a simple question. May I repeat it, as one who has had 17 years in the pit, and whose family, like every family represented here, has paid the toll? Hon. Members say to us: "I would not go down a pit for less than £5 per day." Let hon. Members express that feeling in the Lobby as well as talking about it outside. As I was saying, the Miners' Federation went to the country and told them the story of tragedy. The public of this country, the poor people, the working men, in London, Colchester, and South Essex included, were on our side, and said, "We are prepared to pay 6d., 1s., 2s., extra per ton for coal, if by doing so we can give the miners a square deal." We proved to the coal owners that what they had said was impossible. It proved to them what the hon. Member for Colchester has been afraid of. He said—I forget his exact words but what he meant was—that the price paid for a product was its value; we proved to the coal owners that they had been selling this product at less than its value, selling it to gas and electrical undertakings which have made huge profits, to merchants who have fleeced the consumers in Colchester and South-East Essex and made huge profits.
The hon. Members for South-east Essex is very concerned about Nottingham and his very great friend Mr. George Spencer, and about the lack of freedom in Nottingham. The men are now on strike for the single elementary right of 761 belonging to their own trade union. The Nottingham collieries in the last month made a profit of 2s. 7½d. per ton. Will the hon. Member for Colchester hold a meeting in Colchester, and say, "It is a shameless scandal that you in Colchester have to pay so much for coal while the owners in Nottingham make 2s. 7½d. per ton"? That is the position, and had it not been for the Miners' Federation this industry would have gone bankrupt. It was heading for disaster.
Bureaucracy has been mentioned. The Bill proposes to do two simple, fundamental things. First of all, the Bill proposes to unify the industry. May I ask the Secretary for Mines if he will please advance across this Table to-day one argument for unified royalties which is not also an argument for unified mines? Will he give us one argument why royalties should be unified which is not an argument for unifying the industry? We want to unify it. We want the whole of the industry brought under one ownership and into one great public service. What is happening now? We ask the Secretary for Mines every Tuesday: "Please will you tell us what is happening at Billingham?" He gets up and says, "I am very sorry, but I cannot." Here is a new development. Here is this industry entering upon a new stage of its development. The old days of King Coal are over. I say it with regret as a child and a product of the old days. The days of coal in its raw state are over, but I do not for a moment say that the days of coal are over. This bottled-up sunshine—that is the best definition of coal that I know—of days gone by has a future in the laboratory. Scientists—Who are they? Not financiers in the City of London, not wealthy men, but often boys and girls of working-men helped, many of them, from the Miners' Welfare organisation—are learning in the laboratory what to do with this bottled-up sunshine. Inspired by a desire to do something, they are active in the laboratory to discover how wealth may be untapped from it.
What does this nation do with it? Hands it over to the Imperial Chemical Industries. Shuts it out of the mining industry. Is all this new wealth to be denied to the miner? Is he to go on risking his life and giving his service while he sees coal becoming marvellous wealth in various forms to enrich other 762 people, while he is left still the Cinderella of the workers of this country? Let us put this great industry under one public corporation. In the mining industry there is the possibility of fabulous wealth. The technician, the man who loves his job, the engineer, the man who loves mining, the man who loves planning a mine, the technician of the mining industry, are the snag of the profiteer, of the man who merely writes up books and who says: "Will you please remember that your timber cost was 25 of a penny more than it should have been last week? Will you please cut it down?" If there were a meeting in this House of the managers of collieries I would be prepared to leave it to them to decide whether this is a good or a bad Bill. We want to make this industry into a public service, and to take it away from those who have been the curse of the industry, the industrial bookies who have overwhelmed it.
I come from one of the finest coalfields in the world, where we get the finest anthracite coal in the world. I have seen that coalfield, as I will see it to-night when I go home, being ruined by financiers in the City of London, who regard it merely as a chance to gamble, and not as an opportunity for service to the nation. That is what has happened. I do not want us to repeat the last tragic 13 years. You will never get men to go down into the pit to give of their best as long as there rankles all the time the feeling: "Here am I down this pit; here am I risking my life. I may to-night be carried out, leaving my wife and children to fight their own battles in life." You would not get me or my colleagues to do our best in this industry while the thought rankles that some Duke takes as much in a year as we would take in a thousand years, and that some royalty-owner, financier or debenture-holder creams the industry. You will never get the best out of the men in the industry until you make a great public appeal to them. Ask them to go down into the pit and to produce coal not to make fortunes for royalty-owners, for coal-owners or for financiers, but to risk their lives working in the pit and to stand a chance, even if they are lucky to escape an accident, of being choked by dust in the process, because they are working in a great public service and working for the nation.
763 I am sure that the miners would respond to that appeal and, whatever might be the extra cost of the bill, the miners would cover it, because they would go to work in the morning knowing that they were not working for the financiers and royalty-owners, but doing a great public work for this nation. I hope that the House, if they want to see the mining industry leaving behind the dark days and entering upon a new phase with a new spirit, to agree to give a Second Reading to the Bill.
§ 1.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Rowlands
I congratulate the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) upon the excellent speech which he has just delivered. I agree with a great deal of what he said as to the grievances which exist in the mining industry, but I part company with him when he says that nationalising the mines is the only remedy for those grievances. Taking the history of the coal mining industry for the last 100 years, it will be found that it has been a history of continual progress in efficiency, and it was only when the coalmining industry was taken over by the Government during the War that there was a check in that progress. From 1850 to 1913 this great industry increased its annual production from 54,000,000 tons to 287,000,000 tons, and from 1873 to 1913 it increased its production from 127,000,00 tons to 287,000,000 tons: but when the industry was more or less under government control a deplorable state of things set in. The output in 1915 was 253,000,000 tons, whereas in 1921 it was only 229,000,000 tons.
§ Mr. Rowlands
There were 13 weeks of it; but the other figures will prove what I am saying in another way. In 1915, the annual output per man was 285 tons, and in 1920 it was 183 tons, while in 1921 it was only 144 tons. It is true that there was a stoppage of 13 weeks in 1921, and unfortunately we had also the 14 days' datum line stoppage in 1920. The loss per ton in 1921 was 2s. 9d. Let me call attention to another aspect of the matter. In 1915, to produce 253,000,000 tons, 950,00o people were employed in the industry, whereas in 1921, to produce 229,000,000 tons, there were 1,250,000 764 people in the industry. If that is the effect of coal control—which I agree is not exactly nationalisation of the mines—let us be spared a repetition of what took place during that period.
The hon. Member for Llanelly referred to the fact that in 1921 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) handed over the collieries to the coalowners—to the wolves. It is not for me to defend the right hon. Gentleman, but I cannot see that he could very well have done anything else when the losses were so tremendous. They had already reached 50,000,000, and were continuing at the rate of something like £6,000,000 a month. Sooner or later the industry had to be handed back to the private owners, and it must be admitted that from that day considerable progress has been made in the industry. I am rather sorry to see that hon. Members opposite are at variance with Mr. Joseph Jones on the question of efficiency in the mines. He has written a book entitled "Coal: the Labour Plan," in which he says:On its purely mining side there is nothing wrong with the coal industry. Its mining engineers, managers and technicians are among the best in the world.
§ Mr. Rowlands
So far, therefore, as efficiency is concerned, there is nothing wrong. [An HON. MEMBER: "Quote the whole statement."] I have not it with me, or I would. A great deal of reference has been made to the Sankey Commision, and the question was asked, why was not their Report accepted? We all know the constitution of the Sankey Commission, and it is true that Lord Sankey himself was in favour of nationalisation; but I have not heard a word said from the other side of the House about the Samuel Commission; no one has mentioned their Report on this question. They examined the scheme presented to them by the Miners' Federation. They ignored all others, including that submitted to Parliament in the Nationalisation of Mines Bill of 1924, because they regarded it as having been superseded by the scheme presented by the Federation. After declaring that no consideration would have prevented them from recommending nationalisation of the mines if the case had been proved, the Samuel Commission went on to say:We have seen, however, no scheme that will stand criticism. We are not satisfied that 765 the scheme proposed to us is workable or that it offers a clear social gain. We perceive in it grave economic dangers, and we find no advantages that cannot be obtained as readily or more readily in other ways.It is extraordinary that not one hon. Member opposite appeared to recollect that there was such a thing as a Samuel Commission, but the Samuel Commission reported directly against nationalisation of the mines. I have been surprised, also, that there has been no reference to the nationalisation of the mines in Germany. The experiment was tried in Germany, where they had the dual system. In 1918 the Socialist government of that country appointed a commission of able and responsible Socialists to examine the problem of the nationalisation of the means of production, and, among other matters, they examined the question of nationalising the mines. Here is what they found:A large part of the coal industry has long been owned and run by the State in Germany. The State of Prussia alone had over 54 collieries, producing 25,000,000 tons a year. The Commission had to examine the whole situation, including the State mines, and condemned them unanimously and not less emphatically than the private mines; and that on the more serious grounds of inefficiency through bureaucracy, red-tape, favouritism in appointments and promotion, political influence, lack of sense of financial responsibility, slackness, delay, and rates of pay absolutely low, in comparison with private industry positively ridiculous.
Were the mines then reported on actually disposed of, or are they still owned by the State?
§ Mr. Rowlands
They were not all disposed of, but we find that in 1924 the Westphalian collieries were handed back to the private companies because, while privately owned mines were prospering, the State mines had to be subsidised, and at the same time were less efficient, showing a low output per man.
