Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £197,205 (including a Supplementary sum of £65,000), be granted to His Majesty to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1938, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Mines Department of the Board of Trade."—[Note.—£66,000 has been voted on account.]
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ The Secretary for Mines (Captain Crookshank)
This is the first time in the lifetime of the present Parliament that these Estimates have been put down, and I need hardly say that both my Department and myself very much welcome the opportunity which is taken in these debates of ventilating some of the more serious problems connected with the coal industry, especially so as in recent years they have taken place in an atmosphere of co-operation, and not in one of destructive criticism. The opening speech is not a particularly easy one to make, because it is quite impossible to cover everything which is of interest to everybody. I think that I can best help the Committee by giving a broad review of the situation as I see it to-day and the points which appear to be of the greatest interest, but I should like to cover myself at once and apologise in advance for some of the things which to other persons may appear to be as equally important as those with 2690 which I have dealt. Of course, in having the opportunity of speaking again at the end of the Debate, I can amplify those points further. Like other Departments in these days the pressure of our work continues to increase. We have certainly an increase in the number of Parliamentary questions that we have to answer, and we certainly have far more interviews than we used to have, and I would like to say a word at the beginning on the most recent example of our increased labours, and that is the work of the Petroleum Department.
Let me say a few words on the question of the search for oil in Great Britain. The Act of 1934 has been amply justified in so far as its object was to provide a stimulus for the search for oil in this country. Up to date I have signed no fewer than 69 prospecting licences, 67 in England and two in Scotland, and the total area covered in England is over 11,000 square miles, or 22 per cent. of the land of the country. The licences are all held by companies of high standing in the petroleum industry and who have wide experience in many parts of the world in the search for oil. The Committee can, therefore, be assured that the investigations are being carried out on the most scientific lines, and in accordance with the most up-to-date and modern technique, which is of great importance to us nationally.
During the two years since I signed the first licence there have been 13 shallow borings put down and six test bore holes have been commenced. Besides that, an enormous amount of geological and geophysical work has been started, and is being carried on to-day. This is only the initial stage of the campaign. The work to which the prospecting licence holders have put their hands is one which has involved them in the expenditure of a vast amount of money, and is work of great value, and I am sure the Committee will wish them success in their search, because, while coal is our great concern, there is no doubt that the discovery of oil in our country would be of an importance almost impossible to assess. [An HON. MEMBER: "Has any oil been found?"] Not yet.
One of my duties is the production of a great deal of statistical information regarding the mining industry. While 2691 statistics have to be very carefully interpreted in order to get a real and accurate picture, I think that any review that one made to-day would be to show that there were considerable grounds of satisfaction in regard to the question of the output of our mines. In 1929, which was the last good year before the coming great depression, the output of coal in Great Britain was 258,000,000 tons. The output decreased very rapidly during the bad time until in 1933 it fell to 207,000,000 tons. Then came the turn, and last year it reached 228,500,000. Exactly half of the improvement was in the first six months of the year. There was an output of 114,500,000 tons in the first half of 1936, and in the first half of this year that figure has risen by 6,500,000 to 121,000,000 tons. The Committee will, therefore, see how the curve has been going up from the bottom in 1933.
I can put the position in another way. It is a generally accepted fact in the coal trade as a whole that any week where the output tops 5,000,000 tons is a good week. Of course, there is a certain element of chance about an arbitrary figure of that kind, but if one accepts that figure, one finds that in 1933 there was no such week, in 1934 there was one, in 1935 there were two, in 1936 there were four and this year already there have been 10. That is a picture of the improvement in output, and I think one can say that in recent months temporarily the demand for coal has outstripped the supply. We might look at the improvement from another point of view, and that is the amount of coal for home consumption. In the worst year, 1933—I am sorry to give so many figures, but it is the only way to get the picture—only 148,000,000 tons went into the home market. In 1935 the figure had risen to 164,000,000 tons, and last year it rose again to 176,000,000 tons, which was 2,500,000 tons higher than in 1929, which was the good pre-depression year. An example of how this year's improvement is being kept up is clear when I say that in the first six months there has been still further improvement in the home market over last year amounting to 3,500,000 tons. If that rate of home consumption in the first six months of this year is kept up throughout the whole year we 2692 shall be at a higher figure of home consumption than in 1913. There we see a reflection of the increased prosperity of the general trade position in the country.
When I turn from that side of the picture to the export trade, I have frankly to say that the figures are very bad. Some compensation has been the improvement in the home trade. In 1929 the export trade amounted to 60,000,000 tons. In 1932 it had dropped to 39,000,000 tons. After 1932 a fairly level basis was reached, very largely as a result of the trade agreements which were made by the National Government. The same level was kept more or less until last year, when there was a further drop and the figure went down to 34,500,000 tons. That drop was due to a considerable variety of causes, particularly the temporary loss of the Italian market, owing to the Abyssinian dispute, and the Spanish market. I am very glad to be able to say that in the first six months of this year there has been a partial recovery from the bad figures of last year. In the first six months there has been a rise of 2,250,000 tons as compared with the first six months of last year. Therefore, we may hope to be able to get back to a better level. The improvement this year over last year is due to some recovery of the Italian trade and a sharp improvement in the exports to France, Scandinavia, Belgium and Germany. There is no doubt that the trade agreements which were signed by the National Government were a great benefit, not only in maintaining but in increasing our exports in certain directions, and I should like to put on record the feelings of satisfaction of His Majesty's Government at the manner in which the countries concerned have carried out their obligations under these agreements, sometimes in conditions of considerable difficulty.
I give only one figure, and that is to compare the figure for 1931, the last year before there were any trade agreements at all, and 1936. There was a sharp rise in those periods of exports to trade agreement countries by just 90 per cent., that is from 6,000,000 tons to 11,500,000 tons. [HON. MEMBERS: "From all the coal-fields."] I am making a general review of the coal industry as a whole. Obviously every hon. Member is more directly 2693 interested in his own part of the country, but I must give statistical information about the whole area, and I say that the trade agreements have led to that very notable increase in both maintaining and increasing the total exports to the countries concerned. A few more words about the export situation. Of course the increase, in certain markets, of German exports in competition with ours. is one which continues to be the very anxious preoccupation of the industry. Here I would put in a word of caution, harking back to what I said at the beginning of my speech as to the care with which one must watch statistics. Of course it has to be remembered that the German export figures today include exports from the Saar, whereas previously they were not shown as German exports at all.
The increase in output, which has been advancing at this somewhat remarkable pace in the last 18 months, is beginning to reflect itself in employment. The decrease in the number of wage-earners has been going down steadily for a very long period. By the middle of last year that decrease was arrested, and there has been an upward turn since. If you take the first six months of last year and those of this year, you find that the average employment has risen from 759,500 to 772,000—that is the average for the six months. The most marked increases have been in Durham, in Scotland and in South Wales. By the end of the period, that is by the end of June last, the figure of men employed in the industry had risen to 780,000, which is an increase of 30,000 compared with the corresponding period of last year.
§ Captain Crookshank
No. This is the important point: Over a long period of years there was a progressive decline in output and employment. Then there came a period when output began to rise and employment to fall. But now output is rising and employment is upwards as well. That is the interesting fact. 2694 Besides that, there has been a greater regularity in employment. Pits have been winding coal on more days, and the average number of shifts per man has also increased, and a result of all this, or one of the effects of all this, has been that there has been an improvement in the average cash earnings of the men. There has been an improvement in the average wage per man-shift worked. In 1935 it was 9s. 3¼. Last year it rose to a ¼d. over 10s.; and in the first three-monthly period of this year it had risen to 10s. 4¼d. When one takes the average of the earnings per worker per annum, which is one of the figures appearing in the statistical information published, one finds a very remarkable rise last year. The average cash earnings were £131 for the year, which was an increase of £12 16s. on the average of the previous year, and an increase of £15 12s. on the average of 1934. That figure is the highest since 1925. So that, from that side of the picture, we can again take a certain satisfaction in the improvement which is showing itself.
§ Mr. Tinker
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman state the output per man-shift worked in the period of increased output?
§ Captain Crookshank
I have not all the figures in my mind, but I shall give that information later. Last year, as compared with the previous year, the output per shift was only a fractional increase, practically nothing—half a cwt. or something like that.
§ Captain Crookshank
Certainly, I did not realise that the hon. Gentleman desired it. For 1936 compared with 1935 there is very little difference.
I now come to another part of the problem which has been of some concern to hon. Members, and that is the shortage of supplies during the last year. In many minds that has been linked up quite wrongly with the coming into effect of the selling schemes which we discussed a year ago. The reasons for the shortage, I think, are to be found in other places. There was a very great and very rapid expansion in the demand after the middle of last year. There were greater demands than had been foreseen for all coal, and certainly a far greater demand for small 2695 coal. Besides that, we had in the early spring of this year serious influenza epedimics in some of the coalfields, and we have had some labour disputes. As a result of this shortage, the powers of regulation which the Central Council for the coalowners have under the 1930 Act were practically inoperative because they made allocations for the districts on scales so generous that there was no restrictive effect on the allocation system. At the same time some representations were made to me to the effect that it was thought that the trade share provision in our selling schemes might have some harmful effect. I do not think that is possible, but rather than have that accusation against the schemes, which are of such benefit potentially, I waived that particular provision until 30th September, and said that if the conditions were then just the same, I would sympatehtically consider the extension of the suspension. I have done my best during this period of shortage to try and encourage, so far as it was within my province, increased production. In this I have had to bear in mind that towards the end of last winter, the stocks of coal held in London and the south of England by public utility undertakings and the like had got down to dangerously low levels. Now I think that steps have been taken to rectify that position. In fact I understand that new business for that purpose, to the extent of something like 1,000,000 tons, has been placed in the Midland districts. Although the usual seasonal decline has taken place this year, it has been nothing like so marked, and the average weekly output in May and June has been about 400,000 tons higher than it was last year. So that the whole graph is higher than before.
With regard to the selling schemes I do not think I need to trouble the Committee much, because I have laid before Parliament in the last month a very full report on the subject and it has no doubt been studied by hon. Members. But it has to be remembered that they do amount to a revolution in the system of selling coal by the collieries. Obviously we all know that the avowed object of introducing selling schemes was to improve the finances of the industry so that the industry might be able to afford increased wages to the workers and provide a fair return for capital. That being the 2696 avowed object, it is platitudinous to say that increases in the price of coal are inevitable if we are to achieve what we set out to do. But can say that very good progress has been made in the last year to deal with the administrative arrangements under the coal selling schemes, and that there has been very little need for the intervention of control, because the control, of course, is designed to prevent coal being sold below the controlled price. What has happened in many cases has been that, owing to the demand, the seller of coal has been able to ask and to get prices above the controlled price. Therefore I say that the intervention of control has hardly been necessary.
But, of course, it is my business to watch the working of the selling schemes, not only from the point of view of the coal industry but also from the point of view of the consumer. The statutory protection of the consumer lies in the committees of investigation under the Act. Something like 40 complaints have been lodged formally before those committees of investigation, but one ought to say that they have been able to deal with a great many difficulties without coming to the stage of a formal investigation. They have been able to get into touch with one or other of the parties that is those who run the selling scheme, and the consumers, with the result that difficulties have either been explained away or suitable arrangements have been made. I think we should put on record that the work of these committees has been carried out during the past year in the most painstaking way, and that the condemnation that one sometimes hears of their activities in certain quarters is really due to the fact that complainants have not been able to make good their cases, and of course when that: happens complainants do not particularly welcome the activities of those who find against them. That occurs in many walks of life. But we should be grateful for the work that these committees do. Their members include representatives of the various consumers. They all work without any remuneration, and so indeed does the chairman, who is always a lawyer of standing.
§ Captain Crookshank
The period of the operation of the selling schemes, which became effective on 1st August of last year.
Of course, although it is very interesting to put on record all this statistical information about production and output and wages and all the rest of it, we must not forget, and I am sure the Committee do not forget, that what we are dealing with is 780,000 men employed in the industry, and that the questions of their health, safety and working conditions, questions of silicosis, nystagmus and so on are and must be the constant preoccupation of anyone who has the honour to hold the office that I now hold. I hope the Committee will understand me when I say that although in certain directions we can note a reduction in the figures we cannot be merely complacent in the matter. We must regard it merely as a starting point for further efforts in the future. Before I give any figures may I remind the Committee that the Royal Commission on Safety and Health is still sitting. It has been labouring very strenuously during the last year under the distinguished chairmanship of Lord Rockley. They have already sat 52 days taking verbal evidence, and if any hon. Members choose to read the verbatim report, as I have, of these 52 days, they will have some conception of the complications of the problems which the Commission are now investigating. While the industry as a whole is awaiting the publication of their report, it is also profoundly grateful for the way in which these busy gentlemen have undertaken to tackle this difficult task.
When we come to the casualty figures for the year 1936 we find that 790 persons were killed in our collieries, and for some unusual reason one was a woman. This is the lowest figure on record for a full year's working, and the figure would have been more impressive but for the major disaster last August at Wharncliffe Woodmoor. There is a difference of opinion as to whether you best bring the figures into their proper perspective by relating them to 100,000 man-shifts worked or 1,000,000 tons of coal raised. I will give them as related to both. If you calculate on the basis of 1,000,000 tons raised the number of killed comes out at 3.36, which is the lowest figure on our records. That is the broad measure of what it costs in life for the 2698 production of the nation's coal, but it is not all the answer as to what is the risk a man runs. If you take the other calculation of the 100,000 man-shifts worked, the figure comes out at 0.39, which is substantially better than anything since 1924.
Unfortunately, the figures which I gave to-day in reply to a question by the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) show that there has been an increase in the first six months of this year—I am talking about the number who have been killed. Some people may be tempted to say that as the output has gone up and that as employment has gone up, that may be the reason for it, but if you analyse the figures more closely you will find that they are baffling, because in the northern half of the country and in the Swansea division, in spite of the rise in output in the first six months of this year, there has been a reduction in the number of persons killed by 10 per cent., while in the other districts there has been an increase. At the moment I can offer no particular explanation of this.
There is one aspect of this to which I must allude because it is a most bitter disappointment to all of us. In spite of all that has been clone by boys' classes, training grounds, safety officers and everything in the way of propaganda which can be devised to decrease the accident rate for boys, this has moved upwards in the last year—the rate has moved up and the number of boys employed has declined, if you compare it with the average for the last six years. It is most disappointing to everybody concerned. Something is still very wrong somewhere. It is true that boys are young and have high spirits; they may be rash and careless, that is but human nature, but it is incumbent upon us to make them see the difficulties and dangers which they have to face. A great deal more supervision is required, and older and more experienced men as well as officials can do a great deal by saying the right word in due season.
Can the hon. and gallant Member give us the number of accidents in the various stages—from 14 to 16, and 16 to 18?
§ Captain Crookshank
I will try to supply the figures later on. I can give the total figures. They are these. In 1936, 29,000 boys were employed; 29 were 2699 killed and the number of three days disablement cases was 5,932. For the previous six years the figures were on the average 30,000 boys employed, 24 killed and 5,487 disabled for three days. It shows that the actual figures have gone up, and that is what is such a bitter disappointment to everybody concerned. The safety classes movement has gone on with great strength. It has been satisfactorily started in every coalfield except one. The only one which lags behind is South Wales, but recently intensive efforts have been made by local authorities, coal owners, officials and workers to co-operate and improve the position. I frankly say that the movement for safety classes for boys deserves far wider support in South Wales, if for no other reason than that the accident rate for boys in South Wales is higher than the general average for the country.
§ Captain Crookshank
I have already said that no matter how long I speak I shall leave out something of interest to some hon. Member. If the hon. Member makes a speech later on and wishes to have these figures I will try to get them for him. We have had great support for these safety classes from the National Safety First Association, who were good enough to publish a very striking poster which has had a wide distribution and, they also went personally into the matter with the Chief Inspector of Mines.
And this is perhaps the occasion to say with what regret the industry as a whole has learned that through the lapse of time Sir Henry Walker, the Chief Inspector of Mines is very soon coming to the end of his official career. Next March he will leave the service, and I am sure he will take into his retirement the gratitude of the whole industry for the continuous efforts he has made on behalf of safety and the prevention of accidents throughout his long and honourable career.
Not the least of the points to which his attention and that of the whole staff of inspectors has been directed has been the use of protective equipment. We have to go a long way before it becomes universal, but there has been a tremendous increase. Last year the number of hard hats supplied was no less than 2700 150,000, and in one particular area, Swansea, there was a very noticeable increase in the use of hard hats from 700 at the beginning of the year to 4,425 at the end of the year. There are many pits where the hard hat is universally used, and we are now beginning to see the effect. It is rather Irish to say that we do not have figures of accidents which do not happen owing to the use of the hard hat, but what we find is that the injuries which last for more than a fortnight are proportionately less than they used to be, and that those who are injured for a period less than a fortnight have gone up. Not only has the total of head injuries not gone up, but the severity of them has altered, which is something to the good and a tribute to the effectiveness of this form of protection. Head injuries, which in 1931 were 6.27 per 100,000 man-shifts worked, dropped last year to 5.56. The difference in the proportion of those injured for less than two weeks was 49 per cent. for 1936 as compared with 45 per cent. in 1931, and those injured for over two weeks was 51 per cent. compared with 55 per cent. for 1931. I have been interested to find that when safety badges have been distributed to the boys successful in their examinations colliery owners have made the winning boy a present of the hard hat, and what struck me with particular pleasure recently was when distributing the badges in the Kent coalfield I found that the proprietors were giving the boys the hard hats and the trade unions were giving them protective gloves—a fine example of co-operation in the cause of safety by owners and trade unions.
We have had this year a Debate on the Gresford Colliery disaster, and I have also presented a report on the inquiry into the explosion at the Wharncliffe Woodmon Colliery last August, a report which raised an important problem in connection with stone dust. In this case it was clear that although stone dusting was, generally speaking, carried on in accordance with the regulations, it was ineffective in the roadways in preventing the spread and development of the initial fire damp explosion. The Committee will recollect that I announced that I was considering new regulations dealing with stone dust. They have now been circulated for preliminary consultation with 2701 the usual bodies concerned. More recently we have had another disaster at Brymbo Colliery, but as there is to be a formal investigation I have nothing to say about that matter to-day. May I, however, be permitted to say on this Vote for my Department that, while we very much sympathise with those who were bereaved at Holditch, we should like to put on record the great sense of loss which the Department feel at the loss of two members of the inspectorate. The inspectors have dangerous and difficult duties to perform every day of their lives, and both Mr. Finney and Mr. Bloor have records of service of which anyone may be proud. Their untimely deaths are a great loss to us. I am sorry it has not been possible to publish the reports of the divisional inspectors for 1936, and I am also sorry to say that the figures of those injured altogether show an increase over the previous year of 2,000.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Is the inquiry that is to be held into the Brymbo disaster to be on the same lines of the Gresford inquiry?
§ Captain Crookshank
I do not know what the hon. Member means when he asks whether the inquiry is to be on the same lines, but it is being held by the Deputy Chief Inspector of Mines, and is the usual kind of inquiry. I was referring to the numbers pf injured. I am sorry to say that last year the figures showed an increase, at 136,000, of 2,000 over 1935. That shows once again, in addition to what I have said about boys, that no one can afford to relax any of the precautions that can be taken. I hope that the inspectors' reports will be very carefully studied, because they give many instances of all kinds of accidents which might come within the purview of other people in other districts. Unfortunately, those reports also show many cases where accidents might perhaps have been avoided. I would like to make a special appeal to-day to the makers of all machinery which may be used either underground or on the surface of coalmines, to do all that they can to provide the most efficient guards. I would also appeal to the workers to realise that the guards are put there for their own protection, and should not be removed. I am afraid that hon. Members will find in the reports which I have mentioned many cases where that has been done.
