§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
On a point of Order. In view of the fact that on the last Clause you called the Amendment of the hon. Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate), which embraces the same principle as an Amendment of mine to Clause 40, may I ask whether it is possible for you to state the reason why my Amendment has not been called?
§ The Chairman
It has not been called because it has not been selected. The hon. Member knows that the Chair need not give reasons for not selecting Amendments. It is a very good rule not to give a reason when you are not obliged to do so.
§ Mr. H. G. Williams
Would it be proper now for me to move that the Chairman do report Progress, in order that we may have a general statement rather than a more restricted statement 423 which the Rules of Order might force upon us in the discussion of an individual Amendment?
§ The Chairman
If the Minister wishes to make a statement it will be for him to move to report Progress.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Surely, as no question is before the Committee other than the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall), it is not opportune now for the Minister to make a statement?
§ The Chairman
I did not understand that the Minister was proposing to do so. The hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) suggested his moving to report Progress to enable the Minister to make a statement, but I told him it was not for him to do so.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Further to the point raised by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), would you say that there is no truth in the suggestion that the Amendment of the hon. Member for West Fife was not called because he is a Communist?
§ The Chairman
I have already said that I do not propose to give a reason, but in order to make the hon. Member happier I will state that that is the case. That was not the reason for the non-selection of the Amendment.
§ The Chairman
If the hon. Member is rising on the same point of Order I must ask him to accept my Ruling that I have not accepted his Amendment. I have already called the next Amendment on the Paper.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want to draw attention to a point that has been completely missed. I can accept the decision that my Amendment is not selected, and I am finished with that point; but you called an Amendment to Clause 39 which would have allowed the principle of my Amendment to Clause 40 to be discussed, if the hon. Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) had been present. The fact that the hon. Member for Frome was absent altered the situation. That, it seems to me, should have provided an opportunity for the Chair to change the decision regarding my Amendment.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member is raising again the same point, on which I have asked him to accept my decision.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Mr. George Hall
I beg to move, in page 37, to leave out lines 21 to 28.
I assure the Committee that I and my hon. Friends are as anxious as any hon. Member opposite to get a statement from the Government. We do not intend to prolong the Debate upon this Amendment, which is quite a restrictive Amendment. This Sub-section provides that the Commission which is to be set up under Clause 39 shall not bring in any schemes for amalgamation until after 31st December, 1939. My hon. Friends and I cannot understand why it is necessary to have that delay. I take it that the Commission which is to be set up will be very largely the Commission which has already operated amalgamations under the previous Act. That Commission has had very little work to do during the last two or three years; presumably it has a survey of each of the coalfields in the country, and is prepared to submit many schemes to the industry and to the House. We are anxious that if the powers under Part II of the Bill are granted, the Commission should operate them immediately. The purpose of my Amendment is to delete the Sub-section, to allow the Commission to proceed with its work as soon as the necessary legislation is passed, and not to delay until 1940.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ The Secretary for Mines (Captain Crookshank)
The Committee will notice that this Sub-section contains a double proviso; first, that the Commission shall not submit to the Board of Trade any scheme until after 31st December, 1939, and, secondly, that thereafter they shall exercise the powers of submitting such a scheme only in pursuance of an Order made under this Clause. The hon. Member asked why there should be the delay. There are two reasons for it. In the first place, I ought to make it clear that in so far as the new Commission may be guided by a somewhat similar policy to that of the Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission, one may assume that they will think, as the Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission has thought, that it is much better to secure these amalgamations, when they are desirable, as a result of voluntary co-operation. The Reorganisation Commission have stated that time 425 and again in their reports. Moreover, it is a view which we share. We think it is very much better if this can be done voluntarily, but the 1930 Act provided that if that could not be achieved, there should be machinery by which compulsory powers could be exercised. Therefore, on sheer merit there is something to be said for extending the time during which further efforts may be made to try to secure such amalgamations as may be desirable on a voluntary basis. I think that was made clear in the Second Reading speeches from this bench.
The second reason which prompted us to insert this date in the Bill was that in 1936, when the Bill which was then introduced was before the House, Mr. Runciman, as he then was, said, on behalf of the Government, that in the Bill which would be introduced in place of that one, with which progress was not made, there would be a two years' interval before compulsion was applied. Naturally, the Government are bound by that pledge. The question arose as to what was a reasonable interpretation of the two years' delay in carrying out the pledge that was given. We thought the wisest course was to get a date which was approximately two years from the date of the introduction of the Bill. Therefore, I think we have honourably carried out the general undertaking that was given by the Government, through Mr. Runciman, on that occasion. The date is a month or so over two years, but we had to try to fit the period in with some reasonable calendar date. I hope this explanation will satisfy the hon. Member who moved the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I beg to move, in page 37, line 28, at the end, to insert:Provided also that in any action taken under this or the next succeeding Sub-section to effect a reduction in the number of such undertakings the Commission shall have regard to any representations made to them by any local authority in the area or by the Commissioner for the Special Areas with respect to existing social facilities and works such as transport, roads, schools, housing, places of entertainment, lighting, water supply, and other facilities and works, and shall also have regard to the possible effect upon the wage standards and hours of labour of the persons employed in such undertakings, and shall take measures to provide for the transference or absorption of workers who may be displaced.426 Since the last occasion on which we considered this Bill in Committee, a violent agitation has grown up in certain circles in the country. The coal rebels are again on the warpath. We have seen costly advertisements in the newspapers, we have received long-worded circulars from the Mining Association, and rumours are current—I put it no higher than that—that the Government are disposed to succumb to the blandishments of the coalowners. Not for the first time, the Mining Association is baring its teeth, and an interesting situation has developed. The question is, how are the Government going to act?
§ Sir Patrick Hannon
On a point of Order. May I ask you, Sir Dennis, what precisely is before the Committee?
§ The Chairman
I was waiting for the hon. Gentleman to get a little further before interrupting him, but it may perhaps be convenient if I explain at this moment that the Debate on this Amendment must be a rather restricted one, and that the Debate on alternative proposals will not arise until we come to the next Amendment. The hon. Member's Amendment deals merely with the question, if I may put it shortly, of protection of the powers of local authorities with regard to amenities and the protection of wage standards and the interests of the miners.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I appreciate your observations, Sir Dennis, but I would point out, with respect, that the Amendment is based on the assumption that there will be compulsory amalgamation, and that if it should so happen that compulsory amalgamation is either abandoned or seriously weakened, obviously the Amendment will be irrelevant. Therefore, I preface what I intend to say on the merits of the Amendment by asking the Government what are their intentions as to the principle. Clearly, unless the principle be established, it is a waste of time for me to proceed. I was about to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether we are to have a repetition of what happened last year when, in the midst of the discussion of Government legislation, we learned to our surprise that the Bill under review was to be withdrawn. We had another example of the Government's readiness to yield to outside influence in 427 the matter of the National Defence Contribution, which I may not discuss this afternoon. It is illustrative of a tendency on the part of the Government—
§ Sir William Davison
On a point of Order. Is not the hon. Member raising what you forbade him to raise, or at any rate thought it inopportune for my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) to raise on this part of the Bill?
§ The Chairman
No. I think the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) has appreciated what I said at the beginning. He is justified in putting his question to the Government on this matter, but he may not start a general debate. So far, the hon. Member's remarks are in order.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am obliged to you, Sir Dennis. In passing, I would like to say that I thought it was the desire of hon. Members opposite to have a general debate.
§ The Chairman
I have just ruled as to that point. I thought I had made it clear that this Amendment is not the opportunity for a general debate. How general the Debate may be at some later stage of the Bill, either on a further Amendment or on a Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," must depend upon circumstances, and partly, no doubt, on what is stated on behalf of the Government in reply to this or any other Amendment. In the discussion of this Amendment, there cannot be a general debate which goes beyond the clear limits of the Amendment on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am obliged to you, Sir Dennis, and if I may once more interrupt the proceedings, I will continue my observations. I believe that my point is a substantial one. Unless we know what is in the right hon. Gentleman's mind on this matter, it is idle for us to proceed. I might state the case for the Amendment, but my hon. Friends behind me would find no advantage in proceeding to discuss the Amendment unless the right hon. Gentleman indicated at an early stage that he proposed to proceed with the powers for compulsory amalgamation 428 embodied in the Bill. That is the point I put to the Committee. I hope at any rate that we are not to be left to the tender mercies of the coalowners. It would appear that the agitation to which I have referred is prompted not so much by the desire to hamper and embarrass the Government as by the desire to force the Government to embark on the adventure of nationalisation, because the terms of compensation to royalty owners are so generous as to excite the envy of others engaged in the mining industry. I repeat what I have often said before, that this Bill is only a patchwork Bill. To morrow hon. Members on this side will offer to the House more substantial fare; we shall indicate to the House how it is possible to reorganise the idustry from top to bottom and make a real national effort to put it on its feet. We have no objection to offer in principle on the question of the amalgamation of mining under takings. The larger undertakings can employ more experienced technicians, they can promote greater efficiency, they can utilise better transport, and they can bring coal to market in a more satisfactory condition. Moreover, large undertakings can usually provide the capital necessary for development purposes, and they can plan better and adapt themselves to modern conditions, but I would remind the right hon. Gentleman—
§ Sir E. Grigg
On a point of Order. The hon. Member is clearly developing an argument upon the general advantages or disadvantages of amalgamation and I wish to ask whether since he has been permitted to develop that argument, other Members of the Committee will be entitled to follow him.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member must wait and see but it does give me the opportunity of drawing the attention of the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) to what I have already said in regard to the Debate on this Amendment. I have been listening rather closely, because I am inclined to think the hon. Member has gone somewhat beyond what I think are the limits of the Debate on this Amendment.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I would again venture to remind you, Sir, and the Committee that we are in fact, on this Amendment, discussing the principle of amalgamation.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Very well, Sir, I will proceed merely to say that, as we see it, amalgamation of mining undertakings was the sole purpose of this Measure, and although we recognise the disadvantages of amalgamation in certain directions, we welcome the principle. Now I come to the substantial features of our Amendment, but I offer no apology to the Committee, except with respect to the observations from the Chair, for having ventured the opinions that I have already expressed, and I should like to say to the Committee that hon. Members will hear a great deal more on that subject before they are much older. It is clear that the disadvantages of amalgamation are, that it may throw the social life of a community completely out of gear, destroy the efforts of local authorities, lay waste large areas, and bring desolation and despair to the community concerned, as it has already done in South Wales, in Durham, in Yorkshire, and in other coalfields of the country. At the same time amalgamation, unless properly regulated and controlled, may deprive mineworkers of their livelihood. The question is, if these are facts, which appears to us to be beyond challenge, What is to be done by the Government adequately to safeguard the interests of the men concerned?
We are asking that the Commission responsible for the management of royalties and equally for the promotion of amalgamation of mining undertakings should take note of existing facts and possible consequences arising from amalgamation. If amalgamation proceeds as is intended by the Government, a measure of compensation will be provided for mining undertakings that are likely to be absorbed. As to the financial provisions underlying amalgamation, I can say nothing—that depends on circumstances—but the principle of compensation is accepted by the Government, and I should like to say, for my hon. Friends, that we take no exception to the application of that principle. We have made it clear in other directions that if private property is acquired by the State, it should be acquired on fair and generous terms of compensation. There is no question of confiscation involved. That being so, we are entitled to ask that the men employed 430 in the industry should themselves be afforded a measure of protection, though it is clear that no form of financial compensation would be adequate, and, besides, there are difficulties in the application of financial compensation to the men displaced. But we indicate in our Amendment how the best form of protection can be afforded to men who are likely to be disemployed through the amalgamation of mining undertakings.
There is, for example, the possibility of the transference of men from one area to another. It is true that at present, under voluntary amalgamation schemes, or without any pretence of amalgamation but as a result of depression in a certain minefield or in other cases, mineworkers leave one area for another and do so at their own expense, but if large bodies of displaced mineworkers are to be transferred, are compelled, in fact, to remove from one area to another, in our judgment the Commission should take note of the fact and of the consequences to these men and their families and make the necessary financial provision. In fact, the cost of transference should be borne by the Commission itself, and that is a form of compensation that is eminently sound. Moreover, we are asking that the Commission should take note—we put it no higher than that—of the need for absorption and should plan accordingly. That may involve making recommendations in relation to the hours of labour, and it is quite appropriate that the Commission charged with the responsibility of supervising royalties and conducting amalgamations in order, to use the language of the Bill, "to promote efficiency in the mining industry," should make necessary recommendations if they think fit.
The Government might be influenced by the findings of the Commission and take the necessary legislative action. We are not asking that the Commission themselves should, as a condition of the granting of a lease, force upon an owner a reduction in the hours of labour. You cannot reduce the hours of labour in one mine as against another. If there is to be a reduction in hours in order to absorb these displaced mineworkers, it must be universal in character. Therefore, all that we are asking is that the Commission, having duly noted the facts and having made that a condition in their 431 transactions in relation to the amalgamation of mining undertakings, should bring the necessary pressure or, if you like, influence to bear upon the Government of the day in order that the appropriate legislation should be proposed. I go further. Surely it is part of the planning associated with this Bill—and this is a planning and reorganisation Measure—that before an area is denuded of its main industry and its social existence, its communal life, the Commission should consider whether it is desirable to amalgamate mining undertakings in that or any other area.
Let me put it in another form, if we are considering this matter solely in terms of efficiency. We have closed down many of the coalfields in the country. We are producing annually—I take last year's figures—round about 240,000,000 tons of coal. In the years following 1931 we were producing an average of 210,000,000 tons, or round about that figure, but if we assume that we have reached the peak—and in my judgment we have almost reached the peak of production, unless we can use coal for the purpose of producing oil—if that is a well-founded assumption, we could produce, by efficient organisation and wise planning, and in terms of what is called efficiency, all the coal that we require for inland and export purposes by concentrating our production in a few coal areas. We might, for example, close down the whole of the Scottish coalfield, we might do the same with Lancashire, and we might do the same with Somerset, the Forest of Dean, and North Wales. If we had the gas coal of Durham, the anthracite reserves and much of the bituminous coal in Wales, and the coal in the Midland area, it would be sufficient to meet our needs.