§ Mr. Rowlands
Not to my knowledge, though I will accept any correction. What I read was that they were handed over to the private owners as a result of their failure. The mover of the Bill made much capital of the question of safety. The last returns that I saw showed that the rate of accidents in the State mines was greater than in the privately-owned. I am sure that Members on both sides are 766 anxious to do everything they can to secure greater safety, and I deny that hon. Members opposite have a monopoly of sympathy for the miners. The question is, how can greater safety be secured? Is it by this huge machinery of public ownership, or is it by leaving the Government free to legislate? I think it would be much wiser and safer to legislate for safety and for the better conduct of the mines and to leave the question of ownership, because when the committees appointed by the Corporation were responsible for the profits of the mines it would have a detrimental effect on safety. I am glad to see that there is a Committee at present looking into the question of safety, and I hope the Government will see to it that whatever legislation may be necessary is introduced.
In listening to the Opposition I find that several things are to be attained as the result of nationalisation—greater safety, higher wages, increased employment and benefit to the consumer. I fail to see how all these can be accomplished. As far as higher wages are concerned, profits have to be made to commence with, and it is very often forgotten by those who champion nationalisation that, once the mines are State-owned, there must be no regard at all to profits. The country, even at present, has a considerable export trade. We have to compete with other nations, and the cost of production is of vital importance unless you are prepared to subsidise the industry at the expense of other industries to a great extent and consequently create great unemployment in those industries in the end. It is only by carrying on the mines in the most efficient way, yielding a reasonable profit and making both ends meet and a little over, that they can be carried on. If hon. Members believe that in nationalising the industry no regard need be paid to its economic side, they are making a very grave mistake which will lead to a great deal of unemployment.
With regard to applications for increased wages, the Corporation will also be represented upon the wages board, and, in addition, there will be at least six members appointed by the trade unions and one appointed by the trade Council of the Trades Union Congress and one by the Co-operative Union. You are, therefore, sure of half the wages board. These people can be removed annually. That is an important defect 767 in the Bill, because it stands to reason that if the trade union representatives take an unbiased view and do not support an application which is not an entirely deserving one, they have only 12 months before they will be removed. Consequently there will be continual conflict unless the wages board grants practically every application made from the workers' side. There is another question. We have been talking of the Miners' Industrial Union. When I was working at a colliery I was in the Federation. I believe all the workers ought to be in the same organisation. I believe everyone ought to have the right to his own opinion and the liberty to join or not. When you legislate for the 500,000, who is going to represent the other 265,000?
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I am sure he hon. Member does not want to misrepresent the number of persons in the industry. The 760,000 includes boys of 14, 15 and 16 and officials. The membership of the Miners' ederation—500,000—are adults who are qualified to belong to the Miners' Federation.
§ Mr. Rowlands
The principle is there all the same. If, instead of 200,000, you find that there are only 100,000, that is at least a seventh of the people employed, and to frame the Bill without any consideration for that 100,000 is a very grave mistake. Parliament must not pass legislation in the interest of a particular organisation and leave that organisation to supply the machinery that is to administer it. All the people in the industry should be equally represented if it is a wages board, a regional board or anything else.
§ 1.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Watson
I am one of the Members of this House who believe in short speeches. When Scottish business is being discussed we restrict our speeches as much as possible, and I intend this afternoon to observe that rule, because while a few speeches have been delivered from this side of the House, I realise that the representatives of several districts have not yet had an opportunity of expressing their views with regard to this Bill. It strikes me as rather strange that we should hear the speeches we have heard this afternoon from hon. Members opposite in view of the startling 768 statement which the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered at that Box yesterday afternoon. We were told that we shall have to face the raising of a loan of £400,000,000—for what? For destruction. And here we ask the House today to face the serious proposition of securing for the nation one of its greatest industries. We have heard speeches from hon. Members in opposition to this proposition, but I hope, despite those speeches, we shall obtain more encouragement from the Secretary for Mines. He will be speaking for the Government, and I hope that he will be willing to recognise that this House and even the Government have entered upon a line of policy which will necessitate going further before there can be satisfaction.
To-day there is no satisfaction in the mining industry, in spite of the endeavours of this House to establish harmony in the coal trade. There is no satisfaction among the miners, and I do not know whether there is very much satisfaction among the colliery owners. On the whole, the miners are not satisfied with the present condition of affairs. A few months ago we discussed the setting up of selling agencies in order to provide the industry with more money, so that the miners could be paid a decent living wage. The regulations which were passed by this House have definitely increased the selling price of coal. The colliery owners have played rather a blind game as far as this particular question is concerned. They had all the powers that they required under the Act of 1930, and they could have reorganised the industry since that time and paid decent wages to the miners of Great Britain. But they fought against that Act of Parliament as long as possible, and only when this House agreed to certain regulations being passed which gave the colliery owners the power to reorganise the industry so that they could raise the price against the consumer, in whose interest the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) has spoken so eloquently this afternoon—only when that was done did we find what are looked upon as satisfactory conditions in the mining industry from the point of view of the coalowners.
There is another consideration I would put before the Secretary for Mines. Why should he and the Government hesitate 769 to take this industry out of the hands of the men who have been losing enormous sums of money not for a few years, but almost for generations? I do not remember when the coalowners admitted that they were doing well in that industry. I have heard of nothing but enormous losses in the mining industry.—[An HON. MEMBER: "They live upon their losses"]—Recently when the Scottish miners were making a new wages agreement with the owners, one of the conditions was that a certain deficit was to be wiped out. How much was that deficit? It was over £8,000,000 which had accumulated since the agreement which was framed in 1927. Not only Scotland, but Yorkshire also is supposed to be a prosperous mining area, and yet I am not sure whether at this moment there is not a deficit against the Yorkshire miners of over £8,000,000. In every district of the British coalfield, the coalowners have been losing money continuously since 1927, and why should not the Government step in and take this ruined industry out of the hands of these owners, who ought to be delighted to get rid of it. The Government should come along and take the industry out of their hands because it is said that their only interest in the industry is to give employment to the men. They do not like to see the men going out of it and their families starving, and consequently they have run the mines of this country at enormous expense. The hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Rowlands) admitted that they were prepared to keep the industry going only on condition that they made a reasonable profit.
We ask the House this afternoon seriously to consider the nationalisation of this industry. The Act which was passed in 1930 was absolutely essential before we could discuss a matter of this kind. We required to get a certain organisation within the industry, because, as has already been said this afternoon, it was in chaos, with coalowner competing against coalowner, and district against district, until not only were the owners not able to earn profits, but the miners could not obtain wages. By the intervention of this House and especially by the establishment of these selling agencies all this is gradually being changed. The hon. Member for Colchester and his hon. Friends opposite are only interested in the consumers. They are not interested in coal. They will be wise if they take the 770 step of supporting this Measure this afternoon in the interests of the consumers, because we are as much concerned about the consumers as is the hon. Member for Colchester or anyone else. We want the consumers to be protected, but under the present scheme there is no protection. Whatever price the colliery owners can possibly get from the public will be got under the powers they now possess in the regulations that have been passed by this House, and we ought to protect the consumers.
The hon. Member for Colchester and his hon. Friends should support this Measure in order to make sure that the industry will be so organised that there will be no exploitation of the consumers, and that a decent standard of living will be given to the miners almost for the first time in history. My hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) referred to the fact that not so long ago the miners were enjoying higher wages. During the period of the War and immediately after, the miners had a fairly high wage, but although wages were high the prices of commodities were also high. The high wage which was received at that time was not of very considerable advantage to the miner and his family, so that it is almost true to say that the miner has never been paid a decent standard of wages. Only under a scheme of this kind can the miner hope to get decent and fair treatment.
Another thing that surprises me in connection with the Opposition is their attitude with regard to other things that belong to the nation, which they would not in any circumstances surrender to private enterprise. Take the question of the provision of £400,000,000 for defence. On what is that to be expended? Not for the buying out of royalty owners or colliery owners, but for building up the fighting services, which we would not hand over to private enterprise. On the other hand, there are some hon. Members opposite who would be prepared to hand over another national undertaking to private enterprise, namely, the Post Office. It has been argued from the other side that the Post Office is not efficiently run, and that it could be better run by private enterprise. I do not believe that that view has much backing on the other side. If these things can be run by the nation in the national interest, why cannot the great industry of mining be so run?
771 Mining, despite the competition that we have had to face from other industries, is still one of our most important industries, and will remain so for many years to come. During recent years we have had to face competition from gas and electricity, especially electricity. Enormous competition, of which we knew nothing prior to the War, has had to be faced, and yet the coal industry is and will remain a great industry. It is not too late for the country to make up its mind to hand the control of the mining industry to the Government, to be worked in the interest of the nation. The Sankey Commission definitely recommended that the industry should be nationalised. If that recommendation had been acted upon at that time, we should have had to-day one of the greatest industries to be found anywhere on the face of the earth and the most contented set of people working in it. The miners do not spend all their time planning and scheming how they are going to get the colliery owners into difficulties in regard to the wages question. My experience of miners is that if they are paid a decent standard of wage, there are no more contented workers in Great Britain. Unfortunately, they have not had much experience in that direction, but I hope that as a result of the discussion this afternoon the House will be wiser than in bygone days, and will decide to nationalise the industry.
Let me remind hon. Members of our experience in regard to other legislation. We have been told that the question of nationalisation of mines has been discussed frequently. In our political history there was another Bill which was frequently discussed in this House, and in another place. I refer to the Irish Home Rule Bill. That Measure was refused again and again to the people of Ireland, until this country was compelled to give more to the Irish people than they demanded originally. The day may come, and before long, when a Measure for mining nationalisation will be brought before Parliament, and when that time comes hon. Members may find that the compensation Clause will be a very different one from that now before us. I would advise hon. Members opposite to be wise in time, to face the realities of the situation and to give the miners a decent opportunity.