2702 As to silicosis, I have nothing particular to say at the moment. The Committee knows that the responsibility for medical research rests with the Lord President of the Council, but I can inform the Committee that the Medical Research Council has recently requested the Industrial Pulmonary Diseases Committee to start a really comprehensive investigation into silicosis and allied pulmonary diseases in South Wales. That is a step to which I have given my strongest support. The Miners' Welfare Fund has assisted financially, and the South Wales Miners' Federation has promised to give all the co-operation that it can, which is essential, because without getting into touch with individual miners, there cannot be any valuable investigation. Naturally, the inspectors will continue to give all the assistance they can. Compensation problems do not come under my Department, but under the Home Office; but questions of protective devices and prevention come within my sphere, and as is known by hon. Members who live in areas where silicosis is one of the preoccupations of the people concerned, Captain Hay, one of our inspectors of mines, is specially detailed for this work and spends the whole of his time co-operating with mine and quarry managements in trying to devise the best means of prevention. Having mentioned quarries, let me say a word or two on that subject, not in review of the quarrying industry, but in order to remind the Committee that there was in the Factories Bill a Clause dealing with this matter. As far as I know, it was not referred to in any of the debates, and perhaps it is just as well that I should remind the Committee that under that Bill quarries and pitbanks of metalliferous mines will be left out of the Factories Acts administration, and will come under the Mines and Quarries Acts administration. For these purposes, they will be transferred from the Home Office to my Department. Consequently, it is necessary for me to draw up new regulations to deal with this problem, and that is now in course of being done.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that the Medical Research Council, by arrangement with the industry, is to investigate the purely medical side of the problem. It will spend most of its time investigating the question of what are the precise diseases from 2703 which the men who are disabled are suffering, and which are declared to be other than silicosis. Will anything be done at the same time or afterwards to investigate thoroughly the problem of how the disease can be prevented?
§ Captain Crookshank
Generally speaking, one needs to know what a thing is before one can prevent it. I have already said that Captain Hay, an inspector of mines, spends the whole of his time trying to devise methods of prevention. No doubt the hon. Member will be speaking later in the Debate and will amplify what he has in mind, and I will then deal with it in my reply.
I realise that, in spite of my having talked for so long, I have not dealt with many questions affecting the mining industry, but it is not possible to cover them all. I think I can sum up my remarks by saying that in the first six months of this year, as compared with the corresponding period of last year, we find wages rising, exports rising, output rising by as much as 6,500,000 tons, and employment rising by as much as 30,000. That is a nice little summary to be able to present to the Committee at the end of my speech. It causes me to wonder why a reduction of this Vote is to be moved. I know, of course, that a very distinguished person once said that we are all conscious of one another's infirmities, but considering that last year, when things were not as good as they are this year, there was no discussion and no Motion for a reduction of the Vote, I wonder why, this year, when things are better, there are both. All I can say is that I shall wait with the utmost interest to see what beam hon. Members will remove from my eye. I hope that in the end it will prove to be not a beam, but a mote.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Paling
I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman began his statement by saying that in recent years this subject has been discussed in an atmosphere of co-operation and not in one of destructive criticism. I am not sure whether I shall be able to live up to that reputation. I have a few criticisms to make, and I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman will think they are destructive or not, but I hope that anything that may be said by me or 2704 by my hon. Friends will result in an improvement in the industry, and in a lessening of the terrible number of accidents suffered by the miners. The hon. and gallant Gentleman made a general survey of the industry, and closed by saying that employment, output and wages are much better and that he cannot see why we are moving to reduce the Vote. It may be that the position is a little better than it was last year or the year before, but the position has been bad for a long time. We think that it could be very much better than it is now. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman and the Government, which has an enormous majority and power to do anything it wishes, would turn their specific attention to the question of improving the conditions in the industry, increasing wages and reducing accidents, they could do much more than is being done at the present time. Probably that is one of the main reasons we are moving a Motion to reduce the Vote to-day.
The hon. and gallant Member said that 69 licences for searching for oil had been issued, covering 22 per cent. of the land available. That was a cause of satisfaction to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and it seemed to prove, in his mind, that there is still some initiative and individual enterprise left in Capitalism. My criticism is that, in view of tie terrible failure of coalowners generally to run the collieries in the interests of the country, and particularly in view of the fact that in the matter of royalties even the Tory Government have to take things out of the hands of private enterprise and do it nationally, I should have thought it would have been better for the nation to run the whole industry, rather than to trust in private enterprise. The hon. and gallant Member took great satisfaction in the fact that there has been an increase in output. I do not think anybody will grumble about that, but we deplore the fact that there has been no increase in exports.
In so far as the home market can consume more coal, nobody will grumble, but the fact remains that there are districts, such as South Wales, the North East and Scotland, which are very hard hit at the present time owing to our export trade being lower than it has ever been before. I wonder whether the general tariff policy of the Government has had anything to do with that. We are told about the prosperity in this country and about the wonderful things tariffs 2705 have done, but I think that everybody will admit that the tariff policy has had something to do with the fact that the export trade has gone down to the low position in which it now is.
The hon. and gallant Member also took satisfaction in the improvement in wages. I think he said that they had gone up during the last year to £131 per annum, an increase of about £15 12s., as compared with two years ago. That is all to the good, but goodness knows, there was room for an improvement. Since 1926 our people have been in the depths of despair. They have been in a poverty-stricken condition almost unparalleled in the lifetime of any hon. Member now in the Committee. There has been almost indescribable poverty. When the hon. and gallant Gentleman takes satisfaction to himself because there are higher wages, he should not forget that the industry, under private enterprise, found itself so inefficient and incapable of paying a decent wage, that the public became so ashamed of the low wages of the miners that it voluntarily agreed to pay more for coal in order that the shockingly low wages of the miners could be increased a little. In so far as wages have increased, it is not due altogether to the efforts of the coalowners. So much for the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman.
I would like at this point to make a grouse. In discussing this subject, the Minister has the advantage over hon. Members. I would like to know why it is that at the end of July, 1937, we cannot get the annual report for 1936. Hon. Members who speak to-day will have to base their remarks more or less on information which is in most cases about two years old. There may be some valid reason why the report has not been issued, but it seems to me that seven months is a long time to wait for it. I know that it is a voluminous document, that it is very detailed and gives a mass of information about the industry, but seven months is a long time, even taking all that into consideration. Everybody agrees that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has a very good staff and that there is no cause for complaint on that score, but it would be a big improvement if something could be done to hurry up the production of the report and to make it possible for us to discuss the administration of the Department on Supply Day on the basis of the latest information. 2706 That applies not only to the annual report, but also to the district reports. In preparation for this Debate, I applied for the annual report and was told it had not been issued, and I applied for the district reports and found that only two of them had been issued. There may be some good reason for this delay, but I should have thought that it was possible for the district reports to be out by this time. If they could be obtained, it would be possible for us to get a comprehensive view of the situation and to have the latest information. I hope the Minister will attend to that matter in the near future.
Now I come to the question of accidents in mines, a question which affects our people almost more than anything else. I refer hon. Members to page 82 of the last available report, which shows that 171,186 persons were on the average employed at the surface and 608,316 underground. The number of persons killed by accidents in 1935 was 861, the number seriously injured was 3,257 and the number of persons injured and disabled for more than three days was 133,756. That is an appalling total, and we are told to-day by the Minister that according to the latest returns the total has once again gone up this time by 2,000, bringing it to nearly 136,000. In view of the boasted progress in the science of mining and in the industry, it seems incredible that this figure cannot be reduced. Look at the matter from another angle. The underground accidents were 123,000, which is 20 per cent. of the average number of people employed underground. It means that on the average every man working underground meets with an accident once every five years. If a man's working life is 50 years, from 15 to 65, he meets with to accidents on the average in the course of that working life. They may, of course, be small accidents, but they may be of the character described as resulting in serious injury or they may result in death. The number killed approximates to nearly 1,000 each year. We think that more efforts should be made to bring down these alarming figures, and we also think that if the question of cost were not to such an extent a dominating factor, those figures could be brought down. I trust that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will give some attention to that aspect of the question. 2707 Falls of ground, which are dealt with on page 84 of the report, are responsible for the greater number of those who have been killed and seriously injured underground in these accidents. We find that 51 per cent. of these cases have been caused by falls of ground. No fewer than 458 persons were killed by falls of ground and 1,242 seriously injured from the same cause during the year 1935. Most of these were at the coal face. The report says:The continued high accident rate from falls of ground is very disappointing and points to the methods of support adopted not keeping pace with the altered conditions of mining.I would like to know to what extent are the altered conditions of mining responsible for this appalling total of accidents. Everybody knows the tremendous change in the last 20 years from hand-cutting to machine-mining, and yet the total of accidents is going up every year. With the increase in machinery and the introduction of coal conveyers at the face accidents seem to be increasing rather than decreasing. One always thought that with the introduction of machinery and with what we call a fast moving face, accidents from falls of roof would decrease, because the men would no longer have to work for so long under one particular piece of roof. In the old days when I was in the pit it was no uncommon thing for two or three of us to be working under the same piece of roof for one turnover—for a fortnight or, it might be, three weeks. There were tremendous alterations to the roof during that time. One always thought that the liability to accident was thereby increased and it was generally supposed that if you had a fast moving face the liability to accident from falls of roof would diminish. That does not seem to be borne out by present conditions, and I would like to know whether the maintenance of the accident rate at the present enormously high figure is due to the hurry and scurry which have been brought into mining during the last few years with the introduction of machinery. Men have to fill enormous quantities of coal on to the conveyer at the face. When making out the price lists the coalowners have offered ridiculously small amounts for machine-cut and conveyed coal and in many cases our people have to load "teens" of tons per shift in order to 2708 make anything like a decent wage. That means that a man is working at high tension from one end of the day to the other and that he has not always time to attend to questions of safety as he might do if he had not to work so hard.
I would also like to ask the Secretary for Mines whether there is any tendency for these accidents to increase by virtue of the fact that the coal-face worker when the belt has been moved over, has to work in a very restricted space between the conveyer belt and the coal face? I was speaking recently to a man who had just come out of Doncaster Hospital where he had been under treatment for a broken leg. He told me there were seven men in hospital who had received injuries, mostly serious, as a result of falls from the coal face. These accidents were due to the fact that the men could not get out of the way because of the conveyer belt behind them. The Minister has already been asked to make some inquiries about this. I have not heard that he has done so yet, but I think the matter is worth investigation to see how far this restriction of space is responsible for the increase of accidents, or, at any rate, for the maintenance of the accident rate at such a high figure.
I come now to the subject of underground haulage accidents. The inspector points out the number killed and injured in this way per 100,000 man shifts shows little variation from year to year but he adds that unless the conditions under which haulage operations are conducted are improved there is little hope of any real reduction. That is rather pessimistic. I think the majority of these accidents occur to boys under 16. In any case the number of boys injured is exceedingly high and I understand that this figure also has gone up again in the latest returns. I understand that most of these accidents happen on the haulage roads. A year or two ago I had occasion to go down some pits which had been modernised, and when I came across some of the haulage roads with ropes running in this direction and in that direction, I was almost terrified. Machine mining and the development of mechanical haulage have brought in their train a bigger output and, from the coalowners point of view, more efficiency but they have also brought increased danger to the men and boys at work in the pits. While the coalowners appear to have 2709 given all their thought and energy to the question of efficiency and increased output they do not seem to have given a similar degree of attention to safeguarding the lives and limbs of the men and boys who work in these mechanised pits.
I wish to ask what power the Minister has to compel coalowners to improve these haulage conditions? I hope he is not going to be satisfied with the pessimistic statement in the report and that he is merely trusting to the coalowners to improve these conditions. Surely, if such a state of things exists as the report itself indicates, the Minister ought to insist on the coalowners at once taking into their consideration the question of improving these conditions. The report also points out that the management are responsible for seeing that the conditions are such that these haulage operations may be conducted in safety. The management are responsible, but the Minister also has some responsibility, and if managers and coalowners are not having these operations performed under the altered conditions of mining in such a way as to provide the maximum safety, what does the Minister intend to do to compel them to alter the conditions for the better? The Minister has huge powers, and a great deal could be done in this respect without legislation.
The report goes on to state that where roads are narrow and low bridges of roof are allowed to exist, that responsibility has not been discharged. I should think it has not. Why should narrow roads and low bridges of roof, continue to exist if they are a contributory cause of the high accident rate in haulage? The probability is that most of these haulage accidents arise from the fact that there it not room for the lads and men to work. The workers are nearly always restricted as to space, and the roads are kept as narrow as possible because of the cost which would be involved in improving them. If it has been proved, as it seems to have been proved, that the number of these accidents is increasing because of these low bridges of roof and narrow roads, is there any good reason why a standard width for all roads should not be prescribed? Or is this again a question of cost? If the Minister made a revolutionary proposal of that kind would the coalowners take fright? If he brought in regulations or possibly legislation to 2710 deal with this question, would he be faced with a situation like that which confronted the President of the Board of Trade last year when he brought in his amalgamation Bill and the coalowners objected to it so violently that they made him withdraw it? Is that the real reason why narrow roads and low roofs are allowed to exist with such serious consequences in accidents to men and boys?
I wish at this point to refer to the question of the employment of boys. I succeeded in getting two of the divisional reports, namely, those for the Northern Division and the Midlands Division respectively. In the report on the Northern Division there is a very interesting statement accompanied by a graph concerning accidents to boys under 16. I notice that, taking an average over the 10 years from 1927 to 1936 inclusive, the number of accidents to adults over 18 was 4.5 per 1,000 employed, while the number of accidents in the same period to boys under 16 was nine per 1,000. In other words, the number of accidents to boys was as high again, proportionately, as the number of accidents to adults. For every adult over 18 killed or seriously injured, there are two boys under 16 killed or seriously injured.
We have recently been discussing a Bill asking that boys under 16 years of age should be debarred from the pit at night time. Boys on the surface under 16 are so debarred, but boys in the pit are not yet so debarred, and this means that boys in the pit pay, in risk to life and limb, double the penalty that adults pay. Is it asking too much that boys should be excluded from the pit at night? But small as that request was, it was too much for the coalowners and Members in another place. The Bill went through this House unanimously supported by Members on all sides, but the coalowners and Members in another place objected to the alteration that was made in Committee, and the Bill, small as it was, was too good for them. We were asking too much for these lads under 16, and it had to be modified. In view of the fact that these lads are paying such a huge penalty, I should like to ask whether something cannot be done in that direction. Indeed, I think it would not be asking too much to ask, not only that lads should be debarred from the pit at night, but that they should be debarred 2711 from the pit altogether. The pit is no fit place for them.
Then I come to the question of shot-firing, and again I read that there is a tremendous increase in the number of shots fired per year. In 1935 there were 54,373,251 shots fired, an enormous number, and I would like to ask, in view of the fact that this danger from shot-firing exists, what the Department is doing in the matter, what action it is taking, what exploration it is making. With the increase in machine-cut coal, the number of shots fired tends to go up each year, and the accidents tend to increase. I read in the report of the North Midland Division that there are some methods of dealing with the matter, and I would like to ask the Minister whether anything is being done in that connection. The inspector for the North Midland Division reports:I have in previous reports made reference to alternative methods in use for bringing down coal or stone. As regards coal, the 'Gullick' hydraulic burster is being used, or is undergoing trial, at six or seven mines in the division under varying conditions as regards the thickness of seam and nature of the coal. At Ireland Colliery seven bursters are now in regular use; they have proved entirely successful, and by them shot-firing has been almost completely eliminated.I am very glad to hear that, but if that can be done with such success at six or seven collieries and at this individual colliery which I have quoted, is the Minister following up these experiments with a view to eliminating shot-firing by explosives and substituting another system which will eliminate this great danger from the pits once for all? On the question of explosions—
§ Mrs. Tate
Before the hon. Member leaves the question of shot-firing, I think he has hardly been fair. He read aloud a paragraph, but he did not finish it, and before asking the Government what researches they are carrying out, surely it would have been only fair to have read the remainder of that paragraph, which says that in regard to accidents from shot-firing, many of them would not have occurred if proper attention had been paid to the simple requirements of the Explosives in Coal Mines Order. The provisions which would prevent an enormous number of these accidents are already there.
§ Mr. Paling
I was not quoting from the Chief Inspector's annual report, but from 2712 the Midland Division report. I admit that in the reports generally the inspectors state that quite a respectable percentage, something like 30 or 40 per cent., of the accidents that occur are preventible. I think that statement is open to tremendous argument. I do not state for a moment that some of them are not preventible, but the business of mining is a dangerous business, and the fact that men work at it day after day perhaps makes them a little bit reckless. Again, I am reminded of the fact that one of the reasons that makes them reckless is the fact that in order to earn anything like a decent wage, they have to use every ounce of their energy and sometimes are tempted not to attend to their safety as much as they might. In any event, I think that this experiment that is going on in regard to shot-firing is well worth following out, and I hope it may prove to be so successful that it will be a matter of only a short time before shot-firing by explosives is completely eliminated.
Now, in regard to explosions, I think it was the last Minister of Mines who, writing to a certain paper, said something about the day of the large explosion in particular having gone. He had hardly got the words out before the Gresford explosion occurred. It may be that the tendency is for the large explosion, which includes hundreds of men, to grow less frequent, but the numbers of explosions that occur grow no less. As I read this report, I found out that from 1901 to 1935 the number of explosions in the last five years. from 1931 to 1935, was II, and in only one period of five years in those 35 years has that number been equalled. In the period from 1906 to 1910 there were II explosions, hut from 1911 to 1915 there were eight, from 1916 to 1920 there were three, from 1921 to 1925 there were six, from 1926 to 1930 there were five, and, as have said, from 1931 to 1935 there were II: and the number of men killed has riot gone down either. This does not appear to indicate that there is any progress in this direction, for instead of explosions being entirely eliminated, as was indicated by the previous Minister of Mines, they appear to be becoming more frequent.
Here, again, is this a question of cost? A certain mining professor a good many years ago said that if it was only a question of money, you could completely eliminate explosions from the pits, and I 2713 believe that that is largely true, and that the reason why explosions of this kind are occurring is in the main a question of cost. When our men are paying this huge toll in life and limb, the question of cost ought not to count. This industry, which has been conducted under private enterprise for years and years, for generation after generation, has up to the present time served its men badly on the whole. The number of accidents keeps at this huge total, the number of explosions is higher than it was 30 years ago, wages have been bad, down to the bottom almost, and the general conduct of the industry has not been to the credit of the people who have run it. In this matter of explosions alone, the record is argument enough for the industry to be taken out of the hands of private enterprise and nationalised. If you had it under national control, with public ownership, you might, for the first time in its history, have greater regard paid to the lives and limbs of the people who work in it, but I doubt whether you will while it remains under private enterprise.
With regard to the explosion at Wharncliffe, the Minister told us that he had sent out new regulations with regard to stone dusting. I do not know what they are, but I hope they will be an improvement on their predecessors. I read that after the explosion there was stone dust on some of the girders and flanges of the girders that had not been touched, that the explosion had swept along the road and swept up the coal dust, but that the stone dust had not risen. A similar case occurred some years ago, I believe, at Whitehaven, and the Chief Inspector of Mines comments in this report on that explosion, so that this was not a new feature. Everybody knew that under certain circumstances stone dust tended to solidify and would not rise, and yet this state of things occurred at Wharncliffe, where the stone dust solidified to such an extent that it would not rise. Is anything being done in that connection in the new regulations that are being discussed, and after a second experience of this kind is the Department going to take some steps in order to stop this kind of thing?
I come next to the question of workmen's inspections, and on page 91 of the report I read:During the year 3,842 inspections were made at 449 mines by persons appointed by 2714 the workmen employed in those mines in exercise of their powers under Section 16 of the Coal Mines Act, 1911. Fifty-eight per cent. of these inspections were made in the Northern Division and 21 per cent. in the Cardiff and Forest of Dean Division. I regret that more use is not made of this Section of the Act in the other divisions.I would like to have got the Yorkshire report in order to see where we stand in this matter, but I have not been able to do so at the moment. I think we stand fairly well, and, so far as Doncaster is concerned, nearly every pit in that district makes use of this method of workmen's inspections. From the Midland Inspector's report I see that the number of inspections in Notts and Derbyshire is fairly low, and I believe that in Leicestershire and South Derbyshire there are practically none. One of the main reasons why these inspections are not carried out is the question of cost. The workmen have to pay for these inspections themselves, and in view of the fact that poverty has been rampant during the last 10 or 11 years, it has hardly been possible to make any extra contribution out of their funds even to provide for an important service like this. There is another question, too, because in some cases where men have been willing to pay for it, the employers have refused to stop the money for it at the pay office. I would like to know whether the Minister will give his attention to that matter and to see whether the difficulties can be eliminated so that the excellent example set by the Northern division cannot be copied by other divisions.
