§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ The Secretary for Mines (Captain Crookshank)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
In rising to move the Second Reading of this Bill, which is both short and limited, I hope I am not asking the House to embark upon so arduous and continuous a journey as I did last year. This Bill deals only with the question of pithead baths. I do not think it is necessary, at this time of day, to give in this House, or, indeed, anywhere in the country, the arguments for the increase in the number of pithead baths. If the question was put, the whole House would go into the "Aye" Lobby to say that such baths were desirable. I think there could be few greater advantages brought to a colliery village than a pithead bath: alike from the point of view of cleanliness; of amenity—because those hon. Members from colliery areas where these buildings have been put up will agree that they add greatly to the general amenities of the district, particularly where, as is often the case, there are trees, shrubs and flowers put around them; from the point of view of the reduction of drudgery for the women folk, who do not have to provide baths at home, and also because of the contribution they make to the health of the miners. I do not mean only from the point of view of having a bath as soon as the man comes out of the pit, but also because in most, if not all, the modern installations there is a first-aid room, provided with an attendant of knowledge and experience who can take small cuts in hand at once. As hon. Members know, there is always a grave risk that a small and apparently harmless injury may develop into something serious; if it is looked at at once, health, and even life, may be saved. So I think it is not necessary to discuss the advantages of pithead baths as such.
The Bill has only three Clauses. The first is the important, operative one. What it does—no doubt in very impressive legal language—is to increase the output levy from 1d. to 1d. for the next five years, and to earmark the whole of that increase for pithead baths. That is all the Bill does. It is concerned only with Section 1429 20, as subsequently amended, of the Mining Industry Act, 1920. It does not and is not intended to raise the more general problems of the Miners' Welfare Fund. It is important to remember, however, that what we are dealing with is not State money. It is money raised for the purposes of baths, either by the levy on output or by the levy, which is called the royalty welfare levy, raised among coal royalty owners.
May I just explain to the House what is the history of the baths fund of the Miners' Welfare Fund? The Miners' Welfare Fund was set up by the Act of 1920. In the earlier days there was comparatively little demand for baths, but in the; Act of 1926 a royalty welfare levy was instituted, amounting to 1s. in the pound on the value of mineral rents. That is permanent under our existing legislation; there is no time limit. By the Act of 1926, the amount raised by that levy was specifically earmarked for pithead baths. We may take a general figure of about £200,000 coming in from that source. In 1934, after the whole problem of the Miners' Welfare Fund had been considered by a committee, the House decided to reduce the output levy from 1d. to ½d. That is the levy on every ton of coal produced; it has nothing to do with the royalty levy. But an addition was made, in spite of that, to the income of the baths fund committees because at that time it was generally accepted that the baths were the most outstanding part of the work of the Miners' Welfare Fund; and, therefore, the Act laid down that each year a sufficient sum should be allocated for baths to reach the total of £375,000. That is to say, there was £200,000 coming from the royalty welfare levy, and the balance of the £375,000 was to be made up from the general funds at the disposal of the Miners' Welfare Committee. In other words, there was, from 1934 onwards, £375,000 available annually as a fixed figure for the purpose of baths. Of course many of the figures I have quoted are rough figures: they depend on mineral rentals on the one hand and output on the other; but the £375,000 is a fixed figure.
The committee then sketched out a programme which, in their view, would be sufficient to complete the baths programme in 18 years from then, at a cost estimated at just under £7,000,000. But, of course, they had to cut their coat ac- 1430 cording to their cloth, and, even for that expenditure, they contemplated that the baths would be provided only where there was a reasonably long expectation of life for the collieries, and where there were a substantial number of men employed. But, contrary to what had occurred in the early days of bath building, the demand for baths has increased, which shows the value put upon them by the mining community. We had a Debate in this House on the subject, almost exactly two years ago, which indicated the desirability of speeding up the programme as far as possible.
One of the things to be remembered is that there is a considerable time lag between the date when a plan is devised, or even when a contract is entered into, and the date when the contract is actually carried out. It may be as much as two years. By 1936, there were already considerable accumulated balances. In order to speed up the programme, the committee decided to accelerate it by drawing upon these accumulated balances, and they drew up the further programme of expenditure at the rate of £625,000 a year. By using the accumulated balances which they had, they have been able to do that, since 1936, without any further financial support being required.
From that point of view, they are already financed until the end of next year; but, unless this Measure is passed, they will then have to go back to their statutory authority of £375,000, and the programme, instead of being accelerated, will be slowed down. If, on the other hand, they were able to spend at the rate of the last three years—a rate of £625,000—they estimate that they should be able to break the back of the baths programme in eight years from 1936, at a cost of some £5,000,000. In view of the generally expressed opinion in all parts of the House that it was desirable to speed up the programme, rather than to slow it down, the Government thought that they should take this matter seriously into consideration. During the early part of the year, I had discussions with the industry on this problem, and explored a variety of methods by which financial help could be given. I came to the conclusion, and announced it in this House on 29th July, that in our view the best plan would be to raise the output levy by an extra ½d. for five years, and to earmark all that comes from that for 1431 pithead baths. That is the proposal in the Bill.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Does that mean that, so far as other welfare requirements are concerned, they are dependent on a ½d. levy?
§ Captain Crookshank
It does not affect the position of the Welfare Fund at all as it now stands under the 1934 Act.
§ Mr. Shinwell
As far as other schemes are concerned it is not being exercised; they are dependent on the ½d. levy?
§ Captain Crookshank
That is quite right. The present position is that out of the money available from the royalties welfare levy and the existing halfpenny, £375,000 is automatically allocated under Statute for pithead baths. In the present proposal, that figure of £375,000 will be raised by a halfpenny on the output for the next five years. It leaves the question of what is to happen after five years completely open, and it does not raise the general issue of the Miners' Welfare Fund at all.
§ Captain Crookshank
These figures are very confusing and difficult and perhaps I ought to make the position clear. We came to the conclusion—without prejudging the position as to what might happen after five years that this was the best way of doing it, and we have found considerable agreement. This will bring in rather more than the £625,000 which is the general programme now being carried out, and there is a reason for that. It has become clear that, first of all, there is some demand still, and no doubt it will increase for some type of baths—it may not be on the same scale—for smaller mines and also for mines whose life is not expected to be very long. That is what one might call some form of supplementary programme, over and above the one which is presented of £625,000. There is a margin available. If we raise this halfpenny more funds will be available for that purpose. The result of this will be—again these are rough estimates—to add something like £2,400,000 to the funds available to the Committee up to 1432 the end of 1943. That extra £2,000,000 would be sufficient to complete the placing of the contracts of the general programme upon which they have been working, and over and above that there will be something between £375,000 and £400,000 available in that period for such further similar additions as may be required. After the expiration of these five years the anticipation will be that the back of the building programme will have been broken, but unless and until it is decided otherwise, the provisions of the 1934 Act will still be running on and there will still be £375,000 per annum available for bath purposes unless, taking advantage of the powers within the Act, it is decided that the appropriation is no longer necessary for baths. But one should continue making it clear that some provision, as far as one can see, is likely to be required, because there are problems of renewals and so on. I hope that I have made the general position clear.
I pass to the Bill itself. The wording of Clause r, Sub-section (2), as I say, is proper legal phraseology. It implies that the halfpenny which is used for baths will be used within the ambit of the Act of 1934, which allows the provision of ancillary amenities such as canteens and cycle sheds, which the more modern installations find it a good thing to use. Though the words in line 18, "for the purposes for which the proceeds," etc., are cumbersome words, that is what they refer to.
Clause 2 of the Bill and the First Schedule seem alarming, but there is nothing of consequence in them at all. They do not in any way alter the functions or composition of the Miners' Welfare Committee, but what they do is to incorporate it, that is all. This is the procedure, lifted out of other Acts of Parliament when corporate bodies have been established, to change the Miners' Welfare Committee from an incorporate body into a corporate body. Hon. Gentlemen may wonder, no doubt, why that will be necessary, and I will give them two reasons. The Miners' Welfare Committee suggested that it should be done, which is quite a good reason, because it means that they have met certain small legal difficulties which they thought might be obviated by becoming incorporated. One example I give is that the building contracts of the baths are arranged by the staff of the committee—that is the normal procedure 1433 —but the actual contracts for building—I am not talking about maintenance after opening the baths—have to be entered into by trustees, because not being a corporate body the Welfare Committee cannot enter into these contracts. Hon. Members will realise that in certain cases it would be desirable that the committee itself should be a party to a contract for building baths.
Another slight difficulty which they have met from time to time is that they might wish to enter into agreement with a local authority or colliery company with regard to the maintenance of some building or other, but at present they cannot do so because they are not a corporate body, despite the fact that everybody concerned would desire the committee to be able to enter into such a contract. That is all that this Clause does. It changes the name of the committee to that of a commission, because you cannot have an incorporated committee, and again that is purely legal. The same personnel and the same functions are all there, though I would add that the words of Sub-section (1 c) of Clause 2 envisage the time when the new Coal Commission will be the owner of the minerals, and, as at present, a representative of the royalty owners will have to be appointed, and, therefore, words have to be found in order to make the necessary alteration. Clause 3 is the interpretation Clause.
§ Captain Crookshank
The position is exactly as at present. There is no change in the functions, composition, membership or in the people who have to be consulted in regard to membership; there is no change whatever.
§ Captain Crookshank
Exactly as now, and this is the common form Clause which is put into all Acts in which bodies are incorporated. The only thing is that the name is changed from committee to commission because, I understand, you cannot properly incorporate a committee.
§ Captain Crookshank
The new Coal Commission, as the hon. Gentleman will remember, under the Act which was passed last Session, is to continue to pay the welfare levy, and this makes provision for somebody to take the place of the representative of the existing royalty owners.
§ Captain Crookshank
Nothing more. The present royalty owners will cease to exist as such, and it seems right that their successors should have the same representation on the Committee as now. This merely provides for someone representing persons liable to pay the royalties welfare levy to be on the Commission. I hope that I have made this matter clear. It is a fairly simple Bill, but I believe that it is one that everybody would like to see passed as soon as possible. The work which the Miners' Welfare Fund does in the provision of pithead baths is of such enormous importance that any assistance that this House can give to accelerate the work in the interests of the mining community is one which should find a response in all parts of the House.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Edwards
It is wonderful the amount of work the present Government have brought upon themselves through not listening to us and following our suggestions. If that had been done we should not have had this Bill to consider to-day. I suppose that this sort of Bill is useful sometimes when they have had to withdraw a big Bill like the Milk Bill, and so on. These little things come in handy to keep the House going. That is the reason why we have this matter before us to-day. The Minister has had a pleasing task, because he knows that there will be very little opposition. We are not going to vote against the Bill. In fact, we welcome it, and believe that it ought to have operated all the way through, and that there should have been no changes. In 1920 the welfare scheme was set up, first of all, for five years, and it was extended again in 1925, in 1931 and in 1934. The demand for pithead baths has not been satisfied by any means. I have been an advocate for 1435 pithead baths for 40 years. About 40 years ago we sent Mr. Robert Smillie and Mr. Alfred Onions to Germany to see the pithead baths there, and they came back and reported. There was a pamphlet issued at that time, and some of us have advocated the project ever since. There was a lot of prejudice against pithead baths in those days, and some of that prejudice exists to-day even where they have been in operation for some time. There are a few men who do not use them. It is a surprising thing, but it is the fact. There are one or two colliers that I know very well who go home in their pit clothes while others go home wearing collars and ties and dressed as they should be.