In fact, in the Midland area, taking Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, and, I shall add, Warwickshire, Leicestershire, and Nottinghamshire—a rapidly developing area which has far from exhausted its possibilities in relation to coal—if we take that Midland area, the centre of the coalfield of this country, we can produce many millions of tons more than are now being produced; and clearly, if it is merely a question of organisation and efficiency, ignoring human values and social considerations, we need not retain many of the coalfields in the country. We have, however, to consider, not merely 432 efficiency, however desirable that may be, but the social effects, the injurious effects, on the communal life of the coalfields, and we are asking that, before the Commission proceeds to amalgamate mining undertakings, it should take note of these very important and substantial facts.
That, in effect, is our case. I have stated the general principle embodied in our Amendment. I have omitted the details. My hon. Friends can fill in the gaps. They know the position in the desolate valleys of South Wales where collieries have been closed down by the dozen in recent years, never to be reopened. They know the state of affairs in Lancashire, in the Lanarkshire coalfield and in South-West Durham and elsewhere. They know how the social life of the community has been affected and the efforts of the local authorities destroyed. On those heads there is a great deal to be urged. As I say, however, I leave the gaps to be filled in by my hon. Friends who are more intimate than I am with the local details.
In effect, this Amendment is a challenge to hon. Members opposite. Shortly we shall be discussing a proposal to restrict the powers of the Commission in order to protect mining undertakings. That demand will be made in due course and we have already considered compensation for mineral royalty owners. We are providing safeguards, financial and otherwise, all round. Every section of the mining industry is to be protected except the displaced miners. This, I say, constitutes a challenge to the other side. It is a test of the sincerity of hon. Members opposite. If there is to be justice, let it be universally applied. Let it not be for one side or the other, but for both. I put this question to hon. Members opposite? Are they exclusively concerned with the interests of the coal-owners? If they are, let them be frank about it and we shall know where we are. I put the further question to them. Are they concerned about the interests of the nation at large? If they reply in the affirmative, then I say they must impose conditions affecting the functions of the Commission which will make it clear that before there is any drastic disturbance of the social life of a mining community, and before any body of mine workers are deprived of their livelihood, the Commission shall take such action as, in the circumstances, is thought desirable.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
Not having prepared a great oration on the general question, I propose to confine myself to some brief remarks upon the idea which lies behind this Amendment. I think the Amendment is thoroughly sound, and I hope that the President of the Board of Trade, if he cannot accept these words, will find means of putting something of this kind into the Bill. I assume, of course, that the Government are going to stand firm, as they always do. I assume that there is no question of surrender or abandonment, or anything of that kind. We know that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade is made of much sterner stuff than the mere Liberal who occupied that position last year, and we may confidently anticipate, therefore, that this proposal is going through more or less in the form in which it appears in the Bill. When amalgamation takes place in any sphere of industry, the first concern is, generally, though not always, that of finance and dividends and what the shareholders will get out of it. We find, on the other hand, from experience, that the workers, who are generally considered last, are themselves concerned entirely with the question of how the amalgamation is going to affect them, whether they will be able to keep their jobs or not and what their prospects will be under the change. I think it reasonable to propose that the Commission, when considering proposed amalgamations, should have very clearly in mind the effect which an amalgamation would have in relation to the various matters mentioned here, such as wage standards, employment and transference. The human aspect is exceedingly important, and I hope that it will be found possible to incorporate in the Bill the idea underlying this Amendment.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Sir E. Grigg
The Mover of the Amendment addressed a direct challenge to hon. Members who sit on this side of the House and support the Government, and I think that challenge ought to be answered at once. It is a perfectly proper challenge, and I have no complaint whatever against the hon. Member for having made it. He asked whether those who are concerned with the terms and conditions under which amalgamation is to take place will have regard not only to the interests of the owners of coal mines 434 or the shareholders in coal mines, but also to the interests of the men engaged in those mines, the local authorities and all the social service and amenities connected with coal-mining areas. I say at once, that that is one of the main reasons why I am supporting the Amendment which stands next on the Order Paper. I hope that when we reach that Amendment my hon. Friends and I will have the support of the hon. Member in what we say upon it.
I do not want to follow the hon. Member in the rather wide excursion which he made into the merits of amalgamation. If I did so it might lead to a very broad and general Debate. But I should like to say that it is not the principle of compulsory amalgamation which appears to me to be in dispute. It is a question of the terms and conditions under which amalgamation is to be carried out. I do not know what will be the answer of my right hon. Friend to the plea which has been put forward, very eloquently, for this Amendment, but I am sure that that answer will be sympathetic. I do not know how far I would be prepared myself to go in support of this specific Amendment, but I am profoundly sympathetic. My doubt arises only on this point. I believe that the means proposed by the hon. Member to secure the end which he has in view are inadequate. I think the means which we are proposing would be much more effective. I do not wish to prolong this discussion, and perhaps it would be better to get on to the discussion of the next Amendment on the Paper. But I beg the hon. Member to realise that the objects of those who support that Amendment are very similar to his own. We have by no means lost sight of the many interests involved in compulsory amalgamation, and we are as much concerned as he is that these amalgamations should show the most complete regard for the interests of the miners, the local authorities and the social services, as well as for the interests of those who are concerned from a financial point of view in the production of coal. I have the strongest sympathy with this Amendment, and I hope that my hon. Friends and I will receive the same sympathy from the hon. Member when we come to the consideration of the next Amendment.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Oliver Stanley)
I have very considerable 435 sympathy, I was going to say, with the speech of the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), but perhaps I had better say with the Amendment which he has moved because, although he made an admirable speech, it travelled much wider than the actual terms of his Amendment. The point of his Amendment is that the Commission should have regard to representations by local authorities about the effect of amalgamations upon their undertakings and their prospects and upon social services, and also to representations from the workers as to the effect of amalgamations upon their means of livelihood. With regard to the form of the Amendment and what the hon. Member seeks to do it is, I think, clear—although this does not affect the underlying principle—that he has rather misunderstood the terms of the Bill. The Commission, after all, is charged, not with reducing the number of pits, but with reducing the number of undertakings. All that the Commission can do is to prepare a scheme which will amalgamate a certain number of undertakings. The Commission is not empowered to prepare a scheme for submission to Parliament for closing pits. Any closing of pits which follows from amalgamation will, of course, be made by the decision of the new companies that are formed.
It may well be that some amalgamations of undertakings will not result in the closing of any pits at all. Others may not result in the closing of pits for a very long time. In many cases it would be very difficult to say whether the closing of a pit a year or two later had been the result of amalgamation or not. But, of course it is quite plain, and I do not for one moment deny it, that, by and large, in a great many cases the argument for the amalgamation of undertakings will be that it will result in the closing of pits, and therefore, the more economic production of coal. Thus it is right that every scheme for amalgamation should be scrutinised by local authorities to see its possible effects upon them, and scrutinised by the workers to see what may be its effect upon them. No doubt the Commissioners when considering the preparation of a scheme would consult those people, but it does not seem to me that it is in consultation with the Commissioners that their safeguard 436 lies. It seems to lie, not with the Commissioners, not even with the President of the Board of Trade who has the further duty of examining these proposals before submitting them to Parliament, but with Parliament itself. To Parliament has been transferred, under these new proposals, the duty of deciding whether a scheme of amalgamation is in the national interest or not.
Under the old proposals of 1930 the question of whether a scheme was in the national interest or not was left to the Railway and Canal Commission, and in their consideration it was to be linked with one condition, and one condition only, namely, whether it would also result in the cheaper selling price of coal. I felt that this was a question of national interest which was incapable of decision by a legal tribunal. It depended on far wider considerations than those which could be brought before a court of law and proved by evidence. Parliament in a matter of national interest of this kind should be the judge. That was largely the reason for the change that I made. It also influenced me in making another change which, I think, has been criticised, and that is the dropping out of the safeguards with regard to the lower selling price of coal. That, of course, is one of the considerations which the House of Commons must take into account in judging whether a scheme is likely to be in the public interest or not. But it is only one, and I think it was a mistake in the old Bill to pick out that one and emphasise it as if that were the only consideration which proved that a proposal was in the national interest. We have to weigh against any economic advantage, such as the lowering of the price of coal, which might come from the amalgamation of undertakings immediately or in the near future and the reduction in the number of pits, the possible disadvantages elsewhere against the very sort of case that the hon. Member has raised—the effect upon the district, the effect upon the social services, the effect upon the local amenities and the effect upon the standards and the employment of the miners.
Parliament, and Parliament alone, is the body which is capable of judging upon an issue of that kind. But it is not even as simple as that. It is not so simple as weighing on one side a lower price for coal and on the other 437 side the fact that a pit may close, that people may be unemployed and that a village may have its social services made destitute. Let us go further. They may say: "What will happen if we do not close down, if we try to keep, say, three pits going in the neighbourhood, which may result in the three finally having to close. Might we not by consolidating two safeguard employment in those two pits and safeguard the local authority as far as those two pits are concerned, and, on the whole, be able to do for the men in the district a better service than to attempt to run all three, which attempt might in the end fail?" Those are the sort of considerations that will have to be taken into account. Although, naturally, the Commission in preparing their scheme would have regard to them, and the President of the Board of Trade in sanctioning the scheme would have regard to them, in the ultimate result it must be, and can only be, the Houses of Parliament than can be the judges. I attach the greatest importance to those considerations, the review which the Houses of Parliament will have over the schemes submitted by the Commission, and the fact that Parliament need only allow them to pass if they are satisfied that they are in the national interest and are satisfied that all the matters raised in the hon. Member's Amendment have been fully considered and full weight given to them.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood
Let me say at the opening of my remarks that the miners do not desire, and certainly do not receive enthusiastically, any expressions of empty sympathy from hon. Members on the other side of the Committee. I think they are entitled now to expect a little more than mere sympathy. Sympathy has been their lot for the last 15 years, and to-day we are offered sympathy again. I have heard some weak cases from Presidents of the Board of Trade, but I have never heard anything more despicably weak than we have heard from the President of the Board of Trade this afternoon. What is his proposal? He tells us that this Board is concerned not with reducing pits but with reducing the number of undertakings. When we have approved this scheme for reducing the number of undertakings the miner is to be left to the 438 tender mercies of the mineowners. The right hon. Gentleman admits that in many cases in recent years amalgamations have resulted in the closing of pits, in the permanent unemployment of miners and in permanent misery to hundreds of thousands of miners and their families. Such amalgamations have resulted in difficulty and embarrassment to the local authorities.
What does the right hon. Gentleman say that we ought to do about it? He says that the real safeguard of the miners lies with Parliament. With this Parliament? We have had an expression of sympathy, but the people who express their sympathy will almost without exception vote against this Amendment. How does the safeguard lie with Parliament? The safeguard ought to be put into the Bill. That is the one safeguard that is needed—to say to the Commissioner that no amalgamation shall be permitted until the Commission has, as a duty, reviewed all the economic and social aspects of the problem of amalgamation, looked at the possible effects upon the life of the community and upon the possible effects on employment and wage tendencies. That is the one way to do it. Now, the right hon. Gentleman says that Parliament should judge. Judge what? The individual scheme that comes to this House. Then, presumably, we are to put down a Prayer, after eleven o'clock at night, with no power to amend the scheme, no power to insist upon conditions being fulfilled but merely to accept or reject it. Certain people would accept any scheme, apart from any conditions. It is farcical.
If there is a case for considering the plight of the miners who are displaced, that case ought to be met in this Bill. The mineowners have got almost every conceivable protection. The royalty owners are getting away with the boodle. They must be the happiest men in the whole circle of the mining industry. But not one single Clause makes any mention of the plight of the miners who may be sufferers because of amalgamations. They are to be left to the stark ruthlessness of amalgamations when the schemes have been approved in this House. It will be too late then. Private enterprise, the great golden goddess that has been brought out in the manifestoes of the Mining Association, is to be left to deal with its own victims.
439 Unless safeguards are put into the Bill there will be no safeguards. Amalgamations will continue. Within the last five years there have been many voluntary amalgamations, affecting close upon 200,000 miners. Numbers of them have lost their jobs. Was sympathy expressed during the last five years? Has anything been done to ensure that those people who are the victims of economic developments, which I personally do not wish to stop, shall have fair treatment? Has anything been done by the mine-owners or the Government in the last five years to protect the interests of the miners when there have been a number of considerable amalgamations? Nothing.
The time has arrived when the criteria for determining where industry shall be settled should no longer be left to private enterprise. Private enterprise cannot be allowed altogether to do what it wants with its capital. In any industrial area in this country to-day you will find that the community's capital is many times that of the industrial capital in the area. Money provided by the State and the local authorities to provide all the apparatus and the amenities of communal life is invested there, and yet under the terms of this Bill as they stand it will be possible to leave community after community derelict, scores of millions of pounds of public money left there stranded and, what is even worse in small townships and villages, derelict homes and derelict lives.
It is criminal to sacrifice social capital to the interests of private enterprise. It is criminal to sacrifice the lives of men to the interests of profit. That is why I said in terms of indignation that we do not want your sympathy. The fact that you are prepared to reject our proposal to put something in the Bill which will make your sympathy practical, is sufficient for us. I am not going to embark on any other point except the narrow point of the Amendment. I expected empty words of sympathy, but I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would have had a constructive proposal to make. I hoped in vain. We asked for bread and we have been given a stone. He had no constructive proposal to make. He had only dishonest argument, trying to make this Committee believe that it is for Parliament to decide. Once a scheme has come before this House, it is finished. After this Bill has been put on the Statute 440 Book, unless something has been done to deal with this problem, Parliament will have sacrificed the miners. That truth ought to be stated. I hope that we have not finished discussing this matter. When the time does come to vote there will be no one on this side who will fail to go into the Lobby in the interests of justice to the miners.