772 Now is the chance for this House to put the industry under national ownership and control. If the managers of the miners were on the Benches opposite, instead of hon. Members who are there, this Bill would be passed unanimously. It is no pleasure for the men who run the industry—not the royalty owners, not the men, who are supposed to be the colliery owners, but the managers—to accept the present situation. Who are the colliery owners? The bankers and the financiers are the colliery owners in many cases. The miners, very frequently, do not know their employers. There was a time when an individual coal owner owned the pit or the group of pits in a concern, but that day has gone. These are the days of syndicates and big companies. Everything must be done on a big scale. Rationalisation has come in and big concerns are operating, the individuals in which are unknown to the men. In some cases these owners do not know the collieries that are supposed to belong to them, and they have no particular interest in the industry.
The men who run the industry, the managers, the electricians, the technicians would without any hesitation be delighted to take positions under the British Government. They would far rather be managers under the British Government and be paid decent salaries, with the assurance of a pension—I suppose they would have a pension when the time came for them to retire—than be under the colliery concerns they are connected with to-day. My hon. Friend has given illustrations of the way in which the men who manage the collieries are told by those to whom the collieries are supposed to belong, that they must keep down costs and increase output. That is the continual cry from the colliery offices. The men who are responsible for running the collieries would be glad of an opportunity to work the mines as they know they ought to be worked, and if they were able to do that the death and accident rate could he and would be reduced to a very considerable extent. For these reasons, I hone that the House will give the Bill a unanimous passage.
§ 1.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Levy
I understand from hon. Members opposite that the Bill is backed by the Labour party a s a whole. For many years I have understood that the policy of the Labour party was to 773 nationalise various industries, and I have always been anxious to see the methods that would be adopted by the party for the purpose of bringing that about. I listened to the mover and seconder of the Bill and the other speeches from the party opposite, and although they have been quite serious it seemed to me that they appealed more to passion and sympathy than to the merits of the Bill itself. I do not blame them for that, for I think that everyone realises that for the coal industry something will have to be done. We all realise that mining is a very hard calling, that it has been going through a very lean time, and I am convinced that the Government are going to deal with the matter.
The point that we have to discuss is that of the methods contained in the Bill. My understanding of nationalisation is that the nationalised industry will be run for and by the State. I have never understood that if a particular industry is run by a section of the industry for the benefit of the industry itself, it constitutes nationalisation. If we examine the Bill we find that it really does not do what hon. Members of the Labour party desire it should do. The Bill merely transfers the ownership of mines from private owners to the control of the Miners' Federation and the Trades Union Congress.
§ Mr. Levy
In the Bill, and I propose to go through the Bill Clause by Clause to substantiate the argument I am endeavouring to put to the House. It is a very interesting Bill. If you start at Clause 2 you find:The chairman and members of the Corporation shall be appointed by the Minister, and shall be persons of wide experience in industrial, commercial or financial matters or in the conduct of public affairsIt is not said how much they are to be paid, or how they are to be paid, but in Clause 4 we find that they are to be paid such salaries and remunerations, and such pensions and gratuities as may be recommended by the Minister. Clause 2 goes on to say that the Corporationshall include representatives of consumers' organisations and of those employed in the coal mining industryI assume that the representatives of consumers' organisations are there in the 774 interests of consumers. In that case why do you want to deal with the same matter twice? The hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) referred to Clause i6. Why is it necessary to have an advisory board for a Consumers' Council when you have representatives of the consumers on the original board?
§ Mr. Levy
You definitely say that it shall include "representatives of consumers' organisations" and, therefore, it is only reasonable to suppose that they are elected for a specific purpose. But in Sub-section (4) of the same Clause—Clause 2—we find:Neither the chairman nor any member of the Corporation shall own or hold any stock or financial interest in any mine or in the production or distributionAre we to understand that trade unionists will not be interested in production? How are you going to bring that about? You say that these members shall not be interested in any of these things, which include production—
§ Mr. Bellenger
Does not the hon. Member realise that this provision is similar to a provision in a Measure passed by his own Government—the sugar beet Act.
§ Mr. Levy
But we are dealing here with nationalisation, and we must bear that in mind. When you are dealing with other industries which are not nationalised, and which it is not proposed to nationalise, it is a different position, but this is supposed to be the method by which the Labour party propose to nationalise this industry, and which they say is going to bring benefit to the miners 775 and to all concerned. Let me now turn to Clause 5, Sub-section (2), which says:The Corporation may at any time before the appointed day give notice in writing to the owner of or person interested in any mine or minerals or right, disclaiming all or part of the property in such mineWe understand that this is to be the case of a willing buyer and a willing seller, and that there is to be a valuation in certain circumstances. Here we find, "disclaiming all or part of the property" It looks as if the Labour party are going to take the fat and leave the lean. If that is so, how are they going to deal with it for valuation purposes? That is a question which, in my opinion, requires an answer. Then in Clause 6 I find:The Treasury shall, on the request of the Corporation, by warrant addressed to the Bank of England, direct the creation of the stock, yielding interest at the rate on the nominal amount of capitalThere is nothing there about goodwill. But in Clause 9, Sub-sections (1) and (2) the question of assessment is also dealt with, and there, as the hon. Member for Spennymoor pointed out, there is a discrepancy between the first Sub-section and the second Sub-section. In Clause 6 it is provided that:such interest shall be payable quarterly on such days as the warrant shall directWhy are you giving the interest on any temporary loan raised by the Corporation a preference over the interest on stock? I hope hon. Members will forgive me for being rather critical. In Clause 17 the interest on any temporary loan raised by the Corporation is to be a first charge, and the second charge is the interest on stock. If you buy something one would have throught that the interest on the stock would have a prior claim over a temporary loan. This is rather illuminating, as the Clause goes on to say that a sinking fund shall be established:and the balance (if any) shall be transferred to a Reserve FundI am glad the words "if any" are included, because there would not be any profit and would, in fact, be a deficit.
§ Mr. Ridley
Surely that is a process of normal finance. All debenture loan stock ranks for dividend before any other investment charge, and priority loans could only be prior to debentures.
§ Mr. Levy
That shows how the minds of the framers of the Bill were working. 776 They anticipated the lack of profit, and consequently gave a temporary loan priority over the other, and the balance, if any, is to be sent to a reserve fund. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Do you mean the balance of the loan?") No, I mean any profit that is over. I hope the House will forgive me if I speak for some time, but I think it is wise that we should thoroughly examine a Bill that is brought forward to nationalise this great industry. Clause 8, Sub-sections (7) and (8) read:(7) The procedure of the Commissioners shall be regulated by rules to be made by the Minister, which shall provide: inter alia that the finding of a majority shall prevail and that in the event of an equal division of opinion the chairman shall have a casting vote.(8) The decisions of the Commissioners on all matters whether of fact or of law shall be final and shall not be questioned in any CourtThat means that the chairman is to be put in the position of being greater than the Court of Appeal, and greater than the Law Lords. Surely that is not the way in which hon. Members are going to nationalise the coal industry. When dealing with compensation, they include a Clause of that sort, but when dealing, as they do later on, with the question of disputes, they not only give the workers one right of appeal, but a further right of appeal, and if after the two appeals they are still not satisfied, they are given the right to strike. Clause 9 (3) reads:(3) The compensation payable to the persons entitled to work or use any mines or minerals disclaimed by the Corporation under the provisions of section five of this Act in respect of the refusal of permission to work or use the same shall be the fair value at the date of such refusal of the right so to work or use the sameHow very convenient that is. If it is decided that it is not worth your while to buy, where is the value? The Clause goes on to say:(4) In the assessment of fair value any consideration or monopoly value or advantage or any similar consideration shall be wholly excludedWhat does that mean? What is an "advantage"? Furthermore, if rules are to be laid down, what becomes of the Clause about the willing buyer and the willing seller? This Clause is diametrically opposed to the very thing that hon. Members set out to do. Under Clause 10, a research board is to be established, but that already exists. Hon. Members then say that the mere 777 fact of nationalising the mines would reduce accidents, but is it suggested that if the Government owned every vehicle on the roads, the number of road accidents would be reduced? There is nothing in this Bill that will alter human nature, and most accidents are caused in some form or another by the failure of human nature.
§ Mr. Watkins
Is it not a fact that, in the case of the vehicles which the Government own, there is a smaller number of accidents proportionately?
§ Mr. Levy
Clause 14 says:The Corporation may with the consent of the Minister delegate to a local authority any of their powers which may in the opinion of the Corporation conveniently be exercised by a local authority, and it shall be lawful for such local authority to exercise any such delegated powers.Surely it would not be nationalisation and control by Parliament if the powers were delegated to a local authority. The Clause goes on:All moneys received or expended by a local authority under this section shall Le deemed to be received or expended on behalf of the Corporation.Is that control by Parliament? Clause 15 deals with Regional Boards, and reads:The Corporation shall, for the better performance of their duties under this Act, divide Great Britain into districts, and shall in each district constitute a Regional Board of ten members, who shall be persons having experience of the coal mining industry in such district, and half of whom shall be appointed on the nomination of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress.Surely that is the old story of the Sankey Commission on which there were 12 members, half of them being appointed by each side, and they voted solidly on their own side, so that there were two reports and the chairman even put in a report of his own. The same thing would happen in the case of the regional boards, and right down to the pit councils, in every case. With regard to Clause 20, I asked an hon. member who was speaking to reconcile the Clause dealing with the right to dismiss with Sub-section (2) 778 of Clause 20. In the one case there is the right to dismiss under certain conditions but Clause 20 (2) says:Notwithstanding anything in any Act, order or regulation, any person employed as aforesaid may engage in any lawful industrial or political activity and shall not suffer dismissal or any deprivation of any kind as a consequence of any such activity or as a consequence of participation in a strike or trade dispute.It is the old, old story. The nation bears the burden and the Mineworkers' Federation calls the tune. I am sure that hon. Members opposite do not expect any Members on this side to vote for a Bill of this kind. This is not nationalisation at all. It is transference to the Mineworkers' Federation, with partial control by the Trades Union Congress. I have said on many occasions that if the Labour party ever came into power in this House they would be controlled, in the main, by the Trades Union Congress, an outside body, not elected by the electorate of this country. Here we find hon. and right hon. Gentlemen of the Labour party bringing forward a Measure said to be a Measure of nationalisation which is, in fact, a proposal to hand over the coal-mining industry to the control of the Trades Union Congress, the body whose dictates they will have to obey. Earlier in the Debate reference was made to the fact that there were 1,893 coal mines working in this country and 970 undertakings and a question was asked from this side, which has not yet been answered, as to whether every one of these undertakings, under the Bill, would have a pit council.