That prejudice lasts, but the demand for pithead baths has not been met by any means. The number completed or under construction is only 313, accommodating about 400,000 men. There are 71 installations in preparation, which means, I suppose, that they are drawing up the plans. There are also no fewer than 169 installations already applied for, so that there are something like 240 schemes that have not yet been touched, and anyone can see from that, that a lot of money will be required to complete the building programme. There are 1,232 collieries which have not yet applied for permission to build, and 700 of these are small collieries employing fewer than 50 workmen. But I do not see why small collieries as well as large collieries should not have pithead baths. It is not numbers of men, but the life of the colliery which should be the determining factor as to whether there should be pithead baths or not.
In 1926 a levy of 5 per cent, was imposed on the royalty owners. I never had any sympathy with royalty owners, and I think that if a levy of 95 per cent. had been taken and they had been left with only 5 per cent., they ought to have been satisfied. What is a royalty owner? Royalty owners do not develop the collieries. I have never known them to put any money into a colliery. They have left that business to other people, but as soon as they have got the first tram-load of coal out of the pit, they have always been there to take their toll. Therefore, it was a very generous act towards the royalty owners when a levy of only 5 per cent. was imposed upon them. It was 1436 estimated that £375,000 would be needed annually, but in the first year £196,000 only came from the royalty owners, and the rest had to be made up from the ordinary fund.
Then there came an agitation by the coalowners for a reduction of ½d. per ton in the levy. My hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) was then Minister of Mines. We were a minority Government, and we found difficulties, as we always have done in this House when we have formed a Government, in face of the tremendous demand from the coalowners for the reduction. They had a large number of friends in this House, as they always have. My hon. Friend could not and would not agree to the suggested reduction, but he set up a committee to consider it. That is a Government way out of difficulties, and it is very often practised. My hon. Friend was criticised for this, but in the circumstances I do not see how he could have done anything different. When the Debate took place in regard to the reduction, the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) was criticised because he had been a member of the committee and had agreed to recommend the reduction. He is here to-day and I am sure he will favour the course that is to be adopted in restoring that amount. My hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) spoke at that time on behalf of the Miners' Federation and opposed the reduction as strongly as he could. He also criticised the actions that had been taken towards bringing about the reduction. However, the proposal was carried and the reduction was made. Now, it is to be restored.
It is a pleasure to me to vote for compelling the coalowners to do anything. I have had a long experience of them. We meet them here individually and get on very well with them, but when we meet them as an organised body we find that they are hard, unsympathetic and even callous. You get nothing out of them except by force, either Parliamentary force, a strike, or the threat of a strike. I have never known anything to come from the mineowners, except by forcing them. Therefore, it is a pleasure to me to give a vote to compel them to do something. [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!"] I am very glad to find that some of my hon. Friends agree with me on that point. I think President Wilson 1437 must have had the same experience of employers generally as I have had of coalowners, because when he was trying to improve the position of the workers he used these words:If employers will not do their duty to those who work for them, and will not accept their responsibilities, then they should be compelled to.That is what we are doing to-day. We are going to compel the coalowners to make this increased contribution once again, and it is the pleasure of my life to do it. Over 20 years ago we agitated for a minimum wage. I do not think there was any industry in the country at that time that had not a minimum wage, except the mining industry. The minimum wage paid in other callings may have been low, but so far as the mining industry was concerned we had no guarantee of any wage. We had to be satisfied with the wage that we could take home at the end of the week, and any little extra that there might be. We worried the Government and eventually the minimum wage came, as most things come, as the result of a strike. That has been my experience.
Pithead baths are the only real improvements that have been effected since then, and they are a real improvement. The pride of our women folk in their homes has been a very great thing in the mining districts. With all the dirt coming into the home, it has been wonderful to find the homes so clean. I know the homes of miners best in South Wales, and I know the pride that the women used to take in their homes. They were like little palaces, notwithstanding the fact that morning, afternoon and night men were coming home carrying all the dirt of the mine with them. The pithead baths have been a great blessing to the women who take such a pride in their homes. It is much easier to keep the homes clean now than it was formerly. The provision of pithead baths has certainly been a great thing for the improvement of the homes. Instead of having to dry their wet and dirty clothes before the fire, the miners have left them behind and have come home clean. The health of the miners, too, is better than it used to be. In former years we had to walk to and from our work, because there were no omnibuses as there are now. Speaking from experience, we have often been wet to the skin in going to our work, and then 1438 we have had to work in our wet clothes all day. Miners have had to work in water and other wet places and have had to leave their work and go home, no matter how far, before they could get the clothes off to be dried. Therefore, the health of the miners has been greatly improved, because they do not get their clothes wet when they are going to and from their work.
Some of my hon. Friends think that all this money should not be spent on pithead baths but that the disposal of a certain amount of the money in other ways should be left to the Committee as before. I do not agree with' that, but I am speaking for myself. I have seen the advantages of the welfare levy in many ways. I have seen mining towns and villages where playing fields and other things have been provided and where the amenities of the district have been very much improved, and all this has done a great deal of good; but I consider that when money is taken out of an industry it ought to go to the benefit of the people in that industry, for the benefit of those who produce the money that is used. Under the welfare schemes, where cricket pitches and other amenities have been provided they have, of course, been improvements for the benefit of everybody living in the district, but around mining localities you get all sorts of people besides miners, and I am not sure that it has not been more to the advantage of these other people than to the miners, because many of those people are not engaged in the same arduous work as the miners, and therefore they have been the better able to take part in the games. I have always thought that the local authority ought to provide those amenities, and that they should not be provided out of money taken from any particular industry. Therefore, I advocate the use of the money for pithead baths.
In 1934 there was a lot of talk about pensions in the mining industry, and the opinion was expressed that some of the Welfare Fund ought to be used for pensions. I do not think it would do very much in that respect. My opinion is that the pension ought to be a national pension, big enough to allow people to live in decency and comfort, and not a pension that comes out of one industry. I am strongly in favour of pithead baths, because I believe that they benefit directly 1439 those who produce the money in the mining industry.
The status of the miners has also been raised as a result of the provision of pithead baths. I remember the workmen's dirty old trains that we used to have, with their broken windows and their shabby appearance. They were a disgrace. If our men travelled by ordinary passenger train the railway companies used to put on a lot of old, dirty coaches for them. If they travelled in a bus, everybody would try to avoid contact with them because of their dirty clothes and their grimy appearance. I have seen miners standing on the step of a bus and having to get off every time the bus stopped, in order that people could pass in and out of the bus without touching them. It is not so now. The men who use the pithead baths go home clean, and not as they used to do years ago, when they were regarded as something different from ordinary people, something that must not be touched, a sort of leper, until they could get home and have a bath. The men who use the pithead baths to-day become ordinary citizens when they leave their work and can travel without being ashamed. I am proud of that fact, because I have been a miner myself and I like to see the status of the miner going up. They are the best men in the world, and yet there used to be all this differentiation by people who did not want to stand by or walk past miners in their dirty clothes. All that has been changed by the provision of pithead baths.
I want to see the number of the pithead baths increased. I want to see them provided at a much faster rate. The Minister has told us that in the past two years they have been spending at the rate of £600,000 per year. That may not have been wholly spent, but that sum has been allocated. Unless this Bill is passed the sum will have to come down to £375,000. I should be sorry to see that happen. If the Bill goes through, as it will, because we are not objecting to it, the income will be about £850,000 a year for the next five years. That sum should lead to the accelerated building which we all desire. In regard to this estimate, they have been trading or banking on the future credit of the country, and I certainly do not blame them for that, because I am a firm believer in pithead 1440 baths, and I hope to see them extended very considerably. My hon. Friend who was Minister for Mines may have something to say later, because he knows all the intricacies that are involved. Personally, I welcome the Bill and want to see it passed into law. I hope that the money will be used for pithead baths, because they directly benefit the men who produce the money.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Peake
Although I cannot agree with everything that was said by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Sir C. Edwards) we all welcome his intervention which is unfortunately rare in our Debates. I should like to associate myself with the tribute he paid to the splendid work that has been done during the last 17 years by the Miners' Welfare Fund. We have had 17 years experience of that work, and I do not think that any party in the industry would like to see the work of the committees hampered for lack of funds. The money has been well spent and has undoubtedly been of great social advantage, not only to the mining community but to the community as a whole. Moreover, the operation of the schemes has brought the owners and the men round a common table, knowing that, at any rate, there was one thing about which they need not feel it to be their bounden duty to disagree.
Although we all approve of the work of the committees, we are equally interested, both miners and owners, to see that there is no waste in the operation of the schemes. The hon. Member said that it gave him great pleasure to compel the owners to do something. We must, however, realise that the owners are not the only and sometimes not the largest contributors to the output levy, but that the greater part of the burden may fall upon the wages of the man. Therefore, we are all jointly anxious to see that there is no waste in the expenditure of the funds at the disposal of the committees. We are all agreed that of the expenditure which the fund has undertaken that spent on pithead baths confers the greatest benefit on the mining population. In the early stages there was a difficulty in getting schemes for baths put forward because of the traditional conservatism of the miner so far as his habits were concerned. It is rather surprising that at the end of 1937 out of £17,000,000 collected and disbursed by the fund only a little over 1441 £4,000,000 has been spent upon pithead baths, and that after 17 years only half the industry is provided with that form of benefit which we all agree is the greatest that the miner can enjoy under the welfare scheme. On more than one occasion Governments have made efforts to promote a more rapid development of pithead baths, notably in 1926, when the royalty levy was brought into operation for that specific purpose, and again in 1934, when the Bill of that year set aside a definite minimum sum of £375,000 a year to be expended on baths. There has been a complete change in opinion. Many innovations which are unpopular at the start become very popular later on and it is now impossible to build baths quickly enough to supply the demand for them.
The Minister has outlined the scheme of the Central Welfare Committee for meeting this new demand and my only point of criticism or question on the Bill arises upon the details of that scheme. In the annual report of the Welfare Fund for 1937 the committee describe the position as it then existed. They say:In these circumstances"—that is the financial circumstances then existing—the Central Committee obtained the agreement of the Secretary for Mines to their making preparations to continue the building programme on the expanded basis of £625,000 a year beyond 1938, in fact until 1944. This cannot be done out of the present resources of the Welfare Fund, which will have to be supplemented in one way or another by Government action. By 1944 provision will, it was estimated, have been made for practically all the requirements for baths except at very small collieries and those which for one reason or another will not have to be dealt with.That is to say that the committee estimated at the time they made this report that an expenditure of £625,000 a year, continued until 1944, would virtually complete the pithead baths programme. They go on in subsequent paragraphs to explain why it is inadvisable to accelerate the programme beyond the rate of £625,000 a year. They say it is a matter of considerable practical difficulty to build pithead baths at more than a certain rate, and the point of the quotation that I have read is that they estimate that by 1944, spending £625,000 a year, they would complete the whole of the baths programme. The whole of the additional ½d. a ton is to be allocated to pithead baths in 1442 addition to the present sum of £375,000 a year which is earmarked for that purpose. On the output of last year, which was rather exceptionally high, ½d. a ton would produce £500,000 a year and, if you add that sum to the present earmarked sum of £375,000, the committee are going to be under a statutory obligation to spend £875,000 a year during the next five years. As they have estimated that by spending £625,000 they will complete the scheme by 1944 and express the opinion that it is inadvisable and impracticable to accelerate the rate of building beyond that amount, it seems to me that the Bill is providing more money than they will be able to spend on baths in the period that they have laid down.