Lieut.-Colonel H. Guest
I intervene only for a moment in regard to this Amendment. Knowing what the President of the Board of Trade has in mind with regard to the hearing of cases put by local authorities and social institutions in an area which may be affected by amalgamations, I cannot bring myself to oppose the Amendment. These questions will arise when the amalgamations come up. Knowing well many areas which must be affected by these schemes, particularly in the South Wales district, and knowing that the schemes may definitely affect the lives of the people living in those communities and villages, although I do not agree with the whole of the Amendment, the principle of it has my support, but I cannot vote.
§ Mr. T. Smith
It was refreshing to hear the hon. and gallant Member. He said that he was in favour of the principle of the Amendment, but he cannot vote. Not only has the Amendment our sympathy but we shall vote for it. I was almost astounded to hear the President of the Board of Trade say that the Bill proposes that the Commission shall reduce undertakings but not pits. If he is of the opinion that when you have reduced colliery undertakings you have not closed pits, he is living in a fool's paradise. What has been the argument for years about amalgamations? It has been that amalgamations make for the more economic production of coal. Coal-owners and politicians have stated that with such a tremendous potential production and with such a lowering in the demand for coal there were too many mines at work in various districts. Indeed, some of us whose duty it has been during the years of depression to go into colliery offices to try to keep pits going have been told by the colliery owners that they could not do it with the lower demand for coal. One firm which was working four days a week would willingly 441 close two pits and work the other pits more regularly. I do not hesitate to say that it will be found in practice that these amalgamations of undertakings will result in still further closing of pits. We are now producing only about the 1930 level, and those who study statistics will agree that we are living at the moment in a prosperous condition in the coal trade as compared with six years ago. When this demand for coal has exhausted itself and we get back, as I believe we shall, to somewhere in the region of 220,000,000 tons instead of 240,000,000, pits will go out of production.
We are bound to have some regard to the social consequences of compulsory amalgamations and I cannot understand why the Government refuse to accept the Amendment. It say that in considering a reduction of undertakings the Commission shall have regard to certain representations which will be made to them. That means that they must consider representations made by local authorities and by people in the different areas. It does not say they must always accept what is put to them, but that they shall consider it. Then the Amendment places the obligation on the Commission to take some measures to provide for the transference or absorption of the workers who may be displaced. When a pit goes out of production, whether through bad trade or through amalgamation, and men are displaced, there is no satisfactory system of transferring them to districts where there is work.
The right hon. Gentleman has been Minister of Labour and he knows that they have in the Ministry what is known as a household removal scheme. Suppose two men displaced from one pit have the chance of going to another coalfield and wish to take their households with them. One can get household removal allowance because he lives in a distressed area, but the other cannot because he lives in an area that is not defined as distressed. The result is that there are some men willing to leave their district but who cannot always get the necessary money in order to transfer. The Amendment says that the Commission shall have some regard to them and shall take measures to transfer men when the opportunity presents itself. With regard to wage standards, the Commission will not have power to go to a coalowner and say, "We propose amalgamation and we insist that you 442 shall do so and so in regard to prices." What we say is that the Commission shall have some regard to wage standards and hours in the different sections that result from amalgamation. The hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) said that we would find the coalowners as sympathetic with regard to the social consequences of compulsory amalgamation as we are on these benches.
§ Sir E. Grigg
I have no right to speak for the coalowners. What I said was that it would be found that those who had no interest in coal but are interested in this Bill were just as sympathetic with the workers as they were with the owners.
§ Mr. Smith
I have been in this House so long that I scarcely know who are coalowners and who are not. I find that so many are interested in coal, banking and electricity and a thousand and one things, and one can usually tell by their speeches where their interests lie. I am tired of hearing about sympathetic consideration. We have lived through a period of depression in the coal trade. We have not merely 400,000 fewer workers than 12 years ago, but hundreds of pits fewer. What did the coalowners do when they were reducing pits? I can tell hon. Members on the other side of companies and combines which bought pits in order deliberately to close them, and left whole districts and villages derelict without the slightest regard to what was taking place. They refused to find the men who were displaced work in another colliery. I went to a village to try to keep a pit going, and at the meeting which was held there were not merely miners and miners wives, but nearly everybody in the village because there was no alternative employment in the village if the pit closed. The colliery owners said that they were compelled to let the pit go out of production. There is a group of collieries in the division of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), and two or three of us went to meet certain prominent coalowners, almost on our knees, to beg them to keep the pits going in order to give men work and so as not to leave the district derelict. We were told by the coalowners, "Sympathetic as we are, these pits are bound to go out of production because there are too many pits at work and we can produce all the coal we require with a fewer number of pits." 443 There are men from those pits who have scarcely had a day's work since.
While we know the advantages of efficient working and of amalgamation, we must have some regard to the social consequences of it. If we had had a Government which had taken up a different attitude towards some of the problems of the mining industry, we might have looked upon this Clause in a different way. There are out of work in the industry young men who are skilled and willing and anxious to work. If some of the basic problems had been tackled by the Government, and if, by reduction in hours, some of these young men had been absorbed in the industry, it would have been a step in the right direction. Then there is the tragedy of the elderly men. Here I can bring my own experience to bear. Hon. Friends of mine have had to say at meetings where they have tried to negotiate a readjustment of prices in order to keep a pit going, "It is for you to say whether you will accept the rearranged rate. Many of you fellows who are more than 50 years of age will never, once you get out of work, get another job in the industry." That is the unfortunate position, and if we had had a Government courageous and generous enough to deal with the problem of the elderly unemployed men we might have been a little more sympathetic to this Clause. There has been almost nothing except a sympathetic visit of the Minister of Labour, and I will give him credit for going round the various areas to study the problem of the elderly unemployed man. He has told us to-day that he is giving the question consideration and that he hopes in the course of time to be in a position to say what he will do. He knows as well as I do, however, that there is no need for the Minister to go looking for the facts of this problem. The facts are there for everybody to see, and they have been there for years.
What we want is action. I know from my own experience in the Mines Department what the opinion of the Department is with regard to production. It is that if we are considering nothing else but the pure economic production of coal, what the industry needs is a surgical operation. We have always to keep in mind, however, the social problem. It is not enough to say that when the Commission 444 have considered a scheme it must be presented to Parliament and that Parliament will have the final say. We say that before it comes to Parliament the Commission, instead of being tied down by the working of Clause 40 and considering only the reduction of colliery undertakings in the interests of efficiency, shall be charged with taking into account representations made by local authorities and other bodies, and that they shall take whatever measures they can to deal with the effects of amalgamation. If we had had a Government prepared to face some of these basic questions in the mining industry many of us could have looked on this Clause in a different light.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Beaumont
I intervene only because of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). When the President of the Board of Trade sat down it was my intention to give a silent vote in favour of the Amendment. It is still my intention to vote in favour of it, but I cannot do it silently in view of what the right hon. Gentleman said. Those of us on these benches who like the Bill and those of us who do not like it, including myself—I hate every line and comma of it, for I do not believe that any created being will be improved by its passage—all of us face this problem with the wish to do something to benefit the coal industry from top to bottom. Because I do not believe that this Clause without some Amendment of this kind can be good or valuable, I propose to vote for the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman, however, does not want my sympathy. He says that he resents any assistance, any help, any sympathy from Members on this side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman has no more right to speak for the miners of this country than I have to speak for Soviet Russia, but that is neither here nor there.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, when he is dealing with this Bill, he wants to make it as helpful to the industry as possible or wants to use it only as a party stunt in the country? The speech which he delivered will do the most that could possibly be done to prevent those Members on this side who are sympathetic to the Amendment, of whom there are many, from going into the Lobby. I am going into the Lobby in 445 spite of that speech. I do not attach enough importance to the right hon. Gentleman to allow his words to sway me to vote either for or against it. I am not going to be put off a good case because of a thoroughly ungracious, or offensive, speech. I shall vote for this Amendment because I agree with him that the President of the Board of Trade did not make out a case. He said two things which, I feel, do less than justice to his clear thinking and straightforwardness. His first statement was that these compulsory amalgamations were not going to close down pits.
§ Mr. Stanley
I think my hon. Friend must be fair. I did point out what the actual position is under the Bill, but I went on to say that we all knew in practice that a large number of these amalgamations would lead to the closing of pits.
§ Mr. Beaumont
I fully concede the right hon. Gentleman that point, but if that is so—and it is so—I fail to see the point of his remark that it would mean closing down concerns and not pits. Either it is closing down pits, and in that case the Commissioners must accept responsibility for the closing down of pits and for the social consequences, or it is not, in which case it is shouldering the responsibility on to the colliery owners, who get opprobrium enough without having to suffer abuse for things which they cannot help. On the right hon. Gentleman's last statement these pits are, in effect, if not in words, to be closed down by the action of the Commissioners, and, therefore, the Commissioners must pay attention to the matters raised by this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman further said that the right place for this to be considered was Parliament. We may or may not have a statement from him at a later stage which may alter that aspect of the case, but as the Bill is drawn at present I know, and every other back bench Member on either side of the House knows, that the control of Parliament over these amalgamations is not worth the paper on which it is written. Again and again and again we have been told with respect to Bills, "Yes, there is to be an affirmative Resolution," but that comes on at eleven o'clock at night, and one might just as well not be there. If the right hon. Gentleman gives some further safeguards at a later stage that 446 will alter the situation, but at the moment we have to deal with the Bill as it is drafted, and these instructions would never get a proper chance of fair and impartial and reasonable consideration by this House. I do not entirely like the drafting of the Amendment, because I think it would have one unfortunate effect. It would mean that these matters would be taken into consideration in the case of pits closed compulsorily but not in the case of pits closed under voluntary amalgamations.
§ Mr. Beaumont
I thank the right hon. Gentleman. I had overlooked that. As the Bill is at present drafted I have no option but to support the Opposition.
§ 5.35 p.m.
I should be very grateful if the President of the Board of Trade could give us some information in regard to the voluntary amalgamations during the past few years. I appreciate that amalgamations do not necessarily mean the closing of pits, but it would be helpful if we could have some figures which would give us some idea of what has been the position in the past. I very much regret that we cannot have some assurance that an Amendment will be inserted to give protection to the people affected when undertakings are closed down. I will give a practical illustration of what has happened under voluntary arrangements for concentrating on economic units the work in the shipbuilding industry. National Shipbuilders' Securities Limited closed down a considerable number of shipyards on various rivers, the idea being to concentrate the construction of ships in certain yards as a more effective economic proposition. This was done on a voluntary basis, and, if I may interpolate a reply to the speech of the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) I see no reason to suppose that because those amalgamations were carried out voluntarily any greater consideration was shown to the workers than would have been the case if they had been carried out statutorily. I do not say for one instant that there would have been a greater volume of work in shipbuilding yards in general if those yards had not been closed down, and probably the concentration has been of very great 447 benefit to the industry as a whole, but what I want to emphasise is that according to the experience on the Tyne the workers previously employed in yards which were closed down had great difficulty in getting work in the yards in which the building of ships has now been concentrated.
There are certain industrial practices in the engaging of men. In the shipbuilding industry practically all the workmen are engaged through the local foremen; the engaging of the men is not done by the shipyard management at all, and quite naturally foremen have, over a period of years, got used to working with certain men. Again, it is natural for shipyard managements to keep on those foremen who have been attached to their particular yards for a number of years and have given efficient service. Thus it becomes practically impossible for either the foremen or the skilled or the unskilled workers in shipyards which have been closed down owing to the operations of National Shipbuilders' Securities Limited to get work in the other yards. It seems to me that this would be a useful moment for Parliament to indicate that where planning is put into operation those who are the victims of it, if I may put it that way, should have a right to expect some consideration from those who are getting the advantages from planning. The position I have described has created a heartbreaking situation on Tyneside, and I have no doubt that observation applies to the Clyde and other rivers. The situation is slightly alleviated now because practically every skilled man is in employment, but during the depression the men who had been put out of work owing to the activities of National Shipbuilders' Securities Limited got no chance of consideration in the yards which were open. In the light of that practical experience the compulsory amalgamations to be made under Part II of this Bill involving the closing of pits, does present a problem which deserves greater consideration from the President of the Board of Trade, and though on a great many counts I am a friend of the Government over this Bill, I certainly shall not be able to go into the Lobby against this Amendment.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
I feel sure that all of us are disappointed at the line taken by the President of the Board of 448 Trade. I am afraid those of us who are responsible for this Amendment should have spent some money upon advertisements, should have called more meetings upstairs, should have sent a deputation to the Prime Minister, should have made ourselves rather more of a nuisance to the Government than we have been. Then, possibly, we should have met with greater consideration. There would have been consultations, and there might have been suggestions in the Conservative Press that the National Government was, for once in a while, going to make a concession to the workers of this country. I am afraid that we are doomed to disappointment, and that the only concessions will be the concessions which the Government usually make to the Federation of British Industries or to the militant right wing of that Federation, the Coalowners Association of Great Britain.
This matter is of supreme importance to the miners of the country, and to very large communities which have grown up in the coalfields and depend entirely upon work being maintained in the pits in a locality. Therefore, we are speaking not only for the men directly employed in the pits, and the families dependent upon their wages, but for large masses of people of all kinds whose livelihood depends on particular pits being kept in commission. This Amendment proposes definite terms of reference for the Commission and would require it, when considering any scheme of amalgamation, to pay due regard to the effect upon the community and also to consider the interests of the miners themselves in the matter of wages, hours and conditions.