§ Mr. Levy
If they had them now, there would be no reason to set up such councils in the Bill. It seems arguable under this proposal whether it is intended to set up 1,893 councils, one for every mine or whether it is intended to set up one pit council for each undertaking. Assuming that it is intended to have one council for each undertaking, that means you will have 970 pit councils with 10 members on each council. Therefore, you would have 9,700 officials, all of whom would receive salaries.
§ Mr. George Griffiths
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Levy) does not understand pit work. I think 779 there are a couple of pits under the trunk of a tree in his division but some of us here are acquainted with cases in which as many as 4,000 men are working in one pit. Does not the hon. Member realise that these pit committees will consist of men who are actually working in the pit and they will only be paid, perhaps a couple of bob, for going on a deputation? If he does not know that, I am telling him.
§ Mr. Griffiths
There will not be anything like 9,000 of them. You will get three or four pits working together, and governed by one committee. There are five shafts at the pit where I worked before I came here, and one committee would govern them all.
§ Mr. Levy
The question was asked how many councils were to be set up, and we have not got an answer. Are we then wrong in assuming that if there are 970 undertakings there will be 970 councils? However, I do not labour the point. It is certain that there will be some hundreds of these councils. This really means the creation of hordes of officials all over the country to deal with the industry. Nothing has been said so far that has convinced me that these proposals would result in any improvement in the way in which the industry is being conducted. All Members on this side realise that something will have to be done with the coal industry, but not necessarily in the way proposed by this Measure. We have a Minister at the Mines Department who has studied the industry with the utmost energy and ability. He is doing what he can, and I am sure will continue to do all in his power for the benefit of that industry, and I think if hon. Members opposite were to give up this idea of nationalisation, or rather of handing the industry over to the Trades Union Congress, and leave it to the Government to do what can be done in the interests of the men and of the industry, there would be no fault to find and no further complaint to make.
§ 2.13 p.m.
§ The Secretary for Mines (Captain Crookshank)
As it is Friday and a number of hon. Members wish to take part in the Debate I do not propose to intervene for more than a very short time, to express the view of the Government on this somewhat strange Bill. I do not suppose that it will be a surprise to hon. Members opposite if l tell them that, for my part, I do not propose to Vote for this Bill in the Lobby or to advise anybody else to do so, and that, in so far as its further progress might require a Financial Resolution, I can hold out no hope that such a Resolution will be presented to the House.
§ Captain Crookshank
The Bill raises many important subjects, and we could have dealt with it in a more satisfactory way if it has been circulated to hon. Members a little earlier, but we have only had it for rather less than a week. The Bill traces its ancestry directly back to the report of the Sankey Commission, quotations from which have been given to us in the House to-day. But hon. Members who quote the Report of that Commission should remember that there was another Royal Commission which dealt with this subject—the Samuel Commission—whose recommendations on nationalisation were in an exactly contrary direction to those of the earlier Commission. Hon. Members opposite never give us the benefit of their views on the Samuel Commission's Report in spite of the fact that the Samuel Commission reported several years after the Sankey Commission and that its recommendations are probably more in keeping with the present day state of affairs than those of the Report of 1919.
In the assumption which is made in the Preamble that "it is expedient that coal mines should be taken into the possession of the State", the Bill follows very much the lines of its predecessor which was discussed in this House, although it modifies the proposals of the earlier Bill in certain directions. When they read the Bill hon. Members should remember the tremendous powers that are to be given under it to the Coal Corporation. All mines, minerals and rights are to be under its control. It is to carry on everything in the way of mining, selling, distributing 781 and exporting minerals in the coal industry, and in all other industries connected therewith—a very sweeping statement. It is to have the fullest powers over research, and the treatment of coal, the obligation to supply coal at "reasonable" prices, the power of establishing stores and depots and of employing vehicles, and, most remarkable of all in its novelty, is the power that it may dictate to the railway companies in regard to the provision of the facilities necessary for conveyance of the fuel of the Corporation as the Corporation deems necessary. So that it does become an enormously powerful body. So far as the actual running of the industry is concerned, a system of regional boards and pit councils is adumbrated. That proposal, I take it, is largely for day-to day executive work. But the powers of the Corporation are very vast. Indeed it is very difficult to find anything that the Corporation cannot do.
I may be profoundly ignorant of the various changes that the' Labour party goes through in its ideas as to what nationalisation means, but if this is nationalisation it is nothing like what I thought until this week the Socialist party called nationalisation. I always thought it was common ground between those who discuss this matter that nationalisaton meant, amongst other things, ownership by the State. But here the ownership is by the Corporation. Secondly, I thought that nationalisation meant that management and control of the nationalised industry were carried on by the State. Certainly in the case of previous Bills dealing with this problem there was some responsibility to Parliament, to a Minister, but there is practically nothing at all about a Minister in this Bill; there is no reference to Parliament and no check on the Corporation at all. It is a most gigantic trust, if you like to call it that, largely manned by workers in the industry, if indeed they have not in every case a majority. But there is nothing said about State control.
So I note in the Bill a very distinct change from the views previously put forward by the Socialist party in this House. For example, in the last Bill the Corporation consisted of 20 Members, ten of whom were to be members of the Miners' Federation. Now the Corporation is reduced in membership to ten, with a chairman, but the Bill is very silent 782 as to the proportion of miners on that body. Clause 2, Sub-section (1), does not say what the proportion of miners will be, though it must include representatives of persons employed in the coal-mining industry. One cannot tell how many there will be on the main body, but when we go forward into the Bill we find that the Corporation has power to create regional boards and pit councils and you get a hint there. You find in the case of the regional boards and pit councils that of the ten members of which they are to consist half must be nominated by workers at the mines. That may perhaps be an indication of what would be the proportion of miners on the Corporation.
§ Mr. Shinwell
May I intervene merely in order to prevent any misunderstanding? Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman not wrong in suggesting that there is no control vested in the Minister?
§ Captain Crookshank
I shall come to that later. I am now dealing with the composition of the Corporation. Though it is not specifically stated what the proportion of miners will be, one gathers that it is possible it might be half the membership. What is the check upon the activities of this Corporation? There is no financial check. There is no obligation under the Bill for the industry to pay its way or anything quite so old-fashioned as that. Parliament has no say as to the form of organisation of this socialised industry. Under Clause 22 the Corporation may make regulations on a variety of subjects, including "generally any other purpose for which, in the opinion of the Corporation, regulations are required." That is a very general power. But those regulations do not have to appear before anyone. They are just the fiats or decrees of the Corporation.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman refer to Clauses 18 and 19 regarding a financial check?
§ Captain Crookshank
The hon. Gentleman is in such a great hurry. I was saying that the Corporation can make regulations for the widest possible purposes, over which there is no check at all. In fact there is no question of submitting the reguations to Parliament or anyone else. The only people to whom they have ever to be submitted are referred to in Clause 22, Sub-section (2), which says that regu- 783 lations dealing with wages have to be submitted after consultation with the trade unions concerned. At present in the mining industry the districts are specified by Act of Parliament, but in this Bill they may be entirely broken up and changed again without any reference to anyone at all. Indeed so little is Parliament to be concerned with this matter that in the Schedule of Enactments to be repealed the whole of the existing organisation under the Act of 193o, to which great importance was attached by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) in his speech, is swept away altogether.
When we come to the question of any control through a Minister, I would point out that there is no reference in the Bill to the Minister giving any direction or instructions at any stage. The Minister appoints the Corporation. That is apparently his most important function, apart from receiving an annual report under Clause 18. But let us follow this interesting sequence. The Minister appoints the Corporation and receives the report. That is admitted. If you look up the definition Clause, you find that "the Minister" means "the Minister of Mines." Actually, of course, he is the Secretary for Mines, but that is a drafting point. In the third Schedule to the Bill, however, the Minister is abolished before ever the Bill comes into effect, because the Secretary for Mines is set up by the Act of 1920, which this Bill would repeal.
§ Captain Crookshank
The hon. Member says it is a small point, but the Socialist party have been drafting this Bill ever since 1919, and one would have expected that they would have made up their minds on these points by now. There is nothing in this Bill, apart from the power of original appointment, to give any Parliamentary control whatever. There is no check on the powers of the Corporation whatever.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Surely the hon. and gallant Member has not read the Bill. In almost every Clause the powers of the Corporation are qualified in this respect, that the consent of the Minister 784 must be obtained, for example, for delegating their powers to the regional boards and pit councils.
§ Captain Crookshank
That is a very small point too. The fact is that Parliament has no say as to the form of the organisation of the socialised industry or as to its operation and consumers have practically no safeguards as to prices; those are the two normal checks which one would expect to have in a democratic State. There is nothing directly mentioned about Parliament in the Bill, and as to the consumers, as my hon. Friend pointed out there is a very delightful little Clause which sets up a "Fuel Consumers' Council", though for no particular purpose. It provides no machinery by which it can ever do anything unless the Corporation chooses to convoke a meeting, but why should it necessarily convoke a meeting?