There is, of course, evidence in the Committee's report that under the ½d. levy some of the district schemes have found themselves rather hard up, and if there is going to be put into the fund over the next five years, to meet an estimated deficiency on the programme of £250,000, a sum which will total £500,000, it would seem to me advisable that greater liberty for spending the money on other objects should be included in the Bill. I hope the Minister may be able to give some explanation of the figures that I have quoted. I have great pleasure in supporting the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ 7.7 p.m.
I support the Second Reading wholeheartedly and I take the opportunity, which does not occur too often, of congratulating the Government on bringing in the Measure. It is not the first time that one has been able to do it in connection with coal. I am interested in this question, partly because I represent a certain number of miners and partly-because I became, as a Member of the Departmental Committee, exceedingly interested in the whole question and made a number of visits to different parts of the country. No one was more wholeheartedly in favour of maintaining the 1d. rate than I was, but there comes a time in the history of all committees and commissions when, unless someone is prepared to make a compromise, there is a possibility, as there would have been in this case of no report at all being presented. It seemed to me that there were other advantages so important as to justify some temporary abatement of the rate in view of the then economic condition of the country, but I 1443 took the view very strongly that, as soon as the condition of the industry justified it, the ½d. should be raised to a 1d., and naturally, I warmly support the Bill, because it is carrying out one of the recommendations of the Departmental Committee, and none too soon, because it might well have been justified a year or so before now.
When visiting the various welfare schemes in South Wales and elsewhere at that time, I think in 1931, one saw the beginning of developments in connection with pithead baths. Miners were not so much used to them then and there was a certain amount of diffidence, but it was possible to appreciate even then the enormous difference that they were making and now, as is admitted by everyone, do make in the ordinary daily life of the mining population. We are very anxious to do anything we can to support the development of pithead baths, and I hope it is going to be possible to carry out the whole programme in five years. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said it was without prejudice to what might happen after five years, but I hope that the 1d. is going to remain in force for an indefinitely longer period, until every conceivable scheme has been put into operation in connection with every mine in the country.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Does the hon. Member appreciate that it is not intended to increase the general levy at all? What is intended is to increase the levy for pithead baths.
§ Mr. Mander
I understand that perfectly. I was making the general remark that I want to see every possible scheme considered desirable carried out. I agree very much with what the last speaker said, that in the unfortunate history of the mining industry, with so much misunderstanding and so little sympathy on the part of the owners, and so many reactionary tendencies, the welfare committees have been the means of bringing the two sides together, forming contacts and developing a certain amount of understanding and good will which must have been of great advantage to the industry as a whole. I agree with the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Sir C. Edwards) as to the importance of not overlooking the small colliery which has a consider- 1444 able period of life before it. There are some such in connection with my own constituency. I certainly hope that in carrying out these schemes attention will not be given simply to the big collieries where large sums are going to be expended, but that the needs of those on a smaller scale will have proper consideration, too. It has always seemed to me that this development of the Miners' Welfare Committees, one of the happiest experiments that we have made in the industrial life of the country, where we have made so many experiments of general advantages from time to time, has shown what can be done. I should very much like to see the idea extended to other industries where adequate facilities of this kind do not exist, either by means of a levy or some charge on raw material or something of that kind, so that the precedent set here might be extended to other industries where the need is perhaps not quite so much but still exists. I have great pleasure in supporting the Second Reading.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. George Griffiths
I wish to offer a few suggestions on the Bill. I served on the Miners' Welfare Committee of South Yorkshire for over 10 years and, as the hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) said, the owners' and the workmen's representatives have been able to agree and it has been almost like a chapel prayer meeting. There have seldom been any cross-currents. It has been a proper round-table conference. I also agree that there was a lot of waste and a lot of profit for the contractors when we first started these schemes in the different districts. I hope the Secretary for Mines will see that we do not have any more of these big baths. Let me explain what I mean. At the present moment the baths which are being installed enable every man to have a bath of his own—he wants it. We do not want big baths into which all the men have to go. At the small pits they should have the same privileges as are found at big pithead baths.
Like the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Sir C. Edwards), our Chief Whip, I do not like the five-year business. I do not see why we cannot have the penny put on for all time as long as the mines are going and as long as the money is needed. When the five years are over there will be some coalowners who will say that the 1445 penny is too heavy, and that if it is made a halfpenny they will be able to make a little profit. That was their cry. Some of them have said it in this House, but they do not say it here now; they say it somewhere else. I am sorry the five-year limit has been put in. I think the time should be undefined. I do not agree with our Chief Whip that the money should be used exclusively for one purpose. The Miners' Welfare Fund has revolutionised mining districts. The welfare schemes have raised the health of the miner, his wife and his children.
In my own division we have schemes which we should never have had but for the Welfare Fund. The authority has not the finance to begin them. The schemes are a pleasure and a joy. Old men can play bowls, young men and maidens play tennis, we have open air swimming baths, crickets pitches and dart clubs, an up-to-date ambulance and a nursing association. These schemes could not have been carried out had it not been for the Miners' Welfare Fund finding the capital for them. I am all for pithead baths, but I hope that all these other schemes will be considered, because unless there is some fund to keep them going they will become derelict. At the present moment the local authority in my own division is levying a 5d. rate in order to maintain these welfare centres. There are a certain number who are not miners, railwaymen and shop assistants, but the great majority are mineworkers, and these centres are a great blessing to the health of the people. I agree with our Chief Whip that pithead baths are a blessing to the men. I speak from an experience of not being able to have a bath when I was a miner.
When I started work as a lad some 45 years ago I never saw daylight until the Sabbath Day. I went down the mine at a quarter to seven in the morning when it was dark and came out at half-past four when it was dark. And at night there was a fight between seven brothers as to who should have the first bath. It makes a great difference for a father and mother to see their sons coming home at night with clean faces and clean hands, and with a clean collar on. I do not know how my mother lived through it all. She had to get up at five o'clock in the morning for the first shift and had to wait until 10 o'clock for the second shift to come home. She got to 1446 bed at half-past eleven, and was up early the next morning. I thank Heaven that that sort of thing has been done away with in mining villages. But there are still some 300,000 miners who take the muck home. There are enough of them in Yorkshire. In my own township we have 4,000 miners working at a pit which has not yet a pithead bath, although we made application for one years ago. We were put on the priority list, but the first plot of grass has not yet been turned. I am delighted that this Bill is to be passed, but I want the Secretary for Mines not to forget that we shall still require money to help these other welfare schemes which are bringing joy and happiness to the community.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Lee
I want to emphasise one or two points. I have been the Vice-Chairman of a district committee since the Act came into force, and I want to make a plea for the district fund. I agree with the hon. Member who has said that the Committee cannot build any faster than they have been doing for the last two years. I am not opposing the Bill, but I think that pithead baths are taking more out of the Fund than can be effectively used. Last year it took out £168,000 to make up the £275,000, and that has been crippling the district fund. I think that at least the first half of this money should not be touched, because the pithead baths fund will get as much money as it can spend during the remaining years. I do not like the retrospective application of the Bill. It goes back to January of this year, and that means that an extra half year has to be collected. This means that in the districts where they are being paid over the minimum the men will pay 85 per cent. of that extra money. That is going to be rather awkward when payment comes to be made in March of next year. Whether it is going to be paid as a lump sum or not I do not know, but it will come as a hardship on the men.
There still seems to be some misconception, even a little suspicion, with regard to pithead baths. At one place, where I opened a pithead bath a woman said to me, "It is all right Mr. Lee, but if my man comes home clean every day, how am I to know that he has been at work." I said, "You will know on Friday night." I agree that the district schemes have found a difficulty in keep- 1447 ing themselves going, and that they want money from somewhere. They have a very small income. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Sir C. Edwards) that these centres should be reserved entirely for miners. In a small district where there are agricultural labourers as well it is all the better that they should mingle together.
In my own district we have had to cut down our expenses in a way we do not like. We have been giving grants to boys and girls to go to secondary schools after they have won a scholarship, but we have found that the district fund takes so much of our money that we have had to cut down these grants. I do not like it. If you have a lad who shows promise of something better than the ordinary, you are not wasting your money by helping him to a better education. If we could keep something of this extra amount we should be able to continue that sort of work. I plead that something of this extra amount to be taken for pithead baths should go into the district fund, on the assumption that the pithead baths fund cannot usefully spend more than £615,000.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Ritson
We are all delighted that the Secretary for Mines has brought forward this Bill. I am rather inclined to agree with the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Sir C. Edwards) that the fundamental idea was to have pithead baths, and that as long as these are not provided at every colliery it is our duty to see that they are provided. I can assure the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) that I had the same sort of experience as he had in his youth. I have seen six of us getting home rather late at night and, there being only one bath, a scuffle as to who should have the first bath. There is something bigger than that, and that is the question of the woman in the house. While I agree with everything that has been said with regard to other necessities, such as tennis courts, cricket fields, and so on, the most essential thing to consider is the mother and the wife in the home. Nobody knows what it means to her. Even a man in the home does not understand always. The woman in Durham, which is rather different from Yorkshire, used to rise at a quarter to three in the morning. She would not lie in bed as long as there was a husband or a son 1448 who had to go out, for if she did not get up, she might never see him again, and so she would insist on getting up. My mother got up at a quarter to three every morning in her life, practically speaking, and we had three and four shifts bringing home from the colliery dirt that to-day is left where it ought to be left.
I know there were some stupid and bigoted men who, sooner than have pithead baths, believed all that was said about their catching rheumatism or pneumonia in them. There was scarcely a disease scheduled under any Act that they were not liable to get if they went into a bath, so they said, but that prejudice is now dying out, and it is being killed the quickest by the women, not by the men. I was in this House at the time in the early days of these baths, and I was asked to address my old Lodge with regard to pithead baths. I said: "Why not allow the women to be there?" They told me they were afraid that the men would not vote for the baths by the majority that was necessary under the Act, so the women were there, and they managed their husbands all right. There were stupid men who said they would not pay 5d. a week to run the risk of getting colds or rheumatism and so on. When a miner's wife saw John Brown passing the window, clean, and asked if he had been at work and was told that he had, she said, "But he is coming home clean." The wives of the miners know their husbands by their colour more than by anything else. When she was told that John Brown had been to a pithead bath, she said to her husband, "Why haven't you been to the pithead bath?" and immediately she laid it down, in her own interest and in the interest of the family, that her husband was to pay the necessary levy.
There is a moral side to it, too. After all, as our Chief Whip said, we prided ourselves on keeping our homes clean, so clean indeed that there was often competition, because they kept more brass dogs on the mantelpiece to clean at the weekend than were necessary. We prided ourselves on the cleanliness of our homes generally, but I can assure the House that there was another side again to that. It was not decent for big, grown-up men of 17, 18, or 19 years of age to strip and wash before the younger members of the family, but you could not help yourself. 1449 There was nowhere else to go. You could not in winter time go outside the house or send the others out either, and it was not decent for mixed families to be sitting there when you washed. But what happens now? It is worth a lot to me and to us all that now a man can go to the pit and come back home like a civilised being and go out again like a respectable person.