Those of us who are from South Wales can speak with more than a theoretical idea of what will take place. We have lived for 20 years in the atmosphere of amalgamations. Here I would utter a word of warning to the country, and also to the members of the Liberal party, whose Press attaches very great importance to this matter. The belief is held by many people, quite sincerely, but certainly without knowledge, that the amalgamation of undertakings, the reducing of the number of undertakings, is going to solve the mining problem of this country. If amalgamations were a remedy South Wales ought to be a paradise, and the anthracite coalfield of South Wales ought to be very heaven itself; but we know perfectly well that whatever 449 technical problems amalgamations may solve they create human and social problems which, in their magnitude, far out-Weigh those technical advantages.
The President of the Board of Trade was skating over thin ice in trying to draw a distinction between the closing of undertakings and the closing of pits. I thought that the main argument which he put forward on Second Reading was that the Government were preparing, at a time when the industry was in comparative prosperity, when trade was on the upgrade and output and production were increasing, to give the industry power to meet the conditions which will arise when the next recession of trade comes round. Those are his sentiments. What do they mean? They mean that power is to be given to the Commission and to the owners to meet the next crisis of over-production in the industry by wholesale closing of collieries. It is, therefore, time that we brushed away all the distinctions made between amalgamation and reduction of undertakings and the closing and reduction of pits. We know that the whole object now is to provide machinery by which pits may be closed, and we are entitled to raise at the present moment the problems that will arise, and that we know arise, whenever amalgamations take place.
Let me tell hon. Members opposite that these consequences have already taken place under voluntary amalgamation, but that we have never heard a voice from them raising one of those problems. Some of us are a little bit shaken this afternoon by some of the company which we are keeping. [HON. MEMBERS: "What, about us?"] I am glad we can stand together on something. For the moment hon. Members are not arguing against amalgamation but actually against controlled amalgamation, controlled in the interests of the nation and of the workers. As a matter of fact, the people who inserted those advertisements, the Mining Association of Great Britain and its chief officers, have, in the last 10 years, promoted amalgamations and closed pits in South Wales and in other coalfields, and it is the height of hypocrisy for them to mention the social consequences of the Government Measure in those advertisements. They themselves, individually, as company promoters, have been responsible for 450 them, without making a single attempt to deal with the social consequences.
Those areas are almost exclusively mining areas. A pit has been sunk and, because of that, men have gone to the place to be employed. The presence of those men has rendered necessary the building up of a community. Houses have been built. I know of communities in South Wales where the houses were built not by the colliery companies but by the men themselves. In a village in my division 68 per cent. of the occupiers of houses are owner-occupiers. They came to the district to work in the pit, and they thought there was some measure of security, so they raised a loan to build a house. Only people who know the Welsh miner well will realise the importance that he attaches to being the lord of his own little place, and the sacrifice and thrift, the saving and the skimping that have gone on in order to enable him to buy and pay for his house. He not only sinks his life, sinews and muscles in the pit, but he sinks his savings in his house. The community also collects its social capital and builds halls, chapels, etc., and the council raises money and builds up large social services.
What does amalgamation mean to two or three company promoters who meet here in this city? It means buying those pits and closing them down, and at once destroying all the social capital created in that way. That is the kind of thing which must be stopped in this country. If it is not stopped, it will have serious social consequences in the next 10 or 20 years. We therefore lay down here that the Commission shall regard it as part of their duty to consider the social effects of amalgamation, and that the closing of a pit and the saving that will be effected shall be put only on one side. They should take a balance sheet. They should say that if you close the pit you will be able to produce your coal in the next pit at 3d. less per ton and that that will mean a saving of 10,000 or 20,000 tons a year. They should put on the other side, against that, a derelict community, hundreds of men who have lost their jobs and houses that have lost their value. In some parts of South Wales there are good seven-roomed workmen's cottages, built by workmen who put £500 of their money into it, for which only £40 has been offered. All that property has been 451 depreciated. We say that it is the business of the Commission who are to be charged with this task to make such a balance sheet, showing not only the gain by closing a pit and being able to produce coal more cheaply in some other pit, but the loss by breaking up the life of a community, destroying its social capital and leaving behind a large mass of men, perhaps 50 per cent. of whom are 45 or 50 years of age.
When their pit is closed, what happens to these men? Who will employ them? There are colliery companies who ought to be ashamed of the way in which they have treated men of 45 and 50 years of age who have given 25 years of their lives, and who have been put out of work in the depression and their jobs filled by younger men from 20 miles away. The colliery companies have left them on the road. Last night I was in a mining village in South Wales, and I met men who said that they had been out of work for the last five years and could not get a job, while men were coming in by omnibus and train from 15 and 20 miles away. One man said: "I go to the pit every day and I cannot get a job, because I am 45. They have squeezed me dry and now they throw me on the scrap heap and they don't care a button." The Minister of Labour has for some time been dealing with this problem of the elderly workman. Everybody knows that every pit that is closed means a community that is derelict and leaves behind men of 45 years of age who are doomed to remain unemployed for the rest of their lives.
We wish to raise these matters in Parliament. I do not say more than a word about what has been said about Eleven o'Clock. We take a very serious view of these things, and if the Patronage Secretary will move the necessary Resolution at Four o'Clock to suspend the Eleven o'Clock Rule as a matter of urgency, there will be plenty of time after Eleven oClock. What can we raise when the matter does come forward? What are the terms of reference? We wish to insert this Amendment so that we shall be permitted to raise the matter and so that there will be no question of our being ruled out of order when we refer to the social consequences of a scheme which is coming before this House.
I wish to say a word about the wages and conditions of the men. We have seen 452 what takes place in amalgamation. When it becomes a question of choosing which collieries are to be closed the owners will make the reply that they always close the uneconomic pit, but the question of what is an uneconomic or an economic pit is very interesting. The owners may think that pit A is more uneconomic than pit B because the men have better conditions. Hon. Members opposite will appreciate what I am saying. Amalgamation can become an instrument for the closing of pits by which good conditions can be destroyed, good price lists abolished and worse conditions imposed upon the men. We therefore wish to ensure by means of this Amendment that we shall be empowered to raise questions of the effect of amalgamation upon the wages, hours and conditions of labour, so that the owners shall not use amalgamation as a weapon of the class war. Hon. Members talk to us about class war, but there is a great difference between the way in which it is waged on either side. We have seen owners use their economic power to close pits in districts where men have, by generations of effort, built up good conditions.
We want to be able to raise all these matters of supreme importance. I know that hon. Members opposite attach most importance to the Amendment which is to follow as to whether amalgamations should be voluntary or compulsory, but we say that we cannot afford to have uncontrolled amalgamation in this country and to leave in the hands of the owners control over matters of life and death for whole communities. My hon. Friends and I will therefore press this Amendment. We shall vote for it and we hope that hon. Members opposite will to-night extend their sympathy and will vote for the Amendment so as to give the miners and the communities that depend upon them some protection under this Measure.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Colonel Gretton
My intervention in this Debate will be very short. I feel that I cannot give a silent vote on this proposal. We are dealing with a proposal that the Government may force amalgamation of collieries and colliery undertakings. It is the duty of Parliament to take care that those forced amalgamations shall be made under proper conditions, having regard to all the interests concerned and to the effects which they may produce. I 453 do not wonder that hon. Members opposite have put down the Amendment. I do not like the drafting of the Clause in some respects, and particularly it appears to be a mistake that the Commission shall take measures provided for the transfer. But the drafting can be improved on the Report stage. There is a more important question of general principle, and I am going to vote for the general principle involved. [HON. MEMBERS: "Support the Amendment."] I am going to vote for it. Hon. Members opposite usually come down and make speeches of resentful denunciation against other hon. Members for not coming to Parliament with an open mind upon the merits of the case, and it is difficult sometimes to agree, especially with some of the earlier speeches made in this Debate. I am not deterred by that, and I shall support the Amendment which is now before the Committee.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
As one who is opposed to compulsory amalgamation with or without safeguards, it has been interesting to me to listen to what has been said on both sides. One hon. Member said that he did not object to compulsory amalgamation provided there were proper safeguards, and we have had an eloquent speech upon the results of amalgamations which have already taken place. I could not help thinking during the time those speeches were being made that all those possibilities existed under the 1930 Act and one is puzzled to know where people stand on different sides of the Committee on that subject.
I want to make an appeal to the President of the Board of Trade. It is a great pity that he did not hear the eloquent speech delivered by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) who came down to the vital thing in this question. I sometimes think that hon. Members who discuss subjects in this House do so from a rather academic point of view, altogether forgetting the human problem behind it. We had a wonderfully eloquent speech from the hon. Member upon the results of amalgamations which have already taken place. The reason given by the President of the Board of Trade for not accepting the Amendment and for taking away the safeguards which were put into the 1930 Act, was that he has provided a greater safeguard in the fact that Parliament would 454 have to consider these schemes before they could be approved.
Like the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont), I hold the view that there is little or no opportunity to discuss these schemes at all adequately after eleven o'clock at night. In a speech which I made two or three weeks before Christmas, I suggested that all regulations and papers of this category that are laid on the Table should be sent to a Select Committee. That question is raised in a later Amendment, so I will not pursue it at the moment, but I think it is idle to say that, because Parliament has an opportunity under its procedure of discussing these schemes, that is adequate for the purpose. We cannot amend any scheme; we have either to accept it or reject it; and in any case this Amendment would not apply, because the scheme as drawn up gives no detail whatever. Think of the powers that are being given to this Commission. This travelling bureaucracy, as it may be called, will go up and down the country deciding that in certain areas amalgamation is necessary, and, even if this Amendment goes through, it will not represent any very great victory. The Commission will only be instructed to "have regard to" representations made to them.
What does that mean? They can listen to all that is put before them, and can be very courteous indeed. It will be one of their duties to look very benevolent and say to these people, "What would you like to say that we should have regard to?" They can treat these small people in some of the areas referred to by the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) with extreme courtesy, and they will be patting themselves on the back and saying how decent it was of these five remarkable dictators to spend time listening to their complaints about what would happen in the area. Then, after they have gone away, these five men will have the power under the Bill to say, "We have had regard to it; we have paid due attention to the provisions of the Bill, including the Amendment which the President of the Board of Trade accepted," and nothing further will happen.
Then, when the scheme comes before the House, what details shall we be given? The President of the Board of 455 Trade says that we shall be capable of judging whether it has social consequences that might be harmful to the nation or to a particular community, but we shall have nothing that will enable us to do that. Not one word is to be put into the scheme as to whether pits are to be closed or not. Very little detail has to be given in the scheme. It will simply say that it has been decided by the Commissioners to recommend a certain scheme in a certain geographical area. The House will not have adequate information on which to judge whether the scheme is good, bad or indifferent. It is idle to say that there is a greater safeguard than there was under the Act of 1930 because Parliament has been given the opportunity of discussing the matter.
I thought that the President of the Board of Trade rather gave away his case. He said it did not mean that pits were necessarily going to be shut down; it meant amalgamating certain undertakings. But then he was candid and honest enough to admit that the result of that would be that, when the amalgamation had taken place, then would come the cutting down of pits, and then it would be too late for the House of Commons to discuss it. The consequences will occur after we have discussed the scheme, and we shall not be in any position adequately to discuss the social or any other consequences. I know some of the pits to which the hon. Member for Normanton has referred, and I know the dire consequences which have occurred in certain areas because of the closing down of those pits. It is tragic. I spent a good many years in a certain business in a mining area, and I think we forget, when we are discussing these matters, that a mining community is entirely different from any other kind of community. The pit itself creates the community; everything around it grows out of it. If we were talking about amalgamations in the textile industry, we might transfer production from one factory to another, but here is a separate economic entity in itself, and very often the result of this kind of legislation will be the same as has followed voluntary amalgamation—simply to destroy the whole lives of these people.
Only last Tuesday I was in a place where thousands of young girls from the 456 town represented by the hon. Member for Normanton have to travel nine miles in order to try to earn a living, and, when they have paid their bus fares, there is little or nothing left out of their wages. Why has that happened? Because the whole of that community is dependent upon the one industry of coal-mining. By this Bill you are not only going to leave those girls in the same difficulties in which they are at present, but you are going to put their fathers out of work. The shopkeeper who has put down his capital there, the place of entertainment, everything in connection with the life of that community is destroyed.
I cannot understand why the President of the Board of Trade cannot insert these words. As I have said, I shall oppose compulsory amalgamation with or without safeguards. I hate the principle. It is contrary to everything in which the House of Commons ought to believe, and it is an astonishing thing that it has been introduced by a National Government. But, even if we are to accept it, for goodness' sake let us provide adequate safeguards for those who are to be the victims of it. I want to appeal to hon. Members opposite, and particularly those who are going to support the next Amendment. Why should they not support this Amendment? I believe that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) was misunderstood when he used the word "sympathy." I think he meant something quite different. It was a sort of patronising sympathy that he did not want. Why cannot those who are to move the next Amendment, of which I am in favour, support this one, and bring pressure on the President of the Board of Trade to accept these words? I am in full sympathy with defending the interests of those who have their money sunk in the industry, but I have equal sympathy with the man who is going to be thrown out of a job and whose whole livelihood depends upon it. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to accept this Amendment, which to my mind is a very reasonable, one.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley
The hon. Member who has just spoken has made a powerful appeal, and I would like to reply to him, particularly because, in speaking for the Amendment, he really pointed out why I was not prepared to accept it. The first 457 part of the Amendment, about which we have not heard very much, deals with the representations which local authorities may make to the Commission. I am all in favour of local authorities making representations to the Commissioners, and I have no doubt that the Commissioners will be willing to listen to them, but it is idle to pretend that that is any real safe guard for the local authorities. The proper place to which local authorities should make representations is Parliament, because Parliament, if it is influenced by their representations, can give effect to them. It can reject a scheme which it thinks will produce the effect which the local authorities fear—
§ Mr. Stanley
Because, quite frankly, I want any such representations to be made to Parliament. I am perfectly prepared to strengthen the control of Parliament. Parliament, after all, can come to a decision—
§ Mr. A. Jenkins
Would it not be preferable to insert a provision in the Bill now, before it becomes an Act, instructing the Commissioners that they shall hear the local authorities, so that the local authorities will have the power to make representations to the Commissioners before the actual amalgamation takes place? If that is not done before the scheme comes to Parliament, all the difficulties of Parliamentary procedure will arise, and I understand that there is no intention on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to make a change in Parliamentary procedure to deal with this particular matter.