§ Captain Crookshank
They have no power of insisting on it, and I hope the hon. Gentleman and his friends will look into that aspect of the matter before they produce another Bill. This seems to me to be very far removed from a nationalisation Bill except in the Title and Preamble. You are getting far nearer what I do not believe the Socialist party really want, and that is the Corporate State as we understand it under Fascism. The sort of organisation which is laid down here seems to me to lead far more to the Corporation of the Italian State than anything normally understood by a nationalised industry in a democratic State.
§ Captain Crookshank
This is a private Members' Bill, and hon. Members can vote as they like and as they read the Bill for themselves, but that is what I understand the genera: outline to be.
§ Captain Crookshank
A great deal has been said to-day on a great number of subjects which do not really arise under the Bill, but which are of general importance with regard to the mining industry, and I will excuse myself from answer- 785 ing them to-day, because there will be other opportunities for dealing with those problems such as the question of safety in mines, which have nothing to do with this Bill.
§ Captain Crookshank
These committees may have delegated to them all the powers outlined in the Clause in question, Clause 10.
§ Captain Crookshank
There is no specific reference in the Bill to safety at all. There is nothing at all which I can find that really covers that point, excepting the power to make regulations. There is, as I say, no specific reference to safety. If the hon. Member plainly tells us that because this industry is to be run by the State there will be no accidents, that no motor car that is run by the State ever has an accident, well, more power to his elbow and his imagination; but if you are going to take over an industry of this magnitude and importance, as we all recognise it to be, surely one of the most difficult problems which ought to be referred to in the Bill is that of the safety of the workers concerned. The nearest approach to it, I think, must be the power to make regulations, given in Clause 22. I have already said that there is hardly anything that the Corporation cannot do. One of the most vital and important problems in the mining industry is the question of safety and the health of the workpeople, and one would have expected far more attention to be paid to it than there appears to be in the Bill.
I would say one word with regard to the question of wages, and that is indeed very curious. We have had discussed to-day the question of this Negotiating Committee and this Wages Board. I will not go into their actual representation, because there seems to be a difference of opinion as to whether the miners' organisation would always be in a majority on them or not, but in point of fact I daresay they would never be required to function at all, for this very simple reason, that it is one of the duties of the Corporationto ensure that there is a sufficient supply of fuel at reasonable prices,786 but as there is no indication in the Bill as to what are "reasonable" prices, and as one of the subsidiary bodies of the corporation, namely, the Coal Marketing Board mentioned in Clause 11 to which no great reference has been made, but which is a satellite of the Corporation itself, has the power to regulate the price to be charged, and as the other body, which is very closely allied, has the duty of providing a sufficient supply of fuel at "reasonable" prices, and as on the various wage negotiating bodies there is this tremendous representation, if not an actual majority, of the workpeople, it seems that very seldom if ever should the question arise. But if it does, and if and when the problem of wages is ever referred to by either of the two bodies mentioned in the Second Schedule, it seems that when the problem goes to either of them, all that apparently may happen is that any party may raise any point which they "consider relevant"—in other words, that any subject would be in order in the parlance of this House—and any point so raised would be "taken into consideration," and that is all that would happen.
§ Captain Crookshank
You set up a body, and all that it can do is that any party may raise any point they "consider relevant," and any point so raised shall be "taken into consideration." But for what purpose? What happens then? The Bill does not say anything at all. An hon. Member reminds me that special provision is made in the Bill that if a member of the corporation is declared to be insane he can be removed. That, I think, is one of the most likely eventualities to occur to those who try to run the corporation on the general lines of this Bill.
The Government cannot advise their friends to vote for this Measure. It is a Private Member's Bill, and it is within the discretion of any hon. Member to do as he wishes. The Bill is of great interest for the reason that it does show to us in the House and to the country how easy it is to talk in general terms about nationalisation of this and that, but that when hon. Members, as they have done quite sincerely in this Bill, try to put down on paper what they have in mind and how they think the scheme would work out, find themselves faced with the 787 most extraordinary difficulties, as they do in this Bill. The "Daily Herald" was optimistic enough to say that this was "a scheme which men of ability could work." I think, however, that the "Daily Herald" was, for once, too optimistic. If the reception of the Bill by the House is not all that hon. Members opposite may have hoped it would be, let it not discourage them, because the more thought that is given by all of us to this sort of problem, to the problems of the new age into which we are undoubtedly moving, and the more we try to think about them in terms of legislation, the more our minds and the mind of the country will be cleared so that it can better judge between us as to the proposals of our party and those who think with us in the National Government and the proposals of the party opposite. The more clear-cut and defined the issue is, the more we on this side will be pleased, because the more certain we will be to carry instructed opinion with us. As for this Bill, I do not think that it would carry any opinion, instructed or otherwise.
§ 2.38 p.m.
§ Mr. George Hall
My hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) asked the House to excuse him because of an accident this morning. I can assure him that his accident did not make his speech nearly as disorganised as the opposition to the Bill has been. As a matter of fact, the principle of the Bill has been hardly touched by any Member from the other side, including the Minister. During the time I have had the honour of sitting in the House I have never heard a great national question such as this treated as this Bill has been treated by those who oppose it. I well remember the debate on the Bill of 1924. This Bill is different in some respects from that Bill, but the main principle is the same. What a difference in the opposition to that Bill and the opposition to this Bill to-day. I think it is because more and more people are becoming convinced of the need for bringing into operation such a scheme as this Bill provides. In 1929 the only European countries in which the State had substantial interests in coal-mines were Russia, Holland and Germany. To-day there is hardly any coal-producing 788 country in which the production and distribution of coal are not subject to a large measure of legislative and administrative direction. The Secretary for Mines did not attempt to oppose the principle of State interference in the coal industry, and did not at all deal with the principle of nationalisation. He simply referred to matters in the Bill which, if he were in charge, he would say were small points which could easily be dealt with in Committee.
Not one major point has been made against the principle of the Bill. For that reason my hon. Friends who introduced the Bill in two admirable speeches have every reason to be pleased. We were a little disappointed to hear the Minister say he was not going to vote for the Bill. In the near future, however, he will vote for a Bill to nationalise the royalties, so that we find this spectacle in the coal industry—and it is a development that has occurred since 1929—that when royalties are to be nationalised we are told that it is a different matter compared with this Bill to nationalise the coal mines. We are prepared to call this Bill the Unification of the Coal Industry Bill if it will gain the support that we anticipate the Government's Bill in connection with royalties will do. When that Bill is carried we shall find that before a shaft can be sunk the persons who want to exploit the coal must come to a State Commission for approval. When it comes to selling the product from the coal mine, it can only be sold to an organisation which has the approval of the State. It is only the production of the coal at the pit that is left in the hands of private enterprise. Judging from the speeches we have heard this morning, that side of the business is to be left in the hands of private enterprise because the workmen who are employed in the mines are not to be trusted to do their job for the State as they would do it for private enterprise.
It is evident that those who are opposing the Bill have not yet fully recognised the importance of this great industry, the most important in the country which, notwithstanding the depression, employs 750,000 men. I have not heard in the House during the last four or five years any Member attempt to justify the conditions under which these men work and the wages that are paid to them. We attribute those conditions and wages to 789 the inefficiency with which the industry is managed and controlled. Much has been said about the need for cheap coal. It was the theme of the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis), who was looking after the consumer and the taxpayer. Would he ask that the miner should be the main sufferer on account of the lack of the necessary organisation to carry the product of his labours from the point of production to the consumer? Because of this inefficiency is the miner at all times to be the Cinderella of industry in this country? Reference was made to the danger of strikes. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) disposed of that argument. The miner is the most reasonable man in this country if he is given reasonable treatment. I have known collieries in South Wales, as there are in many other parts of the country, where, apart from a national stoppage, there has not been a single day's interruption in the working of the coal. I ask the hon. Member how long it is since he has known State servants in this country to strike against their conditions.
§ Mr. Hall
Simply because we desire to retain that weapon for use if necessary, just the same as many of the other industrial workers in Government establishments have that same power. I had a rather unique experience. While serving a very pleasant period at the Admiralty I was placed in charge of the industrial work there. Some tens of thousands of industrial workers are employed by the Admiralty in the various dockyards. I wish I could give to the miners of South Wales and other parts of the country the conditions of employment—not that I suggest that they are as good as they should be—of the majority of those men in the dockyards, and they are employed in what may be regarded as a non-remunerative industry. During the period I was there I never heard any suggestion of a strike among those dockyard men, and if the country is prepared to act reasonably to the miners by improving their conditions, giving them greater security for the future, greater security in the matter of safety 790 and giving them better wages, there is no need to worry about a strike taking place in the mining industry.
I was rather surprised at a statement made by the hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Rowlands), because notwithstanding the fact that he represents a North Wales constituency he was brought up in and still resides in a district which, if ever there were one, is a monument to the inefficiency of private enterprise—the Rhondda Valley. There, only one-fourth of the men are employed. If ever there were a district where there has been financial jugglery in the coalmining industry it is that district, and no one should know it better than the hon. Member. References have been made by him and by others to control during the war, and that is the usual bogy which arises when coal nationalisation is being discussed. During the War the Coal Controller did not interest himself at all with the production side of the industry. His job was fixing quantities for export, delivery, and the amount of coal to be used for inland purposes. Coal production and the technical control of the industry were left absolutely in the hands of the colliery companies, and it can be said that some of them operated the industry in such a manner as was calculated in many ways to destroy Government influence in the industry. It was not even half-baked control; it was limited to only what may be regarded as the external operation. The coal production was left entirely in the hands of the colliery companies. We are not going to judge what nationalisation would be like by what took place during the period of control. I am sure that a large proportion of those who were associated with the mining industry on its productive side are themselves ashamed to-day of certain things which they did during that period. It was not the workmen who exploited control but the owners of the industry.