I remember once going with a woman to church. I am old fashioned enough for that, and I have never apologised for it. I said to her, "How do you like the pithead baths?" She said, "They are 5o years behind the times. Now I have not to lay out the dirty clothes and try to dry them by laying them along the fireplace on the Sunday night, and I don't know myself." I say that there is a great moral advancement, with regard to keeping the home clean and decent, in having these pithead baths. If I may take the other side for a minute, I agree that these funds may need revising. My lodge gave £3,000 surplus in the fund to a new hospital when we began to develop that side of welfare work. I thought that that was for the local public to do, but the district knew its own work best. I feel that the provision of pithead baths ought to be speeded up. They are healthy and useful. I was born on the Pennine Range, nearly 2,000 feet up, and I had to work in a place in a pit 18 inches high. I was a good deal bigger then than I am now, and I had to lie in about four inches of water. When you got home from work like that, on a cold March morning, and took off your trousers, they would stand there where you took them off, they were so frozen. It was a terrible strain, and only the healthy vigour of youth allowed you to go through it.
I wish to plead for the smaller collieries that are looked at askance. They have a life of their own that is as valuable to the community as that of the larger collieries, and I hope we shall get consideration from the Minister for them and that he will speed up this question of I he provision of pithead baths. If anything has been done in this House to give us a new outlook in life, it is the institution of these baths. When you were coming home in the old days you had no buses, and you sometimes had to take a waggon for a ride, but you dared not sit beside some of the men in it because of the filth that was hanging about. These baths have 1450 been a great boon and blessing to us, and I hope we shall not limit this goodness to five years. I think the Government should let us go on until such time as we have completed that which we set out to do. I am sure the Minister of Mines will find himself able tonight to put on a wonderful smile, as he can do when he likes, because of the great blessing which these baths mean to our people.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Seely
I am glad the Government have found time to bring in this Bill, because there is no doubt that this is one of the most important matters in the mining industry. The baths which are now being used have been found to be necessary in practically every pit. The difficulty that everyone had in starting these baths was due, as has been explained, to their novelty, and it took a long time before people got accustomed to them and, therefore, put forward their demands for baths. Although in listening to this Debate one might think that these pithead baths were very common, the fact is that they are nothing like it at the present time. If you take South Nottinghamshire, which is a large district, there are only now 11 pithead baths constructed, which is a very small number as compared with the total number of pits there. Applications are now in hand for only 10 out of the whole of Nottinghamshire, which shows how very small is the amount of work that has been done on this question.
I know the difficulties which we have had, in pits with which I am connected, in getting these baths put up in the past, and we have now another difficulty where we are sinking a new pit and wish to get a bath installed. Where you are sinking a new pit, you must attract miners to it, and you cannot expect them to come from other places to a new pit unless you have the proper, modern idea of a pithead bath there. Otherwise you will not get the men. What happens now is that you are put at the bottom of the list, and there is no hope of your getting a pithead bath there for ever so long. I agree very much with what the hon. Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Lee) said on the question of the central committee and the district committees with regard to the levy. I hope that every effort will be used by the Minister to see that the district committees get the whole of the halfpenny for this purpose, because it is they 1451 who have to deal with it, and in more enlightened districts where the baths have proved a success the demand comes along very quickly, and those are the districts which want them installed at the time and which then have a very heavy charge suddenly put upon them. Under the present constitution even the passing of this Bill will not bring these baths unless you have altered the question of the district and central committees.
I also agree very strongly, because I am a complete believer in these baths, with what has been said as to their value from a health point of view, and even from the economic point of view of compensation, from the owners' point of view. They are a fairly large element tending towards safety. If hon. Members go through the figures, they will find that it is in the smaller pits that you have the highest difficulties in regard to casualties and accidents, and there is no doubt that if you could get a smaller type of bath put up, you would be doing a great deal towards combating the great danger of accidents growing. They may be quite small at the start, but they grow much greater afterwards.
It may be asked why this is going to be limited to five years. No doubt the Minister will say that, after all, in five years they will have completed the whole programme. I never quite trust the Ministry of Mines, and I must say that I think there is a little element of slyness in this, as regards what they have just done to the royalty owners, when they bought them out for a certain sum, and from the sum which they gave them they took off, saying that it was to be in perpetuity, 1s., which was going and had to go towards this fund. They are now putting a burden on the whole industry for five years, which means that the Coal Commission in the end will own the royalties and will have that benefit, which, after all, they took from the royalty owners at the time. They certainly did, because it was used as part of the calculation in arriving at the original figure that the figure had to be paid towards pithead baths. This question will not, in my opinion, be disposed of in five years. I hope that when the time conies for pushing on with these baths, the Government will not merely let the matter rest, putting on this extra levy and thinking that in so doing they will get the baths com 1452 pleted. A great deal more has to be done by the district funds and the central fund, and I hope that the Secretary for Mines will see that these baths are provided.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Smith
Hon. Members have referred to the five years' period, but I am not unduly concerned about that, because I recognise that once there has been established a fund such as the Miners' Welfare Fund, no Government will dare to take it off as long as there is need for spending the money. I well remember that in 1912, when Parliament passed the Minimum Wages Act, it was passed for a period of only three years, but it is still in operation, and from time to time it is continued under the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. In 1934, when the last Miners' Welfare Bill was before the House, I, along with my colleagues on these benches, took great joy in criticising the right hon. Gentleman who is now Minister of Labour for bringing in a Bill to reduce the welfare levy from 1d. to ½d. I thought it was a scandal, and I did not believe it would make the slightest difference to the depression in the coal trade.
Having done my best to criticise past holders of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's office, let me say that I join other hon. Members on this side in welcoming this Bill which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has brought forward. I welcome the great change of outlook that has taken place in the coal-mining industry with regard to pithead baths, both on the part of the mineworkers and the mineowners. The hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Sir H. Seely) talked about slyness, but if he looks into the history of the mining industry, he will find that the mineowners cannot take a great deal of credit for the social conditions in that industry. One must not forget that the Miners' Welfare Act, 1920, was put on to the Statute Book after a most searching inquiry by the Sankey Commission, and I am right in saying that the whole country was shocked by the evidence given to that Commission regarding the social conditions in the mining areas.
There is a history attached to the question of pithead baths. It did not start with the Miners' Welfare Fund. Section 77 of the Coal Mines Act, 1911, made 1453 it possible for pits to have baths attached to them, but I believe there was a limitation inserted concerning the amount that could be spent which made it absolutely impracticable for the baths to be provided. The hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) spoke of the great change which has taken place in the industry in this respect. I remember that when I represented a certain part of Sheffield, the Sheffield Tramways Committee refused to allow mineworkers to ride inside the trams when coming from the pitheads. We protested against that by means of deputations, because we felt that we were being insulted and slighted. Since that time there has been a complete change of outlook. Moreover, in those days, the men did not want baths; but where there are pithead baths at the present time, the men use them and value them. I remember that at one time I was discussing this question in a certain branch room, and one of the men said, "What, wash your back every day! It will weaken it." Somebody else said, "Well, you've been washing your head for the last 25 years, to my knowledge." There has been a change, and to-day we have some excellent pithead baths.
There was one point that I did not quite follow in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths). He talked about an all-in bath. There are no all-in pithead baths that I know of. I remember that in 1923, when I visited a pit at Essen in the Ruhr—I believe it was connected with Krupp's works—for the purpose of looking at their pithead baths to see whether I could learn something from them, I found that everybody bathed openly. There was almost the same gradation in the pithead baths as there is in the baths in the Army. The general body of workmen bathed in the open, and then there was a gradation until the manager had an up-to-date bath to himself. Great credit is due to those who have planned some of the present pithead baths. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Secretary for Mines and I happened to be at the opening of some pithead baths not many weeks ago in my own constituency. They are excellent baths, under cover, so that the men need have no fear of catching cold. The only complaint I have to make is that the provision of these baths is not proceeding quickly enough. I would like to make 1454 a plea for some of the smaller pits, of which I have had some experience. I remember having to go to settle a dispute at a small pit in West Yorkshire, and when I came out of the pit, I asked whether I could have a bath. I was told, "There is a bucket there." I had to wash myself behind a shed, and it would not be permissible to repeat here what I told the manager of the pit afterwards. I want to make a plea for some attention to be given to the smaller collieries.
One could, if one wished, make some fairly general criticisms with regard to the need for spending more money, but now is not the time for discussing that. I am very pleased that the Bill has been brought forward, and I hope that the result will be that, earlier than we anticipate, every pit in the country will have a pithead bath, for from the social point of view one cannot doubt the great benefits which are derived from them. The women know the value of these baths. I remember that some years ago I went to a certain colliery with my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), and the general manager told us that he had had great difficulty in getting the men to use the baths when they had been erected. We asked him how he had managed to get them to use the baths, and he replied, "Well, we decided to invite the miners' wives and daughters to tea on Saturday, and after tea we had a little chat on the benefits of pithead baths, and then we showed them the facilities for washing; and it only took three parties to get the baths used." When the women had seen the facilities that existed, they soon removed every objection that the men had to using them. I conclude by saying that I welcome this Bill and wish it God-speed in its effort to give every pit in the country a decent pithead bath.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Jenkins
I join my hon. Friends in welcoming this Measure. During the course of the Debate, we have heard something of the history connected with pithead baths, and we have also heard something with regard to the welfare levy. I think that the amount of good that has been done by the welfare levy can hardly be described by any speaker in the course of this Debate. In early days, there was a great deal of opposition to the welfare 1455 fund by the colliery owners. Probably they did not understand how much good might be wrought by a levy of this kind, and that may have accounted for their opposition. I remember that a friend of mine, once a Member of the House, Thomas Richards, once described this 1d. levy as the "magic penny," and I think that he well described it; for it has accomplished a very great deal.
In supporting this Bill, I want to pay one or two tributes to people who have done so much to make pithead baths possible. I remember that under the 1911 Act, we had a ballot in the colliery in which I was employed. A majority of the workmen taking part in the ballot was in favour of pithead baths, but because of some difference over a comma in the Clause in the Act, funds were not provided in the early days, and if those people had used the baths, they would have had to pay for them in certain conditions. A great many efforts have been made in the post-war period to make pithead baths possible. I remember how difficult it was to get many miners to use them, and I would like to mention the name of one person from the Mines Department who did an enormous amount of propaganda work in order to make the pithead baths more popular amongst the coalowners and the workmen. I refer to Commander Coote, who went from one colliery village to another, explaining, with the aid of lantern slides, the type of things that pithead baths would be. Those were difficult days. I remember that in my own division, as late as 1928, a suggestion was made to a colliery company to supply an up-to-date pithead bath, and the suggestion was rejected by the company. There were about 1,500 men employed in the colliery, and recently there were opened at that colliery modern pithead baths, which should be of inestimable advantage to the workmen concerned. I would like to pay a tribute to the people in the Mines Department who have overcome so many difficulties in building these pithead baths on extremely difficult sites. They have had to meet difficulties connected with subsidence, and on occasion it has been extremely difficult to get proper foundations for the baths; but in every case in which the attempt has been made so far, they have succeeded, and they deserve congratulations on the efforts they have made.
1456 The hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) said that he thought that the£500,000 that would be obtained from the levy to be provided by this Measure would be more than the Welfare Committee said could be properly spent, that is, if regard was had to all the difficulties concerning material, labour and so on, in providing pithead baths. I have not gone into that matter, and no doubt the Minister will have something to say about it at a later stage; but if that be the case, it is a substantial reason for not limiting the whole of this sum to expenditure on pithead baths. There is plenty of room for that money to be used in connection with other schemes, and I hope the Minister will give some attention to this matter.