§ Mr. Stanley
I will certainly consider that, although it seems to me to be unnecessary. It seems to me that the effective thing is Parliament, and that it is to Parliament that these representations should be made. It ha sbeen said that such control would be ineffective because after eleven o'clock there is no opportunity of discussing the matter, but there is a subsequent Amendment on which that question can be raised.
By far the greater part of the Debate has been devoted to the last part of the Amendment. Quite frankly, it would be very easy for me to accent the Amendment as it stands, because it would 458 really impose upon the Commission a duty which they have no opportunity of carrying out. It would tell them to take measures which must follow some time after the amalgamation. I realise, however, that, even if it is necessary to close down pits and to destroy the livelihood of people dependent upon one pit as the only way of safeguarding the livelihood of others in other pits, one cannot just be oblivious to the consequences. I think it was the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) who asked whether some attempt could not be made to find work for people displaced in this way, and, although I cannot say I am quite certain that even the duty of following up is a duty that should be put upon the Commissioners, I think that there is something in the idea, and that we should attempt through some agency to follow them up and do what it is possible to do for them. I cannot accept the Amendment because, as I have said, the first part provides a quite ineffective safeguard while a perfectly effective safeguard can be found in another way, and also because the second part would put upon the Commission duties which they will have no powers to carry out. I am, however, prepared to consider at another stage whether we can insert some words which will show that these people ought to be followed up, and that what it is possible to do for them should be done.
§ 6.15. p.m.
§ Mr. T. Williams
Will the right hon. Gentleman just reply to this question? Under the Livestock Act, when marketing schemes are to be prepared, the Commission are compelled to intimate to all who are likely to be affected by a marketing scheme that a scheme is about to be prepared and that representations may be made to them. Then, when the marketing scheme is ultimately produced, all those interests still have an opportunity of making objections to the scheme to the Minister in charge. Could the right hon. Gentleman not do something similar in this case, so that all those local interests can be first warned that a scheme is about to be prepared, and then allowed to make their representations before the scheme is actually on the Statute Book?
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
We have heard this afternoon the most amazing argument 459 that ever I heard in my life from the President of the Board of Trade. Before dealing with this I would like to make some reference to the question of sympathy as it was dealt with by one hon. Member. What the hon. Member was referring to, and what we have a right to refer to, is the constant spate of sympathy that comes from the other side without soul or body. If sympathy had the requisite quantities of vitamin A and vitamin B the miners of this country would be a race of giants by now. When they ask for 2s., they get sympathy but no 2s. Now, when we ask for some safeguards, there is sympathy, but no safeguards. Everybody knows the effect that compulsory amalgamation or voluntary amalgamation can have on a community and on the life of the worker. The question of the royalty owners was settled, not on the basis of sympathy, but on the basis of hard cash. I would like to know how those who represent the mineowners and royalty owners on the other side would have felt if the same principle had been applied, and if those Ministers responsible for the Bill had come forward and said, "We cannot see our way to give you any money or any safeguards, but oh how we sympathise with you." The royalty owners and the mine-owners have to get cash, because if they lose an undertaking they are losing a bit of profit. Hon. Members say," Their livelihood depends on it, and that must be protected." But for the miner who loses his livelihood or the village which loses its livelihood, there is no protection.
The President of the Board of Trade says that what is likely to happen is in the national interest. Suppose, he says, you have three pits and three villages, and a decision is taken that, in order to save two pits out of the three, one shall be closed down. In the closing down of that pit, you destroy the village, and the President of the Board of Trade says that it is in the national interest that that village should be destroyed. Later on, in his second effort, he says, "Of course we should not forget these people altogether; we should try by some means or other to watch how the individual gets on." But the village has to be destroyed, and there is not a Member on the other side who is prepared to protest, because they have already closed down and 460 destroyed hundreds of towns and villages. When the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) was speaking, he said, in connection with this Amendment, that you cannot leave the miners at the mercy of private enterprise, and some one below the Gangway interjected, "Why not?" The answer is very simple, so far as this side of the House is concerned. Human life and human wellbeing are of more importance than profit. Hon. Members on the other side, of course, will not accept that proposition, because, however much they may talk about sympathy, and however much they may express nice sentiments, they have proven by their conduct that profits are more important than human life.
The speech made by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) on the conditions that exist in Wales are proof positive that profits are considered more important than the welfare of the miners. In Scotland we have a particular interest in this question. There is much talk in this House about prosperity by certain protagonists of the National Government who accept any story that is told them without giving much thought to it—in fact many Members on the other side are quite incapable of thought. We hear a lot about prosperity, but how many Members of this House are aware that in Scotland at the present time there is more unemployment than there was in England when England was in the lowest depth of the depression. [An HON. MEMBER: "Proportionately."] Yes, proportionately. Can you go there and talk about this blessed prosperity? Must you not take that into account when discussing amalgamations in Scotland's most vital industry, which are going to have, as a consequence, the closing down of more pits and more unemployment. In view of the fact that unemployment in Scotland is of such a character, it would be impossible to get support there for such a proposal as this.
Mention has been made of men of 45 years of age. That is a problem that the Minister of Labour is supposed to be tackling; but will the President of the Board of Trade face this fact, in view of the compensation paid to royalty owners and mineowners, because presumably their livelihood is affected? Suppose a man of 45 is working in a pit. All the chances are in favour of that man continuing in employment there for many 461 years, but if, as a result of amalgamation, that pit is closed, there is no question of that man getting employment somewhere else. It is one thing for him to continue working in a pit where he is already working, but it is an entirely different thing for him, once he is displaced from employment in that pit, to go to another pit. Is there any compensation to be paid to him? Will any man have the audacity to say that the life of a mineowner or of a royalty owner is of more value than the life of a miner? I tell the Committee that the life of a royalty owner or mineowner is of no value at all. You can do without them, but you cannot do without the miner. It is the mines that feed the other industries. It is the miner working in the pit who makes prosperity for the great iron and steel industries, the great shipping industry, and other industries—it is not the royalty owner or the mineowner, wasting profits.
I do not understand how the President of the Board of Trade can refuse to accept this Amendment. If it is in the Bill that the Commission must have regard to the representations of the local authorities and the miners' representatives, propositions will be put forward to safeguard all the communities associated with the industry. The Commission might not accept these proposals, but they will be put forward, and then, when the scheme comes before us, we shall be in a position to ask why the proposals were not accepted, and to demand that there should be embodied in the scheme provisions for protecting those who are to be displaced from their employment.
Therefore, I ask the President of the Board of Trade to face this question. If it is in the national interest to close down one pit out of three, is it in the national interest that a village should be destroyed, as many have been destroyed in Wales and throughout England and Scotland, or that a village should be saved? If he is prepared to give a direct answer to that question in the form that it is in the national interest that a village should be saved and the men of the village protected, it is his duty and responsibility to accept the Amendment, or to guarantee that he will put words in the Clause that will ensure that no amalgamation of undertakers will be allowed that can in any way destroy a community or 462 take away the livelihood of men, women and children dependent upon it.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley
I rise only because I want to reply to a question asked by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T-Williams), who spoke of the livestock industry. He was talking about notice being given in an area likely to be affected, and an opportunity for these people being heard. I tell the Committee at once, that I agree that it is quite right that they should receive notice and should all have an opportunity of being heard. How they receive notice and how they are to be heard is a matter of procedure very largely bound up with the discussion of the next group of Amendments. For instance, whether they should be heard by an outside inquiry and not in Parliament, or whether they should be heard in Parliament, is a matter that we shall have to discuss on the next group of Amendments. But I do agree—all the speeches this afternoon have been to that effect—that there should be an opportunity for these people to state their case somehow and in some way, and that they should be notified how it will affect them and what they can do. I repeat, with regard to the last part of the Amendment, that although I cannot accept it because I believe it to be misplaced and quite ineffective, I will consider, between now and Report, whether there is not some way in which we can import into the Bill the idea that continuing interests should be taken in people who may lose their job under amalgamations, and that the best possible attempt should be made to provide for them.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. David Grenfell
I wish that the right hon. Gentleman had delayed his reply, and I hope that he will give a fuller reply to questions I shall put to him. I would ask the Committee to realise that this Debate has been perhaps more straggling than it otherwise would have been because of the introduction of other matters. When my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) was speaking interruptions came from hon. Members who had more interest in the next Amendment than in the Amendment now before the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman has not fully explained the position up to date. We are. 463 trying to wedge between two paragraphs a new provision which we believe to be vitally necessary at this point because we recognise that a Commission has to be set up. This is not the first time this House has dealt with amalgamations. We are now to have set up a special Commission which, I understand, is to follow the course of procedure in previous Bills up to a certain point. We find that this Commission will consist of five persons—one chairman and four members. It is to decide whether, in its opinion, certain things should be done to improve the economic efficiency of the industry, and it is to be given an enormous power. It is because Members on this side of the Committee have known of amalgamations and their effects for many years that we hear so much about the displaced miner and the ruined community to which miners belong. I am sure that no hon. Members will resent these statements, which have been made in good taste and with feeling by those Members on this side of the Committee who have spoken this afternoon.
I would like to know how the Commission will proceed. Here is a body of people who are to carry out certain inquiries of which we do not know the details. They are to examine the production results of collieries, and if they come to the conclusion that certain collieries are not producing economically and efficiently they will have the right to submit schemes to the Board of Trade. Not much detail was given on the Second Reading, and we do not know yet what kind of proceedings will precede the issue of schemes. We do not know whether the Commission will require to have a unanimous or a majority opinion. The Commission of five persons will come to a decision and will have the right to submit schemes. When is a pit to be deemed to be economic and efficient, and when is it not? I do not know anybody who, by a casual examination of a company's books, could say whether a mine or group of mines had been working efficiently. No man that I know dare venture to say, after a visit to a group of collieries, whether they are doing work economically and efficiently. I do not know what is the test. Is it the cost of production, or comparative production? Should these people come to the conclusion that the undertakings are too 464 numerous, they have the right to reduce the number of undertakings. What is to be the size of the new group?
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Captain Bourne)
I have been listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman, and I think that this discussion should take place when I put the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." That would be the proper time to raise the question.
§ Mr. Grenfell
I leave it at the point where we have to examine generally the kind of consideration given by this body before they bring up a scheme. We ask that certain new considerations shall be taken into account. We require that the local authorities, with their responsibility for local services, shall be taken into account, and I do not know how that can be done except by the Commission being charged with the responsibility of regarding these local authorities as part and parcel of national interests when considering the existing law. If this is not a national interest I do not know where national interest comes in. If national interest is merely the effect upon export trade or national production, it really is of very little consequence to the virtues or defects of a particular local scheme. I hope that the Committee will not want to divorce their minds from the local interests, which are surely national, in the sense that the local authority is responsible for the welfare of the people and their institutions. I would like to examine the question of the cost of production in any one industry.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I think that that is a point which should be raised on the question, "That the Clause stand part," and I will give the hon. Member full opportunity for doing so.
§ Mr. Grenfell
I will leave it there. If we vote in this Committee on the assumption that these schemes will never lead to closing down of pits, we shall be deceiving ourselves and the people of the country. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make the position quite clear when he speaks again. Is not the intention to be declared in advance? In certain contingencies groups of owners will be responsible for each other. Does not that mean, in effect, that, if the Commission have inquired into the commercial results of a number of collieries 465 and they come to the conclusion that they are too numerous, they have the power to reduce the undertakings in the district? Supposing, in a particular case, the Commissioners decide that the number of pits in a group producing 8,000,000 tons of coal are too many in the area and they must reduce the number of concerns and make them amalgamate, and they make these people materially responsible for their several obligations to shareholders and to everybody else; supposing the local demand falls from 8,000,000 to 6,000,000 tons, does not that very complication at once necessitate a new amalgamation and the closing down of more pits? If you are to bring amalgamation into existence because it means better commercial results, you must maintain those good commercial results, and in order to maintain good commercial results, if the demand is reduced, you must close down pits and give compensation to the pits that are being closed.
In these amalgamation matters certain groups of people undertake to compensate each other in the event of the closing down of pits. We are asking only for the same kind of treatment to be given to the local community as that which the employers are receiving to-day. There is no one in this Committee who will assert that the claims of a shareholder in a colliery company are more valuable than the partner in a community. Every miner is interested in a double sense. He is interested as a workman and as a member of the community which the colliery serves. Many of us have lived all our lives upon the proceeds of a colliery. If you go to an ordinary colliery village or township, you will find that 8 per cent. of its income is derived from the colliery. The people gain their livelihood in that way, and if you stop the colliery you stop the whole income of the community, and you destroy property. I could multiply cases where men have given the whole of their lives patiently building houses brick by brick where they and their families could live. That property will be jeopardised by giving power to this small body of people to close down pits and to shut off the income of the people.