Much has been said about the coal export trade. I think that every speaker in opposition to the Bill referred to the complications which might arise in dealing with coal exports. They referred to the fact that the coal export trade still takes a substantial proportion of the output of coal. It is very evident that those who made that statement did not realise that last year less coal was exported from this country than during any year for the past 50 years, with the exception of 791 the war years and years when there were industrial disputes. What is the complaint of the coal exporters of this country at the present time; and what has been done by other countries which recognise the importance of coal exports? The chief competitors of the coal export trade of this country are Germany and Poland. Germany has virtually nationalised her coal to enable her to subsidise coal exports in competition with coal exports from this country. In this country we find that from 1929 to 1936 the reduction in the coal exports amounted to no less than 26,000,000 tons, whereas the coal exports of Germany, under a co-ordinated system of selling, have not only reached the 1929 figure but have exceeded that figure. One reason why we want this Bill is that the coal export trade of this country shall be given a reasonable opportunity not only to survive but to re-establish itself, not alone in the interests of the coal industry but in the interests of national economy. There is no reason why this Bill should not be supported on account of fears about the coal export trade.
Like the Minister I shall cut my speech very short, but I wish to ask who is there in this House who is now afraid of State assistance, not only for the coal industry but for every other industry? Where is the old Conservative policy of non-interference in industry. It has been a most humiliating thing in the last six or seven years to see other industries come grovelling in the gutter to the Treasury for assistance because of the failure of private enterprise. The Government and the so-called individualists in this country are steeped in State assistance. Is State control in this industry to stop short of handling the coal at the pit face and controlling the machinery to bring it to the surface, and is it then to be brought under control?
Let me emphasise again that the miners of this country, who are unanimously behind the Bill—and not only the miners, but the whole of the Labour movement—say that that state of affairs cannot go on as it has during the last 20 or 30 years. What is the concern of a number of industrialists and coal-owners in the exporting districts of the country? Notwithstanding that the returns show that a very large proportion of men are unemployed, very few of the younger 792 men are offering themselves for work in the mining industry, either technical or manual. That must mean, unless there is a considerable improvement in the conditions of employment in the industry, that there will be a shortage of workers who are, after all, one of the assets of this nation. The scheme which we put forward will not only raise the status of the worker, but will improve his conditions and give him better remuneration and hours of employment and safety. Like my hon. Friends I desire to say quite a lot about the report which has recently been issued concerning Gresford, but I will only say that if ever there was a damning indictment against the operation of private enterprise in any industry, there it is. Let hon. Members remember that the bodies of 265 men are still lying where they have been for two and a-half years, largely as a result of the inefficiency of control of the mining industry.
We ought not to be afraid of nationalisation of the coal industry. The only two nations in Europe where the coal mining industry is expanding are those where the industry is nationalised. Hon. Members are very concerned about the competition of Russia. From 1929 till last year the output of coal in Russia increased by three times. A friend of mine, who knows coal mining in this country very well, visited Russia last year. In discussing with me the question of efficiency in coal mining in this country—he has visited hundreds of our collieries—he said that the most efficient coal-producing pits were some of those which he visited in Russia. The machinery and equipment were entirely up to date, proving that under a system of nationalisation you can secure increased production and can get from the worker that labour which he so readily gives. The other example is Holland. There you have mixed ownership, although the majority of coal production is, I think, controlled by the State. The industry pays a reasonable profit and sets aside a reasonable amount for depreciation. It enters into competition in the export market and pays a reasonable wage to the miners employed underground. In my opinion, there is nothing in this fear of nationalisation.
There is £4,000,000,000 worth of property and industry controlled in this country by the State and by municipali- 793 ties. Who is there, with, perhaps, a possible exception, who will say that State and municipal industries are not controlled efficiently? We would not leave the defence of this country in the hands of private enterprise. That very important matter must be taken charge of by the State. I have never heard it suggested that there should be a privately owned Navy or Army. They must be controlled by the State, with all the difficulties which might arise, as referred to by the hon. Member for Colchester. It is very interesting that the hon.. Member should have moved the rejection of the Bill. Not one opponent of the Bill is connected with the mining industry in any way. We hope to hear an hon. Member for one of the Leeds Divisions, because he certainly will be able to bring a practical point of view into the Debate. The surprise is that he and his colleagues who are connected with the industry are so ashamed of their administration and that of their colleagues, that they have allowed the opposition to be in the hands of people who know nothing at all about it.
I understand that the hon. Member for Colchester, who is a barrister, is engaged in another kind of trade, and I am in no way disrespectful to the business in which he is engaged. What are business people in this country concerned about? Of what competition are they afraid? The competition of the Co-operative Wholesale Society. That is a production organisation controlled not by supermen, but by men who understand their business. They have built up a production business in this country in competition with the so-called business men. Last year, the turnover of production, by the Co-operative Wholesale Society alone, was no less than £110,000,000, and they are still going on. Hon. Members, like most people at the present time in this country, ought not to worry about nationalisation.
This Bill contains a considered scheme. There may be parts of it which need amendment in certain aspects, but the general principle of nationalisation is there. It ought to receive a Second Reading. Hon. Members who are opposing the Bill now, cannot consistently support the Government's Measure for the nationalisation of coal royalties. If they support the Government scheme we shall certainly peg away, not only in 794 this House, but in the country, until there is a scheme of national ownership and control of an industry which is so vital to the national well-being and to the domestic comfort of our people. An old thinker once said that it was well that the beaten ways of the world got trodden into the mud. We are forced to seek new paths, notwithstanding the mud, but any section of mankind which has done well for itself in the old ways will always be reluctant to leave those ways. Very few people in this country who understand the mining problem, with the exception of those who are directly interested, not in supplying the nation with coal, but in the profits which accrue as a result of their interest in the industry, are really opposed to nationalisation. The miner wants this new way; it means much to him. Many people in the nation want this new way, and we think that in the near future the nation will insist upon it. It is for these reasons that we ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 3.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Peake
Hon. Members opposite are not always very easy to please. I have observed that, when Members on this side who are interested in the shipping industry come here to weak on matters which affect shipping, they are criticised for defending their private interests. On the other hand, when coalowners sit here and permit other people to speak on a Bill of this kind, they are criticised for not being sufficiently forward in defending their own interests. I am not at all sure that I have any personal interest in this Bill, because it is the intention of the promoters—and let me, in passing, congratulate them on their speeches in moving and seconding the Bill—it is the intention of the promoters that the colliery proprietors should get fair compensation; and, if I am going to get fair compensation, I am a sufficiently good Conservative to hold that no private interest should stand in the way of the public advantage. I am going to get fair compensation, and, as I understand from Clause 6, I am going to get it in guaranteed stock. I do not know whose the guarantee is going to be, and I should very much like to be told. I am not sure whether it is to be the guarantee of the Coal Corporation, or whether it is to be the guarantee of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, but I strongly suspect that it is 795 to be the guarantee of the British taxpayer.
I think that perhaps after all I have a personal interest in the passage of the Bill, because, in addition to fair compensation, it is pretty clear that there will be good jobs going when the Bill is passed. I have studied the Bill, and I notice that one of the Clauses printed in italics contains words to the effect that salaries will be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament. It is fairly clear that there will be opportunities for people who have knowledge of the coal industry when the Coal Corporation is established. I expect that the competition for them will be pretty keen, but at the same time I shall hope to be there. There is one point in the Bill which has not yet been made absolutely clear to me, and that is as to the compensation that is to be given, not to the colliery owners, but to the owners of the minerals themselves. Subsection (1) of Clause 5 says:On and after the appointed day…all mines in Great Britain, and all minerals in Great Britain, and all rights in or over such mines and minerals…shall be transferred to and vest in the Corporation;and Sub-section (1) of Clause 9 says:The compensation payable to the owners of any mines or minerals vested in the Corporation by virtue of this Act shall be the fair value thereof on the appointed day.I should be very interested to know whether it is the intention to pay fair value and not merely the two years' purchase provided in the following Subsection.
§ Mr. Peake
The Bill seems to make it clear that royalty owners are to be paid fair value, but the hon. Member's speech seemed to indicate that they were to get only two years' purchase, and I hope whoever speaks after me will try to make that point absolutely clear.
The criticism has been made that there is no difference in principle between the transfer of minerals to the State and the transfer of the collieries, but there is a vast difference in practice. When the minerals are transferred to the State—that is a policy which for a great many years past I have supported—that will only mean the transfer of the ownership, and the staff involved will be extremely 796 small. In the management of minerals what you require is a small staff of highly skilled valuers and technicians. Moreover, the change contemplated is really a very small one, because a great proportion of the minerals to-day are already held by large public corporations, such as the Ecclesiastical Commission, the Commissioners of Crown Lands and various Oxford and Cambridge Colleges. The Bill is to transfer not the minerals only but the whole mining industry and all its allied trades, and the whole distribution and marketing of coal in this country and in the export markets. The onus of proof must rest upon those who demand such gigantic change, and we have not heard very convincing proofs in the debate.
There is one ground that has been put forward by several speakers which, if it could be proved, would convince the people of the country and Members of the House in favour of this proposal, that is, if you could satisfy the people of the country that what is proposed would increase the safety of our coal mines and lessen the grave risks and dangers which those who work in that industry have to undergo. But there is no evidence that State mines in Russia are safer than the mines in this country. It is a gloomy consolation to us to know that the coal mines of this country hold a record in the matter of safety which makes favourable comparison with any other country in the world. None of us is in any way satisfied with the present position. Speaking for myself, and I believe for a good many other coal owners, I will support any policy which will render the coal mines safer places than they are to-day. It has never been put forward seriously that nationalisation would make the coal mines safer than they are to-day. The case was not put in that way to the Royal Commission of 1925, and there is, as far as I am aware, no evidence whatever to support it.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
Did not the evidence given before the Sankey Commission show that it would be safer if the mines were nationalised?