I also would like to make a plea for the small collieries, some of which have been more or less neglected. In many cases the small collieries are working higher seams, and often they have more water to contend with than the deeper collieries. I think it was the intention of the Miners' Welfare Committee some time ago to carry out an experiment in Scotland in connection with smaller collieries. What has been done I do not know. I know that proposals were put forward in South Wales for the provision of baths at the small collieries, but they have not been provided. A difficulty confronts those who desire to establish baths at small collieries. There are fewer men employed at those collieries, and the weekly income from the men is smaller. It is difficult, therefore, to provide the necessary staff unless the men pay a very high weekly contribution. In some cases it is as high as is. per week in small collieries, whereas in larger collieries it may be as low as 4d. a week. Perhaps the Minister will say something about that matter.
As regards the welfare levy generally, there is no doubt about the fact that it has done enormous good. It has provided those excellent welfare grounds which have been of such benefit in the mining districts. It has provided, too, those splendid little halls in the mining villages, some of which are remote from the towns, enabling the people in those villages to hold social gatherings where miners and other members of the community can come together and enjoy each other's company. I welcome the Bill and, like my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith), I am not 1457 much afraid of the five-year limit. I feel that this scheme will prove so popular that at the end of the five-year period, provided that the situation of the industry is normal, the pressure in favour of the continuance of the levy will be so strong that the Government of that day will be unable to resist it.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
There is one point in the Bill about which I was inclined to feel some regret, namely the five-year limitation, but on thinking over the matter I have revised my opinion, because I hope that at the end of five years we who now sit on these benches will be on the benches opposite. If so, there will be no doubt about the continuance of this levy. Many hon. Members will recall the fight we had to retain this levy. The employers were the chief cause of our difficulty then. They resisted the proposal, very ill-advisedly as I thought at the time, and I think they now regret having done so. We have heard the view expressed on behalf of the coalowners themselves that as regards the health of the men the employers are getting full value for the levy. If you want to get the best out of a workman it is necessary to keep him in proper health, and the provision of baths at the collieries, has been an advantage, not only to the men but to the colliery owners.
Another advantage of these baths, is that it enables the men to have small cuts and bruises, which might otherwise be overlooked, attended to immediately. Miners are very hardy men and seldom if ever complain. Formerly they took home these minor scratches and cuts without having them seen to, and in many cases serious consequences developed. I had an experience of this myself about two years ago when I had to go down and examine a very deep mine. I came up thoroughly exhausted and with a number of slight bruises and cuts and when I went into the pithead bath, the attendant saw my plight and spent some little time in applying Friar's Balsam to my hurts. I very much appreciated that attention. It brought home to me what these baths meant to the ordinary workmen in this respect, as well as in regard to cleanliness.
The present position in relation to pithead baths is very different from that -which existed formerly. I remember the 1458 amount of prejudice which we had to overcome, not only among the employers but among our own men, when we suggested pithead baths. It was difficult to convince even the men of the utility and benefit of these baths. Miners' leaders were continually holding meetings for the sole purpose of impressing upon the men the wisdom of this step. A lot of spade work was required, but now we appear to have got on to the right road, and, apparently, everybody in the industry is agreed about the desirability of these baths. When the Lancashire and Cheshire coalowners and the miners' representatives meet at the wages board, applications come in from those parts of the district which have not yet got pithead baths, claiming the right to be considered first in the allocation. Only a certain number can be dealt with, and the result is that some of these applications are put back time and again. The Bill will help in that respect and I hope that in a very short time every colliery will have pithead baths.
The Bill is a step in the right direction and the mine workers will not begrudge what is required by it. An hon. Member opposite suggested that they might object to this levy coming out of the allocation, but I assure him that they will not object. I feel sure that the public will not object and, after all, this levy comes from the public in the first instance. I am satisfied that neither the public, nor the mine workers, nor the coal owners, will object to this allocation for the purpose set out in the Bill. I consider it to be one of the greatest things that has ever come to the industry as far as amenities are concerned. I join in expressing my gratification at the fact that the Government have done this. The Secretary for Mines was advertised to go into my constituency yesterday. I expect he told the people there about this Bill. If he did, I am sure they welcomed his presence there, as they would welcome the announcer of any improvement in the mining industry.
§ Captain Crookshank
I thought it would be wiser to wait and see whether the House was going to accept the proposal or not.
§ Mr. Tinker
All Ministers are not so careful in what they say. If they are going to do anything for the people, they generally mention it and try to get the 1459 credit for it, and I would not have blamed the hon. and gallant Gentleman had he told my constituents of what he intended to put in the Bill. However the Bill is here, and I hope it will pass into law. I am sure that it will receive from the miners' representatives in this House all the help that can be given to it. Most of us have been miners, we realise what it means to be without these baths and we are very glad to think that those who are coming after us will get the benefit which is made available by this Bill.
§ 8.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Sexton
After all the complimentary speeches we have heard, it would be very ungracious not to join in this wonderfully unanimous chorus. I come from a mining area and I can remember the prejudice which existed among the miners themselves 30 years ago against pithead baths. Of course the miner, as everybody knows, has very strong prejudices in many directions. Not very long ago, a miner who was taking a bath was very particular that he should not have his back washed because he believed that it would weaken his back. At the same time he did not hesitate to wash his head. Since that time we have realised the importance of brain as well as brawn and now the miner enjoys his bath whether at the pithead or at home.
Something has been said already about the effect which the provision of pithead baths will have on the amenities of the home. I have vivid recollections of the scene in a miner's home when the man was having his bath. The man would come in from the pit, all wet and dirty. The good woman of the house would prepare on the hearthrug, in front of the fire, a huge zinc bath full of hot water. There were, generally, three or four children playing around while the hot water was being put into the bath and there was grave danger of scalding those bairns. Many in fact were scalded and suffered very severely. Then the miner stripped himself almost naked. It is true that he kept on what we called his "clouts" or his little shorts, which did not give him much more protection, as far as decency is concerned, than the fig-leaf which we read of in the story of the Garden of Eden. There, in the face of all corners, men, women and children, he took his bath in front of the fire. Any of his 1460 friends who were visiting him at the time had to take a back seat because the hearthrug was entirely occupied by the bath.
The provision of pithead baths not only removes the danger to the children; it increases the decency with which the worker can take his bath and it increases his opportunities of showing hospitality to his friends. There is the relief to the woman that she is not constantly preparing baths, because in some cases, it was not only the man of the house but his sons as well who had to get baths. Then all round about the fire there were wet clothes and boots which had to be dried, and every day the good woman of the house was reminded of work, work, work. I believe that the miners to-day are far more enlightened than they were upon health matters and that the demand for pithead baths will grow and grow. I can recall seeing the long straggling lines of half-naked men walking from the pits to their homes in all kinds of weather. Where there are pithead baths one sees no such sights to-day. The men come spruce and clean from the pits, well washed and well rubbed down and physically more fit than the men whom one used to see trailing home through the snow and slush. Many of our miners are great sportsmen. You would have no Arsenal and no Aston Villa if you had no miners. They have played their part in athletics and boxing. I believe that the provision of pithead baths will do much to improve their sporting proclivities, and that in the years to come we shall be able to look to the miners to fill up the vacancies in our First League football teams.
Before pithead baths were instituted, miners as they walked home or travelled home by conveyance were ostracised because of their filthy clothes and boots. Miners have often been blamed for being uncouth. If they were uncouth, the savagery of their surroundings ought to have part of the blame. Now that we are abolishing some of the savagery of their surroundings, the improvement in their manners and deportment is becoming more and more evident as the years go by. In the old days the miner was well known for his silk muffler; you could pick him out in a crowd. I defy anybody now to go to a crowd of people and select the miner because of his dress. He is now well dressed and carries himself well. All this improvement, I believe, is 1461 due to the increased amenities which the Welfare Fund has provided. It is an amazing list of good things—pithead baths, recreation and social welfare grounds, institutes and halls, health and education. I believe that more good could be done by the Welfare Fund towards increasing opportunities for the education of the young miner. Whether the young miners are not taking much interest in it, I am not prepared to say, but I would urge upon them to take advantage of the education which they can get from the Welfare Fund. Then there is the important research work for the welfare of miners. It is an amazing list of wonderful benefits. We on this side of the House believe more good yet can be brought out of the fund and we will do our best to help it to be done.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Dunn
Like every other Member who has taken part in the Debate, I welcome this small Bill, belated though it is, because I believe that the raising of the halfpenny per ton to one penny for miners' welfare purposes, and particularly for pithead baths, will be a real boon and blessing to the mining community. I welcome it, also, because I believe that pithead baths and their utilisation are a real contribution to the health and happiness not merely of the miner, but of his wife and children. For that reason, I want to offer to the Minister my appreciation for introducing this Bill. I was one who in the early days took a different line with regard to this question of miners' welfare and pithead baths from many of my colleagues in the country. When we at the mine with which I was connected received the first contribution from the Miners Welfare Fund we acted in anticipation of the bath scheme, and not only spent all the money in installing one of the old types of pithead baths, but, in addition, spent nearly 50 per cent. of the second allocation on that purpose. Therefore, instead of spending our money, as we might have done, on some of the things to which reference has been made, we spent the whole of it in anticipation of pithead bath schemes in installing baths.
The miner is one of the finest types of men the country has produced, whether at sport, at play or at work, and this demand for pithead baths indicates the true type of man to be found in British mines. It is strange that in a workhouse 1462 or public institution of any kind one of the essential things, even 5o years ago, was the installation of bathing accommodation. In prisons, too, where all types of people are to be found, bathing accommodation is considered necessary. In the mining industry in the past, however, it was thought that the worst type of house in which there was no bathing accommodation was good for the miner, and the demand for pithead baths indicates a new type of mind coming into the mining communities, and it is really a case of the miner coming into his own. I appreciate what the Fund has done in other directions, such as recreation grounds, halls, education facilities, convalescent homes, and all sorts of things. The scheme has made a remarkable contribution to the sick and injured miners.
I want to take a line slightly different from the line so far taken in the Debate. I understood the Minister to say that if, when the baths are completed, which he anticipates in six or seven years' time, any money is available, the Fund will be used for other objects. He also said something about renewals to the baths. I do not know whether he wanted the House to understand that renewals would in some measure be a charge upon any residue that there might be in the Fund, or on the Fund itself. The Minister called attention to the fact that in the newer installations of baths provisions for canteens were made and had proved useful. I would much rather the miner, coming out of the pit and having to travel a long distance, took advantage of the canteen provisions, and particularly of the milk supplied, than find himself in much more objectionable places.