The right hon. Gentleman is too logical and conversant with Parliamentary practice to hope that Parliament can examine the things he expects the Commission to examine in the privacy of the localities 466 far away from this House. Is it too much to ask the Commission to inquire into and find out the relative position of the village or a large block of the population? If that body is going to close down a pit because of a difference of 1d. or 2d. in the costs of production how can this House enter into such detail matters? It cannot be done. Such inquiries and considerations must be done in private. Local authorities must be able to have an examination on the spot and should have the fullest opportunity of putting their case.
In this House we do not represent the coalowners or the coalminers; we represent the people of Britain and we claim that the rights of the citizens should be exactly on the same lines as the rights proposed to be given to the coalowners. Unless a provision of this kind is put into the Bill then amalgamation becomes a thing which is to be imposed upon people who do not desire it, and who have a great objection to compulsory amalgamation. There must be a new technique in the management of the coal industry. We cannot go on under the old technique which has served us for 200 or 300 years, and is making an awful mess of things, destroying the lives of our people needlessly and also destroying our communities. It is high time for us to make a new start, to get a new technique, in the management of the industry. I should gladly join in giving the Commission authority for real planning in the industry. The Commission are going to decide simply on book-keeping results without any regard to the interests of the community. I hope the Committee will accept the Amendment and safeguard the rights of the mining communities in the same way as the rights of the coalowners.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Macdonald
I am impressed by the undertaking given by the right hon. Gentleman, but I should like it to be elucidated a little more. He is prepared to consider both parts of the Amendment. As regards the first part, he will consider ways and means of informing the people in the locality when there is the possibility of an amalgamation and invite them to make representations if they so desire. Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is going to incorporate some words to that effect in the Bill? As to the second part of the Amendment, 467 he is going to make provision for a continuous interest in the men displaced by any amalgamation. We appreciate the difficulty in which the right hon. Gentleman is to-night. His Parliamentary supporters have threatened to vote against him, and that might result in the possibility of a defeat. His present suggestion is a way out of his Parliamentary difficulty. I want him to make it quite clear what he intends to do, as it will help the Committee in dealing with the present and with future Amendments.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley
I am glad the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) has spoken, because I was a little disappointed that the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) made no reference whatever to anything I said on this Amendment or the promises I am prepared to give. With regard to the first part of the Amendment, I said that the sort of people covered by it should have an opportunity of stating their case to the Commission at some period, and that they ought also to have a right of being notified that an amalgamation would affect them, and therefore some warning in regard to it. With regard to the second part, I cannot be more precise even if I would. I must have time to think about what it is possible to do having regard to the powers of the Commission, and all I can say is that I will consider what can be done in regard to the case of any miners who are displaced as a result of amalgamations.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Bevan
If persons are to be notified of a proposed amalgamation, the assumption is that the Commission will take into consideration the observations they have to make as to the effect on them of the proposed amalgamation. That is what our Amendment says. It says that they shall have regard to the effect of amalgamation on an area and upon certain interests. The right hon. Gentleman says that these persons shall receive notification and, therefore, the Commission must have regard to what they have to say after they have been notified. We want to establish a principle, and the right hon. Gentleman has addressed himself merely to a matter of procedure. If our Amendment is carried, and these persons have the right to make representations to the Commission, that 468 is local authorities and the miners, it will be an obligation upon the Minister in some subsequent stage of the Bill to provide the machinery by which they will be notified in order that they may exercise a right which has been conferred upon them. It the Minister admits that they have a right to notification, I cannot see why he cannot accept the Amendment. He wants us to accept a change of procedure as if it were a change of principle, whereas we want the principle accepted.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley
I am sorry if I have not made it plain. The principle I accept is that these people should have a chance of putting their case in an inquiry. I have already told the Committee that I do not think the Commission is the right way. To whom would local authorities rather put their case, the Commissioners, who can say, "Thank you very much; we will go on with this scheme," or to myself, who can veto the scheme if I think it does not meet the difficulties of local authorities, or to Parliament, which can also veto any scheme on the grounds of national interest? I made it plain that either through a public inquiry or through the House of Commons these people should make their representations because the President of the Board of Trade and the House of Commons have power to give effect to a scheme. Therefore, what I am offering is not an inquiry by the Commission, but an inquiry to the President of the Board of Trade or Parliament which we shall be able to discuss later on.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I understand that the position will be that the Commission will give consideration in cases where they contemplate amalgamation, and that they will not take into consideration any of the facts or points raised in the Amendment. They will consider amalgamations much in the same way as amalgamations have hitherto been considered. All they will take into consideration will be the costs of production, and at what price coal can be produced. I understand the Minister's suggestion is that instead of the Commission taking into consideration all the relevant factors, they will simply take into consideration the industrial factors, and then there will be a right of appeal to the Minister.
§ Mr. Stanley
I was not laying down that the Commission are not to be consulted. All I say is that at one point these people should have a statutory right to be heard, and I say that this statutory right should not come in the first place to the Commission, who may disregard their representations but should be to myself or to Parliament. Nothing I have said means that the Commission shall not consider these things in passing their schemes, or that they should not consult with the local authorities.
§ Sir E. Grigg
As one of those who asked the right hon. Gentleman to consider the principle in this Amendment I should like to thank him for what he has said. It entirely satisfies me, and I am grateful to him for having taken the point into consideration. I think I am also speaking for a good many of my hon. Friends.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Bevan
I do not want to make any unnecessary difficulties, but we are still in some confusion as to what the right hon. Gentleman means, although some of his supporters are inclined to snatch at any straw. We want to know exactly what the Minister means. He says that the Commission may disregard the representations of a local authority. Why should the Commission disregard those representations any more than they would disregard the observations of an undertaking which it is proposed to absorb? If the rights of local authorities in the area and the rights of workmen are to rank equally with the rights of coal-owners whose property it is proposed to absorb, why should the Minister assume that the Commission will disregard these observations any more than those of the property owners?
§ Mr. Bevan
We understood that hon. Members opposite were convinced by our plea that any miner who was going to be displaced should be considered equally with an undertaking which was going to be absorbed. If that is to be the position, that is all we desire to do by the Amendment. We wish the claims of a miner 470 who is going to be displaced, or a community which is going to be ruined, to rank equally with the claims of property owners. Will the Minister say why the same procedure is not to apply to all interests, and why he assumes that the Commission will disregard the observations of miners and local authorities and give weight to those of property owners, if all these claims are to rank as equal?
§ Mr. Stanley
I should like to put this question to the hon. Member and to others. If local authorities are to be given the statutory right of being heard, would they prefer to be heard by the Commissioner or by Parliament? I am sure every local authority would regard the right of being heard by Parliament as the greater safeguard.
§ Mr. Stanley
I think the rest of the Committee have realised what I meant. When I say a right to an inquiry, I mean an inquiry at which they can appear and themselves be heard, and not merely the right that exists already to have a Member of Parliament speak on their behalf. I mean an inquiry at one stage at which they can appear and put their case.
§ Mr. Bevan
The difficulty is that at that stage they would have to make representations against a scheme which had received the authority of the Commission. They would be intervening in a subsequent stage of the procedure when the Commission would have prepared the scheme. The scheme would then be ready for the right hon. Gentleman's consideration and observations and it is after that has been done that these other interests are to be heard. The right hon. Gentlemen does not answer me fairly at all. Will he tell the Committee why an undertaking which it is proposed to amalgamate should rank before the local authority or the miner? He has not said so yet. They are interests which are going to be absorbed by process of law. They are going to be affected by the amalgamation. The interests also of the miners and the community are going to be affected. Why, 471 therefore, should not all the interests be considered at the first stage of the scheme itself? The right hon. Gentleman says later on, when the scheme has been framed, when the authority of the Commission is behind it, when to some extent an attempt has been made to resolve all the other interests concerned. The Commission will have tried, I will not say to square but to conciliate the opposition, and many will have received their concessions at that stage. There may be only a small company holding out, all the other companies may have agreed, and it is to their opposition that the community is to look for its protection. But at that stage of the scheme the Opposition would have been reduced to the irreducible minimum. When the scheme comes before the President of the Board of Trade it has the authority of the Commission behind it. When hon. Members opposite say they want to help us, they are open to the charge of hypocrisy, because they have not secured from the right hon. Gentleman any important concession for us. They attach great importance to the Parliamentary stage.
§ Mr. Stanley
The coalowners will have the same right as local authorities to make representations at this inquiry, whether it is to me or to the House of Commons. The Bill does not provide extra facilities.
§ Mr. Bevan
The right hon. Gentleman is too disingenuous altogether. He knows very well that it is into the economic claims of the property owners that the Commissioners will have to make inquiry in formulating their scheme in the first place, and if the Commission is going to proceed about its business intelligently it will first of all try to bring about amalgamation voluntarily. In other words, it will have protracted negotiations with all the property-owning interests affected in the area. At that stage any 472 colliery undertaking that is involved will have had an opportunity of making its representations and the scheme will then be submitted to him. What we want to know is why, before that is reached, all the other affected interests cannot also be heard. That is the purpose of our Amendment. We do not understand why he is proposing to treat these people differently. I therefore hope my hon. Friends will not accept his undertaking as satisfying our claims. I hope that we shall divide and I hope that we shall receive assistance from hon. Members opposite, who have all along said they think the interests of the miners and the local authorities ought to rank equally with those of others.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Sir Stafford Cripps
I should like to make it clear that we certainly do not accept the right hon. Gentleman's undertaking as doing anything else than trying to get him out of a difficulty in respect to the next Amendment. I was very suspicious when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Burton-on-Trent (Colonel Gretton) said he looked upon this with sympathy and proposed to support it in the Lobby. When he was followed by others, it became perfectly clear what their tactic was. It was to try to use the Amendment to force a concession upon their Amendment, and that tactic has apparently succeeded. The point with which we are dealing on this Amendment is not what procedure should be adopted after the Commission has made a recommendation. The vital point is what should the Commission take into account when making a recommendation. That, after all, is the foundation upon which the whole scheme is to be laid. In surveying those foundations, to see that they are firm, what is the Commission to do? In the Bill as it stands, under Clause 40 (1), they are specifically directed to form an opinion upon certain matters and certain matters only. Just as in the past the national interest was interpreted as being limited to the interests of the nation in the exploitation of its coal, regardless of social circumstances, so in this Bill the matters upon which the Commission are to form their opinion are limited merely to questions of the economic exploitation of coal.Where in the opinion of the Commission the number of separate undertakings consisting of or comprising coal mines to which the coal 473 in any area is leased is so great as to be detrimental to the economical and efficient working, treating or disposing thereof, it shall be the duty of the Commission to endeavour to effect a reduction.The only matter they can consider is this one single question. Everyone who has spoken has admitted that they ought to take into account at that stage, in arriving at their decision, the position of the miners and the local authorities, but they cannot do it under the Bill as it stands. We want to give them the power, which they have not got, of taking into account these other matters, the position of the local authorities and the position of the miners, and the foundations upon which the scheme is based shall be foundations surveyed from every point of view of the national interest and not from this very limited point of view of the national interest which is at present included in the Clause. It is beside the point to say that at some subsequent stage someone representing the local authorities or the miners can make representations somewhere else. That is not what we are dealing with. We are dealing with the initiation of a scheme, and we want it to be initiated after the most thorough and careful inquiry by the Commission upon sound lines so that the recommendation means something, not that they really mean, "We have looked into this little part, but we have not surveyed the rest of the field. We are leaving that to the House of Commons after 11 o'clock."
We want to know that before these schemes are initiated the whole of the national interest has been regarded. It is unchallenged that, as the Bill is at present drafted, they have not the power of basing their opinion upon anything but what is mentioned, which is the pure economic development of coal. Everyone, including the right hon. Gentleman himself, has admitted that they ought to have the power, and now he refuses to give it them. In the offer that he has made, which is really an offer to his own back-benchers on the next Amendment, he has not at all touched the problem of our Amendment. As the Clause is drafted, the only matter upon which the Commissioners are en titled to form their opinion is economic development. They are not entitled—
§ Mr. Stanley
I do not pretend to be a legal expert, but my impression is that they are entitled, because it is, after all, their duty to submit an order to me and 474 to Parliament. If, in fact, those words in Clause 40 (1) do not give the power—I believe they do, and I will look into it to see whether they do—the Amendment does not alter it. The Amendment leaves the words in Clause 40 (1), still on the Paper.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The right hon. Gentleman did not think of what he said there, or he would never have said it. He is as familiar as I am with the function of a proviso to a Clause; he is as familiar as I am with a Clause which says that one may not do a certain thing, provided that one may do it in certain circumstances. That is a common form of drafting. What is said here is that the Cora-mission must form their opinion on a certain basis in Clause 40, provided also that in any action taken under Clause 40, Sub-section (1), they must take into account certain things; that is to say, the proviso enlarges the scope of Clause 40 (1). That is why it is put in as a proviso to Clause 40 (1).
§ Sir S. Cripps
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but I am afraid that he will not get any other lawyer to agree with him in regard to the function of a proviso to a Clause as altering the restriction which precedes it. It is a limitation or an extension which is superimposed upon the words of the enacting Section by virtue of the proviso. If the right hon. Gentleman says these words are not effective, we are prepared to have his draftsman put them in any form necessary to make them effective. We do not stand by our draftsmanship so firmly that we mind that; what we mind is the merits. The right hon. Gentleman says that he believes that the Commission have the power, and I suppose he would add to the power, the duty, under Clause 40 (1) as it stands, to take into account the matters which we have included in our proviso. If that is the right hon. Gentleman's view, let us have it clearly; let us put it beyond all doubt by inserting words in the Clause.