§ Mr. Peake
Not as far as I am aware, but the hon. Member may be right in that statement. I refer specifically to the report of the Royal Commission of 1925, and there it is not even put forward on behalf of the Miners' Federa- 797 tion as one of the claims in favour of the case for nationalisation. It is not dealt with in the report of that Royal Commission at all. I wish to refer for a moment or two to the speeches which have been made in support of the Bill to-day. There are two horses which you can ride at the present time when you demand the taking over of the coal industry by the State. One is the old horse, which was ridden by the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) when he moved the Second Reading of the Bill. The old horse is, that the industry is inefficient and incompetent, that there is too much competition and that the industry is badly organised. The new horse, which nobody, except the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) has tried to mount during the course of the day, is quite a different one. It is, that the industry to-clay is so well organised, that there is so little competition and that the powers in the hands of the coalowners are so great that they should not be enjoyed by private individuals. It is impossible for anybody to ride these two horses at the same time, and I am glad to say that nobody except the hon. Member for Llanelly has tried to do so. He complained that I had not spoken. I suppose that his real complaint was that I was still going to speak.
§ Mr. Peake
No, Sir. He spoke in almost the same breath of the fact that coal had been sold during the past ten years at a price which was below its real value, and, very soon afterwards, he told us that the consumer to-day was being shamefully exploited. As the average price of coal to-day is just about 1s. 6d. a ton dearer than it was two years ago, how can it be said that the consumer is being shamefully exploited?
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
The hon. Member will recollect that I replied to the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis). I asked him whether he could tell me, first of all, what price he or one of his constituents would pay for coal in Colchester, and what would be the price of that coal at the pit-head, and who got the difference? I said that between the pit in Notts, or in Yorkshire and the consumer in Colchester there were a hoard of middlemen who were responsible.
§ Mr. Peake
If the hon. Gentleman was limiting his complaint as regards the exploitation of the consumer to the house coal consumer, I would point out that the house coal consumer is being exploited at the present time to the tune of only an extra 1s. a ton, compared with the price last year. [Interruption.] That is all that the collieries are getting.
§ Mr. Peake
I am in agreement with hon. Members on the opposite side of the House that the coal consumer is being charged, and has been charged too much for a great many years, but what I am pointing out is that, taking the industry as a whole, it cannot be said that coal was thrown away at a price below its value during the last 10 years, nor that the average price, which has gone up by 1s. 6d. a ton, means that the consumer as a whole is being shamefully exploited.
I want particularly to deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Spennymoor that the industry is inefficient and badly organised, and that private ownership has failed. Personally, I am very proud of the organisation of the coal industry, especially the organisation which we have built up for dealing with labour troubles and questions of that sort. At every single pit to-day of which I have any knowledge the representative of the men has direct access at all times to the colliery manager's office. [HON. MEMBERS "With the exception of Harworth."] At every pit the agent of the men has direct access to the colliery manager's office at all times of the day or night. Not only that, but we have built up conciliation machinery in our districts for dealing with all sorts of questions which is unequalled by any other industry in the country.
We have to-day as the result of efforts on both sides of the House, a Joint Consultative Committee dealing with questions which affect the whole industry. That is the labour dispute machinery, and in my opinion it is very good. Moreover, agreements once made between the coalowners and the miners are strictly honoured, both in the letter and in the 799 spirit, and that cannot be said of every industry in this country by any means. When we come to co-operation between collieries, there has been a tremendous advance in the last generation. In the old days we used to have trade secrets. If we had a special process we kept it to ourselves. To-day, my colliery managers can visit any pit anywhere in the country, and we welcome other colliery managers and are prepared to show them everything which we are doing at our pits. Technical co-operation exists to the fullest possible extent in the coal industry to-day. Not only that, but there is more statistical information available about the coal industry than any industry in the world gives, and it is only by reference to those statistics that hon. Members can make out their case against us on this or any other occasion. We have built up, with the aid of the State, an efficient organisation for the central control, of the production distribution and marketing of coal. I should have thought that the complaint would have been not that the industry was disorganised or badly organised or that there was too much competition, but that complaints would have been in exactly the opposite direction.
It is claimed that State ownership would improve the position of the men. I wonder whether State ownership will make the demand for coal less seasonal than it is at present. That is one of the greatest troubles in the coal industry; turning men off in the summer, the irregular employment there is for various reasons. Is national ownership going to prevent ships being stopped by fog or bad weather? Does anybody think that the miners will have no grievances under State control? Do Civil servants have no grievances? Mr. W. J. Brown does not let us forget that the Civil Service Clerical Association has its grievances, and the B.B.C. officials have their grievances, and the Dockyard workers also. I do not think that hon. Members opposite believe that the miners real grievances are going to be met to a large extent by the Bill now before the House. If they did they could have left out Clause 20 altogether; they need not preserve the right to political activities and the right to strike.
A great many reasons have been advanced against the policy involved by the Bill that the State should take over 800 the production, marketing and distribution of coal. Let me add one more, which has not so far been referred to. The export trade in coal is about 50,000,000 tons a year and this would have to be conducted by the State. Does anyone think that that is going to improve international good feelings? I think it will bring the coal export trade directly into the realm of diplomacy. There are sufficient questions already for nations to disagree about, and it would be a fatal mistake to bring the coal export trade directly within the sphere of the Foreign Office.
A much better argument for nationalising the industry to-day is on the ground that the powers granted by the State, which have been of great benefit to the industry, are such that they should only be exercised by the State itself. It is true that as a result of recent legislation the industry has improved its position, that wages have gone up and that work if, more regular at the pits than it has been for a good many years past. It is true also that the industry is showing a profit as a whole considerably larger than anything it has shown for the last 10 years. It is true that the industry enjoys quasi-monopoly powers. It is vital, in my opinion, that the interests of the consumers should be adequately and rigorously safeguarded, and I am prepared to suggest and to adopt any means which will provide consumers with adequate safeguards.
At the same time, it has never been the policy of Parliament, when granting monopoly powers of quasi-monopoly powers, to think it necessary to take over the whole management and control of the industry to which the powers were given. Never in the history of our legislation for public utilities, for gas, electricity, railways and so forth, has the State done more than provide a proper measure of Parliamentary control. There are many ways in which, as regards the coal industry, that could be done. We could give consumers representation on the district executive boards, we could strengthen the powers of the investigating committees, as the Minister has already promised to do, and we could—and I think perhaps should—make a closer relation between profits and prices than exists at the present time. There is a relation at the present time, because the miner has a substantial interest in 801 any surplus, but it might be a good thing to give the consumer a similar interest under the district wages agreements.
In my opinion, those are the proper methods which the State should adopt in tackling the problem of the coal industry at the present time. The State has never hitherto thought it necessary to assume direct control over a great industry which is engaged in competitive trade in the export markets. To adopt the suggestions put forward by hon. Members opposite would be to throw away all the good work which has been done and all the experience which we have gained during the last few years in working out methods and means for the co-operative marketing and sale of coal, and in my opinion it would be a disaster for this country to go back to a method of State control which has failed wherever it has been tried and which has been abandoned by very many countries in the past.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Dunn
This is the first time, as a comparatively new Member and a back bencher, that I have listened to a debate upon the question of the nationalisation of mines, and I must confess that, as I have been an observer rather than a Member of the House, I am inclined to take the view that the arguments in favour of the nationalisation of mines have been very much stronger than the speeches that have been made from the benches opposite. I regard the opposition to nationalisation to which I have listened to-day as being extremely selfish, as being in many senses anything but human and as not being in the best interests of the country as a whole. With the exception of the speech made by the hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), there was nothing in any speech delivered from the benches opposite which had any ring of sincerity. None of the arguments which I heard seemed to me to be convincing, though it did appear that the hon. Member for North Leeds, of whom we have some knowledge, made a number of valuable suggestions. I think Members on this side of the House will appreciate and value those suggestions as far as they may help in conciliation in this important industry. I say at once that I come from a colliery district in which the hon. Member's family is vitally interested, and I must confess that in one or two respects 802 —particularly with regard to consultation and the colliery office being open to the man and inspection of the colliery—I can support the statements which the hon. Member has made as far as his family is concerned. But I put this point to him. I took his speech to indicate that he was speaking as an individual and not for the coalowners of the country.
§ Mr. Dunn
I wish there were more coal owners in this country who were prepared to take the line indicated by the hon. Member. There is one question, however, which I wish to raise with him. If I understood him aright, dealing with the question of minerals and mining royalties, he put the situation this way—that the people who are promoting this Bill would be responsible for the onus of proof with regard to mineral royalties in this country, if the royalties were to be nationalised. I take it that he means that the promoters of the Bill would be called upon to prove the ownership of the royalties. May I put it the other way? I suggest that there are thousands of owners of royalties in this country who would have a much greater job to prove their own rights in this matter of royalties, than we would have to prove our case.
§ Mr. Dunn
That is to say, those who put forward this Bill. In that respect I say that it would be interesting to hear many of the actual owners of the pits themselves proving, if they had to do so, that they had ever put one penny into the industry at all. I can give reasons for that statement. A year or two ago a big colliery which the hon. Member knows well in the West Riding of Yorkshire was involved in certain difficulties. Unknown to myself I did a man a good turn then, as a member of the West Riding County Council. I did not know that I was doing him a good turn because I did not know that he was involved at all. A few weeks later, there came a knock at my door and he walked into my house—invited in, I admit. After a conversation with regard 803 to the particular undertakings in which he was involved he started to talk about his pits, about the particular collieries that the hon. Gentleman knows. A year or two before he had been displaced as the managing director of that particular firm. He had been sent away for a long holiday, and when he got back to the concern he was told that his services were no longer required.