It seemed to me that there were only two discordant notes in the Debate. One was struck by the hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) when he called attention to the cost, how the money would be raised, and the ratios which would be borne by the miners and owners. The other discordant note came from the hon. Member for Berwick (Sir H. Seely) who called attention to the position of royalty owners. I should have thought that both those hon. Members who are so directly connected with the coal industry would have had something to say on the question of how some scheme for electrical treatment could be interwoven into the newer installations of pithead baths and 1463 provision made for treating the minor injuries, cuts and bruises, of miners. Among the illnesses to which miners are subject and to which due regard has not so far been paid are chest troubles—as distinct from silicosis—and rheumatism. I should have liked to hear from the Minister some indication of whether, in addition to canteens and cycle sheds, he would look with favour upon the installation of electrical equipment, so that therapy treatment may be given to miners when they come out of the pit, and provision should be made for the treatment of minor injuries. If electrical treatment could be provided as part of the welfare scheme it would be not only beneficial to the health of the miners themselves but would mean a considerable saving in workmen's compensation and an enormous saving to national health funds. If that could be done, and it may be competent to do it within the scheme as part of the newer installations, then I am satisfied that the miners of the country will be doing well. Like all my hon. Friends I have much pleasure in welcoming this Bill.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Watson
A welcome has been given to this Bill from almost every part of the coalfield with the exception of Scotland, and on behalf of that area of the British coalfield I wish to extend the same cordial welcome to it. The luck of the Ballot two years ago gave my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) an opportunity to introduce a discussion upon pithead baths, and I then had the opportunity of dealing rather fully with the matter and do not intend to take up very much time to-night. I dare say that my hon. Friend surprised the House when he brought forward such a practical and useful proposal as the installation of pithead baths instead of some subject like world revolution, but he did a very useful bit of work two years ago, because we see to-night the result of the agitation which has been going on persistently since that time to have the levy increased from ½d. to 1d. My hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) mentioned that the Secretary for Mines was in his constituency yesterday. He was in my constituency last night. Evidently he is getting around before we have the discussion upon safety in mines and an opportunity of discussing his report. I dare say he saw something worth 1464 seeing when he was in Fife. He would see what was being done about pithead baths at the new colliery there. The baths are not there yet, but the plans are all ready for baths at that new colliery, which I think will he just about the first of its kind in Scotland when it is in operation.
I would like to put in a plea for baths at the smaller collieries; they should not be confined to the larger ones. I do not suggest that baths should be installed at any colliery which is so small that the provision of baths would be ridiculous, but leaving those cases aside there should be only one test and that is the probable life of a colliery. Nobody would suggest that this money, which is so much required in so many areas, should be squandered upon providing pithead baths at any colliery which is likely to go out of operation in a year or two, but apart from that every endeavour should be made to have baths at every colliery, and I dare say that that is the intention of the Ministry in getting an increase of the welfare levy from ½d. to 1d. I am not going into the arguments which have been already put forward so ably in favour of the completion of this programme of pithead baths. I wish the discussion had been on broader lines, covering the whole range of welfare administration, because there are other aspects of it upon which we could have had an interesting discussion with, perhaps, a great deal more division of opinion than we get on the narrow issue before us.
I dare say the hon. and gallant Member has had his attention drawn to the fact that in connection with many welfare schemes there is considerable difficulty in keeping the institutes going, and if it had been possible to-night to discuss institutes and recreation facilities generally we might have had some interesting expressions of opinion. I should like to point out what the miner has contributed to the maintenance of these pithead baths. He does not get the use of the baths gratis, because a contribution towards the running of the baths is deducted from his wages week by week. The miner has many calls made upon him in other directions. A miner's pay ticket shows deductions for a number of different items which total a very considerable amount. You have 1d. for this and 2d. for something else deducted, and altogether 1465 they mean a very considerable sum taken in some areas from the miners' wages. In the county of Fife a special contribution is collected at the collieries for the maintenance, not of baths but of other things connected with welfare schemes, which I do not intend to discuss on this occasion, because we may have another opportunity of discussing this question of welfare on a broader issue than that which is now before us.
I want to give a welcome to this Measure. In Scotland we require a great many more baths than we have at the present moment. In commendation of recent developments in connection with baths I would say that I am glad to see that those who are responsible for planning baths and selecting sites are beginning to give more attention to the situation of the baths, and to see that baths are put in as good a position as possible in the colliery. It is necessary that baths should be in places where they harmonise with the general surroundings. The newer collieries, where electric power is used, not only for lighting but for all purposes—winding and everything else—are on a higher level than they ever were before. There is no steam, smoke or dirt about them such as there was in all collieries only 10 or 12 years ago. The coalowners themselves are beginning to take a little pride. I do not know whether this is due to the development of baths, institutes and other things connected with welfare schemes, but during recent years coalowners are paying more attention to the general appearance of their collieries than they did in my early days. I am not saying that this is general, but that in the new collieries a great deal more attention is being paid to tidiness at the pithead than was the case a few years ago. That is all to the good and it is, I believe, largely due to the welfare work that is being done that all these changes have been brought about.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Shinwell
If I am expected to join in the general enthusiasm upon the introduction of this Measure, I am afraid that I shall prove a disappointment to hon. Members. It happens that I have some acquaintance with the history of this legislation. I can recall the setting up of a committee in 1931 to consider the general scope and purpose of the Miners' Welfare Fund. Subsequently, the Govern- 1466 ment of which the hon. and gallant Member is a supporter, reduced the welfare levy. If it had not been for the action taken in 1934 by the National Government it would have been unnecessary to introduce this legislation to-day. It may be permissible to ask why the legislation is being introduced. Are the Government in a state of reform? Are they penitent because of the action they took in 1934? I very much doubt it. The fact is that, because of the demands which are being made upon the fund and particularly that part of it upon which is borne the expenditure for pithead baths, and because of the difficulties associated with those demands and with the finance of the scheme, the Government have been compelled to come forward with this legislation.
Moreover, we ought not to forget that washing and drying facilities associated with the mines of the country are valuable, not only as a means for washing and drying, but because they may become a very useful asset in times of national emergency for purposes of national defence. In a majority of places where there are washing and drying facilities, these are linked with ambulance stations and first-aid equipment. They are very valuable institutions for use if ever we should be called upon to undertake all the trials of national defence. So, although I should be one of the first to thank the hon. and gallant Gentleman or the Government for this Measure, in so far as its introduction was rendered necessary, it is belated. It ought to have been introduced long ago. As the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself indicated in his speech, this is not a case of the Government making a gift to the miners or to the mining industry. This legislation is not costing the Government one penny piece, because the cost comes out of the mining industry.
For what have we to thank the Government? There have been negotiations in the industry and there has been agreement. The Government have responded to the united demands of the industry, plus the submissions of the Miners' Welfare Committee. Why should we go on our knees and thank the hon. and gallant Gentleman, in spite of his amiability? I can recall occasions when we were in office and when the hon. and gallant Gentleman was one of the severest critics 1467 of the Labour Government. At the same time, I am far from looking a gift-horse in the mouth. I agree that pithead baths are essential for the welfare of mineworkers and are a valuable asset in the industry. I shall not dilate on the iniquities of the past, and the degrading conditions under which miners had to wash in their homes. Those are matters upon which those who have had more experience than myself—practical experience—can talk with greater feeling and more emotion, revealing facts at the same time.
This I know, that when I was at the Mines Department in 1924 and in 1931 I was made fully conscious of the needs of the miners in regard to pithead baths. So conscious was I of the clamant need for pithead baths in the country that I ventured to present a short Bill to the House, which never had its Second Reading—for reasons which are well known to us here. If it had been accepted, either by the industry or by this House, the Bill would have provided pithead baths for every miner in this country, without exception. Owing to the difficulties which had been created in relation to the fund upon which the pithead baths expenditure was borne, I found it necessary to offer the suggestion of compulsion, and I go so far now as to declare that the industry itself, without legislation of this kind, ought from the very outset to have provided washing and drying facilities for mine workers. It is done in other industries and in other countries. Why should not the mineowners of the country, plus the royalty owners, provide the necessary facilities for this human and social purpose—I go further, this industrial purpose? Although I do not share in the general appreciation of this Bill, at the same time I welcome anything that is going to assist the mine workers, that is going to lift from the homes of the mine workers that drudgery which was so characteristic. I know also how appreciative the wives of the miners have been, and are, of the facilities that are provided.
Let us examine the proposal that is before use. It is proposed to increase the levy. So far, so good. But it is only to be increased for a period of five years. I believe that that is pernicious. Even the committee which I myself established, and which reported adversely, as I 1468 thought, on the amount of the levy, itself recommended that the levy should be continued for a period of 20 years, and I certainly do not believe that a period of five years is ample for the purpose that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has in view. All sorts of difficulties will crop up, in connection with material, equipment, labour and the like, which will present obstacles to the provision of all the baths that are required. Indeed, the Miners' Welfare Committee themselves, on page 16 of their last report, indicate what the difficulties are. They maintain that at the moment, because of good employment and high prices—I am not so sure about the good employment myself, but for the moment I accept what they say—building is expensive, and they hope it will become cheaper presently. There is no indication at all that in the next few years the difficulties which are now present to their minds will be entirely removed, and so I do not believe that in five years it will be possible to complete this comprehensive programme. I wish it were. I wish it could be done in the course of a year, or two years at the most. There is every reason, therefore, why the duration of the increase should not be limited to five years.
There is another difficulty about this limitation. It is that the levy is to be specially earmarked for pithead baths. That leaves the remainder of the welfare schemes high and dry, which is most unsatisfactory. It must not be assumed for a moment that we have exhausted all the possibilities of welfare, in recreation centres, in miners' homes, in convalescent homes, in research and in education. We are far from that position; a great deal of money is required, and much remains to be done. The assumption is that the ordinary levy is sufficient for the purpose of miners' welfare, but that ½d. is required for the purpose of pithead baths. I do not accept that view at all. It is just as important to provide funds for ordinary welfare schemes as it is to provide funds for pithead baths.
At the same time, I agree that many mistakes have been made as regards the kind of schemes that have been established—not altogether by the Miners' Welfare Committee, to whom I pay my tribute for the magnificent work they have undertaken and accomplished, but partly by those in the districts who in moments of enthusiasm presented schemes 1469 which are now regarded as of little value. The other day I was in a district in my constituency where I was told of tennis courts which were not used by the mine workers at all, and, indeed, were used by hardly anybody. Further, I was informed that they would have liked to have miners' halls, which would have been very much more useful. But I have been in other parts of the country where halls are of little value and are hardly used. A great deal more foresight is required in connection with the kind of schemes that are instituted. If I had to choose between these schemes and pithead baths, I should, having regard to the imperative need for washing and drying facilities, plump for pithead baths. But, on the other hand, let us not forget that schemes have been instituted, and that out of those schemes demands have arisen; and over and above that—and here I come to one of the principal difficulties that have been created—maintenance charges are imposed upon the district committees and upon individual schemes which have become burdensome and almost intolerable.
That brings me to a point which, I believe, is of real substance. Let us assume that certain pithead bath schemes have been established, and that others are to be established. There may be in one pit 500 men employed, and there is a certain maintenance charge, which is averaged over the mine workers who pay their contributions; and may I say in parentheses that these mine workers very often pay individual contributions which are too high having regard to the wages they earn, although they pay them gladly. I have heard of contributions of 6d. and 8d. weekly, which is a lot of money for a mine worker to pay out of his standing wages, having regard to the deductions that are made for many other things associated with his work. But suppose that there are 500 men employed in a mine where pithead bath provisions are available, and suppose that in course of time, perhaps a year or two, the number of men is reduced to 300. The maintenance charges remain the same, but they are spread over the remaining men, and increase the burden imposed upon those men. That is a very serious matter. I deplore having to say it, but we have to deal with facts, and it is a fact that there is a contraction in the mining industry, because of mechanisation and because 1470 of diminution in exports and in the consumption of coal owing to the use of other kinds of fuel—matters with which I cannot, of course, deal to-night. Because of that contraction, fewer men will be employed in individual pits, taking them by and large—there may be exceptions—and in consequence the maintenance charges on the men will be increased.