Then I would ask the Minister what is being done with regard to overtime? We were told a few weeks ago, in answer to a question, that a certain number of supervisors have been sent to Scotland in order to attend to this question, and that the number of complaints that have been made since they went has been materially reduced. It would appear, therefore, that if sufficient supervision were given to overtime, it could be reduced. I am told that in a good many districts it is still very much higher than it ought to be. If it can be brought down as the result of attention to it, such as is being given in Scotland, I hope that the Minister will take steps to see that it is brought down in other districts also. The Midland inspector's report states that out of 22 complaints 12 related to overtime. The inspector says that they 2715 were all attended to, but he does not tell us what happened. On page 200 of the report of the Department I find that the prosecutions of owners, agents, managers and under-managers for illegal overtime numbered 54; there were 54 convictions, and the total amount of fines and costs was £12—less than 5s. per case.
That does not seem to be a way of dealing with it which is likely to have any effect on people who are breaking the law. At the bottom of the page I read that there were two prosecutions of under-officials and workmen for illegal overtime, that there were two convictions, and that the fines amounted to £1. In their case it worked out at 10s. each. I know that the hon. and gallant Member has no jurisdiction here, but while these small fines are inflicted no one will take much notice of the law. In this report the inspector refers to the fact that a lot of the pits were not taking time by the forelock and making lighting provision under the new regulations by the time they were expected to make it. We have not had the report for 1936, and I do not know what has happened. I would like to know whether these people have now fulfilled the regulations, and whether the law is being complied with in regard to lighting.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I cannot claim to be a miners' representative in the full-blown sense that many hon. Members above the Gangway are, but I represent in this House a certain number of miners who work in Cannock Chase and Hilton Main Colliery. I am therefore glad to be able to intervene in this Debate. The Minister dealt in his usual lucid and interesting style with the Department which he administers in such an excellent way. He has a very difficult task, for Capitalism cannot claim that the mining industry is one of its great successes. There have been bad relations all along between employers and employed, and the employers have certainly failed to take advantage of the opportunities of leadership which necessarily come to them from the position they occupy. It is unfortunately still the case that the miners as a whole feel that they are not getting a square deal, and that they are not being fairly treated in the industry in which they play such an immense part.
2716 I want first to call attention to the amalgamations that are taking place. They are proceeding by voluntary agreement to a certain extent. I know that the Government have in contemplation that they are not taking place to anything like the extent that is necessary. I think that the employers are acting unwisely in not themselves carrying out the amalgamations, for they will have to come later on by compulsion. The Government contemplate further legislative steps in that respect in the not distant future. I understand that wherever mechanisation of mines is taking place it means that there is a reduction of something like 20 per cent. in the number of men employed. These amalgamations favour the larger pits, and it means that the smaller ones are liable 1.o extinction, and that the men working in them may be placed in a difficult position. The representatives of the men are not being adequately consulted when these changes take place. They have every right to be consulted seeing that their livelihood and future are affected, and the utmost deference should be given to their wishes from the human point of view.
I know a case in the Midlands where, as the result of an amalgamation, a smallish pit in a particular village is likely to be closed down. Some 800 men work at that pit, and they may all be thrown out of work. If a factory employing 800 people in a town were closed, the people would have a chance of looking round in the immediate neighbourhood for employment. In the case, however, of a mining village isolated from the rest of the community, there is no alternative employment, and the workpeople ought to be considered in a different and much more sympathetic way than in the case of a closed factory in a town. My information is that it is not being done, and I should be glad if the Minister could use his influence with the employers to take into consideration the point of view of the workers. In an amalgamation the employers benefit and the men who are thrown out of work suffer, and where, through no fault of their own, they are thrown out of work owing to the progress of organisation in the industry, they are entitled to some form of compensation. That compensation may take various forms, but the most natural and useful one to suggest is a pension of some kind. 2717 I understand that in the Midland area plans are under consideration to produce a pension for men who are thrown out of work—I suppose at 60 or 65, or whatever it may be—of 7s. 6d. a week. I am glad to hear of other cases of colliery companies in the Midlands who are trying to work out for themselves a pension of £1 a week. I hope that the Minister will give every encouragement to schemes of pensions to miners on their retirement. No industrial concern that wants to enjoy prestige ought to be without a pension scheme of some kind, and certainly no one in the mining industry ought to be without the possibility of a provision of that kind. I hope that there will be the fullest possible consultation, and that anything that is done will be done with the maximum of agreement. You cannot get complete agreement, but you can go a long way, and we ought at least to ask that employers should go as far as they possibly can to meet the conditions of the workers in the difficult cases. They ought to consider not merely the economic aspect of the problem, but the human aspect, which is every bit as important, and, from the workers' point of view, infinitely more important.
As amalgamations grow, it seems to me that there is a danger of boards of directors getting more and more out of touch with what is taking place in the coalfields. It has been the custom in the past for many boards to meet in the coalfields where they can send for this or that official and get into contact with the people there. The tendency now is more and more to sit in the City of London where they get no chance of having anything like the same contact. It is important that the fullest possible responsibility should be placed upon the directors of a company for what is taking place a long way from London in the coalfields. It should not be sufficient for a board to appoint a manager and feel that, having done it, their responsibility ends. They ought to be made to feel that if an accident occurs through any fault in the management or any failure in carrying out their obligations, they are just as much to blame as the manager. It is not so at the present time. I regret that in a case like the Gresford colliery accident the managers were brought before the court but that there was no possibility of bringing the directors of the company before the court too. They certainly ought to 2718 have stood in the dock alongside the managers so that the court could decide whether they had any responsibility for the mistakes that were undoubtedly made on that occasion.
Reference has been made to inspections, and I want the Minister to make a statement about it. I believe that he has said, and will no doubt say in future, that inspections are supposed to be made without notice, and that inspectors come at any time without telling the colliery officials that they are coming. Whether that is so or not in theory, I have always found it difficult to persuade men that the colliery officials do not know all about it. Their impression is that they do know when the inspectors are coming and that everything is neat and tidy and nothing is wrong, but when they know the inspector is not coming, things do not present quite the same happy appearance. The men may be under a misapprehension, but they have this feeling strongly, and I hope the Minister will say what the official point of view is as regards inspection. The hon. Member who was speaking just now referred to the inspections by the workmen's examiners. I agree with him that one of the difficulties of this excellent provision is the question of cost. I hope that in the not distant future they will be paid for by the State. They ought to be the representatives of the State and financed by the State.
Some reference was also made to overtime. There is a great deal of it going on at the present time, I believe, and the Minister says that he is giving it his attention. It seems to me that, in the interests of safety, week-ends ought to be kept for repairs and devoted to keeping in order the airways and travelling roads, so that the pits might be cool and safe during the rest of the week. "Holidays with pay" is another topic which has been mentioned. We know that it is the subject of an inquiry at the present time, and that possibly something may be done about it next Session. I think it will be the feeling of most people that if there is one section of the community who deserve holidays with pay it is the miners. I should be glad if the Minister could give us any information as to the extent to which colliery owners are voluntarily introducing holidays with pay, which have been adopted by employers in many other industries, because if it is not done volun- 2719 tarily I hope that before long it will be made compulsory.
Then there is the question of pit committees. I know that in order to set up pit committees on anything like the scale that is necessary legislation would be required, and therefore I am not going to refer to that aspect of the question, but there are many instances throughout industry other than the mining industry of works' committees operating with most satisfactory results. I see no reason why enlightened employers in the mining industry should not of their own initiative introduce pit committees in order to obtain the advice and assistance which miners can undoubtedly give from their great knowledge and wide experience. I am certain that with consultative bodies of this kind to deal with questions of safety, health, welfare, pit practice and discipline, not only would great advantage be derived from their advice but we should do something to create that spirit of good will, that position of government-by-consent, which is required as much in a mine as in a country as a whole. It is sometimes said that it would be difficult for a miner to sit on such a committee and bring forward complaints as to what was going on, owing to the fear of victimisation, but in some works that difficulty has been got over by having the trade union representative sitting on the committee, and I have seen in my own experience how persons in that more independent position are able to say things more clearly, and perhaps more bluntly, than a worker might care to.
Next I should like to say a word about the Miners' Welfare Fund, to which the Minister made no reference. I join with what has already been said about the lateness of the reports. Not only is the report of the Mines Department in arrears, but the report of the Miners' Welfare Fund also, the latest one available being that for 1935. That is extraordinarily unbusinesslike. There may be some explanation of it which I do not know, but no industrial concern would tolerate a position in which we have to discuss the work of a year six months after that year has come to an end with no report available. It is perfectly inexcusable and however good an excuse the Minister may offer I cannot think it will be really a valid one. I am particularly interested in the Miners' Welfare Fund because I 2720 had the pleasure of being a member of the Committee of Inquiry which in 1931 looked into the working of the fund. I was interested to see that a survey of the welfare committees in each mining area is contemplated. That would be of great value, because it would show what the problems were and the money could be laid out much more effectively than if no clear plan existed. I understand that the survey has been carried out in only one coalfield so far, and perhaps the Minister can say what are the prospects of having such a survey in all the coalfields.
One of the recommendations the Committee made to which I personally, attach almost the most importance, was that there should be district organisers in all the coalfields. I understand that district organisers have been appointed in 12 districts, and that they are all working most satisfactorily with the district committees, and the miners' representatives on the spot are very pleased with what they are able to do. I should like to know when it is proposed to appoint organisers for the 13 districts not yet covered. If we are to get the best results from the large sums of money which are being spent the appointment of such organisers is absolutely essential, and, as has been shown, when they have been appointed they are welcomed wholeheartedly by everybody on the spot.
With regard to children and young persons, according to the last report there have been set up 640 playgrounds at a cost of about £250,000; but many more are needed. The view may be taken that in face of the Government's new programme for physical development this is not so much a matter for the Miners' Welfare Fund as for the local authorities, assisted and encouraged by the Government in their new campaign, and it would be interesting to have a statement on that point. But however the question is dealt with, the need for organisers comes in, although here it is play leaders who are suggested. Their activities, wherever they have been provided, in helping children and young persons to enjoy themselves and to make the most of the facilities provided, have been welcome and useful. One of the recommendations made by the Committee of Inquiry, recommendation No. 12, was that camps for boys and girls should so far as practicable be provided for every coalfield. I understand that very little progress has 2721 been made in this direction. It is disappointing to find that the suggestion does not seem to commend itself very much to the district committees. Our information was that they had been simply invaluable where tried. I remember paying a visit to St. Athan Camp, in South Wales, and was much impressed, particularly by the moving inscription on a War memorial in the centre of the camp.
Perhaps we may have some more information about pit-head baths. I think it is clear that they are being extended very actively and that the old prejudice against them has been largely overcome. Wherever they have been installed they are used by between 90 to 100 per cent. of the miners, and there is an overwhelming demand that the number of collieries where they are installed should be increased. I notice that in 31 cases out of 143 the owners made no contribution at all to the upkeep of the pithead baths, and that the contributions from the men varied from nothing at all up to Is. a week. It is up to the owners to play some part in assisting to maintain these baths, and I hope they will be encouraged by the Minister to do so. One point which has an interest going beyond that of the mining industry is that the fund is now taking up the task of preserving historic places. Backworth Hall, in Northumberland, has been restored and preserved as a miners' welfare centre, and I believe it has proved to be a very great success. It is a period country house which was built in 1778, and it was a happy thought to combine the function of helping miners and preserving a beautiful country house. There is one recommendation in the committee's report which calls for the earnest attention of the Minister. We were called upon to suggest the amount of the levy and for how long it should continue. We recommended that it should be at a figure of a halfpenny for a period of 20 years.
§ Mr. Mander
That is not the whole story. We were sitting in 1931, in the depths of the depression, and we were naturally influenced by that circumstance and made our recommendation:In view of the present position of the coal-mining industry.We recommended that the levy should be continued for 20 years and that the figure per ton should be increased 2722if and when the financial state of the industry permits.From time to time during the past few years we have suggested that the occasion had arrived, and after the speech made today by the Minister, and all the claims that are made by the National Government about our prosperity, the decrease in unemployment and the increase of output, I do not think the plea can be resisted that in the present state of the industry the halfpenny ought to be restored to a penny. I hope that we shall have a reasoned statement on that.
Finally, I would say that the mining industry has had a very unhappy history in this country and is tending as a result to pass more and more under some form of State control. I hope that control will be to the largest extent possible joint control. We have in the miners as admirable a class of men as can be found in any rank of society. They follow a dangerous calling. They are always on active service, like the pilots who operate in the air. They take a leading part in the public life and the religious life of the communities among whom they live, and they give all the capital they possess—their labour—to their life's work, and they are entitled to a better show than they have had up to the present time. If their good will could be captured and they could be made whole-hearted partners in the industry on which they are dependent, I believe the whole spirit of the mining industry would be altered, and the results to the State and to all concerned would be infinitely better than they are now.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Cape
I would first say a word about the speech of the Secretary for Mines, in which I was very much interested. I assure him that although he had not a very large audience in this Committee he has a very much bigger audience outside, because a large number of miners, in my constituency at any rate, look forward to reading the reports of speeches made in this House by him. Those speeches are subject to a great deal of criticism, and come in naturally for any praise which can be given. In the earlier part of his speech, the Minister outlined the general position in regard to increase of employment and of output, and the slight increase in wages. If he analyses the wages I think he will find that they are largely due to an increase of output per person during the last two 2723 years. When he came to the more serious and tragic side of the industry and spoke of the accidents to men and boys, he paid a tribute to the work of the inspectors of mines. I shall not detract from that tribute, but I would take the opportunity of asking the Minister whether we could again have a resident mines inspector in our district.
I put down a question on the subject not very long ago. It is customary to have one of the junior inspectors in the Northern area living in the Cumberland coalfield. The reply to my question was that the reason for removing the inspector in 1935 was the decline in the coal trade in Cumberland. I would point out that there has been abig improvement in that trade in the last few months, and consequently in the number of men employed in the Cumberland mines. The White-haven pits have been reopened, and two large new shafts are now being sunk at Workington, which makes for a large increase in employment. Does the Minister not think that the time has come when he can re-establish a resident inspector? The Cumberland coalfield is a dangerous one, except for one or two small mines. In the old days, when we had a resident inspector, he could be on the spot within half an hour or so when any complaints were made, but now we have to get through either by telephone, wire or letter, to Newcastle, which means that an inspector cannot get to us before the following day. I want the old conditions to return in the locality which I represent.
In regard to the work of the inspectors, I think I am right in saying that about 95 per cent. of their visitations to collieries are made during the morning shift. I want to ask whether the Secretary for Mines could pass on a suggestion that inspectors might make more frequent visitations during afternoon and night shifts. If inspectors could, once in a way, make surprise visits to collieries during night time, that would do away with some of the things which my hon. Friends have complained about. During the night shift there are officials present who could receive the inspector and show him whatever portion of the pit he wished to see. My hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Paling) analysed the position of the mines, and, in an admirable fashion, touched upon most of the 2724 points that could be introduced in the course of this Debate, but I do not think it would be out of place to supplement that speech in certain ways.
I have long been concerned about the age at which boy labour begins in the pits, and I have found, with very great regret, that the number of boys between the ages of 14 and 16 killed annually in the pits shows an increase. Coal mines to-day are mechanised institutions. In the old days, when difficult jobs had to be done, there was always somebody older than ourselves to advise us what to do, and to give us a certain amount of protection, but with the mechanisation of the mines conditions have altered. Machines of all types and descriptions are now used, and bigger boys are essential. I would ask the Secretary for Mines to give that aspect of the matter his serious consideration. The minimum age at which a boy should be allowed to work in the mine is 16 years. There are on the surface certain jobs at which boys are not allowed to work until they are 16, and if I am not mistaken there is other work, such as on coke and by-products, in which a boy must be 18 before he can begin. In other industries, definite minimum ages have to be observed before boys can be allowed to commence their apprenticeships. It is more essential that that should be the case with mine work, where they have to work in artificial light while various kinds of machinery are working. To put a young boy into those conditions is courting death, except for exceptionally smart and able lads who are able to dodge accidents and, in the course of time, learn to control the machines.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth that the annual reports should be published earlier than at present. Inspectors of mines have a tremendous amount of clerical work to do. Their information is accumulating throughout the year, but they have not to wait till the end of the year before they know how many men were killed and injured in January, for example, and they should be able to make a weekly return. Every accident is deemed a reportable accident if it puts a man off work for three days, and such reports must be coming in like a stream all the year round. At the end of the year, inspectors should not have much trouble about the compilation of those reports; they add some personal 2725 comments about the causes and so on, based upon inquiries and inquests which have been held during the 12 months. I do not see why the annual reports of the Mines Department cannot be published before the expiry of three months from the end of the year.
I was very much surprised at the answer given to-day to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) in regard to mining accidents. It appears that up to the end of the half-year there were 397 deaths, and a good deal more than 1,000 serious accidents. If that rate continues, we shall have one of the worst years that we have ever had in regard to mining accidents. Every effort should be made to direct attention to that side of mining life. The Royal Commission now considering the subject have had put before them some admirable suggestions which would conduce to safety in the mines. The subject of improving safety in the mines is very complicated, and it will take some time for the Commission to make their recommendations, but I would ask the Secretary for Mines whether he can forecast any date when the Commission's report is likely to be presented. I do not want to hurry the Commission, but I do not think there should be any unnecessary delay. An important matter like this, which affects the lives of nearly 800,000 men employed in the industry, is one that needs to be dealt with thoroughly.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mrs. Tate
I intervene with great diffidence in a mining Debate, because I realise that hon. Members opposite have had that practical experience which is so exceedingly valuable and which gives knowledge that cannot be obtained in any other way. I cannot even claim to be a coalowner, but I represent a division in which there is a very considerable amount of mining, and I have read the report and have tried to take an interest in the industry. I was rather surprised to hear the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Paling), when moving the reduction, attack the Government's tariff policy and blame it for the failure to increase the export trade to a larger figure. Am I to understand that it is now the policy of the Opposition, should they ever come into power, once more to go back to free imports? I get no answer from the hon. Member for Wentworth, and one is driven 2726 to the unhappy conclusion that the unity of feeling in the Opposition on that question is no greater than the unity which exists with regard to the armament proposals. It leaves me, as I think it leaves the electors, considerably bemused as to what the policy of the Opposition is. Doubtless, however, we shall be kept up to date from time to time as changes occur and according to who is ruling in their party at the moment.
§ Mrs. Tate
That is unhappily true, but the hon. Member knows far better than I do that that is not due to the tariff policy, but is due to a very large extent to mechanisation and to markets which were lost during the Italo-Abyssinia dispute. It is very interesting to note that apparently, from what the hon. Member said, one must conclude that free imports are to be allowed once more when the Opposition are in power. I am sure that that will be a very helpful guide to the electors, especially those in the industrial areas.
§ Mr. A. Jenkins
Does the hon. Lady suggest that coal exports have been increased in any way by the Government's tariff policy?
§ Mrs. Tate
I should say that the exports of coal have certainly been very much aided by the trade agreements, and certainly those trade agreements would not have been possible had it not been for our tariff policy. In any case I think it is an astounding theory that our whole tariff policy should be based on one industry alone. Surely, when you are having regard to the welfare of the country, you do not pick out only one industry and say that your policy will be good for it; surely you take into consideration the country as a whole. Perhaps we are getting a few of the reasons why the Opposition are so curiously unsuccessful in creating prosperity in the country when they are in power. I sincerely hope it will be a very long time before the electors give them another chance to create conditions such as they created between 1929 and 1931. I come now to a point of agreement with hon. Members opposite. I also should be glad if we could have the report rather earlier 2727 in the year. From the Minister's statement I gather that there is some good reason for the delay, but in the case both of the Health Estimates and of these Estimates it is very difficult to deal with the subject on the basis of something which is 18 months old.