§ Mr. Dunn
No. I am coming to the point. He said, "I was handling out shares to the people who dispossessed me, shares for which they did not pay a single fraction of a penny, but they forgot all those things." I want the House to realise that if the collieries had to be valued at a fair value, according to the money actually put into them, which could be proved by the bankbooks, it would not be a very expensive job to take over the pits of this country. Those concerned have no holding in them at all in many cases. But if I had to choose a man in the mining industry of whom I have knowledge and who had shown an active interest in the men at the pits, to form one of this body and to control this big industry, I should select one of the young coalowners, and I should not object to selecting the hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake).
§ Mr. Bellenger
In view of that statement, will the hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) support the Second Reading of the Bill?
§ Mr. Dunn
The family who own the collieries in which this man is interested are people who have already considered a pensions scheme for their old miners and have made the eventide of the old men's lives comfortable and happy. I was interested also in the speech of the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) He asked whether any body of opinion in this country was anxious for the mines to be handed over to the State, and he sought to answer the question in the negative. I want to answer it in the affirmative, and say that there is a considerable public opinion in this country in favour of the plan of the Bill. As a matter of fact it is an absolute scandal to ask the industry to pay any interest at all to people who have never put any money into it. It is robbery and 804 nothing else. My view is that there is a considerable body of opinion in the country in favour of this particular plan. I am glad that the hon. Member for Colchester has now come back. What would colliery managers or directors say about this question of mines nationalisation? What would important managing directors say about it?
I had the opportunity a short time ago of meeting an important colliery managing director and of discussing with him this question of the nationalisation of mines. He said, as many hon. Members opposite have said, "If you had the mines of this country, you could not run them." I replied that if this Bill went through and if by some ingenious plan the Tories brought in a nationalisation Bill—it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the Tory Government might nationalise not only mining royalties but the mines as well—and we said to you, "You are controlling from 8,000 to 10,000 men at the present time for the shareholders and for your coal directors; suppose the mines were nationalised to-morrow, and we asked you to run that job for the State instead of for the shareholders and the directors, I suppose you would refuse the job"? He said, "Should I?"
Then again what have the colliery deputies had to say about this business over and over again? I have in my possession at the present time three letters, which could be produced, from a colliery deputy at the Wharncliffe Woodmore colliery, where there were 58 men killed. This man makes the statement that the Coal Mines Act has been violated in 12 different respects at this particular colliery, and he pointed them out to the colliery manager. What was the result? Since these defects were pointed out that man has been sacked, and he is on the street at the present time. He was a colliery deputy at that colliery. His name can be had, and I could produce the letters in five minutes from now, because they are in the House at the present time. The hon. Member for Colchester ought to appreciate the fact that colliery managers, under-managers, and deputies, as well as the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, are in this scheme.
When hon. Members talk about consumers as a whole in this country, I suggest, quite seriously, that as far as domestic fuel is concerned, my view is the same 805 as that of the hon. Member for North Leeds, namely, that the domestic consumer of coal is called upon at the present time to pay too much for his coal, and nobody can justify it. I take the other view, that where you get industrial fuel for gas, electricity, general services, or the production of steel and iron, there is neither gas nor electricity which is contributing its share towards the country's prosperity. I am glad the hon. Member for North Leeds takes that view, because, as a matter of fact, he is a director not only of a colliery, but also of electricity and gas undertakings as well, and I am glad he takes that view, because he has stated in this House as well as publicly elsewhere that industrial fuel is not contributing its proper share towards the general prosperity of this country.
In regard to regional boards and pit committees, is there a big undertaking in this country at the present time which is complete without its works council being in existence? Is there one anywhere? Take the big works at Leeds, or, if you like, take the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), a model of this kind of thing. In the collieries at the present time there is not a manager whom I have met who would argue that the pit committee or council is not as beneficial to the owner and to the manager as any department of the colliery. No important decision in the colliery I come from regarding the general management is taken without consultation with the workers' representatives. I say this because of the mentality that was expressed by the hon. Member for Colchester in a degrading speech which was not worthy of him or of this House. He said that the workmen's representatives have no contribution to make to the general success of this important and hazardous industry. It is monstrous.
§ Mr. Dunn
Why are we so concerned about the question of stoppages and strikes? I am no advocate of strikes, for I always say that if the difficulties of a colliery cannot be settled while the pit wheels are running, they are very difficult to settle after the wheels have stopped. The suggestion from hon. Members opposite seems to be that the miners are thinking about nothing but stoppages 806 and strikes. Those views are monstrous and unworthy of Members of this House. I was intrigued by the fear that was expressed from the other side on the question of subsidies to the coal mining industry. Expressions of fear of that kind from Members on the other side come with an ill grace. I can see one and another representative of this and that industry knocking at the door of the Treasury asking for doles and subsidies. We are putting industry on the dole at the present time, but the only industry that does not seem to have sufficient confidence to ask for financial support for the men who are worse treated than any others is the mining industry. The Secretary for Mines knows that for a subsidy of £1,750,000 last year every miner could have secured a 2s. per day increase in wages, but it was refused.
Hon. Members seem to be afraid of nationalisation. I have been a member of a local authority for many years and have been connected with local government in one direction and another. Who is going to suggest that the highways should be handed back to private enterprise? Who is going to make suggestions of that sort in other departments of municipal life? I have sat on Committees upstairs and have found a lot of flaws in Bills which even the Government have brought forward, and the criticisms that have been made about Clauses in this Bill can well be dealt with in Committee. The main reason why I support this Bill is that I have had the opportunity of seeing inside a pit and the working conditions of collieries, and I am satisfied that the workmen themselves as well as the industry will benefit as a result of it. I support this Bill not in the interests of the Miners' Federation or the Trades Union Congress or the Federation of British Industries, but I support it because, in my view, it will bring peace and prosperity into this important industry.
§ 3.56 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
In the few minutes which are left I wish to associate myself with this Bill. In the course of the discussion the hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) made some remarks about Northumberland in connection with the competition prevailing among coalowners throughout the length and breadth of the country. If there has been progress in any industry I believe that progress can be seen in the number of the varieties of 807 coal placed on the market in our own British coalfield. Some time ago I was speaking to a colliery agent and he said that at that particular colliery they were marketing 51 different classes of coal. I believe those classes of coal have been brought on to the market not so much at the demand or at the wish of the consumer, but as a result of one colliery company competing against another in the endeavour to capture markets, and in my view every one of those varieties has been produced as a result of expensive machinery, and that expensive machinery has been introduced at the expense of the miners in low wages.
I am sorry that I have not longer time in which to speak, but in the minute
§ or two left I would point out that this question cannot be approached merely as a county question. It is a national question and ought to be treated nationally, but just as colliery companies in particular areas have been battling and struggling and competing with each other, so have counties been competing with counties and districts with districts, with the results that the wages and conditions of miners have continually tumbled down. In 1924 the wages of miners in Northumberland were 12s. 6d. a day, and in 1935, 7s. 10d. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"].
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 125; Noes, 182.809
|Division No. 79.]||AYES.||[4.0 p.m.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Groves, T. E.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Quibell, D. J. K|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Ridley, G.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hardie, G. D.||Riley, B.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Hayday, A.||Ritson, J.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hicks, E. G.||Rowson, G.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hollins, A.||Sanders, W. S.|
|Batey, J.||Hopkin, D.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Jagger, J.||Shinwell, E.|
|Benson, G.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Short, A.|
|Bevan, A.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Silkin, L.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Bromfield, W.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Brooke, W.||Kelly, W. T.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Cape, T.||Kirby, B. V.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lathan, G.||Stephen, C.|
|Chater, D,||Lawson, J. J.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-Ie-Sp'ng)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Leach, W.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Lee, F.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Cove, W. G.||Leslie, J. R.||Thorne, W.|
|Dalton, H.||Lunn, W.||Thurtle, E.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||McEntee, V. La T.||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Day, H.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Walker, J.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Marshall, F.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Ede, J. C.||Mathers, G.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Messer, F.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Milner, Major J.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Montague, F.||Westwood, J.|
|Frankel, D.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Gallacher, W.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Naylor, T. E.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Oliver, G. H.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Gibbins, J||Paling, W.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Parker, J.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Potts, J.||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. John.|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Price, M. P.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Boulton, W. W.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Barrie, Sir C. C.||Bowater, Col, Sir T. Vansittart|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Baxter, A. Beverley||Bower, Comdr. R. T.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Beit, Sir A. L.||Braithwaite, Major A. N.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N.||Brass, Sir W.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Blair, Sir R.||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.|
|Balniel, Lord||Bossom, A. C.||Brocklebank, C, E. R.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Bull, B. B.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Caine, G. R. Hall-||Holmes, J. S.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir R. S.||Rowlands, G.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Channon, H.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Jackson, Sir H.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Keeling, E. H.||Savery, Sir Servington|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Courthope, Col. Sir G. L.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Leckie, J. A.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Cross, R. H.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Levy, T.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Lloyd, G. W.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Dawson, Sir P.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Spens, W. P.|
|Doland, G. F.||Lumley, Capt. L. R.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Storey, S.|
|Dugdale, Major T. L.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark. N.)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Macquisten, F. A.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Touche, G. C.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Foot, D. M.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Furness, S. N.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Ganzoni, Sir J.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Wayland, Sir W. A|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||Munro, P.||Wells, S. R.|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Grant-Ferris, R,||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Peake, O.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Grimston, R. V.||Penny, Sir G.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Guest. Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Percy, Rt. Hon. Lord E.|
|Hamilton, Sir G. C.||Peters, Dr. S. J,||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hanbury, Sir C.||Petherick, M.||Mr. O. Lewis and Mr. Raikes.|
|Hannah, I. C.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Words added.
§ Second Reading put off for six months.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.810
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 2.
§ Adjourned at Nine Minutes after Four o'Clock, until Monday next, 15th February.