That is a matter to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman must give his attention. How does he propose to deal with it? I will make a suggestion. I have expressed my disappointment at the amount of funds available for ordinary welfare schemes, and I repeat that now, but, if there should be a margin after the expenditure on pithead baths for the next five years has been met, that margin ought to be made available in order to meet these increased maintenance charges. I know the views of the Miners' Welfare Committee on maintenance charges. Quite properly, they have jibbed at the proposal, which has been made from time to time, that maintenance charges should be met out of the general fund. Although, I think, here and there they have given way, on the whole they have preferred not to accept the proposition. I can appreciate their difficulty, and I see many obstacles to the proposition. There ought to be a wide discretion invested in the committee; and, more particularly, the central committee should take notice of what the district committees have to say on these matters. I hope the Miners' Welfare Committee will give some attention to what I believe is a very important consideration.
In connection with the pithead baths themselves, I was very interested in what my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Dunn) said. He expressed a view which, I believe, is becoming more common among miners in the country who have availed themselves of these washing and drying facilities, namely, that these facilities might be extended for the treatment of people suffering from rheumatism and other complaints. I understand that at one pit in my own constituency—I believe it is one of the largest pits in the country—they have already instituted a rheumatism clinic. I am told by my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley that another has been instituted at Mansfield. That is very desirable. This is a very useful innovation, and I hope it will be ex- 1471 tended. If it is to be extended, perhaps some part of the margin available can be used for meeting the expenditure incurred.
I do not want to discuss the general question of miners' welfare to-night, but I want to say something about the principle involved. I am glad the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) has reappeared; I make no complaint, of course, about his absence. Perhaps he will do me the honour of reading something I have ventured to say about the matter, but one thing that I can say in his presence is this: Why should not the owners spend some of their profits on welfare schemes? Why should these schemes depend entirely on the Welfare Fund? Why assume that the money must come out of this levy, and that, because of this levy, no mine-owner is to adopt any kind of welfare scheme? After all, the mineowners are making profits now. There was a period of economic depression undoubtedly, but they are doing well now; some mining undertakings have done well all the time. Surely the owners might provide some of these miners' welfare schemes without waiting for a fund to be made available for the purpose. I hope the mineowners will take note of that suggestion.
Of course we accept the Bill; it would be suicidal not to, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman knew at the beginning that we should accept it. But we shall watch very carefully the next report of the Welfare Committee to see the progress of these pithead bath schemes. We shall expect a steady acceleration of these schemes, and at the same time we shall continue to press for them until every mining village in the country and every mine is fully catered for in respect of miners' welfare. That is the very least we can expect. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Sir C. Edwards) said, in what I thought was one of the most interesting speeches we have heard for some time—I wish he could speak more often than he does—we accept this proposal; and we hope that it will continue to be useful for the mineworkers and their wives and families. I go further and say—perhaps I do not agree here with my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty—that we do not even object to the outside public sharing in some of 1472 the benefits which arise under these schemes.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I would be lacking in my duty if I did not make a few observations on the Bill. On behalf of the area I represent, I welcome the Bill; and I congratulate the Secretary for Mines and his Department for several reasons. The first reason is that while I have been sitting here I have been thinking of the stories that were told to me by the acting-president of the Mineworkers' Federation of this country a few weeks ago about the treatment of miners in Germany. I hope that what he told me on that occasion will be broadcast throughout the country, and that a contrast will be drawn between the reactionary policy adopted towards the miners in that country, with hours increasing and fewer safety regulations than ever, and the treatment meted out in this country.
My second reason is the improvements that I have seen even in my short time. I remember, as a boy, travelling through mining areas within a few miles of where I lived, where it was common to see the miners coming out of the pits with no opportunities to wash themselves; and I contrast those conditions with the present conditions. I see that it is proposed to allocate to the North Staffordshire area for the last year a sum of £94,000. As I have moved amongst the mining population in that area, and particularly amongst the wives, I have seen eyes light up when we have talked about the provision of these pithead baths.
Some people were critical of my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) some time ago, because they thought he should have done this, that or the other thing, instead of which he introduced a concrete proposal which was going to bring immediate benefit to the mining community of this country. If some people understood Socialist philosophy better, they would see that it is not only a question of talking, but that when you have an opportunity of translating that philosophy into reality it is better to do so. People throughout the world are now seeing a ray of hope in one country, New Zealand, where more concrete benefits are being brought to the people, and they contrast what is being done there with what other people failed to do in years gone by.
1473 Another reason why I welcome this Bill is this: Some time ago I had an experience which I shall never forget, an experience which has burned itself into my thoughts. That happened when I went to a pit bank where 30 men had lost their lives, and saw the rescuers prepared to go down into that pit. Knowing that 30 men who had gone down previously had lost their lives, these rescue workers were prepared, without any regard to their own welfare, to go into that pit to see if some of their comrades could still be saved. When the Secretary for Mines sent out an invitation to Members of this House to visit the Buxton research station, which carries on a wonderful work, I readily accepted it, and it would be interesting to know how many hon. Members of this House did accept that invitation.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
I must remind the hon. Member that the research station does not come within the purview of this Bill.
§ Mr. Smith
Are we not considering the Miners' Welfare Fund? If you would be good enough to turn to Clause 2, on page 2, you will see that it provides for the incorporation of the Miners' Welfare Commission, and that it says that this Commissionmay enter into such agreements, acquire such property,…and may dispose as it thinks fit of any property acquired by it.It also goes on to say how the Miners' Welfare Fund can be used for the purposes about which I am speaking. The Safety of Mines Research Department at Buxton is run, I understand, out of this fund.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That is where the hon. Member is in error; it is not maintained from this fund.
§ Mr. Shinwell
On a point of Order. Although it is true that this is not run out of the fund there is a contribution from the Miners' Welfare Fund to the Safety in Mines Research Board.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I agree, but I think that the hon. Member is stretching the point a little too far.
§ Mr. Smith
I shall accept your guidance and will at this point be very careful. I looked at the Miners' Welfare Fund seventeenth annual report to see what was being done, and I want to pay a tribute to 1474 the work that is being done at the Buxton research station, and particularly to the civil servants who are carrying on under the present conditions. As a result of the invitation of the Secretary for Mines, I visited the research station with a number of boys from St. Helens and Wigan, and we had a wonderful experience. Therefore I think that I ought to take the opportunity on this occasion to place on record my appreciation, on behalf of the people that I represent, of the introduction of this Bill and of the good work that is being done at the Safety in Mines Research Station at Buxton.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Reference has been made to a discussion which took place in this House upon a Motion which I had the opportunity of presenting, and I would like to remark, in view of the fact that that has been brought up, that it has taken the Secretary for Mines two years to catch up with that discussion. I do not like the continual repetition in this House of stories about miners and the reluctance of miners to wash. These stories are not true. Thirty odd years ago I went round one of the most poverty-stricken mining areas in Scotland—in Lanarkshire—and I found that when the miner came home he always stripped and washed. I know that miners used to have objections to the idea of baths at the pit. They could not see the feasibility of bathing at the pit and then going out and walking home in their dirty clothes. There was no understanding at that time of the character of pit baths and of the arrangements for transfer of clothes and so on. Wherever the idea got about that it was injurious to the miners to wash it was inculcated by the coalowners and their agents. We have all had, during the War especially, a superstition about three persons and a match. The third to use the same match would have bad luck. Where did that superstition come from? Did it come from the clouds? It came from those who were exploiting the match industry. In the case of the miners the coalowners of this country were prepared to give the worst possible conditions conceivable to those whom they employed.
Look at the houses in which the miners had to live. My wife's family were engaged in the mining industry, and many years ago when I used to go around with her visiting her relations one 1475 found one big room—not two rooms—with a stone floor, and no amenities of any kind. These places were built by the coalowners and rented to the miners. The mineowners of this country were prepared to give the worst conditions imaginable to the men and to try to bring into the minds of the miners ideas consistent with these conditions: "For goodness sake do not get the idea into your head that you have to wash or you will want baths in your houses." All these notions which may have existed did not originate with the miners. The miners wanted to be clean just as everybody else wanted to be clean.
I hope that if any of these stories are raised again in this House the responsibility for them will he placed upon the proper shoulders. It was the mine-owners who were interested in the provision of stone floors and single-apartment houses and the awful and unspeakable conditions that existed in mining villages. I can tell the House of mining villages in Lanarkshire where there were and are appalling sanitary conditions that would revolt anyone. The miners have organised and have continually struggled to raise themselves above the terrible conditions that the mineowners have imposed upon them.
For years the miners in the area that I represent have been clamouring for pit baths, and the Minister himself knows that it is the fact. The trades union branches have been passing resolutions. They have been clamouring for baths. Therefore I hope that this Bill will be used in order to get baths installed with the utmost possible speed in every pit in the country. In my constituency at the time I moved my Motion the various branches of the miners' union wanted to know how soon they could obtain baths at their pits. I hope that the greatest possible speed will be developed in getting pit baths.
I remember one day last summer the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Mr. E. Smith) brought a party of women from his constituency on a visit round this House. They came into one of the rooms where we were sitting and told us that on the previous afternoon pithead baths had been opened in their district. It was pleasing to notice the appreciation of those women of what those baths meant to their 1476 homes. Reference has been made to the development of housing schemes in various mining villages, and certainly those improved houses demand that the miners should go home clean from the pit. When we consider what cleanliness means to the miners, the mothers and the wives, we must realise how important it is to utilise this Bill in order to get pithead baths installed with the utmost rapidity at every pit in the country. In my constituency installations are taking place at certain pits, but there are others where so far there has been no mention of installation, and the miners are desperate to get the baths.
The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) has referred to the question of maintenance. There is not only the question of maintenance but also the question of renewals. The hon. Member for the Rother Valley (Mr. Dunn) made reference to renewals in the future. If we take into account some of the modern pits, with their modern pithead baths, and contrast them with some of the earlier installations at other pits, we realise that already the question of renewals of baths to bring them up to more modern style needs to be considered. One thing that I am seriously concerned about is that the Government and the Secretary for Mines still have the idea of harking back to the halfpenny. It was an offence to the miners when the levy was reduced, because it meant the holding up of the installations of pit baths and other welfare development. Now, when they have been forced to take action, because of the clamour of miners all over the country for more rapid installation of baths, they are still hankering to get back to the halfpenny. They ought by this time to have got beyond that stage. If five years hence we have baths at every pit there will be the question of maintenance and also the question of the amenities that are necessary to be developed in the mining villages.
There is surely not a coalowner who to-day cherishes the old ideas as to the conditions under which the miners had to work. They ought rather to be prepared to support generously not only the provision of pithead baths but full maintenance and also the development of amenities over a wide field. I was speaking at Steelend on Sunday afternoon and a schoolmaster was present from the neighbouring village of Saline, begging 1477 that something might be done to provide a playing-field in the village. There is there a piece of land which is available, but nothing can be done with it because it has been handed over on condition that the Dunfermline district of the Fife County Council are not allowed to spend one penny of the cost of putting the ground in order, or maintaining it. Therefore, the land is unusable so far as the miners and their children are concerned.
There are many directions in which the welfare fund can be expended. I hope that in the Committee stage the Minister will agree to withdraw the five years, and that he will increase the levy, go ahead with the utmost speed in seeing that baths are installed in every pit, and then see to it that full provision is made for maintenance and for using the rest of the fund for development of the various welfare schemes, some of which have been mentioned to-night and others of which will be proposed by the miners. I hope that every step will be taken to ensure that the mining villages become healthy happy villages in every sense of the term.