There are one or two questions that I should like to ask the Minister. The Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission, which was set up under the Coal Mines Act, 1930, cost the country, I think, £16,000 last year and £13,000 this year, and I should like to ask whether the Minister is satisfied that it has done anything that represents a return for the enormous sum of money that has been expended upon it? To turn to accidents, when explosions occur in the pit they are, of course, news, that is to say, they are very fully reported in the Press, and perhaps receive a larger degree of attention than some other matters. I do not mean that they are not appallingly serious, and that we should not do everything in our power to find out and eliminate all possible causes for explosions, but I feel that the day-to-day disasters, which do not receive the same publicity because they have not the same news value, are even more serious, because they are more numerous. The hon. Member for Wentworth drew attention to the fact that 51 per cent. of the accidents are due to falls of ground, and I think I am right in saying that only 3 per cent. are due to explosions. Falls of ground, therefore, are a very important feature among the causes of accidents, and should be dealt with in every possible way; it is most unsatisfactory that their numbers show no tendency to decrease. On page 16 of the Wharncliffe Report I find this statement:It is significant that at Wharncliffe Wood-moor every yard of the steel-arched haulage roadways was travelled by the explosion without any falls of ground, whilst on the older type of prop and bar supports many were displaced and there were extensive falls.That would indicate that the idea there is that steel supports are of greater value than wooden supports, but certainly in some pits, if you speak to the miners themselves, they will tell you that steel supports are not as good as wooden supports for certain parts of the pit, because some of them say that wooden supports 2728 give warning of a fall, while steel supports do not. There is disagreement in some areas as to which is the safer. One thing, however, is clear, and that is that coal mining cannot become a simpler industry. If anything, it will become a more complex industry, with the increasing introduction of machinery and the increasing depth of shafts, and I think the time has come when research should precede machinery rather than that machinery should precede research. The proportion of coal cut by machinery since 1928 has doubled, and the proportion hauled by machinery is 3½ times as much. I think it was the hon. Member for Wentworth who drew attention to the fact that, in the report on the explosion at Wharncliffe, it is mentioned that coal dust lay on top of incombustible stone dust, and I think that the use of dust extractors was suggested by Captain Hay in his report. I would ask the Minister whether it is possible to have dust extractors.
Whatever regulations are made, and however much machinery is used, you will never get rid of the human factor. As the Minister has said, the training of boys is being carried out with considerable care in a large number of areas, but accidents among boys still show a very unsatisfactory percentage. It is very important that we should have keen inspectors, and I was glad to hear the Minister say, in answer to a question the other day, that he is appointing 16 additional inspectors. As far as one can gather from the Estimates, though I may be wrong in this, it would appear that inspectors of mines are not paid any more than factory inspectors, though it seems to me that they have a very much more dangerous job. They show great courage, as was instanced in the behaviour of the inspectors in the Wharncliffe disaster. I should like to be assured that the dependants of inspectors killed while at work are well provided for. I understand that inspectors have served as colliery managers and have to obtain a mine manager's certificate before they can be appointed inspectors. This being the case, I should like to ask whether they are in the Civil Service long enough to enable them to qualify for a full pension. Owing to the nature of their work, they should, of course, have a good pension when they retire.
§ Mrs. Tate
The Minister told us that in one pit where he awarded safety badges to boys who had won them they were also given hard hats and gloves. Is it the custom anywhere in the country to give a small bonus to boys who are awarded safety badges? It seems to me that everything possible should be done to encourage boys to qualify for these badges. I should also like to ask whether first-aid ambulance men are volunteers, or whether they are given any additional pay.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
I feel that we ought to compliment the hon. Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate), because she has evidently made an attempt to find out what coal mining is, and we welcome her intervention, because we hope that as many Members of the House as possible will take an interest in mining work. There are women employed in the industry; we have them in Lancashire. The report mentions one case in which a woman died in the industry, and I think she was a woman from Lancashire; so that a woman Member has a perfect right to intervene in a mining Debate and to take an interest in what we feel is the most important part of the work of this country.
The Secretary for Mines made one very important statement to which I think we should all pay attention. He said that, whatever other matters might be considered, the health and safety of the 780,000 men employed in the industry must be the first consideration of this Committee. I think everyone welcomed that statement. I do not intend to touch upon the wages question, but to devote myself entirely to the question of the health and safety of the workers. First of all I want to deal with the question of mines inspectors. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) asked a question about how these inspections were made. Among the miners there is a feeling that the inspector's visits are not surprise visits, but that the fact that an inspection is to be made is known beforehand, before the inspector arrives. That is partly correct. It is true that the inspector arrives unexpectedly, but the difficulty is in what happens after that, 2730 when word is sent down to every part of the workings: "Get ready, the inspector is here." It is not, therefore, a surprise visit in the sense in which it ought to be. Only a fortnight ago in my own constituency, going round among the miners and trying to find out the position—whether there had been any changes or any trouble—I was told that at one colliery, only that very week, when the inspector arrived, word was sent round: "Get ready, the inspector is coming. Get everything ready for him because, if he catches us in this state, some of us are in for it."
I am not blaming the inspector, because it is difficult to do it differently. A pit is not like a factory or a workshop, where an inspector can get to any part before any preparation is made for him, and the mine management does not pay the attention that it otherwise would to the adoption of safety measures. The inspectors ought to use all means in their power to make their visits unexpected and surprising, so that the mine will always be in as nearly perfect a state as possible and there will not be any question of accidents. In 1935, I believe, inspectors paid 17,000 visits, 2,000 during the afternoon and night shifts. Again I must compliment the Secretary for Mines on the advance that he has made, but I want him to press forward with it. Even though 14 per cent. of the visits have been on the afternoon and night shifts, that is not sufficient. Most of the shot-firing is done in those shifts. Shot-firing requires much preparation, and any relaxation of it leads to greater difficulty and more accidents.
I have been trying to find out from the hon. and gallant Gentleman if some other method could be adopted than shot-firing. There is no question that other methods will have to be adopted if accidents are to be reduced. Though every effort is made to make it safe, there is nothing that can be called exactly safe in shot-firing. I believe that hydraulic coal bursting can be made very efficient, but if employers try it and find that it does not work out economically, they discard it. It was tried in a mine in Lancashire, and it was very efficient, but for a time the output went down. The employer was approached to increase the tonnage rate but refused. He said the men were not trying. All they asked for was that while the experiment was on they should be paid the same average 2731 rate of wages as in the case of shot-firing. The employer refused, and it meant a reduction of shillings a day in the wages. It was more economical in respect of the lives of the men but, unless they would accept the same tonnage rate, he said he would have to withdraw it, and the hydraulic bursters have been taken out of the mine.
I got a letter from a coal owner who read a question that I put to the Secretary for Mines about it, asking me if the policy of the Federation was along the lines of my question. He had had to take them out of his mines, because he could not get satisfactory conditions for the men. I replied that I believed it was the view of the Miners' Federation that some other system than shot-firing should be introduced but, when adopting these new methods, it should be recognised that the men wanted their wage rates retained. I urge the hon. and gallant Gentleman to use his influence with the coal owners to give this a more extended trial and, if it fails at first, to remember that it is a new system, and not to take it out of the workmens' wages. Gradually, as they get the new system going, the output will come up to what it ought to be, and in the long run it will pay the employer.
§ Mr. A. Hopkinson
This is rather an obscure technical point. The hon. Member has not told us, unfortunately, that this new system is only suitable in certain conditions. With the vast majority of seams it brings the coal down in quite unmanageable sizes, and it has to be mined all over again after it has been brought down. In many instances shots will have to be put into the coal to break it up. Much as one likes to see these methods adopted wherever possible, it must not be imagined that they are possible in any but a comparatively small number of pits.
§ Mr. Tinker
The hon. Member has a great knowledge of mine working, and I always listen with respect to what he has to say. I agree that with some seams this method is not possible, but in the case that I am. mentioning everything was working smoothly. The only point was that the output had fallen from the shot-firing figure, the employer wanted the men to accept a lower wage, and he took it out because the cost was too great 2732 for him. Where it is suitable, the employer ought not to remove it simply because of the cost. Let him try it and the men will gradually assimilate themselves, and the output will go up correspondingly. Shot-firing is one of the bug-bears of mining, and we should do all we can to get rid of it.
I put a question to the Minister recently about additional gateways. There are frequently long stretches at the coal face without the necessary outlets. There is sometimes a stretch of 200 yards with one outlet. The hon. and gallant Gentleman replied, that from information that he had, where gateways were made, there was greater danger. I agree that there is greater danger with main gateways when ripping takes place, but I meant outlets by which the men can get away quickly if there is a fall. I do not want a gateway specially ripped for a 10 or 15-cwt. wagon, but an opening at the level of the seam. I think it could be done, and there would be no additional danger. At the Blackpool Conference one of the most proficient of the miners' leaders, Herbert Smith, emphasised this very point, and said he thought there ought to be an opening for the workmen to make their way out every 45 yards. One thing that we bring to the House of Commons is a practical knowledge of mine working. It is not based on our own experience of 20 or 30 years ago, but we are in touch with the workmen.
One of our delegates who works at the coal face told me that a fall took place the other day. The men heard it coming but had not time to get to the top or bottom gateway, and were temporarily entombed. They were got out safely, but it had left an impression on his mind, and he wanted me to emphasise the danger to the Minister. In the hurry and scurry of mining the men are often taken by surprise, and have not time to get to the top or bottom gateway. These additional inlets would provide a greater chance of safety. Not only that; it would give them greater confidence if they knew that there was somewhere to rush to. At the moment the man working in the middle, 100 yards from the gate end, wonders what his position will be if a fall takes place. There is a psychological effect upon that man. I think that this improvement could be carried out at little expense, and I ask the 2733 Secretary for Mines to urge upon the coal-owners and the mine inspectors the necessity of paying particular attention to this kind of thing.
I have nothing more to say, because many of the points have been covered by other speakers, but I have raised one or two very important matters in the hope that the Secretary for Mines, when he comes to reply, will deal with them. I hope that he will impress upon the men under his charge the need for attention being paid to the points I have mentioned, so that some assurance may be given to the 70 or 80 Members in this House watching the interests of the miners and trying to make the mines better for them.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Peake
I rise with a view to making two or three constructive suggestions for the improvement of conditions in the mining industry. Before I do so, I should like to join in the congratulations to the Secretary for Mines not only upon his personal gifts, which have been so helpful to the industry, but upon his good fortune in that he has been able since he became Secretary for Mines to report each year an increase in the production of coal. He told us to-day that production for the current year would probably be in the neighbourhood of 240,000,000 tons, and that happens to be practically the equivalent of the output for the year 1930. I want, therefore, to draw the attention of the Committee to two or three changes which have come over the industry since the year 1930. I am not comparing the position to-day with that year in order to make party points, though it happens to be the last complete year when the Labour Government were in office. There has been a decline in employment in the coal industry since the year 1930 of no fewer than 150,000 men, or something like r6 per cent. of the total employés in 1930. That is the first and most striking figure. We are producing this year the same quantity of coal, with 16 per cent. fewer men in the industry than there were seven years ago.
The problem of the men who have been thrown out of work in the coal industry really is the problem of the distressed or Special Areas to-day, but this is not the occasion upon which to discuss it. It is all the more startling that we should be producing the same quantity of coal this year with 16 per cent. fewer men, when 2734 you consider that in the year 1931 the hours of work in the mines were reduced over the greater part of the coalfield by half an hour. This equivalent to the year 1930 is the result of two factors taken together. The first is the increase in the output per man-shift due to mechanisation. There has been an increase of something like 10 per cent. in the output per man-shift in the last seven years. There has also been a second factor, and that is that the men to-day are working better time than they were seven years ago. The average number of days worked per employé seven years ago was 243, last year it was 261, and this year it will be still higher. Taking these figures in combination, the increase in output per man-shift, the greater number of working days, and the increase in wages rates which have been made in the last 18 months, we find an extraordinary effect upon the average annual earnings of the men. In the year 1930, for every employé in the industry, £114 was paid in wages. Last year that figure had gone up to £129, an increase of £15, and there is very little doubt that this year the figure will be nearer £140 than £130. [Interruption.] Yes, that is to say, in the present year every man and boy in the industry will work half-an-hour per day shorter than he did in 1930 and take home something like £25 more in annual wages.
§ Mr. T. Smith
Surely the hon. Gentleman does not say that the hours were reduced throughout the coalfields?
§ Mr. Peake
Oh, yes, I am quite prepared to concede a point of that sort. It is extraordinary that this year, as I say, each man and boy will take home approximately £25 more than he did seven years ago, and the cost of living, about which there is to be a Debate on Wednesday, is to-day five points below what it was in the year 1930. That is the measure of the improvement in the condition of the mining population during the last seven years, and I think that these figures are somewhat striking. 2735 Hon. Members opposite will say, if they have not said it already, "Oh, but the industry is very much more profitable to-day than it was seven years ago, and big sums of money are being taken out of the industry in profits." I do not want to burke the question of profit at all. Let me make the facts perfectly plain. They are these. From 1927 to 1933 the average profit per ton of coal for the industry never exceeded, in any of these seven years, 3d. per ton, and in some of the years there was a deficit. In 1934 the profit was 5d. per ton; in 1935, 6d. per ton; and last year, just under is. This year the indications are that it will be in the region of is. 3d. or 1s. 4d. per ton. [Interruption.] If you take the first quarter for any particular area you may find a higher figure, but I am taking it by and large for the tonnage of coal to be produced this year, and I should be very surprised if the profit works out at more than Is. 3d. per ton.
§ Mr. Jenkins
The hon. Gentleman is making a comparison between wage increases and increased profits. It is perfectly clear that he has taken the average figure of the coalfield, taking the exporting districts with the inland districts. He would get a very much higher figure than the figure he gives as profits in certain areas. If you took the Midland area and compared the increase of wages over the period stated by the hon. Gentleman with the increase of profits, the percentage increase of profits would be substantially greater than the increase in wages.
§ Mr. Peake
Yes, but when the hon. Member comes to speak it will be open for him to take any particular district. From the point of view of the general public the question is, 1s the coal industry making excessive profits at the present time? By and large, the fact will be that at the end of this year the profit will work out at about is. 3d. or 1s. 4d. per ton, and when you consider the lean years through which the industry has passed, and the way in which the reserves of many companies have become depleted during those lean years, I do not think the public will consider that an average profit of 1s. 3d. per ton is an excessive figure for the industry to make. Let me say at once that, personally, I hope the figure will not be any bigger. I do not want to see large profits in the coalfields. 2736 We have been given statutory powers, great powers of control over prices and if we abuse these powers, it is quite certain that some form of control will have to be placed upon the profits.
What ought to be the policy of the industry at the present time? We ought to remember that these advances in wages and increases in profits which both sides of the industry have gained have not been wholly due to increased efficiency in the industry itself. They are also due to the increase in prices which we are charging the consumer. Last year the average selling price of coal was 8 per cent. above the low levels during the depression of 1932 and 1933. This year the price level of coal will be something between 12 and 15 per cent. above these same levels. It would be a comparatively easy course for the industry to go on shoving up prices and increasing wages, and possibly profits at the expense of the consumer, but that would be a most unwise policy to pursue at the present time. The consumer has stood an increase of between 12 per cent. and 15 per cent. Some consumers have had to pay a great deal larger increase than that, because the increase has not been spread evenly over all classes of consumers. An increase of 12 per cent. or 15 per cent. in two years is a fairly substantial advance, and we ought not to press the matter very much further at the present time.
Our policy ought to be to try to consolidate the ground which we have gained and to try to take other measures for improving the security and stabilising the income of the worker in the mines. It is to that objective that I am going to put two or three suggestions before the Committee. The mineworker can never enjoy absolute security. The demand for coal is bound to fluctuate, and the miner's income is bound to fluctuate accordingly, but we should use the machinery of central selling to even out to some extent the seasonal variations in the demand for coal, and to obtain more regular working of the mines. In the last few years a miner has had only too often three or four days work per week during the summer months. It is highly inconvenient to anybody to have a fluctuating income, and it particularly affects the question of the miners' holiday. One of the speakers at the Blackpool conference said that many thousands of miners had never seen the sea. That may be true. and I think we 2737 should endeavour at the present time to give the miner a week's holiday with pay. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) may remember that my maiden speech in this House, seven or eight years ago, was in opposition to his proposal of a week's holiday with pay for all workers. I have changed my mind. I do riot see any great practical difficulty in providing a week's holiday with pay for miners at the present time. Of course, it would be—and hon. Members opposite will say that this is the snag—a charge against the ascertainment. That is to say, the cost of the week's pay would be debited against the ascertainment of the miners' wages, but the charge would come during the summer months. During the summer the ascertainment usually falls back to the minimum percentage, and under these conditions the bulk of the cost of the miners' holiday with pay would be borne by the owners. I think hon. Members opposite will agree with that. If the industry should be so prosperous that the ascertainment rises above the minimum percentage during the summer months, then the miner himself would be making a contribution towards his own holiday, and that would be in the nature of a compulsory contributory holiday fund.
Now I come to a second suggestion which, I think, would give a good deal of satisfaction, and would bring about better feeling and security among the mining population, and that is a question to which hon. Members opposite have directed a good many questions to the Minister of Health in the last few months. I refer to increased pensions or, if you like. voluntary retiring allowances for miners over 65, or possibly even over 60. This is a scheme which I believe the industry would very much like to adopt. I say that because we all recognise that we are not making the best use of our social services if men of 65 and upwards are still employed in the mines drawing not only their wages but the old age pension, and possibly their wives are also drawing the old age pension. That is happening at a time when youths who ought to be at work are on the dole. That is thoroughly bad. If we could supplement the old age pension by a voluntary retiring allowance which the man could draw on condition that he retires from industry, we should help both the old people and the young people. There is a difficulty, and that is 2738 that any contribution from the industry to this object would act in relief of public assistance, because many old age pensions are being supplemented by the public assistance committees. It is not the slightest use the industry finding an extra 10s. a week out of its resources if the only result is to save the public assistance committee 7s. 6d. Therefore, I should like an assurance that the Minister of Health would look with interest and favour upon a scheme of this kind and see whether he could not direct some of the savings on public assistance which would result from the adoption of this scheme, as a contribution towards the operation of the scheme.
My third suggestion is that I think we ought to have more generally than exists in the industry to-day, a five-day week. The five-day week has been adopted over very large areas, specially in the larger pits of the Midlands, and it is undoubtedly a very great success. It suits the men, it gives them an extra day for the purpose of recreation, and has a great effect upon their health and their outlook upon life. It has an admirable effect upon the staff who, in any case, nearly always have to go down at the week ends when repairs and other jobs have to be done. If these jobs have to be done on the Sunday when you are working a six-day week, it means that the staff get very little rest. There is a third reason why the five-day week would be of great benefit, and that is the question of safety, to which hon. Members opposite have directed a large part of their speeches to-day. When you are getting coal by machinery and your coal faces are moving forward at a great rate, enormous volumes of gas are given off and the pit becomes very warm.
In the last four or five years we have had too many disastrous explosions. We have had North Gawber, and Gresford, Wharncliffe Woodmoor, and Holditch. Every summer has been spoilt for a good many of us by these ghastly disasters. There seem to be two or three features in common about these disasters. One is that electricity is nearly always associated with them, the second is that they take place in summer, and the third is that it is in machine cutting faces that the explosions take place. If we could get the five-day week it would give the mines a better opportunity of cooling off, and that would have an important bearing on the 2739 question of explosions. The hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) will perhaps be able to tell us a little more as to the cause of these explosions, but it seems to me that we may have made a mistake of policy in the type of mechanisation we have adopted and the pace at which it has been pursued. The Royal Commission is sitting at the present time, and as I am not a technical expert any suggestion that I have to make will be of little value to them, but I believe that something that might be said by my hon. Friend, and some of the remarks from hon. Members opposite, ought to be carefully considered by the Royal Commission.
The hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Paling) moved the reduction of the Vote, and I thought he was going to give us more of the ginger group attitude of the party opposite. I was pleasantly surprised that he was able to keep his ardent nature so well in check, but there were two points about which I wish to say a few words. The first is the question of workmen's inspections. I agree with him that we cannot have too many workmen's inspections. At the collieries with which I am connected we insist on the workmen making an inspection whether they want to do so or not.
§ Mr. Peake
I am prepared to do so. The hon. Member said that in some districts it is because the men cannot afford to find the money that the inspections are not made. I wonder whether that is really so. To pay a couple of men for one shift's work to go down the pit and make an inspection is not a very costly thing.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The pits with which the hon. Member is connected could not be examined in one day. The pit with which I was connected is such that it takes about a month to inspect it.
§ Mr. Peake
I concede that point, but what the workmen do at the pits with which I am connected is that they have a monthly inspection. Two men go down and make an inspection. It can hardly be true that the men cannot find the money to pay for these inspections, when they can find money for a good many other trade union objects, which I will not specify. If it is simply a question of 2740 cash which is preventing the workmen's inspections taking place, then I think the owners themselves will be willing to find the money for the inspections.
§ Mr. Peake
If it were true that the men themselves could not afford them. I want to say a few more serious words about the rather vague allegations which the hon. Member for Wentworth made against the owners and managers. He did not make any direct allegation, but when referring to any particular class of accident he continually asked whether this was a question of cost. He repeated that phrase so often that one came to the conclusion that he thought it was a question of cost, although he did not make that as a direct allegation. He produced no statistical evidence to support the theory that accidents are a question of cost. As I have said before in House, if that is to be proved, statistical evidence should be produced in support of it.
