HC Deb 01 June 1937 vol 324 cc835-7
Mr. Attlee

(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether he can now make a statement on the subject of coal legislation?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)

It was the desire and intention of His Majesty's Government that the legislation necessary to give effect to their proposals for the unification of coal royalties under public control should be introduced and carried into law during the present Session of Parliament. The House will remember that on 26th April, in announcing the Government's acceptance of the findings of the tribunal on the global purchase price of the royalties, the Prime Minister said that it was the intention to introduce the necessary legislation as soon as possible. It has, however, unfortunately become clear that the state of Parliamentary business will not permit of the passage of this Measure, which will inevitably be lengthy and complicated, during the present Session.

An alternative form of procedure is, however, possible, which will, I hope, obviate any serious delay. The unification of coal royalties must inevitably involve a great deal of preliminary work—in particular, the ascertainment of existing proprietary interest in coal and associated rights. The Government have accordingly decided that this preliminary work shall be proceeded with at once by means of a Bill to provide for the collection and registration of particulars concerning the units of separate ownership of coal and associated rights, and of existing working leases. It will be obvious that this task is an essential part of any scheme for the unification of the property concerned; and that such progress as can be made towards its completion will pro tanto shorten the period required for collecting information and assessing individual claims for compensation under the main Bill. It is intended, therefore, that a Bill providing the machinery for this purpose shall be introduced in another place almost at once, and I hope that it will be possible for it to become law before the Summer Recess. The main Bill embodying the coal policy of the Government will be introduced at the beginning of next Session, with a view to its passage into law before the end of the present year.

Mr. George Hall

Is it the intention of the Government to proceed with the Coal Mines Reorganisation Bill introduced some three or four months ago?

The Prime Minister

The main Bill, as I have already said, will be introduced next Session.

Mr. Michael Beaumont

Will the right hon. Gentleman be very careful to see that nothing in the first Bill ties the hands of this House on the principles of the main Bill when it comes before us?

Sir Archibald Sinclair

Is it clear that the main Bill will include both the unification of coal royalties and the reorganisation of the industry?

The Prime Minister

I cannot add anything about the contents of the Bill which will not be introduced until next Session.

Mr. Shinwell

On the principle embodied in the Bill to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, do we understand from his statement that all that is intended in the Bill to be introduced in another place is the collection of information in preparation for the major Bill which will be subsequently introduced in this House?

The Prime Minister

I thought I had made it pretty clear in my original reply that the collection and registration of particulars concerning the units of separate ownership of coal and associated rights and of existing working leases will be dealt with in that Bill. That originally would have been part of the main Bill, but as we cannot get the whole Bill through, we are doing that part of the Bill now so as to save time later.

Mr. Tinker

On a point of Order, did I understand the Prime Minister to say that we should delegate some of our powers to the House of Lords and that they would introduce a Bill on this matter? Have we the right to give the House of Lords power to introduce a Bill from this House which we have to deal with afterwards?

Mr. Speaker

That is a procedure which is very often adopted. It happens in many cases that a Bill is introduced first in the House of Lords and comes here afterwards.

Mr. David Grenfell

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that while legislation is to be brought in to collect information, nothing in the statement of the Government is to be taken to indicate that they are to modify or change in any way the award of the Tribunal?

The Prime Minister

That is so.

Mr. H. Morrison

Can the right hon. Gentleman inform the House whether the statement he has made covers in any way the future of the Coal Mines Reorganisation Bill which was introduced by the last President of the Board of Trade and dropped?

The Prime Minister

I said that there was no change in the plan of the Government except on the point of time.

Mr. Attlee

The difficulty is that there was a change in the plans of the Government owing to the Bill having been introduced by the President of the Board of Trade, emasculated and then withdrawn. What we want to know is whether the legislation is to fulfil the original programme of the Government in respect of the reorganisation of this industry.

The Prime Minister

There is not any alteration in the position as it was last stated in this House, except on the point of time.