§ Mr. Stanley
So far, we have discussed this Amendment at very great length entirely on the lines of the inquiry and the 475 possibility of representations being made either to the Commissioners or to somebody else. The point which the hon. and learned Gentleman makes is that the Bill as drafted does not give the Commissioners power even to consider these things, quite apart from the question whether there is a specific instruction that they must consider them. This point is a new one which has been raised for the first time in this Debate. I do not agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I think that as the Bill stands the Commissioners certainly could think of these things. However, if that is the only point which the hon. and learned Gentleman is making, I am ready between now and the Report stage to make certain that the words of Clause 40 (1) are not so restrictive that the Commissioners cannot have these things in mind.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I agree that the Commissioners can do anything in their own minds. If I may say so, it is hardly worthy of the right hon. Gentleman to
§ talk about what the Commissioners can do in their own minds. I am talking of this Commission as a responsible body, not of what the Commissioners think after dinner, but of what they do when at work in their office. What I am considering is whether this Clause as drafted gives them the power and duty of taking into consideration the matters which are in our Amendment before they put out any recommendation. If the right hon. Gentleman agrees that that is necessary and proper, and will guarantee to include words to put it beyond all reasonable doubt on the Report stage, we will consider his offer, but we will not consider anything short of it. Unless he can give us that assurance on what we consider to be a vital matter if these schemes are to be properly founded, we shall be obliged to go into the Lobby in favour of the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 136; Noes, 224.477
|Division No. 81.]||AYES.||[7.22 p.m.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Messer, F.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Moreing, A. C.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. K. (Hackney, S.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Muff, G.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Naylor. T. E.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Barr, J.||Hardie, Agnes||Oliver, G. H.|
|Batey, J.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Parker, J.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Parkinsan, J. A.|
|Benson, G.||Hayday, A.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Bevan, A.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Broad, F. A.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Bromfield, W.||Hepworth, J.||Ridley, G.|
|Buchanan, G.||Hills, A. (Pontefraot)||Riley, B.|
|Cape, T.||Holdsworth, H.||Ritson, J.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hollins, A.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Chater, D.||Jagger, J.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Clarke, F. E. (Dartford)||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Cluse, W. S.||John, W.||Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Cove, W. G.||Jones, J. J. (Silvertown)||Sexton, T. M.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Shinwell, E.|
|Daggar, G.||Kelly, W. T.||Silkin, L.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Kirby, B. V.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Kirkwood, D.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Day, H.||Lathan. G.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Lawson, J. J.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Ede, J. C.||Leach, W.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Lee, F.||Stephen, C.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Leonard, W.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Leslie, J. R.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Logan, D. G.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Foot. D. M.||Lunn, W.||Thorne, W.|
|Frankel, D.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Thurtle, E.|
|Gallacher, W.||McGhee, H. G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Gardner, B. W.||McGovern, J.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||MacLaren, A.||Viant, S. P.|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Maclean, N.||Walker, J.|
|Gibbins, J.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Mander, G. le M.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Marshall, F.||Westwood, J.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Maxton, J.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Wilkinson, Ellen||Williams, T. (Don Valley)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)||Wilson, C. H. (Atterclifle)|
|Williams, E. J. (Ogmare)||Windson, W. (Hull, C.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Groves and Mr. Mathers.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Errington, E.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G. A.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Peake, O.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Furness, S. N.||Peal, C. U.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Gluckstein L. H.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Assheton, R.||Goldie, N. B.||Porritt, R. W.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Gower, Sir R. V.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Radford, E. A.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. Isle of Thanet)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Balniel, Lord||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir G. M.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Beechman, N. A.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Hambro, A. V.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Blair, Sir R.||Hannah, I. C||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Harbord, A.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Rowlands, G.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Herbert. Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Higgs, W. F.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. Hexham)||Holmes, J. S.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Bull, B. B.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O J.||Salt. E. W.|
|Bullock. Capt. M.||Hopkinson, A.||Samuel, M, R. A.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Savery, Sir Servington|
|Butcher, H. W.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Scott, Lord William|
|Butler, R. A.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hulbert, N. J.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Cary, R. A.||Hunter, T.||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Cazalet. Thelma (Islington, E.)||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Somervell. Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. M. (Edgb't'n)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Channon, H.||Keeling, E. H.||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglan)||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Spens, W. P.|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Christie, J. A.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Stowart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Storey, S.|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Law. R. K. (Hull, S. W.)||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Cnlville, L.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Leech, Sir J. W.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Lees-Jones, J.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Levy, T.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-(N'thw'h)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Lewis, O.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nalin)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Lipson, D. L.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Train, Sir J.|
|Crooke, Sir J. S.||McCorouodale, M. S.||Tryon. Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||MacDonald. Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Cross, R. H.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Ward, Lieut-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Macquisten, F. A.||Warrander, Sir V.|
|Culverwell. C. T.||Maitland, A.||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Davias, Major Sir G. F. (Yoovil)||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Wayland, Sir W. A|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Wedderburn, H. J. S|
|De Chair, S. S.||Markham, S. F.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Denville, Alfred||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut-Colonel G.|
|Dodd, J. S.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Doland, G. F.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Duggan, H. J.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Morgan, R. H.||Wragg, H.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Munro, P.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Naven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Emery, J. F.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Captain Dugdale and|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Mr. Grlmston.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Before calling the next Amendment on the Paper I think it might be for the convenience of the Committee if the Amendment and the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. G. Nicholson)—in page 37, line 38, to leave out "give," and to insert "for the purpose of giving "—were discussed together, in which case it would be open, of course, for the hon. Member for Farnham afterwards to move his Amendment and have a Division upon it if he desired. I put this to the Committee because these two Amendments suggest alternative schemes, and I think it will be difficult to carry on the discussion unless they are taken together. If the Committee is agreeable, I suggest that that course should be followed.
§ Committee signified assent.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Sir Geoffrey Ellis
I beg to move, in page 37, line 29, to leave out Sub-section (2), and to insert:(2) The Commission may at any time after the thirty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine, if they are of opinion that adequate progress in the reduction of the number of coal mining undertakings cannot otherwise be made, make application by petition to the Board of Trade for an Order to provide that the powers of the Commission under the said Section thirteen of submitting amalgamation and absorption schemes shall become exerciseable in any area specified in such petition as an area in which such progress has, in the opinion of the Commission, been inadequate, and on receipt of such petition the Board of Trade may, after public inquiry and after consultation with the owners of the coal mining undertakings affected, prepare a draft Order to carry the said petition into effect, either wholly or in part and may by such Order propose that the number of coal mining undertakings shall be reduced in that area, or in any part thereof specified in such Order and that the powers aforesaid shall be exerciseable either unconditionally or subject to such conditions as may be specified in such Order;Provided that—
I should like to say at the outset to hon. Members who have referred to this Amendment as a Mining Association Amendment that they are quite wrong. This Amendment is brought forward on behalf of a body of Members of this House, the majority of whom have no coal interests whatever. It is brought forward as a result of very grave apprehensions on the part of all those concerned that the interests that have been mentioned in this Committee to-day have no adequate safeguards in compulsory amalgamation. The Debate which we have already had has not been a waste of time, because it has brought home to the Committee how very widespread the interests are which will be affected by these amalgamations. I would ask Members of the Committee to appreciate that there are really four very big interests which will have to be protected. There is, first, the district interest, the ordinary trade of the district, which may be very seriously affected; there is the interest of the local authority with its whole social overhead; there is the interest of those who work in the mines; and there is the interest of those who provide the capital which under our system is still required to enable the mines to work. Therefore, unless things are kept right and unless investors are satisfied, that source of very necessary capital may tend to dry up. It is obvious that for these interests more than a casual inquiry into the circumstances is needed—much more. I would remind hon. Members 481 that they have really to look at this question from two angles—first of all, one which deals with all the preliminaries and, secondly, one which is called "the scheme," which merely sets what one may call an accounting basis on a principle which has already been laid down. The whole question is, Where are these safeguards to be given? Undoubtedly some more safeguards must be given before these interests can be properly protected. We have put down an Amendment to-day which covers a pretty considerable amount of ground, but I think it is necessary in order to make it quite clear to the Committee where we wish certain things to be done.
- (a) Any such petition shall be accompanied by a report of the Commission to the Board of Trade setting forth the reasons for which such a scheme as aforesaid will (in the opinion of the Commission) promote the economical and efficient working, treating, and disposing of coal and a copy of such report shall be supplied on demand to the owner of any coal mining undertaking affected;
- (b) any such draft Order shall so define the area in which the said powers are to become exerciseable as to show so far as practicable what undertakings are likely to be affected by their exercise; and
- (c) an Order under this Section shall if opposed be provisional only and shall have no effect until confirmed by Parliament, and the provisions set out in the Schedule (Procedure for making and provisions as to the validity of Orders) to this Act shall have effect with respect to the making and validity of such Orders;
- (d) if a petition is presented to either House of Parliament against any such Order the Board of Trade shall, before the expiration of six days after such presentation, lay upon the Table of such House of Parliament a report setting forth the reasons for which such a scheme as aforesaid will, in the opinion of the Board, promote the economical and efficient working, treating, and disposing of coal, and a copy of such report shall be supplied by the Board of Trade on demand to the owner of any coal-mining undertaking affected as aforesaid;
- (e) an Order made under this Section may be revoked, altered, or amended by a subsequent Order made by the Board of Trade under and in accordance with the provisions of this Section."
May I take, first of all, the suggestion that the Board of Trade may, after public inquiry and after consultation with the owners of undertakings affected, do certain things? Public inquiry is but a form of laying bare an issue which is followed in almost every other kind of examination in this country. At a public inquiry it would be possible for the whole of the interests which we have been discussing for the best part of three hours to be thoroughly and adequately represented, and there would be no question then that the interests of the district, the interests of trade, the interests of the social overhead, had not been fully brought forward and brought to the mind of the President of the Board of Trade before he made his draft Order. That being the case, if this form of procedure is followed, it is certain that the Commission, in making any scheme, would, as sensible men, take that question into consideration, as well as the other questions which the former procedure required. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Gripps) was dealing, on the last Amendment, with the interpretation of one of the Sections, and took a certain view. Most lawyers, I think, take the same view, and if these local interests are to be adequately represented, it seems to be pretty certain that something will have to be done to make the matter quite clear; but at any rate that is only one part of what is going to be a very difficult inquiry indeed.
You do not start with a logical basis at all in these compulsory amalgamations; you start with an official preconception. That is what we have been fighting against all along, and what we say is that there must be a form of procedure 482 which will compel the translation of that official preconception into a logically argued case, and a logically argued case which must be put before some independent tribunal with a full opportunity for hearing objections in order that both cases may be looked at and a reasoned result arrived at. We are entitled to that. It is said that this voluntary amalgamation is to take place because public policy needs it. Public policy may need it, but when public policy interferes with the whole course of trade and commerce over a large district, then that district is entitled to say, "Whatever you are going to do, you shall not do it unless you tell us exactly why you are doing it, unless you give us adequate reasons, unless you make it absolutely certain that we are going to have a perfectly free and independent tribunal to judge what you are after."
I think, myself, that the inquiry will open out a great deal which will be exceedingly useful. It may be useful in this way: It may be that when the various interests have discussed their cases and the Board of Trade have made up their minds, you will get an agreement, and then you will get your Order without further trouble. It may be perhaps that you will not get agreement. It may be that there will be basic differences, and if those basic differences do exist, there is only one place in which your problem can be solved, and that is in this House, but in this House in such a way that in the process of solution this House shall be advised of everything that has gone on previously and shall have the full facts before it. It is only insulting the intelligence of this House to suggest that we can possibly deal with intricate and difficult questions such as these by a Debate in a full House alone. Anybody who has been in this House for a number of years, as most of the Members around me have, know one thing, and that is that the exigencies of Debate always give way to the need for getting Measures through. One accepts that as a matter of course.
What is proposed is the following of the ordinary procedure of this House when it has to deal with difficult detail. It is the practice to refer those questions to a committee, and when you get a reference to a committee you get then an inquiry at leisure, which does not affect the progress of business in this House at all. 483 You get an inquiry at which if you are not satisfied with the information which you have already got, you can ask for more evidence, you can ask for any evidence you like, and you can take a course which ensures that, when you make your report, nobody can be able to say that you have not examined the question and come to a conclusion on the merits. Whoever you may be, whatever your interests may be, proprietorial, mining, local authority, trading, or anything else, a Committee of this House examining a question is a sufficient authority for most people who know the procedure of this House. We ask that this procedure should be a real one, and it can only be real by giving an opportunity for examination of the kind I have indicated.
Therefore, we have laid down in the ordinary way certain rules, to be found in the Schedule later, which I will not refer to now, but which indicate the way in which notices can be given and all the paraphernalia that are required by the procedure of this House. What is to follow? There is to be a report in the ordinary way to this House on this form of procedure, and the House as a general rule accepts the reports of its Committees, one way or the other. If, on the other hand, there is strong feeling, the House may take a very definite line against it, but that is for the House to decide. All that we are concerned with is, first, that the inquiry should have been thorough and second, that nobody afterwards can say that there has been any lack of facts upon which a decision could be come to. I suggest to the Government that it is not sufficient for us to have two or three hours late in the evening in which to discuss questions affecting a whole big district and the life and character of that district. If the right hon. Gentleman says that this particular form of procedure is not one which he can give us then we are not bound by these particular words, but what we are bound by is the principle. Whatever form of procedure the Government may give us, it must be thorough, it must be adequate, and it must be real.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Wise
It is difficult for me to add very much to what my hon. Friend has just said, but I hope, like him, to be commendably brief. I sincerely trust that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade can see his way to 484 accepting, not merely the principle of this Amendment, but the detail of it as well, because I think this is the only procedure which will sufficiently safeguard those things which hon. Members opposite as well as ourselves are anxious should be properly protected. If I may indulge in a mild digression for a moment or two, I should like to say that I know that many Members on this side of the Committee were extremely impressed with the argument put forward from the other side on the last Amendment. Had it not been for the scorpion's tail it might have received more support in the Lobby. But the hon. Gentleman who spoke so logically and so admirably on that Amendment, did not mention the scorpion's tail in the course of his speech.