§ 9.20 p.m.
Mr. David Adams
Coming from a mining area I should regard it as unfortunate if I did not utter a word or two at the conclusion of this Debate. There can be no controversy as to the fact that the mineworkers have been for many years the most abused of the industrial workers, and that if they had received an adequate return for the services they have rendered to the community and to a basic industry, the mining villages should be earthly paradises. Instead of that, we still have, as in my constituency of Consett, an absence of pithead baths and an absence of open spaces and playgrounds for children; yet no one will deny that in that area many millions of pounds have been taken out of the mining industry and have passed into other hands.
I want to offer my congratulations not to the Government but to the Miners' Federation of Great Britain for having doggedly insisted that the penny levy should once again be restored. The Government have beneficently permitted the mineworkers to find this out of their own pockets. If justice were to be done there would be an actuarial estimate taken of the amount which has hitherto been ex- 1478 pended from the resources of the mineworkers, and a statutory enactment would be made that an equal amount should be contributed to the general Welfare Fund out of the net profits of mineowners in this country, plus the royalty owners. That would, however, be a step so extraordinary to the mind of this Government, which is the lord high protector of capitalism in every form, that it is not, I suppose, to be thought of; and yet it is a normal act of justice to a much ill-used section of the community.
In my division, hundreds of miners return home in an entirely unwashed condition, but the blame is very freely apportioned and is well known to be a liability upon the National Government for having reduced the amount of the levy. Therefore, the proposed increase will give great satisfaction to the workers. Often the miner has to wash himself in the small, restricted space of his home, which has only perhaps two or three rooms for a large family, and he has to wash himself before the kitchen fire. During my election some of our lady canvassers when calling upon the good wife were told that she was busy washing her man's back, and that if a lady canvasser cared to take her place the wife would immediately go out to vote. I think in no case was the invitation accepted. That just illustrates the gross disability, and it is indeed a disability that we should have these diminutive homes for workers lacking in these elementary facilities.
The Durham Miners' Association have established convalescent homes for their menfolk. I am glad to see that a resolution has been passed that, if and when funds are available, a similar convalescent home should be established for the women and children, who probably require an opportunity for convalescing as much as the men do, and it would have been a reasonable thing, in view of the great and clamant necessity for all sorts of social requirements in our mining villages, if this levy could have been raised to 2d. and used for what in my judgment is an imperious necessity in the national interest as well as in that of the industry itself, in order to establish a pensions fund for getting the older workers out of the industry. In many districts, certainly in parts of Durham, we still require halls and institutes and open spaces. Anyone who reads the local Press will see with almost mathematical 1479 regularity prosecutions of young folks, and even of children, for the offence of kicking footballs in the streets or doing a little damage to fences and so forth because of the lack of open spaces. When I have approached certain municipalities the answer is, "We are too poor to purchase land to make this necessary provision." So that, though we cannot get it in that way, through the rates, we ought to be able to get it in the way that I indicate.
There is still great want of educational and health facilities of a much more advanced character than exist at present. Ambulance stations could be improved and, as we have heard, rheumatism clinics ought to be established. I am certain that the Government are taking an incorrect line when they are about to expend perhaps huge sums upon the cure, or at any rate the relief, of cancer. There is an infinitely more widespread disease affecting more particularly the workers in mining areas, and that is rheumatism, due to the occupation and the disabilities under which they are driven to suffer in their work.
I have made this small contribution feeling that the sense of gratitude to the Government on the part of some of my colleagues for what they have done is entirely misplaced. There is no warrant or justification for it; nor is there any warrant or justification for the mine-owners to solace themselves with being participants in this levy fund, for they have in the past grossly neglected their liabilities and responsibilities to the workers. I hope from now onwards there will be a sense of profound obligation that a portion of their profits should be set aside for the benefit of welfare schemes for those who have served them and the community with such loyalty and patriotism, both local and national, in this, one of our great basic industries.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Captain Crookshank
The Bill has received a most hearty welcome from all the benches, slightly modified by my predecessor on the Front Bench opposite and curiously enough, by another Durham Member. There is, perhaps, some local grievance on the subject. I have made it clear that there is no question of State money in this. It is money that comes from the industry. It is interesting to 1480 observe that the hon. Members who spoke first and last from the Opposition benches have attributed its origin to entirely different sources, because the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Sir C. Edwards) said he would be glad to support the Bill because the money would come out of the owners' pockets, whereas the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. David Adams) says we are graciously allocating something that comes out of the miners' pockets. The problem is, therefore, unsolved where the halfpenny is coming from, except that it does not come from the Government or from the taxpayer.
I would take exception to a point that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) made when he said, with reference to a Debate which he initiated two years ago, that it had taken us two years to catch up with his view. If he reads what I said on that occasion he will notice that the Miners' Welfare Committee had already decided to accelerate their programme by spending £600,000 in the two ensuing years, 1937 and 1938. Actually the expenditure was £629,000 and £635,000, and it is only now that it is necessary to consider the provision of further funds in order to keep up that sort of rate and, if possible, increase upon it. So that the general demand for pithead baths had already found considerable expression even at the time the hon. Member spoke, though possibly the pressure from all sides of the House on that occasion drew more attention to the problem than it might have received in other circumstances.
I should like to thank hon. Members several of whom have made kind remarks both about the staff of my Department and about the Miners' Welfare Committee. The hon. Member for Bedwellty said he remembered 4o years ago someone going to Germany to see what was being done there in the way of baths, and it may interest hon. Members to know that now people come from all over the world to see what we have been doing. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is as it should be."] I am glad we all appreciate that the work done by the architects of the committee is such that it receives the congratulations of the technical Press and that people come to see it. Only recently there were delegates from Rumania concerned with some kind of baths in their country, and they wanted to see how it was done here.
1481 I am obliged to hon. Members for what they have said, but there were some adjectives used about the period of five years for the halfpenny levy, ending up with the description of it by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell). as pernicious. I cannot accept that it is very pernicious. It seems to me that the position is this. According to estimates which can best be made at present, the greater part of the programme will be completed when the committee gets the money represented by a halfpenny on the output over the next five years. I must enter a caveat. That does not necessarily mean that in five years time every single pitbath on the programme will be finished. As a matter of fact, an hon. Member on these benches has pointed out that we are going to collect more than the amount which the Miners' Welfare Committee consider they can spend. They say that £625,000 a year is about as much as can be done. They say:To build faster may well be advocated by some in a desire to provide baths all at once, but apart from the major problem of obtaining the necessary amount of money there are other considerations which should not be overlooked.The major problem is to get more money, and that is being done. They also pointed out, in effect, that if expenditure is at a much higher rate, there is some risk of waste and some possibility that the best hopes will not be fulfilled. I am sure that no one wants to see any waste, and I am not defending anything of that kind, but if there is a risk, perhaps in view of the demand which has arisen, it should be taken. As I pointed out, there has been an increasing demand that more should be done for the smaller pits. The original programme envisaged by the Miners' Welfare Committee was limited more particularly to the larger pits and those with a long life. They have now taken into consideration the fact that something should be done for the smaller pits and for those with a comparatively short life. In that case it may be that they will have to modify the plans of existing installations and put in something of a different nature and, therefore, it may be that the demand for this new construction will not be a burden on those who are building to the programme of £625,000. There is, therefore, scope in the next year or two for more money to be spent, not only in an accelerated programme, but also in the possibility of 1482 helping smaller and, if I may call them, dying pits.
§ Mr. Jenkins
Will the Secretary for Mines say whether the experiments which were contemplated in Scotland at small collieries have been carried out, and, if so, what has been the result?
§ Captain Crookshank
I cannot remember offhand, but I will let the hon. Member know. If he will put a question down I will give him a full answer. The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) and other hon. Members have objected to the limit of five years. The impression I got was that they thought that we should take the opportunity now to make it possible for the ½d. to go on after five years for other purposes. We, on the other hand, came to the conclusion, accepting the view of the Miners' Welfare Committee, that the important thing is to get on with an accelerated pithead bath programme, to concentrate upon that, and for that purpose to raise the extra Id. After the five years are over there may be a good deal to be said for other questions to be considered, and hon. Members will be in a much better position to say what the money should be used for. But at the moment I think the House is agreed that the thing to do is to get on with the pithead bath programme and to leave questions as to what ought to be done after the five years are over to a time when we are nearer the termination of that period.
I think the hon. Member for Berwickon-Tweed (Sir H. Seely) is under a misapprehension regarding the royalties levy. The levy which is collected from royalty owners is not Is. a ton but 1s. in the £ on the value of the mineral rentals, and the point is that it is permanent. It has been a permanent levy from its inception, in the sense that there has never been any time limit. The original Miners' Welfare Levy was for five years, but it has been extended and the present period is until 1951. But the levy on royalties is permanent, and it has always been understood that it was a burden which would be passed on to the new owners of coal when the royalties were acquired. That is in the Act which was passed last year. That money has always been allocated to pithead baths and will continue to be so allocated, except when the Board of Trade considers that the sum is no longer required for pithead baths, in which case it may be allocated to some 1483 other purposes. That of course does not mean that the levy comes to an end.
The question has been raised as to whether these services could include some provision for electrical treatment for rheumatism. The hon. Member for the Rother Valley (Mr. Dunn) may not know that some of his colleagues came to see me as a deputation—I do not know whether they represented the party as a whole—and asked whether the Miners' Welfare Fund could take this problem into consideration. As a matter of fact, I wrote to one of them the other day to say that the Miners' Welfare Committee were still making investigations and inquiries into the matter. I know that there are a couple of schemes in existence but I cannot say whether they are financed by the Miners' Welfare Fund. I cannot give him a more definite answer at the moment. As to his other point whether the Miners' Welfare Committee can spend their money on this service, that depends on the interpretation of the words "ancillary purposes" in the Act of 1934, which says that they can spend money on the provision of such accommodation and facilities for workers which they think can be conveniently and properly combined. These are matters which will have to be looked into in order to see whether it is within their power. My function in the matter is only to see that they do not break the law by spending their funds on things which are not covered by the legislation. But their own policy in that matter and in the question of maintenance is for them to decide. Generally speaking, they leave questions of maintenance and ordinary replacements to the local committees to deal with, and incidentally, as one hon. Member said that the weekly charges were high in many areas, I understand that in 86 per cent. the charges are fixed at 6d., or less, so that where they are higher than that is only in a comparatively small number of cases, and the committee tries to arrange so that they can he no higher than 6d.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That is not borne out by the committee's report. On page 22 it says, as to workmen's weekly subscription towards upkeep, that it was none in two cases, less than 3d. in two, 3d. or 3½d. in 17, 4d. or 4½d. in 28, 5d. or 5½d. in 13, 6d. in 80, and up to 9d. in 23 cases.
§ Captain Crookshank
Perhaps the figure of 86 per cent. represents men as contrasted with installations, but it is the figure quoted on page 22 of the Miners' Welfare Committee's report for 1937 and I dare say that is the explanation of the discrepancy. It is not a very great point. The general policy is to try and get these contributions not higher than 6d. When you come to renewals, I think, generally speaking, that what the Committee had in mind was the case that was quoted by the hon. Member for West Fife, that there might be some very old baths installed and it might be desirable to modernise them altogether or even to build others in their place. That is really what I had in mind when I spoke at the beginning. I am very much obliged for the way in which the Bill has been received.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.