§ Mr. Paling
Does not the Inspector's report itself give evidence? It refers to haulage accidents and says the roads are narrow and that there are low bridges in the roofs. Is it not a question of cost to widen the road and improve the roofs?
§ Mr. Peake
My answer is that a minute proportion of the accidents in mines occur on the roads, and there may be very good reason why it is safer to have a low road than a high road, as any miner knows. The hon. Member has produced no statistical evidence, of which there should be some available if what he says is true, to prove that costs and accidents are connected. The most recent evidence, the figures for last year, seem to prove the reverse. Unfortunately, last year, the most prosperous year the industry has had since 1924–25, showed a rise in the accident rate. That, of itself, seems to disprove the theory that there is a connection between costs and accidents. As I have said before, and I repeat it, we have had only one period in the industry when we were not concerned with our costs, and that was in 1919–23, the period of coal control. In those four years the accidents, which had gone down steadily 30 years before the War, went back a whole generation. To say that accidents in the mines are the result of parsimony 2741 and economy on the part of managers or directors is a serious libel on a fine body of men.
§ Mr. Peake
We have had a Debate about Gresford. There is a Royal Commission sitting at present. I hope that all that hon. Members opposite have said about safety will be brought to the attention of the Commission. As an owner, I look forward to an early report from the Commission, and I hope that it will make a real contribution to the reduction of the accident rate in mines, which is a thing about which no one can be complacent at this or any other time. I have placed before the Committee two or three constructive suggestions for the improvement of the conditions of the mining population. I hope that they will be discussed by the joint Consultative Committee and by the associations and unions in the districts. I believe that they can all be achieved without placing an undue burden on the consumers of coal, on whose good will the welfare and prosperity of the industry must ultimately depend.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
May I respectfully and sincerely congratulate the speaker who has just sat down upon the most exceptional and unusually enlightened view that I have ever had the pleasure of listening to from one who is associated with the coal industry as the hon. Gentleman is? I have not a shadow of doubt that if that spirit prevailed generally throughout the coalfields of this country and animated those responsible for the conduct of the mining industry, it would go a considerable way towards reducing the toll of injuries which characterises that industry year after year. I would be the last man to impute that that attitude could ever have been inspired by the vision that during this year that industry will show probably a profit of about £15,000,000. On a calculated output of 240,000,000 tons, with an average profit of 1s. 3d. a ton, that will yield to those who regard themselves as the owners of the collieries a profit of—15,000,000. I am not so certain whether it was that vision, that most happy of all anticipations, which was responsible also for the optimism of the Secretary for Mines. I was amazed to hear him telling the House that he was now living in an atmosphere of co-operation instead of destructive 2742 criticism. I should like to know where he lives. It goes without saying that he lives very remotely from the coalfields, because there he will find none of that atmosphere of co-operation, whatever is reported to the contrary, and to-day the conduct of the mining industry—I say it deliberately—leaves itself open to criticism, if not destructive criticism, criticism which would lay bare its grave shortcomings.
I am sorry if the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Secretary for Mines is leaving the Committee. I must warn him now that I do not share the spirit of felicity which has been expressed. Frankly, I am more than satisfied that neither he nor his Department nor all the machinery associated with him deserves the £200,000 that he is asking the Committee to grant to him. He has not earned it, and I am satisfied—his speech revealed it this afternoon—that he is living in an atmosphere of the most perfect unreality ever lived in by any Minister who has occupied his position. He knows very well that if wages in the mining industry are going up, the increase is being negated by the increased cost of living and, incidentally, in my coalfield by his friend the Minister of Labour putting his savage means test at work to deprive the miners of what they would otherwise receive. I wish to submit a few tests as to the optimism of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and as to whether he is entitled to make optimistic speeches to this Committee. The main questions in which we on these benches are interested are, whether, from a human point of view, any progress has taken place in the industry, whether a minute fraction of the alleged improvements mentioned or implied in the Minister's speech has taken place, whether the toll in hunman life has been reduced during this generation, whether non-fatal accidents have been reduced, and whether the Mines Department—its machinery, inspectorate and large number of other employés, its propaganda and publications, and, I almost said, its boasting—have in the least contributed towards easing the toll, doing ever so little for the miners and contributing towards reducing the cost of coal production in terms of suffering and death?
The hon. and gallant Gentleman told us that for 1936 there was a reduction in 2743 the casualties. Unfortunately we realise how fleeting such an apparent improvement is, for this year the figures have gone up. But I wish to emphasise the revelations made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself of the horrid destruction of young life that is now taking place in the collieries of this country. Youths who are hardly beyond their childhood are driven into the coal mines because their parents and often their elder brothers, when they reach the age of 40, 45, or 50, are driven out. The labour and sacrifices of these youths are being used to pile up a £15,000,000 a year profit, and no colliery owner, as long as he knows that that traffic in the young life of our country is going on down in the bowels of the earth, has any right to take any pride in any alleged achievements he may mention. That is why I felt how completely unreal the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman was, and how false was his pride of achievement. I challenge him. He is not justified in pointing out certain achievements. We know what the real story is, that during this generation casualties have not been reduced. When the story is written up at the end of this year we shall find that what I am saying now is unfortunately only too true.
I waited anxiously this afternoon to see whether the Secretary for Mines would give us even the slightest indication that he was personally aware of the revolution in technique which has taken place in our coal mines during this generation. The revolution which machine mining has effected has brought in its train a host of most serious problems and new forms of danger which we did not know of a generation ago. The Minister took 14 minutes to expatiate on the increased output of coal—I timed him by the clock—but did not dwell on this vast change that has taken place, a change that is expressing itself in the increasing number of explosions that have occurred during the last five or six years. May I draw the attention of the Department to this point: It is not the magnitude of the explosion that matters, but the fact that ignition has taken place. Once ignition has taken place the magnitude of the explosion is absolutely in the lap of the gods, and during the last three or five years there have been more 2744 ignitions in our collieries than since the beginning of the century. In an important Debate like this the Secretary for Mines gets up, takes 40 or 50 minutes of the time of the Committee and blissfully ignores the repercussions of what I have described without any exaggeration at all, as a revolution in technique that has taken place quite recently in our mines.
Let me refer to one or two consequences of these changes. Many hon. Members like myself have had years of experience as actual coal hewers. In old days we had some measure of control over our immediate environment. As coal hewers we knew generally at the end of one shift what the physical conditions would be on our return on the following shift, but now, I use these words literally, the coal face in a mine is the nearest approach, outside of war itself, to absolute inferno. There is the ghastly din, the turmoil and confusion, of the coal cutters, whether they are electric or compressed air. There is the movement of the heavy conveyors, the noise inevitably made by other workmen and the clouds of dust which are found more than ever at the coal face to-day. The result is that the coal miner is facing new dangers to-day. His audition and his visibility are reduced to zero. In effect he is almost deaf and sightless in the face of the dangers to which he is exposed.
This revolutionary change has raised problems which hardly existed in my days. I was glad to hear the hon. Member opposite refer to the use of electricity at the coal face. We have sufficient evidence now from the inquiries which have been conducted during the last three or four years to justify us in demanding that electricity should not be used at the coal face. I may be charged with taking too panicky a view about this. There was an explosion quite recently in a neighbouring county to the division of the hon. Member which was attributed directly to a defective coal cutter, and we had a terrible explosion in South Wales several years ago. We have had evidence repeatedly that the use of electricity at the coal face is the use of a power which has not been sufficiently controlled. Further, modern methods of mining have given rise to a new series of problems as far as roof supports are concerned. I am satisfied that the Department is not doing justice in this respect. I know, for instance, that it 2745 approves through its inspectors of a form of packing underground which I consider to be most dangerous, and I am glad to find that there are some mining engineers and colliery managers who agree with me. It is a form of packing which deliberately leaves open spaces, which obviously and inevitably become nothing but gas meters, reservoirs of gas, which are just waiting for the spark.
I am glad that emphasis has been laid this afternoon upon the consequences of the terrible increase in shot-firing which has taken place in our coal mines. We must not forget that the increase relatively to the number of men employed is appalling, and any one who knows anything about coal mining must know that there is nothing in mining practice which is potentially so full of danger and which is so menacing a s shot-firing. In one year alone over 54,000.000 miniature explosions in the form of shot-firing took place in our mines; 54,000,000 miniature explosions in 12 months in an explosive atmosphere. Surely that calls for a great deal more conscious application of any brain and knowledge associated with the hon. and gallant Member than has been applied up to now. Has the hon. and gallant Member considered or has he been advised by his inspectors as to whether something could not he done to minimise the dangers from shot-firing. There are known to us, and have been known for a number of years, such things as shot-firing safety appliances. What prevents the Secretary for Mines asking his inspectors whether these shot-firing safety appliances could reduce the potential dangers associated with a practice of that kind?
I have said that the use of electricity at the coal face should be abolished until we have obtained a far greater measure of control over that power than we have at the present time. I do not want to elaborate this point, but unless the hon. and gallant Member is prepared to abolish the use of eelctricity at the coal face may I tell him that there are on the market to-day ways and means of reducing the danger considerably? I could mention a number, but I do not wish to take up more time of the Committee than is necessary. The hon. Lady who spoke earlier in the Debate made a reference to the "human element" which comes into play so far as mining accidents are concerned. What a useful phrase that has 2746 been not only to the coalowners and to the Mines Department, but to the machinery which is associated with it to-day. So many of these accidents could be obviated were it not for this inevitable but very rarely explained "human element." Let me give to the Committee a statement by one of our divisional inspectors for whom I have great regard. He says:To avoid accidents the only remedy lies in slowly and I fear laboriously educating those concerned to think a little more of the possible consequences of their action.That sounds beautiful on occasions. It is high-sounding enough to deserve recalling. But people who talk like that do not know the coal face in the way they should. They have no idea of the speeding up that has taken place in the lives of coal miners to-day. I have made a reference to the din and noise at the coal face. It is the machine not the thinking apparatus of the worker that sets the pace. It is the machine which sets the tempo. The coal cutter is put to work in a line of coal face. It loosens a large quantity of coal and 12 men are brought in to remove it where 20 men ought to have been employed. Let me picture to the Committee what this human element is to-day. He is often a member of an impoverished house, a house harassed by poverty. There will be thousands of miner's homes in this country who will know the meaning of hard pressed poverty during 1937, notwithstanding the fact that the coalowners will take their £15,000,000 profits during the year.
We have never succeeded in getting the Secretary for Mines or the Government or hon. Members of this House to appreciate that the causes of these accidents in our coal mines are not merely to be found in the conditions which exist at the coal face. They are to be found inexorably in the reactions of the miner to a harassed and impoverished home, in the bickerings and urgings of officials underground, in the threat of a hungry, menacing army of unemployed miners, in the infernal din of conveyors, coal-cutting machines and shot-firing, in the silent and insidious emission of dangerous gases, and at the coalface, in the fact that increasingly the tempo of his physical and mental reactions is set by a ravenous, hounding, soulless machine—all that often in a damp or wet work-place, with just a spark of light to illuminate his environment. 2747 The Mines Department and the Government have never appreciated how intensely the coalminer lives as a man and as one who contributes to the life of this country. Tens of thousands of them have to be up at dawn to travel any distance from a few yards to 20 miles to their work, and on reaching the pit top, often to be plunged half a mile down into instantaneous darkness in the bowels of the earth. Those are the human, economic and physical causes of accidents in coalmines to-day. These men are subject to an environment which has such an influence on their personalities as almost to produce a race of its own within this nation of ours.
In their struggle for survival, they have to assimilate tremendous knowledge. There is no industry in this country in which it is more true that there is a struggle of the fittest to survive—the fittest mentally as well as physically. I commend to the hon. Member who spoke before me, and to all hon. Members opposite on the side of the ownership of the industry, words which were written by Lord Sankey. Never have those words been truer than they are to-day; never have conditions in coal mining called for a larger measure of control by the miners in the direction of consciously coping with the dangers that still have such a heavy toll of life and limb in the industry. These are the words written by Lord Sankey in the report of the Sankey Commission, in 1919:We are prepared, however, to report now that it is in the interests of the community that the colliery worker shall in the future have an effective voice in the direction of the mine. For a generation"—and almost another generation has now passed—the colliery worker has been educated socially and technically. The result is a great national asset. Why not use it?It is an asset that must be consciously used on the basis of co-operative effort in our coal mines. In the cutting down of these accidents that take place with monotonous regularity, the miners must co-operate. They must be freed from being victims of the machine, as is the case to-day, and they must be guaranteed wages that will keep them and their families above the margin line of poverty. Lord Sankey told us that here we have 2748 a great national asset. I also ask why it is not used. In speaking of these accidents, hon. Members can indulge in mutual felicitations across the Floor of the House; they can make speeches packed full of pretence, or speeches revealing an utter incapacity to appreciate the human problem in coal mines but until the miner is freed from the despotism that has cursed this great industry from its inception, until any advance in science that is applied in coal mining is applied to the advantage of the miner, we shall still have the terrible casualty list on the one hand and optimistic speeches on the other inspired by the anticipation of huge profits made out of these sacrifices. I remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman of what I said at the beginning of my speech. To-day mining by youngsters is a more brutal thing than it ever was. I make no appeal to the hon. and gallant Gentleman and I make no appeal to the Government for this, that or any other thing; but I hope that the miners will increasingly realise that it rests with them to take control from the human and safety point of view.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson
I venture to address the Committee only because it seems to me that all the mining Debates to which I have listened have not been so much Debates as efforts on the part of most speakers to contribute to the general subject from the fund of their experience. My justification for speaking is that for four years I represented a mining constituency in Northumberland, and such an experience cannot fail to leave indelible marks on one's memory. In the first place, may I say that, although I am sure the speech to which we have just listened was sincere, I regret it. It was the same sort of speech that has been made on miners' platforms and in Debates in the House since the year one, and I do not think any result is ever achieved by that type of speech.
We have in the miners of this country the finest body of men in the world. I say that sincerely, and not in order to get votes, for I have no miners in my constituency. The four years which I spent in representing Morpeth left me with the deepest possible respect for the miners' good humour, courage and skill. The miners have been represented in the House from the beginning by members of 2749 the Miners' Federation. Yet the fact remains that the case for the miners has never got over to the general population of the country. I do not wish to make a partisan speech, but I feel that there must be something wrong with the friends of the miners, whatever the party to which they belong, in view of the fact that the miners' case, I will not say has never been properly put across, but has never got across. My experience is that people are only too anxious to learn about the miners' difficulties and to help them.
In making a few suggestions, I do not do so in a party spirit. I agree with the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. S. O. Davies) that pensions are a necessity for the mining industry; that is something that should commend itself to the electorate in all parts of the country. My particular subject is that of compensation. I am well aware that that is not under the direct control of the Secretary for Mines, but when, as we hope, new compensation legislation is brought forward, possibly next Session, affecting as it will so largely the mining industry, it must follow that what the Secretary for Mines asks for will be given great weight and attention.
I feel that a very large proportion of the unhappiness that so often afflicts the miners' life is due to the inadequacy of the compensation laws and the way in which they are administered. I am not addressing my remarks to the Secretary for Mines or to the Department so much as to hon. Members opposite. I believe that if, as a self-denying ordinance, they rather tended to stress less the purely political side of their beliefs and told the country as a whole the shortcomings of the compensation laws and the bad way in which frequently they are administered, and the terrible and tragic nature of the lives led by injured miners and partially-disabled men—
§ Mr. Lawson
May I interrupt to remind the hon. Member that the case for the miners was put to the public, and that the public responded to it in 1926, whereas his Government raised the hours from seven to eight?
§ Mr. Nicholson
I do not think the hon. Member has been listening to me; in fact, I saw him talking to an hon. Friend behind him. He has missed the point of my remarks. I think a great deal might 2750 be done for the miners if the remainder of the country understood the compensation laws and the compensation difficulties. I was referring to the particularly miserable lives led by partially-disabled men on partial compensation. I hope the hon. Member will agree with me on that.
§ Mr. Jenkins
Is the hon. Member not aware that not very long ago a compensation Bill was introduced in the House and resisted most strongly by every hon. Member opposite, notwithstanding the fact that it made provision for more adequate compensation both to those who were totally disabled and those who were partially disabled?
§ Mr. Nicholson
I remember that a year or two ago a Private Member's Bill was introduced. It was a major Bill covering a great many more subjects than those which I have mentioned. It is an example of what I am referring to, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for reminding me of it. It seems to me to be a pity that when the Labour party could do a little good and only stress a little part of their programme, they open their mouths too wide and demand the whole thing at once, in a way that has to be resisted by the Government. I would remind hon. Members, not in any spirit of boastfulness, that I did manage to get a Bill through the House affecting the miners beneficially, in that it compelled the colliery owners to insure against workmen's compensation liabilities, so I have a right to speak on this subject. With regard to accidents, there are one or two comments I would like to make. The speeches to which I have listened to-day, like so many speeches dealing with this subject, seem to leave behind in the hearer's mind the idea that the gravest problem facing the miners from the point of view of accidents is that of gas and explosions. If hon. Members will examine the accident statistics, they will find that, with the exception of the Gresford year, the proportion of deaths caused by explosions was quite small, and that the proportion of injuries was very small—2 per cent. I think. Is it wise that all the speeches dealing with accidents should tend to leave that impression with the hearer? I believe that by far the most fruitful source of inquiry into accidents would be into falls of ground. I have never been able to understand why the friends of the miners did not long ago 2751 press for the greater use of protective equipment. I have been very much impressed with the large number of minor injuries, such as crushed fingers, which keep men away from work for long periods and are very painful and lead to partial crippling, which could often be avoided by the use of protective equipment. I would appeal for a much greater use of such equipment.
To sum up, may I say that I feel as much enthusiasm for the miners' cause as hon. Members opposite in so far as my experience has made me familiar with the miners' case. I brought away from my experience as the representative of a mining constituency the impression that, not through any lack of good will but through mismanagement and, if you like, through the futility of our party system, the miners' case has never been got over to the public at large. It has been too political all along. The hon. Member who spoke last left with us the implication that if the mines were nationalised, accidents would almost be done away with. I cannot believe that. My experience in compensation matters has led me to feel that if members of the Labour party, and particularly members of the Miners' Federation, had a "drive" for six months or a year and directed all their speeches during that period to the need for reform of the compensation laws, leaving everything else on one side, tangible results would be achieved. As it is, political speeches of the same sort are made at miners' meetings every year, and the miners get no further. I am not concerned so much about the big disasters as about the steady toll which goes on from year to year of falls of roof and accidents resulting in injured backs and similar mishaps while nothing seems to be done. I appeal to hon. Members opposite to try to get the miners' case over to the rest of the population, in a non-political way.
§ Mr. Nicholson
My poor efforts for what they are worth will be with hon. Members every time in attempting to put the miners' case, particularly with regard to compensation, properly before the people of the country, from any plat- 2752 form they like. I have a greater respect for the mining population than for any other body of men and women in the world, and I believe that the same enthusiasm could be aroused in the hearts of the population of this country generally, if only this unutterable futile and confusing element of party politics were allowed to recede into the background.
§ 7.49 P.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger
It is not my intention to deal with the survey of the position in the mining industry which the Minister presented earlier. My colleagues who desire to speak on this subject are fully equipped for dealing with the Minister's statement, but I ask the attention of the Committee, and particularly of the last speaker who seemed so full of sympathy—I hope practical sympathy—to a definite grievance which I desire to place before the Committee and the Minister. I have already brought this subject to the Minister's notice, and he has returned the usual reply to the effect that he is putting one of his officers on to the case to try to get a settlement. I refer to the Harworth trouble which nearly brought the industry to a standstill a month or two ago. We all remember the appeal which was made by the ex-Prime Minister for peace in the industry, and I do not think it can be denied that efforts were made on the miners' side—perhaps they were made on the owners' side as well—to find a solution which would bring to an end the unhappy state of affairs which had then existed at Harworth for a considerable time. The agreement which was reached arid in reaching which I understand the Minister himself took a part, was that a certain number of miners in Harworth should be taken on by a system of drawing lots. I think 350 was the number agreed upon and 350 names were drawn out of a hat. A certain number have already been restarted. In reply to a question of mine recently the Minister said that something like 140 had been re-started. Of these 350 men 17 have already received orders from the colliery to re-start but have not been permitted to go down the mine.
I ask that the agreement should be observed in the spirit as well as in the letter. I think I am entitled to suggest that if miners are asked to play their part, as they have been asked this afternoon, the colliery-owners on the other hand should exert their influence to see that 2753 agreements of this kind are fully observed. Victimisation is an ugly word but it is a word with which we are familiar in the raining industry. The victimisation which is being suffered by some of these men at Harworth, including the secretary of the local branch of the Notts Miners' Association is in an insidious form. We cannot say definitely that the colliery-owner is victimising these men, because the reason given for refusing to allow these men to start work is that a certain number of men, who belong, I understand, to the industrial Union have said that they will not work with their comrades. I suggest that that is not a sufficient answer. We believe that if the owners of the colliery insisted that these 17 men should be allowed to work, very little opposition would be maintained by these members of the Industrial Union.
On 1st September, I understand, the fusion between the two unions will take place, but it is not good enough that the Minister should merely say that he is dealing with the subject. We must not forget that these men have been out of work for a long time. Whatever the rights or wrongs of the question may be they have been unemployed for a long time and their only capital is their weekly wage. The matter is urgent and if the Minister would only pass on the word to the right quarters, and he knows the right quarters, considerable attention would be paid to what he says and this grievance could be remedied. The subject is one on which I could speak at length but I do not propose to do so. I have, I think, spoken with commendable brevity. I have brought the issue before the high court of Parliament, and I think we are entitled to demand from the Minister tonight an assurance that the state of affairs which still prevails in Harworth, and which is not conducive to peace, either in that district or in a much wider area, should be brought to an end, and brought to an end quickly.
§ 7.55 P.m.
I am afraid I cannot claim any connection with the coal industry at the present time to justify my intervention in this Debate. It is many years since I, as a manager, and the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) working under me were concerned in developing electrical coal cutters, and since then I have spent many years in 2754 developing turbine pumping plants for mines up and down this country. Indeed I might be called one of the fathers of that type of pumping. In consequence I have been down many mines both here and abroad. I have been a little disappointed with this Debate. I, as a practical man, always listen to a Debate with the idea of hearing something constructive, but there has not been sufficient in the speeches which have been made so far to help us to make progress with any of the problems arising in the mining industry. I am also rather sorry that nothing has been said about increasing production with the object of providing employment. It may be that other speakers intend to deal with that subject later. To me, the main point in this as in most other things, is the question of employment—how we can increase production reasonably and in a decent way.
Nothing has been said either about the foreign trade, the main trade which we have lost, and the steps to be taken to recover it. Why, for instance, have we had no call for a bounty? That method has been used by foreign countries as a means of increasing coal production and the increased output and export of Germany are very largely due to it. Whether we can see our way to do it or not, it is worth while to debate the proposition. If you could by some means get an export bounty on coal it would put up output and increase employment, and South Wales would be the first part of the country to benefit. I feel that there is nothing to be gained by refraining from bringing forward any propositions which are likely to have some effect.
I wish to say a little on the subject of hydrogenation. I am disappointed that it has not been raised already. If we want to increase output and employment, we must be prepared to propose means whereby we think it can be done. I should have expected calls for more hydrogenation plants. I am not here to advocate that, however, because from all we have heard I think the various means of converting coal into oil which we have at present are not, commercially, as satisfactory as we had hoped. It seems a simple proposition that because coal is carbon and oil is carbon and hydrogen that we have only to isolate the hydrogen which can be done in various ways and 2755 then combine it with coal to form oil. But I think the figures given in another place a short time ago about hydrogenation must have been very depressing. For Imperial Chemical Industries, to produce 150,000 tons of petrol a year, a capital expenditure of 5,500,000 is necessary. The country uses 4,500,000 tons a year and in ten years time will probably be using double that amount.
To achieve self-sufficiency in this respect, which is what the Germans are trying to do, we should have to spend £165,000,000 and we should sacrifice the £45,000,000 which we now draw in duty on imported oils. That shows the complexity of the problem. You cannot simply say that you want to provide employment and that this is a way of doing so and that therefore you should at once go straight ahead with it for there are big complications. We look at what Germany is doing and we may be rather carried away by that example. Possibly we forget that the conditions in Germany are different from ours, that their need is greater than ours, and that their raw material is more suitable. I do not think their scheme can be said to be at all commercial. It is only the high duty on imports that makes it possible. It has been said, looking at the question of the cost of this plant resolved into the cost of putting a man to work, that you can put a man to work in an ordinary way for a capital cost of about £340, and that the corresponding cost of this scheme is £916. There are other processes than the Bergius one at Billingham—the Tropsch. for instance, is said to be a simpler process. Even yet, though a number of those plants are going in in Germany, they cannot be said to be commercially successful.
My feeling about this is that while it may be the right thing to do, we should go slowly. Development has not gone far enough to put too much capital expenditure, nationally, into it. Of course, it is far beyond the power of any ordinary company to do this at present. My view is rather that if it is as important as we believe it to be, we should intensify our research, and in that sense I think the Government should really do more than they are doing. We have a very good fuel research station, to which many hon. Members will have been and where they will have seen good 2756 work going on, but the position that we ought to take up, if it is a national problem, is that it requires a good deal more expenditure and research upon it, and in other districts than at present. Why is there not a research station in South Wales, so that the people who live there will take interest in its success if they assist it appreciating that it will bring more employment? I. think I might give to the Committee the opinion of Sir D. Rivett from Australia, who looked into this question and who reported:Quite definitely, both hydrogenation and synthesis are economically unattractive and must remain so until either their costs are materially reduced or competitive petrol from flow oil approaches something like three times its present price … I find myself quite unable to recommend that public money should be provided at the present time for so costly a project as the making of petrol from coal.He has examined the whole problem and he comes to a very depressing conclusion so far as converting coal into oil is concerned, but to me, as an engineer and as one who has been developing new things nearly all my life, that is only a greater incentive to set to work to find out how we can do it. We ought not to depend on Germany to do it, but should do it ourselves.
§ Mr. Chorlton
Yes, I think one can say that commercially it is a failure. It is only successful by means of an excessive duty, which of course, cannot be kept on for all time. What I want to suggest is not that you should give the matter up, but that you must indulge in a large capital expenditure when the present plant is in danger of becoming obsolescent very quickly. If you do that, you will be spending a lot of money, like Germany has done with her Air Force, and then find yourself beaten by others because your own plant is out of date. Why do not hon. Members propose other ways of using coal?
§ Mr. Chorlton
I believe that the best way to get things done is to do them yourself. How are you going to increase the use of coal? We have had a good deal of talk about the use of coal dust direct in the engine cylinder. Everybody knows that one of the biggest losses to 2757 the coal trade is the use of oil in engines at sea. The use of oil as a fine powder in an engine cylinder is being actively developed in Germany, as many hon. Members know, but many hon. Members may not know that it has been under active development in special engines there by the Nazi Government. Do not hon. Members think that it would be a good plan to push, almost to press, the development of the use of coal in engine cylinders in this country? I think it would. I think the use of pulverised coal, which is powdered coal, is not exploited to anything like the extent that it might be. Hon. Members know quite well that when we had a duty put on fuel oil, there was a great "to do" about it in the House, but after the duty was put on many of those concerned turned over to pulverised coal, which actually proved not only successful, but cheaper. For the purpose of coastal trading and cross-channel work, coal should be practically the only fuel, and conditions are improving because of the improvement of the steam engine using steam from the coal-fired boilers, but its economy is not as good to-day as it might be, and its development so far has been very slow. If you can develop the coal installations on a steamer to run as cheaply as or more cheaply than the oil installations run, they will take the place of the latter. This class of improved installation is now being pushed forward, but I think that more research work should be done, with assistance, to develop this particular use of coal.
I do not know exactly what is expected of those who are considering individually how they can further the use of coal. There is an Institute of Fuel, but so important is the question that I should have thought that some kind of committee would have been set up by the Government, or with Government assistance, specially with this object in view. What I am saying may be going against my own interests, but I make these suggestions merely out of a personal feeling and desire to help the country. I contend that hon. Members above the Gangway, who have a large proportion of mining Members among them, should do something collectively in the way of making propositions to increase the use of coal, and if they can get Government help in connection with it, so much the better. I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee, but what I have had to say 2758 has been strictly practical, if it has not related much to the mining side of the question. I can only suggest, in conclusion, that coal is the national fuel of this country. This country grew up on coal, and its great position in the world is due to coal. It is a very sorry thing that those concerned in it have, it appears, so lost courage as to lack the initiative and energy to effectively reinstate British coal in the pre-eminent position that it occupied at one time.
§ 8. 11 p.m.
§ Mr. McLean Watson
I have listened with great respect and attention to the speech of the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. Chorlton). We are willing to hear suggestions from any part of the House as to how we can make our propaganda more effective, but I think that before now I have heard the case for powdered fuel and oil from coal being put from this side of the House, and very seldom from the other side. During the last hour we have heard two speeches telling Members of the Labour party, and the miners' Members particularly, how they can make their propaganda more effective. We have been told that our propaganda would be more effective if there was less politics in it, and we have taken note of the fact that we have been advised to keep politics out of our industry. We have heard that before. The miners are like some other sections of this House, in that they have had to get their own representatives here to put their own case. The miners have been compelled to send us here to look after their interests, because before we were here the representatives of the coalowners were sitting on the other side, and they are still there.
I always listen with great interest to the hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake). I have had the misfortune before now to have to follow him in a Debate, and I confess that it is very difficult to do. He speaks as a coalowner. I only wish that he spoke for the coal-owners. If he could speak for the British coalowners—
§ Mr. Watson
No, he would not. I would like to hear any elected or selected representative of the British coalowners getting up in this House and saying what the hon. Member for North Leeds has told us within the last few hours. As I 2759 have said, he is a very difficult speaker to follow, because he is always so pleasant and so progressive in his views. As a matter of fact, I agree with all that he said to-day. I could not find fault with anything that he said or with any suggestion that he made, especially with the five-day-week policy for the miners of Great Britain. He spoke as a coal-owner, but he does not speak for the British coalowners.
I had not the privilege of hearing the speech of the Secretary for Mines. I come from a part of the British coalfield which is as far as it can be from London. I am at the extreme north end of the British coalfield, and it takes me some time before I can reach the House on Monday. Since I came into the Chamber I have listened with great attention to all that has been said, and from what I have heard, the Secretary for Mines has not yet completed his job, and there are still one or two things he requires to do. The hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Paling) has indicated several ways in which the Minister should be very active. I hope that he will give attention to the various points that have been raised.
I want to support the plea that has been made to the Minister by my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger). He referred to the unfortunate dispute that existed at Harworth for a considerable time, and it is clear from what he said that some things are still happening there that are causing friction. If the Minister for Mines can do anything more than he has done to ease the situation I hope he will do it. I had the privilege of visiting that colliery a few days after the riot and I met a number of the miners and some who are now in gaol and whose appeal will come on this week. I gathered from them for the first time information about what had happened. The Minister has played his part in trying to get conciliation in that area, and if he can do anything more to make the situation more easy I am certain that the Miners' Federation of Great Britain will be grateful to him. If there is anything in the shape of victimisation going on in that colliery I hope he will use his influence to get rid of it. I want to warn the Minister that he must not regard it as a merely local matter or local dispute. I can assure him that every miner in the British coalfields is watching what 2760 is going on there, and if there is any victimisation as the result of what happened at the Harworth colliery, there will be trouble in the British coalfield.
I want to join with those who have made an appeal to the Minister to insure greater safety in mines. I agree with the hon. Gentleman who spoke from the other side that all the accidents which occur in mines are not due to explosions. There are a huge number of the accidents that take place from day to day which are not due to explosions at all. They are due in a great many cases to the machinery that is now being used in the coal mines. An hon. Friend who spoke earlier in the Debate showed how a complete revolution has taken place in mining conditions. Any one who knew mining 20 years ago could not recognise many of the conditions to-day. I am pleased to say that I entered the mine and spent my mining life before machinery began to be introduced. I do not think that the introduction of labour-saving machinery has eased the miner's lot one bit. He has to work as hard to-day, despite the fact that so-called labour-saving machinery has been introduced. All that has happened is that instead of a dozen miners doing a certain bit of work, it is now done by a machine and two men. This machinery has cut down the number of men required in the industry, but it has not eased the miner's lot a little bit.
Like other Members, I appreciate the fact that a lady Member has taken part in this Debate. I would have been pleased if, instead of taking the line she did, she had drawn attention to the fact that there are still a considerable number of women engaged about the mines of this country. It would be an advantage if the women could be wholly kept away from the pits, for it is not work that women ought to be asked to undertake. I think that the hon. Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) might have devoted a part of her speech to an appeal to the coal owners to get rid of women labour at the pit banks. A considerable number of colliery concerns do not have women at the colliery at all, and I hope that before long we shall be able to get rid of women's work at the mines. I am not going to follow the hon. Member for Frome in her claim that the tariff policy of the Government has been responsible for the improvement that has taken place in the mining industry. I do 2761 not believe that the improvement is due to the tariff policy of the Government. If the rearmament policy were to come to an end I am afraid we should find the industry back to where it was two years ago. I am prepared to say that the rearmament policy of the Government has a great deal more to do with the boom in the coal trade than their tariff policy.
The hon. Member for Frome mentioned a matter on which miners are keenly interested and about which keen discussions are taking place. She ventured to make some suggestions with regard to work and safety underground, and she put up a plea for steel supports in preference to wooden supports. She seemed to indicate that it would be much better and safer in the mines if more steel supports were used. I do not suppose that miners have the slightest objection to steel supports on the main roads. I do not think anything could be better, but steel supports are used at the coal face and are drawn regularly, a really dangerous proceeding. I believe that so far as the coal face is concerned the ordinary miner would prefer the wooden prop, which at least gives the miner some warning when there is a movement. Some of the main roads in collieries have splendid roofs now that steel girders are used, and they are a great improvement on what used to be.
A point was made by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) about which I would like to say a word with reference to the new system of mining with the coal cutters and coal conveyors. In the ordinary long wall system that we used to have in the mine, we had a great number of gateways through which miners could escape in the event of any collapse at the face. With coal conveyors conveying the coal along the coal face for considerable distances, sometimes as much as 200 yards, there may be, in some sections, not more than two outlets. The hon. Member for Leigh was quite right in emphasising that more gateways should be provided within that space. If anything occurs at the coal face and there are only outlets at a distance of 150 or 200 yards men may be imprisoned for a considerable time before they can be rescued. One knows the reason for having these long stretches of coal face with so few outlets. It saves money for the colliery company. It is less trouble to have only two roads into a section than 2762 half-a-dozen; but from the point of view of safety there ought to be more gateways from the coal face.
I know that a great deal more is being done for safety, by some colliery concerns at least, than was the case in bygone years. Safety committees have been set up at some collieries, and in connection with mining education boys are getting a certain amount of instruction as to mining conditions underground before they enter the mines. That is all to the good. A great deal might be done towards preparing youths for entering the mines. I agree with hon. Members on this side who have said that the age at which boys enter the mines should be raised, and before they leave school, as part of their education, they could usefully be prepared for entering the mines. Entering the mine nowadays is a very different thing from what it was 20 years ago. Then a miner could take his son with him into the mine and know that he would be perfectly safe in that mine. A previous speaker from this side has said that in those days when a miner left his work he knew almost to a certainty how he would find his place in the morning. I wonder how many miners leaving the pits to-night know in what condition their places will be when they return to work to-morrow morning? Very few. Conditions have changed, and there is need for those who propose to enter the mines to have a greater knowledge of what is done underground.
I know that many hon. Members on these benches wish to put the case for their particular areas. I speak as a Member for Scotland, and I want to assure the Secretary for Mines that the Scottish miners are not satisfied that his Department is doing all it could do to ensure safety in mines and to help the coal trade. Our men are of opinion that long before this some of the steps so often suggested ought to have been put in hand. The hon. Member who spoke last seemed to infer that more progress was not made because the miners representatives had not been active enough in pressing upon the Government the schemes he mentioned. We have been pressing those schemes for years. We are interested in the coal industry as well as the coal owners, indeed, we have a more direct interest in the industry than the coal owners, because although they have their money invested in it, the miners have 2763 their lives invested in it. Therefore, we want to see the industry prosper. We have suggested to this Government and to previous Governments to promote the extraction of oil from coal and the use of powdered fuel. We have pressed those views for a long while ,and I hope that more Members of the party to which the hon. Member belongs will take the matter up and press it. In our view the Government ought to have acted long ere now. Only a Government can handle a problem of that kind.
But something more requires to be done for the coalfields. If the rearmament programme were finished we should see a slump in the coal trade. I do not believe that the coal trade is in a healthy condition. If it were we should look to the future with confidence, but we cannot, because this great rearmament programme will one day come to an end. Hundreds of millions cannot be spent without some industries benefiting, and the essential industries in connection with preparations for war are the coal and the iron and steel industries. It is because of that situation that we have this exceptional prosperity in the mining industry. A great deal can be done to put the industry on a better footing, and I hope that the Minister will do everything he can, and also urge the matter on his colleagues in the Government. I hope hon. Members opposite will not feel that we introduce too much politics into our business. We have been compelled to introduce politics. If we saw any indication either from a Conservative Government or from the coalowners that we did not need to take political action, I do not suppose we should take it. The miners have had to go in for politics and to send their representatives here in order to get something like decent conditions, and we have a long way to go before we shall achieve really decent conditions. I hope that in our efforts we shall have more assistance from the Government side than we have had up to the present time.
§ 8.33 P.m.
§ Mr. T. Smith
This Debate has taken a rather curious turn. The hon. Member for Bury (Mr. Chorlton) must have been trying to pull our legs. He advocated low-temperature carbonisation and pulverisation and other things. We, from these benches, have been urging those schemes on successive Governments for 2764 years as a means of increasing the use of coal. The hon. Member who now sits for Farnham (Mr. G Nicholson) told us that we ought to eleminate party politics and advocate a better Workmen's Compensation Act. I do not know how many times we on these benches have urged the Government to bring in a new Workmen's Compensation Bill, but without result. Nearly every time we have done so hon. Members have gone into the Lobby and defeated us. Speeches like that from the other side are nothing more nor less than hypocrisy. The hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) represents not only a constituency in the same county as mine, but represents colliery interests very close to my constituency, and I was extremely interested to hear what he had to say, especially with regard to prosperity in the industry. Sir Dennis, I do not mind letting you into a secret. I have learned something this afternoon which I did not know this morning. I have learned that the mining industry is now prosperous. We have been told that there is a great increase in earnings.
On Saturday I spent some time chatting with those who were in charge of negotiations in relation to a series of strikes in the county of Yorkshire, the district represented by the hon. Member for North Leeds. I was pleased to see in this morning's papers that there has been a settlement. Those strikes were to be on account of low wages; young men of 20 years of age who were doing responsible work underground had been receiving as low as 6s. 5d. a shift on five days a week. What is the good of talking about prosperity in the mining industry in such conditions? In the locality that I represent there are still day-wage men who go home with less than £2 a week. The present prosperity is measured by prices on the Stock Exchange. I have seen a remarkable difference in this respect during the last two or three years. Mining company shares which stood below par are now standing at a premium. That is the kind of prosperity we have, but it is not prosperity in the sense of giving a decent wage to the miners of this country, and all the talk of prosperity is merely by the way.
I do not blame the Secretary for Mines for making the best of a bad job. Reading this morning's papers and listening to his speech tell me that the slogan of the National Government is to be: "We 2765 have prosperity, and the National Government are responsible for it." Look at the situation from the point of view of output. Anybody would believe that we had reached something like the pre-war output, yet the figure is 121,000,000 tons for the first six months of this year. That is somewhere in the region of 240,000,000 tons at the end of the year, at least 18,000,000 tons less than in 1929 and 47,000,000 tons less than in 1913. While we all welcome the improvement in output, there is not a good deal to boast of. With regard to the number of men employed, I will be quite frank with the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I cannot accept his figure of 30,000 more wage-earners in the industry now than at this time last year. I have been out and checked the Ministry of Labour figures, and I have looked at some of the answers given to questions, and I say quite respectfully to him that I do not accept his figures. It is true that there has been an increase, but not to that extent, but I am prepared to look more closely into the matter.
Three suggestions made by the hon. Member for North Leeds need examination. He said he now believes in holidays with pay, and that he would give every man working in the mines a week's holiday with pay. I agree with him, and every hon. Member on this side of the Committee agrees with him also; the only point of disagreement is that the holiday ought to be two weeks. A speaker at the Miners' Federation conference said that thousands of mine workers and their wives and young children have never yet seen the sea. I worked in the industry for 22 years and I did 16 years underground. When did we see the sea? The only time was when we paid 4d. or 6d. a week for 52 weeks in the year, and only to have one day, either at Bridlington or Scarborough. No wonder we went mad when we went into the sea; no wonder we enjoyed ourselves. Men who work hard in dangerous occupations are entitled to holidays with pay. Why does not the hon. Member go back to the coalowners and try to persuade them to concede the principle? It is no good an influential coalowner standing up in this Committee and saying that he is in favour of holidays with pay unless he does something with his own side in the industry. I happen to know a little bit about what takes place 2766 in Yorkshire and I will tell the hon. Member that I will tell my own constituency to agitate for holidays with pay. There is no need for the hon. Member to wait until he has persuaded the coalowners. I suggest that he should set the example in his own collieries.
May I inform the hon. Gentleman that an example has already been set by one of the collieries in the Midlands, which has this year started giving holidays with pay?
§ Mr. Smith
With all due respect to the hon. Lady, and although she is perfectly right, I tell her that she is a long way behind the times. I know where the examples have been started, but I want to see the collieries in which the hon. Member for North Leeds is interested also starting. Shilbottle Colliery is one that gives a week's holiday with full pay, but that is only a colliery run by a cooperative society. Another point about that colliery: they pay wages which are higher than the county rate. But hon. Members are not concerned with cooperative societies. I want to see private enterprise also starting these things. The next suggestion was that there ought to be a five-day week. The five-day week will be welcome, but let us not forget that some miners in this country have for a long while been working less than five days a week. Many of them have been doing three days at the pit and three days on unemployment pay, unfortunately, and a five-day week would be welcome to them, if the wages are big enough. The next suggestion, on which I should like to interrogate the hon. Member if he were here, was in regard to pensions. I believe I informed the hon. Member about a colliery I know that started a pension scheme about four years ago. It is working very well. I agree with him that we need a pension scheme in the mining industry, not at 65 but at 60.
In regard to pensions, he asks where the money would come from? That is a proper question to put, but I will suggest where the money could be found. I should have no hesitation is finding the money. The National Government, to the surprise of all Conservatives, have now decided to nationalise mining royalties, and they are proposing to pay £66,000,000 by way of compensation. If there is one class in British mining that has done well, year in and year out, in 2767 times of depression and of boom, it is the royalty owners. I would not hesitate to take £16,000,000 from that £66,000,000, or more if needed, and to hand it back to the mining industry to form the nucleus of a decent pension scheme. After all, who earned it? I tell the hon. Member that on this side of the House we would do all that we possibly could to help him to bring those concessions about.
I want the Secretary for Mines to pay some attention—or those who are taking notes for him—to the question of overtime, not in a general way, but in a particular way. Most of the overtime is worked at machine faces and is not confined to any one county. It is general in every district where machine mining is in operation. I want to ask the Secretary for Mines to make clear the opinion of the Department upon machine mining and emergency work. You, Sir Dennis, as an old Parliamentarian, know that, in the old days, before machine mining came into operation in this country to any extent, Parliament included in a Mines Act a Clause dealing with emergency work, and saying that men could work longer than eight hours underground if they were engaged in emergency work. What was emergency work? In general it would be if there had been a fall of ground cutting off or blocking up certain airways, and men's lives were in danger. Then there would be no question of working only eight hours; it would be 18 if necessary. If a heading had to be got through for ventilation purposes for the rest of the pit, there was no question about working an hour extra, but it was never intended that ordinary machine work should be defined as emergency work within the meaning of that Act, because very little machine work was being done when that Clause was put on the Statute Book.
I ask the Secretary for Mines to make it perfectly clear whether his Department believe that clearing a machine face is emergency work within the meaning of the Act, and how long it is since the Department circularised colliery managers on this point. If that were made clear, it would do something to clear the air in the mining industry. I Would like the Secretary for Mines to give us some definite Ruling on that point, and I hope that when he comes to reply he will do so. I 2768 conclude by saying that there is one thing about which I am pleased, and that is that in the minefield there is an increasing use of protective equipment in the form of hard hats, gloves, and in some cases boots. That protective equipment does a great' deal towards preventing minor accidents, and from that point of view we on this side of the House will always be prepared to help and encourage the use of such protective equipment. I hope the Secretary for Mines will not shirk the points which have been put to him, but will be clear and explicit upon them when he comes to reply.
§ 8.47 P.m.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I know that we are working against time, and I do not intervene to take part in the general discussion, but to put a point which I raised with the Minister when he made his opening statement. It is in reference to the problem of silicosis, particularly as applying to the men in my area. He said this afternoon that there are 780,000 miners employed in the mines of this country, and I think I shall be near the mark if I say that, of that number, 35,000 are employed in anthracite pits. Of the certified cases of silicosis among the miners of this country in the first six months of the present year, more than 40 per cent. were from among the 35,000 anthracite miners. Figures given to me by the Home Office show that the number of certificates granted among all the miners of this country with respect to disablement on account of silicosis, and certificates of death caused by silicosis, during the first six months of this year, was 162. That figure covers the whole mining industry, with its 780,000 people employed; but of these 162 certified cases no fewer than 70 come from the anthracite mines in South Wales, which employ only 35.000 men. That, I think, is a clear indication that this terrible problem of silicosis is in no small measure a problem concentrated in the anthracite area.
I want to make a criticism of the inspectorate, but I want to make it in a friendly way, because there has just been a change in the inspectorate in the Swansea division. As one who for 10 years worked with the late Mr. Finney, I desire to join in the tribute which was paid to him by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. One could never hope to cooperate with a finer type of man than 2769 Mr. Finney, who for to years was a senior inspector in the Swansea division, which he only left a month or so before his tragic death.
This problem is a typically anthracite problem, and I honestly believe that the inspectorate in that area could have, and should have, paid far more attention to it than they have. As the Secretary for Mines said this afternoon, a committee of investigation appointed by the Medical Research Council, for which I know he is not responsible, is shortly going to visit South Wales in order to investigate this problem. They are going to the anthracite district, and they will be investigating the medical problem—the problem of the large number of men who are disabled by the effect of dust upon their lungs, which the medical board say is not silicosis. We know perfectly well that, whatever it may be called, it is a consequence of their employment, and therefore we are urging as strongly as we can that this term "silicosis" is a complete misnomer, and that a new term should be substituted which will bring within its scope these men who are disabled as a result of their occupation and who in large numbers are on our streets to-day fighting for their breath and not getting a penny of compensation because the Order is not wide enough to bring them within its Scope.
That committee will investigate the problem of what this disease is. The medical board say that it is not silicosis, but it has exactly the same symptoms as silicosis; all the symptoms which are well known as symptoms of silicosis are observable in these men who are denied compensation. The medical men will look at this problem from the standpoint of correct diagnosis, with a view to making recommendations to the Government as to whether there should be a widening of the terms of compensation.
There is another problem. It is not enough to discover what this disease is; there is the problem of its prevention. We know that nothing can cure silicosis; the only way to deal with it is to prevent it. Every medical man to whom I have spoken has told me that, once anyone has contracted silicosis, it is only a matter of time, that there is no cure. Surely that is all the more reason why we should approach the problem from the standpoint of prevention. These two jobs ought to be done together, because they are really 2770 one job. I would like to see fresh minds and fresh ideas brought to bear upon it; I would like to see the accumulated knowledge of men who have worked in the anthracite and Western coalfield brought into play. I have my own ideas with regard to the problem. They may be wrong, but I would like to discuss it with the inspectors and give my own practical views as to what I think are the causes—there are more than one—of the spread of silicosis. I would urge upon the Minister that, while this investigation, for which he himself is not actually responsible, is taking place, the people who advise him on preventive methods should co-operate in it, so that the two questions may be approached and dealt with at the same time. I urge the hon. and gallant Gentleman to lose no opportunity and to spare no effort to assist in bringing these men within the range of the Workmen's Compensation Act, and, what is far more important, to take any and every step that can be taken, whatever the cost, to prevent this dread disease.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want to make two points which I consider are very important and which have not been dealt with to any particular extent during the discussion. One is in relation to the question of safety. The Minister said that the Mines Department are very concerned with the health and safety of the miners. One of the most important questions in regard to safety and care in the pits is the question of workmen's inspection. I know that, in the district which I represent, where there are some very large and important pits, regular monthly inspections are carried out by the workmen's inspectors all the year round, and I am certain that the Government inspector for that area would testify to the value of the work that is being done in these inspections. More than that, at the national Conference of the Miners' Federation attention was drawn to the importance of workmen's inspections.
While the Minister was making his statement, I asked him whether he could give us any information with regard to the accident rate—as to which districts showed the greatest number of accidents, and the numbers of men employed. I should like to know what effect the regular inspections that take place in the Fife 2771 area by workmen's inspectors is having in so far as accidents are concerned. I know it has had a good effect in the matter of overtime and ventilation in many pits, but I should like a statement as to the rate of accidents and the number of inspections carried out by workmen's inspectors, because I believe that regular workmen's inspections in every area and every pit would be of the greatest value to the miners. I am certain that the miners in the Fife area, as well as the Government inspector, fully appreciate the value of these inspections.
The other question that I want to deal with is that of welfare and pit baths. My constituency covers a very wide area. There are no large towns. It is a whole series of mining villages, scattered all over Fife, some very small, and they have to face difficulties from the point of view of social life. There were very serious complaints in one village the other day about the failure of the development of welfare. The welfare committee of the district is working hard and doing all it possibly can, but there is a limit to its finances. An hon. Member in the Liberal party has mentioned that in 1931 that party was responsible for getting the penny rate reduced to ½d., but the Resolution said something about it being increased when the industry was capable of providing for it. All over the country now miners are asking for increased attention to welfare, and surely that ½d. should now be raised to rd. so that welfare centres can be developed and social life and opportunities for the children provided as the result.
With regard to the allied question of baths, I got a Motion passed through the House. It was unanimously supported and most Members had an idea from what the Minister said that something was actually going to be done about it. But all that we have got is that the Minister tells us that there has been a certain acceleration. We are told that in Fife there are to be no more installations until next year. There have been one or two extra installations granted but, if the Ministry would make a loan to the welfare committee, installations could be provided in every pit in the country. I remember that the Government had no hesitation in raising a loan of £27,000,000 for the railway companies. The baths fund has an income of somewhere around 2772 £350,000 a year. If the Government would make a grant, or a loan, of £3,500,000 for immediate installations all over the country, they would take the pit bath income year by year and in 10 years the loan would be repaid at no cost to the Government whatever. I could take you to pit after pit where the miners come out covered with dust, scarcely able to see out of their eyes, and they go home, and it makes life wretched for the miner, his wife and family. Installation is refused despite the fact that the House passed that Motion on the understanding that the matter was going to be taken up. I appeal to the Minister to give consideration to these questions.
§ 9.1 p.m.
The Minister made out a very excellent balance-sheet for himself. He put on one side that there were very many more employed in the mines than there had been for a period of years, that wages have improved, that they had been able to secure excellent trade agreements here and there, and he had various other things among his assets. There was one liability, that fatal accidents were greater during the last period than during the previous period. I daresay he would have very much satisfaction in presenting that balance-sheet, but during the Debate I think that satisfaction will have grown less, because many Members on his own benches have referred to matters which ought to have attention and which would make that balance-sheet look very much worse. The reduction in export tonnage is a very serious matter. It has gone down by about a half. The Government ought to take that into consideration and see how far their tariff policy has been responsible for it. It is no use interfering with the basic industry of the country and then trying to patch it up by trade agreements here and there. I do not think that is going to be a very effective method of clearing up the disastrous state in which the export trade finds itself.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) pointed out that the increase in the output per man-shift had gone up by about 10 per cent. and that wages had gone up roughly by about £14 a year. I assume that his figures are correct. I have been making a calculation, and the nearest I can get to it is that, compared with an increase per man-shift of 10 per cent., wages, putting the best face you can upon it, have risen 2773 about 8 per cent., so that the men who are producing the commodity are not getting a comparative wage in keeping with the increased output for which they are responsible.
There is another thing. The hon. Member said that they were looking forward to a fairly even keel of profits of about Is. 4d. per ton. That is a very important matter, and if there is any prospect of an even keel of that kind coming about, the first consideration ought to be given to the question of the purchasing power of the people who are producing that raw commodity. He made reference—and the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) dealt with it in some measure—to various suggestions that he would put into operation, but before doing that he made this admission. He said that the present position of the industry is not altogether due to greater efficiency in the industry, but that it is due to the temporarily higher prices that are being received. That is rather a serious admission. If you are to improve the conditions of the miners and the industry generally, it ought to be done in good times; you should not wait until bad times come and then talk about the difficulties you have to face. This ought to be faced in good times.
The hon. Member referred to the question of holidays with pay. Is he in favour of holidays with pay? My com plaint is that of the hon. Member for Normanton. I think that a week's holiday is far too little for the miner, and that it ought to be for a much longer period. The hon. Member for North Leeds need not worry about the effect it would have on the ascertainment. The mineworkers of this country, following their laborious work day by day, would feel that life was worth living a little more if there was the prospect of holidays with pay, either a week or a fortnight. Of course, we are in favour of the five-day week, but we want the industry to be based upon such lines that a man's purchasing power will not be reduced owing to the fact that his working time is reduced. If the purchasing power is reduced owing to the fact that the working time is reduced, it will not be of very great advantage.
The hon. Member for Bury (Mr. Chorlton), rather chastised us for not putting forth plenty of energy in this House to demand from the Government the 2774 better use of coal, so that we might get the industry placed upon a better basis in the future. All the years that I have been here we have been hammering at that kind of thing, and if we could get the Government to face up to the situation, particularly at the present time, it might have the effect of rather counteracting that to which some of my hon. Friends have given expression to-day if a slump came upon the mining industry, and it would ease the situation and the burden of those times.
There is one further thing I want to put before the Minister. There is a very strong feeling on this side of the Committee that there ought to be in future, when unfortunate explosions take place, an opportunity given for a proper and full inquiry such as we had into the Gresford disaster. If the Secretary for Mines would see to that in the future it would be of very great help to us. We naturally expect these disastrous events to become less and less, and if there is a possibility of removing them altogether so much the better. The Secretary for Mines, in putting his case forward to-day, expressed, as he was entitled to do, gratitude owing to the fact that there were more miners employed to-day than there were a year go. But I would remind him that the actual situation is that there are 52,400 fewer miners employed to-day than there were in 1931. We have to face the matter from that point of view. Although the numbers are very much less than they were in past days, the accidents, both fatal and non-fatal, are proportionately larger. That is the problem we have to face. The Secretary for Mines must realise that it is part of his duty, however difficult it may be, to find ways and means of rectifying that very serious matter in connection with the mining industry of this country.
As has been expressed to-day, there has been speeding up by the introduction of machinery. Some of us do not know what a mine really is to-day compared with the old days. There are fillers, cutters, pneumatic picks and all kinds of things which were unknown in the old days. Miners who have been unemployed for six years or more find that they are absolutely out of date, and it would be a very difficult matter for these men to occupy a position in the mine without some additional knowledge and training. 2775 They were hand-hewers in their day. All this has passed away and it is a new phase altogether, and in view of all the scientific research there ought to have been much greater progress and security than we find in the mining industry to-day. It is true that people say, "Oh mining is an abnormal industry; the conditions are abnormal." We all know that they are abnormal. I sometimes think that if the general public could see the conditions in which the miners are forced to work, there might be greater consideration for their future welfare.
Therefore, we say that, even in the worst conditions, very much can be done in these days to try to overcome these difficulties. Surely, the explosion at Gresford and all the past explosions ought to be some kind of lesson for the future. The evidence at Gresford was that ventilation had not been properly attended to, that stone dusting had not been done thoroughly, that the road records had been badly kept and the roads were not in the condition in which they ought to have been. All these things had been neglected. These were the causes which helped in very large measure to cause the terrible catastrophe that occurred in that particular area.
When one looks at the Estimates and realises the position of the Secretary for Mines—we see that this year £9,401 is to be spent for testing and research and that it is an increase over last year of £154—one wonders whether the Government themselves, apart from the coalowners, do not think in terms of costs and economy rather than in terms of the safety of human life. I remember in the War days, as a member of the Executive of the Miners' Federation, going to a little barren place on the coast of Cumberland to see Dr. Wheeler experiment in connection with his stone-dusting operations. We saw there workings made as nearly like underground workings as possible above ground, and we saw the effect of blown-out shots without stone dust, and the effect of blown-out shots where stone dust was intermixed with coal dust. Considering that it is over 20 years ago that these experiments were carried out, if it is possible for the effects in the actual working to be anything like what they were in these experiments, then stone dusting ought to be made absolutely com- 2776 pulsory in the interest of every man and lad employed in the mines of this country.
What is the use of scientific research if you are not going to see that it is put into practical operation? The Minister told us that he is issuing new regulations. I hope that he will make the regulations in connection with stone dusting of such a nature that there will be no possibility of the regulations being avoided, as in the past. The Secretary for Mines cannot be satisfied with the present condition of things. I should be surprised if he was satisfied, because experience shows us that safety, security and health ought to be the first consideration. Modern conditions require modern methods. It is impossible simply to reply on the haphazard way of the old methods of the past. I am hoping that as a result of to-day's Debate the Minister will see to it that new methods are brought into operation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson) referred to the question of safety committees. It is true that there are safety committees in certain collieries, and I suggest that those safety committees should be made compulsory at every colliery, that there should be two representatives of the colliery-owners and two representatives of the workmen seeing day by day the inspectors' reports, seeing that the ventilation is being attended to, that the traveling ways are being looked after, that stone dusting is being done, that proper tests are made, that all these inspections are properly reported and that the committee acts in conjunction with the local mines inspectors, some of whom are paid by the workmen. That might obviate many difficulties in the future. Then the Secretary for Mines would have an opportunity of knowing that these inspections are being carried out and that the inspectors confer with the local committees and give them necessary advice in order to overcome difficulties.
The issuing of "safety first" posters and other instructions are all very well in their way and have done much good, but they are not sufficient. Conferences between the safety committees and the Government inspectors are very important, and the inspectors ought to confer with the Minister, so that he would have first-hand information of what is happening throughout the mining industry. In turn, he could probably help us to make every possible use of the committee which 2777 has been appointed and for which we are very thankful, the consultative committee of the miners and the owners. That committee gives us an opening for the future, which we hope will have great effect. It will give the Minister and the committee an opportunity of having all the information which the inspectors are able to furnish, so that there may be a chance of getting the kind of regulations and safety devices which are necessary in order to protect the workmen in the industry. We must make the greatest possible use of that consultative committee in future along those lines.
There is another matter of great importance, and that is the position of boys in mines. We are told that the boys who are working in our mines to-day are paying a great toll of life. With regard to those under 16 years, I understand that the toll works out at nine per 1,000, and above 16 years 4.5 per 1,000. That is a very serious matter. Reference has been made to that fact from this side, and I hope hon. Members opposite will help us in regard to it. We say that there ought to be no boy employed below ground between the ages of 14 and 16. In the old days the economic needs of the miners' homes forced them to send lads into the pit. They had no training or knowledge. A lad would go into the pit probably because all the other lads in the village were going into the pit. When he had been there a fortnight he would know every word in the mining vocabulary, and after he had been there a month he could add new words of his own. If you put a question to these lads as to why coal was being produced, they would not have the vaguest idea. While the training of boys latterly may have done a lot of good, there is a great opportunity for the future, particularly in regard to lads between 14 and 16.
Mine owners say there is a scarcity of lads. There can be no wonder. What prospect is there for a lad? He sees what his father and grandfather have gone through. They have had to work the whole of their lives for a very meagre wage and to live in a colliery, street, in the worst possible type of home, with no proper street pavings, no lighting and very poor sanitation. They have had the worst possible conditions because they have been miners. What prospect is there for a lad to go in for mining under 2778 those conditions? The lads are entitled to something far better than that. They have had a better education in these days and they are not going to accept the same conditions as were accepted by their fathers and grandfathers, and they have no right to do so. There are here great opportunities from the point of view of housing, sanitation, road-making and lighting for the local committees, in connection with the Ministry of Health. The old game was that when a local authority wanted to improve the roads in a colliery village the representatives of the coal owners on the local authorities used to terrify them by saying, "If you force us to bring into operation the Street Works Act, the colliery will close." That was the old gag all the time, and it still goes on.
We have to face up to this situation and see that it is dealt with in a proper way, and see that a situation is created in which there will be no further employment of boys between 14 and 16 underground. If in connection with the mining industry boys between 14 and 16 are to be employed, they must spend the first two years above ground, with opportunities of proper training, so that they will know the underground workings of the mine, something about the electrical gadgets in operation, and also something of the reason why coal is being produced. Let them understand that coal is an important national asset, that it is being used for export purposes so that necessary goods may be brought to this country, for the greater happiness of the people and that it is being used to create warmth and enjoyment for our people. Let the public mind also understand that coal is being won at great danger and expense of life, so that they will help to bring about happier conditions than exist to-day.
Therefore I and my colleagues appeal to the Minister to re-examine that balance-sheet which he portrayed to us, and if he does he will find that the liabilities probably outweigh the assets. It is up to him to use his influence and the service of his Department to see that every possible thing is brought into operation in order to raise the standard of the mining industry and to create the impression in the minds of the people generally that mining is an occupation which is worth all that has been put into it, because it is 2779 going to be seen that the men and the boys who work in it have an opportunity of real citizenship.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ Captain Crookshank
I am sure that we all re-echo the final word of the hon. Gentleman. We hope that everybody connected with this industry will have an opportunity of real citizenship. But in answering the Debate I should like to start by saying that I am indebted to hon. Gentlemen for the many points they have raised. I cannot hope to deal with them all now, but I and my staff will read and re-read their speeches, and if there is anything to which a specific reply should be made it will be made. It has been an interesting Debate because we have covered such a wide field. We might almost say that apart from the accompaniment of either music or aeroplanes, it has been a mining Members' gala. The interruptions to my own speech had better be cleared up first. The first question was whether I could split up the accidents to boys by groups as above and below 16. The answer is that for 1936 in the group 14 to 16 there were 29 killed and 5,932 injured, and in group 16 and under 18 there were 26 killed and 8,247 injured. The numbers employed in the two groups was 29,000 in the first case and just under 42,000 in the other. The second interruption dealt with the output per man-shift, and my recollection was correct that in 1936 it was 23.54 cwt., whereas in the previous year it had been 23.35 cwt.
§ Captain Crookshank
The figures are 1929 21.69, 1933 22.47, 1934 22.94, 1935 23.35, and 1936 23.54. Let us get to the main questions. First there was the general point which was raised in different parts of the Committee about the alleged delay in the introduction of the annual report. The general explanation is that this report, which contains an enormous number of statistics, inevitably takes a great deal of time to compile and that is not entirely in our power to deal with, because the figures have first to be collected and compiled by the collieries, and then they have to be collated, and that cannot be done until every colliery has sent in returns. It is not in 2780 practice possible to get these reports out much earlier in view of The complicated nature of the information they contain. But that does not mean that the whole of the world is left in ignorance of what is going on, for a study of the Board of Trade Journal will give indications every quarter of advance information—not as thorough as is given in the annual report but information of output, exports, prices, wages and accidents. The figures for the fatal accidents in each year are generally published within a week of the new year starting. I have taken the precaution of finding out when recent reports have been published. Last year we published the report on 21st August, which was three days earlier than in 1931 and eight days earlier than in 1930.
§ Mr. Jenkins
Since these statistics are all available and published in the Board of Trade Journal why cannot the annual report be published earlier?
§ Captain Crookshank
It is only advance information and not the complete information which can be published in the Board of Trade Journal. The reasons which made it difficult this year to publish the report earlier were the same reasons as made it difficult in other years. Some years there are other reasons. Some contributory delay may be due to the inspectors in some of the districts being hard pressed on one inquiry or another.
§ Captain Crookshank
I shall never get through the answers to questions, and in fairness to those who spoke to-night perhaps I had better get them polished off first. Some general considerations were put up by the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Paling), which were most adequately replied to by the hon. Lady whose intervention as a mining Member I welcome, as regards the effect of tariff policy on the coal trade. I am not going to embark far in that direction, but in so far as trade agreements were made possible through our adopting a tariff policy in that field, exports have risen by 90 per cent. I merely give another figure for hon. Gentlemen to reflect on. Take the year 2781 1932, before the tariff policy was in full blast, and while it was in process of formulation. The exports that year were 38.9 million tons. Last year, whether we had had a tariff policy or not, the Italian situation and the Spanish situation would have thrown out our figures. If hon. Gentlemen will concede me 1932 and 1935 as being two reasonable years, the figures were 38.9 million and 38.7 million tons. There was almost no difference.
§ Captain Crookshank
The year 1932 was reasonable from the point of view that tariffs were not in full blast.
§ Captain Crookshank
The hon. Member apparently prefers the year 1931; he has a sentimental attachment to it. In that year the export of coal was 42.8 million tons and in 1935 it was 38.7 million tons, a drop of 4,000,000 tons. Let me now take the figures of home consumption, because I claim that home consumption has been stimulated by our tariff policy. In 1931 home consumption was 155.7 million tons. In 1935 it had increased to 164.5 million tons. Therefore, you have in round figures a 9,000,000 tons increase in home consumption as against a 4,000,000 tons drop in exports. Perhaps hon. Members will think over that point.
Several hon. Members have raised a number of questions dealing with problems which are now before the Royal Commission, upon which I cannot make any statement which would be of any value. We are looking to the Royal Commission for guidance on various matters after having considered the evidence from all sources, and it would he unreasonable to discuss many of these problems in any detail. Of course I detected, not for the first time, running through some of the criticisms an attribution to myself and the inspectors of powers which we do not possess. There is a misconception as to the powers of inspectors. They are not the people who are statutorily responsible for the safety of coal mines, and if we keep that firmly fixed in mind we shall avoid some 2782 of the traps into which we might otherwise fall. The inspectors, of course, are there to see that the regulations are carried out, but they are not statutorily responsible for the running of the mines. That is part of the answer to the question why some of the roadways are lower than hon. Members' idea of the ideal. There may be a variety of reasons, ventilation and so on, but so long as the requirements of the Acts are carried out an inspector's lines of criticism are comparatively limited.
A good deal has been said about the desirability of workmen's inspections, which I wholeheartedly share, but the matter is being carefully considered by the Royal Commission. Hon. Members opposite say that one of the difficulties in the matter is the question of costs, but in that case I ask myself how is it that the greatest number of workmen's inspections are carried out in Durham and Northumberland where the wage rates are not as high as in other parts of the country? An hon. Member asked whether the lighting provisions would be in time. I am glad to say that they are. Rather strict comment was made in the last annual report and that possibly may have had some effect.
The hon. Member who spoke for the Liberal party referred to the desirability of pit committees and the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Whiteley) referred to the same subject. That might be one of the proposals which the Royal Commission might make but, generally speaking, I think it is desirable that they should be instituted as the result of a local desire and a local enthusiasm instead of being imposed from above. Machinery was provided by the Act of 1920 and this matter was under consideration again in 1926, but so far as I remember the Miners' Federation was not very enthusiastic, and I do not think the compulsory establishment of pit committees at the present time would necessarily be very useful.
The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Cape) asked about underground inspections last year. The total inspections were 18,500, and of those 1,500 were of night shifts and 1,100 of afternoon shifts. He also asked whether the new inspectors would be giving their attention to this matter. Of course, it is in order to deal with this problem that with the assent 2783 of the Chancellor of the Exchequer I am appointing the new inspectors. A better proportion of the inspections as between the three shifts than we have had in recent times is one of the objectives I had in mind in proceeding along these lines. The hon. Member also asked whether an inspector would be returning to Cumberland shortly. I hope there will be one there very soon, but probably this will not be possible until we have made the new appointments. I am sure he will understand the position.
The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson) raised the question of what is in their view the generally too great length of faces proportionate to the number of gateways, and I think they mentioned that the maximum distance should be 25 yards. No one can lay down any general proposition. My answer is that very often it is a question of balancing respective dangers. It is an accepted fact that the more gateways you have the weaker the roof tends to be at that point. The annual reports show that a great proportion of the accidents due to falls take place in that area, and, therefore, you have to balance that danger with the risk of men being cut off by a long length of face. There again the Royal Commission have had evidence on the point and may find some solution. It is not that one does not want to do these things but that one wants to be sure that, of the two evils, one is choosing the lesser and not the greater.
The hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) must have made an extremely good speech, because ever since he made it every other hon. Member opposite who has spoken has talked about hardly anything else. Of course, what might be the effect of a voluntary retirement scheme and higher pensions for miners, and the interrelations with our other social services, are matters for other Ministers, not for my Department.
I apologise to the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. S. O. Davies) for not being here when he spoke, but I had left to find the answers to some of the questions that had already been asked me. I have had a report of what he said, and I agree with him that machine-mining has brought new problems, new dangers, and new difficulties. I think one may say 2784 that during the last few years—and it is not finished yet—the mining industry has been going through its own industrial revolution, an industrial revolution which came to other industries in this country many years back. At the present time, one cannot make any final deductions about any of these problems, but in so far as they have brought changes which we think ought to be dealt with by legislation, the hon. Member will recall that that was the reason we set up a Royal Commission. We recognise that in view of all that has happened, the existing Act does not cover every point raised by the new methods. The only thing about which we want to be clear is that we do not change the old methods on wrong lines.
The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) referred to what he considered to be, or what he had heard were, grievances with regard to certain men who had not yet secured re-employment at Harworth. I am quite convinced that that is a matter which would be best handled by my conciliation officer. He has been concerned with this trouble for many months past, and has been in touch within the last week with the representatives of what are still two trade unions, although they will shortly be one, to decide how best to tackle what is admittedly a difficulty which needs delicate handling. May I leave the matter at this? In my view, it is not a question to be put to me of whether the problem is to be tackled, but a question of how it can be tackled with the greatest likelihood of success. I hope the hon. Member will be satisfied with the assurance which I give him on that matter.
The hon. Member for Bury (Mr. Chorlton) made an interesting speech, as he always does, with his knowledge of these engineering problems, and I am sorry that so few hon. Members were here to listen to him. The hon. Member mentioned pulverised fuel. It might interest the Committee to know That there was in industry last year an increase of 13 per cent. in the consumption of pulverised fuel. There is continua] progress in the use of this fuel by the metallurgical industry, an increase last year of 20 per cent. over the previous year. Electricity undertakings and cement works are still the largest users, but the use of it is developing. The hon. Member asked 2785 whether some steps could be taken, possibly with Government assistance, to spread propaganda for the greater use of coal. Evidently he is not aware, as no doubt some hon. Members are, of the very valuable work which has been done during the last two or three years by the Coal Utilisation Council, which has called back to coal a great many undertakings which were drifting away into the use of oil. By the propaganda of that council, a great deal has already been done, and it is work which has a great future.
With regard to silicosis, I am afraid that I did not make myself clear in my earlier remarks. The hon. Member who referred to this matter may take it that what I suggested was that the inspectors would work in conjunction with the inquiry that is going on. I thought I had made that clear, but if I did not, it was my fault. In any case that is what will happen. The hon. Member for Blaydon referred to stone-dusting. I think he overlooked the fact that the use of this has been compulsory since 1920, and that the regulations are now being considered in draft before the formal period of notice is given. One of the bodies to be consulted is the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, and any views they have on the matter I should be very glad to hear. My only object is to make the regulations as useful and as likely to be effective as possible, in the interests of everybody concerned. The hon. Member referred to what he called the small amount for testing in the Estimates, but that figure refers to improvements in the way of testing. Actually, the sum that is spent in health and safety research is about £60,000. I will now say a few words about overtime.
§ Captain Crookshank
It is not for me to interpret the law, but perhaps I may remind the hon. Member of what the law is. The Act of 1908 refers to emergency workfor meeting any danger or apprehended danger, or for dealing with any emergency or work uncompleted through unforeseen circumstances which requires to be dealt with without interruption in order to avoid serious interference with ordinary work in the mine or in any district of the mine.That is fairly clear. It covers the avoiding of any serious interference with the ordinary work in the mine. The hon. 2786 Member asked whether there had been any circular with regard to this, or whether anything had been done about it. In my view, although it is not for me or my Department to interpret the law, an unexpected event which occurs regularly would no longer be considered to be unexpected, and would not therefore be recognised as emergency overtime.
§ Captain Crookshank
The hon. Member says it does, but all I can say is that we get few specific complaints. If I am to prosecute, I must have a specific case, and not a general statement that there is a lot of overtime. If I am satisfied on evidence brought or on representations made, I am prepared to arrange for inspections in any district. Many statements deploring overtime are made in a general way, but specific cases are not so often brought to my notice. Very often when specific cases are first looked into, one finds that those who know the circumstances very well have perhaps a little more sympathy with the difficulties than those of us who sit here. I am prepared to investigate any case which is brought forward. I would remind hon. Members that inspectors' visits are made without notice. [Interruption.] Those are the instructions given to the inspectors. If an inspector arrives at a colliery and somebody telephones to somebody else that he is there, how do hon. Members propose to stop that? Is the telephone to be cut off? Surely hon. Members will realise that if a pit is in a very bad state, it is obviously impossible for repairs or changes to be made during the period when the inspector is going down.
I have now covered a considerable number of the points which were raised by hon. Members. It is impossible for me to answer all the questions that have been put, but in so far as I have not the time to deal with them to-night, I will deal with them by correspondence with the hon. Members concerned. I conclude by pointing out to the Committee that last year and so far this year, there has been manifest a general improvement, and there is no reason, as far as I can see, why it should not last, at any rate in the immediate future. That is with regard to production, output, wages and 2787 so on. But there has been another improvement. When I spoke in the corresponding Debate two years ago I was a newcomer to this industry. I then ventured to make an appeal and to try to drive home to all sections of the industry the value of co-operation and of endeavouring to settle differences amicably and the necessity of each side facing up to the others problems. I have to report to the Committee that, certainly not because of what I then said but in the natural evolution of things, there has certainly been an improvement in industrial relationships. There has been set up a Joint Consultative Committee on which representatives of owners and men talk over their difficulties regularly. There was a notable case in South Wales where a wage agreement was negotiated six months before the expiry of the existing agreement without what had been in the past such a terrible danger, namely, the compelling force of a time limit.
We have seen in the last two years the industry brought three times to the brink of a stoppage and on two of those occasions the threatened stoppage would have been on a national scale. Yet at the last moment there was an emergence of just that spirit of conciliation and co-
§ operation which enabled peace to be maintained with honour. That is an improvement which the Committee ought to note. One might well say that some grievances have been removed and some reconciliations have been effected in a spirit of mutual compromise. To-day I feel convinced even more than I did two years ago, from the personal experience which I have had, that, never mind about political differences, never mind about different theories of economics, there is a great deal of common ground that can usefully be explored. Many difficulties as we have seen in recent years, can be swept away by a spirit of good will. I hope we shall all, wherever we sit in this Committee or whatever our work may be in connection with the mining industry, do our best to foster that spirit, in order to bring peace and prosperity to all those who earn their livelihood in a dangerous, a difficult but a very gallant industry.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £197,105, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 144; Noes, 303.2791
|Division No. 307.]||AYES.||[10.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Foot, D. M.||Logan, D. G.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Frankel, D.||Lunn, W.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Gallacher, W.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Gardner, B. W.||McEntee, V. La T.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||McGhee, H. G.|
|Ammon, C. C.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||McGovern. J.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Gibson, R. (Greenock)||MacLaren, A.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Green, W. H.(Deptford)||Maclean, N.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Grenfell, D. R.||Mender, G. le M.|
|Barr, J.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Marshall, F.|
|Batey, J.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Maxton, J|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Messer, F.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Groves, T. E.||Milner, Major J.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Montague, F.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Buchanan, G.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Burke, W. A.||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Muff, G.|
|Cape, T.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Chater, D.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hollins, A.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Hopkin, D.||Owen, Major G.|
|Cove, W. G.||Jagger, J.||Paling, W.|
|Daggar, G.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Parker, J.|
|Dalton, H.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Pethick-Lawrence, RI. Hon. F. W.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Kelly, W. T.||Price, M. P.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Day, H.||Kirby, B. V.||Quibell, D J. K.|
|Dunn, E. (Bother Valley)||Kirkwood, D.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Ede, J. C.||Lathan, G.||Rickards, C. W. (Skipton)|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Lawson, J. J.||Ridley, G.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Leach, W.||Ritson, J.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Leonard, W.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Leslie, J. R.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Smith, E. (Stoke)||Watson, W. McL.|
|Rothschild, J. A. de||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)||Smith, T. (Normanton)||White, H. Graham|
|Sanders, W. S.||Sorensen, R. W.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Seely, Sir H. M.||Stephen, C.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Sexton. T. M.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Shinwell, E.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Short, A.||Thurtle, E.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Silkin, L.||Tinker, J. J.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Silverman, S. S.||Viant, S. P.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Simpson, F. B.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)||Walker, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.|
|Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)||Watkins, F. C.||Mr. Mathers and Mr. John.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Crossley, A. C.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Crowder, J. F. E.||Hepworth, J.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Cruddas, Col. B.||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Culverwell, C. T.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Davidson, Viscountess||Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Higgs, W. F.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Davison, Sir W. H.||Holmes, J. S.|
|Assheton, R.||De Chair, S. S.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||De la Bère, R.||Hopkinson, A.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Denville, Alfred||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hen. L.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Dodd, J. S.||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Boland, G. F.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Donner, P. W.||Hudson, R. S. Southport)|
|Balniel, Lord||Drewe, C.||Hulbert, N. J.|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Hunter, T.|
|Belt, Sir A. L.||Dugdale, Captain T. L.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Duggan, H. J.||Joel, D. J. B.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Dunglass, Lord||Jones, Sir G. W. I-I. (S'kN'w'gl'n)|
|Bird, Sir R.B.||Eastwood, J.F.||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Blair, Sir R.||Eckersley, P.T.||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Keeling, E. H.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Kerr, Colonel C. 1. (Montrose)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Ellis, Sir G.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Emery, J. F.||Kimball, L.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G||Errington, E.||Latham, Sir P.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Everard, W. L.||Levy, T.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Findlay, Sir E.||Lewis, O.|
|Bull, B. B.||Fleming, E. L||Liddall, W. S.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.|
|Burghley, Lord||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Lloyd, G. W.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Furness, S. N.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Loftus, P. C.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.|
|Butler, R. A.||Gluckstein, L. H.||Lyons, A. M.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Goldie, N. B.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Goodman, Col. A. W.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Gower, Sir R. V.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Granville, E. L.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Channon, H.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||McKie, J. H.|
|Chorlton, A. E. L.||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Christie, J. A.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Magnay, T.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Maitland, A.|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Grimston, R. V.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Marsden, Commander A.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Markham, S. F.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Guy, J. C. M.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Cox, H. B. T.||Hambro, A. V.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel Sir T. C. R.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hannah, I. C.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Morgan, R. H.|
|Critchley, A||Harbord, A.||Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Crooke, J. S.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Munro, P.|
|Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Rowlands, G.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Royds, Admiral P. M. R.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Russell, Sir Alexander||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Palmer, G. E. H.||Salmon, Sir I.||Touche, G. C.|
|Patrick, C. M.||Salt, E. W.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Peake, O.||Samuel, M. R. A.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Perkins, W. R. D.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Peters, Dr. S. J.||Savery, Sir Servington||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Petherick, M.||Scott, Lord William||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Evan|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Selley, H. R.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Pilkington, R.||Shakespeare, G. H.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Power, Sir J. C.||Simmonds, O. E.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Procter, Major H. A.||Somerset, T.||Wells, S. R.|
|Radford, E. A.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Ramsbotham, H.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Ramsden, Sir E.||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Rankin, Sir R.||Spens, W. P.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'Id)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Rayner, Major R. H.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Wise, A. R.|
|Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Storey, S.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Reid, Captain A. Cunningham||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Strauss, H. C. (Norwich)||Wragg, H.|
|Remer, J. R.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Ropner, Colonel L.||Tasker, Sir R. I.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Tate, Mavis C.||Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert|
|Ward and Mr. Cross.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ It being after Ten of the Clock, The CHAIRMAN proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14, to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Vote under consideration.
§ The CHAIRMAN then proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14, to put severally the Questions, That the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the several Classes of the Civil Estimates, including Supplementary Estimates, and the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the Estimates for the Revenue Departments, the Navy, Army, and Air, be granted for the Services defined in those Classes and Estimates.