I believe that in the Amendment now before the Committee are to be found all those things which hon. Members opposite were so anxious to have safeguarded. It asks that there should be a public inquiry before the Commission formulate their scheme. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) that the Commission should be instructed to take into account the local needs of areas, and, indeed, all other interests affected while they are conducting their public inquiry, but I do not think we can rest satisfied with a public inquiry and some form of abbreviated procedure of this House afterwards. The issues involved in these amalgamations are so large and may affect so many people that there must be some form of appeal. There must be some body which, even after the Commission has carried out the most exhaustive inquiries, will have a power of veto over any scheme which the Commission produces or power to retard any such scheme until it has been redrafted in a more satisfactory way. I believe the procedure proposed in the Schedule which goes with this Amendment would be adequate for this purpose. It may be in the nature of praising ourselves to say so, but it is the fact that a Private Bill Committee of this House is an adequate body. It sits in the quietude of a Committee room; it is unimpeded by the heat of party conflict, and it is not subject to the rather rigorous discipline to which the House is sometimes subject when discussions are taken in Committee of the Whole House. I believe such an inquiry would be adequate to protect all the interests involved.
485 I would add one remark addressed to those who are disturbed about whether this procedure outlined in the proposed Schedule is not cumbersome and liable to occupy too much time. I think hon. Members will agree that the procedure adopted before a small committee of the kind proposed is not particularly cumbersome. In practice, even the most elaborate Bills which have been petitioned against by many bodies, do not occupy very long. I think the longest proceedings which have taken place before a Private Bill Committee for many years lasted for five weeks, and that was regarded as almost intolerable. The usual time occupied by proceedings before such a committee is from a week to 10 days, and that is not too long a period to be devoted to the careful examination of problems such as will arise in this connection. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will be able to meet us on this Amendment, and I assure him of our ready sympathy with any Amendment on the same lines which he himself may suggest.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I think it would have been a great deal more honest if those who represent the views of that well-known national advertiser the Mining Association, had moved an Amendment to take away all powers as regards amalgamation from the Commission, because that is the purpose of this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman opposite shakes his head. He is not as simple as he might like us to think. All this fantastic flummery which has been put into the proposed new Sub-section and the proposed Schedule which goes with it, is simply designed to afford every possible opportunity of delaying and defeating the accomplishment of anything effective by the Commission. These Amendments have been put down, obviously, in the interests of a very small section of the community, namely, the mineowners. The publicity has been too wide. The letters which we have all received from all sort of mining companies have been too many for anybody now to pretend that these Amendments are moved in any interests other than those of the members of the Mining Association.
There is no suggestion in these Amendments that any regard whatever is being paid to public convenience or to public 486 interests. What they mean is that neither the Commission nor the Board of Trade is ever to be able to do anything effective against the opposition even of a single mineowner in any area, and, naturally, they will be unable to do anything effective against the combined forces of what have been stigmatised so often as the most reactionary elements in British industry. This proposal is only a proof of how reactionary they are I would remind hon. Members of what the "Times" says in its leading article to-day.The truth is that the Mining Association as the mouthpiece of a prejudice that is not only narrow but is, in fact, a danger to private enterprise through its failure to recognise that there is such a thing as an excess of individualism, and that it is not inevitable that individualism will always ensure the best interest of an industry or a nation. It is indeed amazing to hear the reaffirmation of the contrary by an industry whose individualism had to be strait-jacketed by selling schemes which have in fact proved life-saving jackets. The coal-mining industry has a great statutory privilege with which must be associated an obligation to return to the community an efficient and economical service.That is the view of a paper which can hardly be called an enemy of private enterprise. One might perhaps have thought that one would read such words in the "Daily Worker," but when they are written in the leading article in the "Times" it shows the sort of lengths to which the hon. Members who have put their names to this Amendment are going. They desire to get every conceivable benefit out of this Measure for the mine-owners and those who have property in the mines, but at the same time to take every conceivable step to prevent the community having any power or control over those mineowners. They are afraid that the provision which appears in the Bill might give some measure of control to the community, and, as I hope to show, this device, if it were put into operation, would be a very successful one for preventing anything whatever being done.
It is interesting to note the names of the hon. Members who have put down this Amendment, and to wonder whether they are really acting in the interests of their constituents. The hon. Member who moved it remarked upon the fact, which he seemed to think extraordinary, that so few of those whose names were down to the Amendment had interests in coal mines. I have taken the precaution of looking up in the directory the 487 gentlemen whose names are down to the Amendment, and I was rather surprised in the opposite direction. I think the hon. Gentleman himself may really be considering the interests of the Airedale Collieries more than those of the Ecclesall voters in Sheffield.
§ Sir G. Ellis
I have had letters in support of it from many people in Ecclesall who are not connected with the trade at all.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I can understand that. We all get lots of letters on all sorts of subjects, from our constituencies but, by and large, I think this Amendment is more consonant with the interests of the Airedale Collieries than with those of the Ecclesall voters. The same with North Leeds, and the same with the Drake Division of Plymouth.
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman allow me to suggest that it is quite possible that those who are in close touch with affairs connected with the collieries may have some guidance or knowledge to offer as to what the result of these proposals may be, and that they may be acting in the interests of the community as a whole.
§ Sir S. Cripps
It is also quite possible, if I may say so respectfully to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, that they have quite a good knowledge of the Mining Association's views.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Then are they putting forward the Mining Association's views? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I am delighted. That is what I am saying. The disclaimer came from the Mover of the Amendment.
§ Sir G. Ellis
The hon. and learned Gentleman is making a mistake. This is not put forward on behalf of the Mining Association. A great many members of the Mining Association take a very different view.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I cannot say because I am not in the counsels of the Association. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Because I have no mining interests. That seems to be a sufficient reason. But all this is, perhaps, by the way. It was rather provoked by what was said by the 488 hon. Gentleman in moving the Amendment. There is, however, another and a very serious point, worthy of the consideration of the Committee with regard to Amendments of this kind. People talk a great deal to-day about democracy and the advantages of democratic methods, and very often those who talk most loudly about democracy are those who are trying the most effective ways to destroy it.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am glad to have that response from the hon. Gentleman who, no doubt, supports these Amendments.
§ Sir S. Cripps
There will be an opportunity of settling that if—which I very much doubt—a Division is taken upon this Amendment. I suspect that the Amendment will be withdrawn upon an undertaking by the right hon. Gentleman that some change in the procedure will be made. I think this is largely a sham fight. Perhaps it is all the more important that we should examine this Amendment and see what is actually in it. What I was pointing out when I was interrupted was that if we are to continue to run the economic life of the country, either nationally or internationally, by democratic means it is essential that those means should be made efficient for their purpose. If hon. Gentlemen opposite go out of their way to design methods which are the most grossly inefficient that it is possible to imagine, as they are doing in this case, then they are in fact making it impossible for democracy to work with regard to the regulation and control of industry. They are inviting what has happened in other countries, and that is the supersession of democracy by methods which some people acclaim as being more speedy and more efficient than democratic methods. [HON. MEMBERS: "Russia."] I am not commenting on the methods of Russia or any other country. I am dealing with the methods of Great Britain in which I am primarily interested. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh. Perhaps it is unusual for hon. Members on the benches opposite to be primarily interested in the methods of Great Britain.
How fantastic these suggestions are can be seen if one makes a little investigation of the terms put forward. First of 489 all, there is no compulsion upon the Commission or the Board ever to do anything. It is absolutely optional both on the Commission and on the Board of Trade as to whether they ever act in this matter as regards amalgamations. There is a reason for that, to which I will come in a moment. Practically every step which could initiate any action which is contrary to the desires of the mineowners, is optional. Every step which is in accordance with the desires of the mineowners, is compulsory. The optional methods give the mineowners and their representatives plenty of opportunity to bring political pressure to bear upon the President of the Board of Trade, in order 1o stop the initiation of any scheme at all. When one goes beyond that point, one arrives at the rather odd phraseology in the words of the Sub-section.
What is it that the Commission has to be satisfied about in order that anything can be initiated? Nothing can be initiated until the primary act is taken by the Commission. They may actif they are of opinion that adequate progress in the reduction of the number of coalmining undertakings cannot otherwise be made.Can anyone be of such an opinion? It is impossible for anybody to be of such an opinion.
§ Sir S. Cripps
It is not definitely in the Bill. It says "may". We have an Amendment to leave out "may" and substitute "shall." Can anyone be satisfied that "adequate progress cannot otherwise be made"? The only chance is to get a Labour Government, and then you could have nationalisation. That is another way to make adequate progress. You may get voluntary amalgamations. They may act if they are satisfied that it is not possible to do it in any other way, not within any specified period of time, but within any time at all. It only shows the desires of hon. Gentlemen to make this as useless a provision as possible.
I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to the 27 stages through which one has to pass under the Amendment before any finality can be arrived at which will allow the Commission to start operating Section 13 of the Act of 1926. I will give the Committee a short 490 time-table showing how long the 27 stages will take: (1) The Commission has to form an opinion that adequate progress cannot otherwise be made. I think that if we allow them one month for that, it is not unreasonable. (2) There is to be a petition to the Board of Trade in order that powers under Section 13 shall become exercisable in a specific area in which progress has been inadequate. That petition is to be accompanied by a report. I assume that that stage will be accomplished simultaneously with stage No. 1, so that we have used up only one month. (3) There is to be a public inquiry by the Board of Trade. Three months is a very reasonable and short period in which to organise and hold a public inquiry We have now reached four months. (4) There is to be consultation with the owners following the public inquiry. That might take another month, which would be a very short period. I do not want to exaggerate the question of time. (5) A draft has to be prepared by the Commission after these inquiries in order to carry the petition into effect, and to add or not such conditions as they desire. For that I give them a month to prepare the draft after the inquiry, and that seems to be a very short period.
(6) Then there is to be published a notice of the intention of the Board of Trade to make an Order. Presumably that notice has to be for some period, in order to enable people to make objections and so forth. I suggest that that might be done simultaneously, and therefore I have not allocated any time for that stage. I put it down in the same period as the previous stage. (7) The Board of Trade has to consider objections to the Order. I think they ought to have two months for that. (8) The Board of Trade has to hold public inquiry No. 2, if there are any objections coming in, and assuming that the mineowners are going to take advantage of the machinery so carefully laid down. We will allow only two months for that public inquiry, in order to make it short and snappy. (9) The Order is to be made by the Board of Trade and published after the inquiry. I give them a month for that, assuming that they act quickly. (10) If there is a petition against the Order the Board of Trade have to lay it on the Table of the House, and with it a report giving the reasons for the making of the Order. I give them one month for that, 491 assuming that it comes at a time when the House is sitting, otherwise it may be three or four months. (11) Memorials may be presented to the Board of Trade within 30 days in order to prevent the Order becoming final. Obviously, that means a month.
(12) If a memorial is presented the Order must be confirmed by a Bill in both Houses before becoming effective. That is going to cause some slight delay, I am afraid. One cannot always be certain that the House will be sitting at the appropriate moment. Nevertheless I have assumed that this will be done in one month. I want to be generous in my assumptions on behalf of the mining association. (13) If a petition is presented against any Order confirmed in such a Bill, it is to be referred to a Select Committee and treated as a Private Bill in both Houses. I am assuming that that will be done within two months. I have started on the first day available under this Amendment, 1st January, 1940, and I have now reached the 1st June, 1941. Unfortunately, that date falls just about Budget time, therefore I have had to allow two months for that Private Bill Committee. (14) After having it referred, there will be a Second Reading Debate in this House, which may be delayed unless the Chief Whip is able to give the time for it. (15) Then there will be the hearing before the Committee followed by the Third Reading Debate in this House. All this will inevitably occupy two or three months. That takes us to the end of the Session. (16) The Bill will have to be carried over to the next Session because the Lords will have to deal with it at this stage.
(17) The Second Reading Debate in the Lords. The Lords are not always rapid in their movements and I calculate that this will bring us down to 1st December, 1941. (18) Then there is the hearing before a Committee of the Lords, and in view of the Recess which intervenes we must allow a further period of two months, which brings us to 1st April, 1942, a somewhat appropriate date. (19) Now we come to the Third Reading in the Lords. I give a month for that, and that brings us to May, 1942. (20) Then there is the Royal Assent, which I assume will be simultaneous with the Third Reading. (21) Next there is publication by the Board of Trade of the 492 fact that the Bill has to pass. We are now getting somewhere near to finality. I assume that that process will be simultaneous. (22) An aggrieved person may question the validity of the Order by application to the High Court within six weeks. Obviously, that must take six weeks, and we are now at 15th June, 1942. I am assuming that the mines are still in operation. (23) Then there is the hearing in the High Court. If it cannot take place before 15th June, 1942, it is clear from the state of business in the Courts that it cannot be taken before the Long Vacation. Therefore, we shall be at 1st December, 1942, before judgment in the High Court can be given. (24) Six weeks are allowed within which appeals can be made to the Court of Appeal. That brings us to 1st February, 1943. (25) Now we come to the hearing in the Court of Appeal, and judgment. We cannot get that before 1st April, 1943. We are very close to the end now. (26) Leave to appeal from the Court of Appeal to the House of Lords may be given. (27) If that leave is given, we shall have three months in which to appeal which takes us to 1st July, 1943. That case could not be heard by the Lords until 1st January, 1944. We have occupied only a period of four years in getting through the 27 stages so carefully elaborated in order to safeguard the mine-owners' interests in regard to these amalgamation proposals.
§ Sir G. Ellis
In regard to stage 27, the hon. and learned Member has added together his imaginary times of opposed and unopposed procedures.
§ Sir S. Cripps
That is one of the matters that is to be open to a mineowner who is not content with the passing of the Order.
§ Sir G. Ellis
The provision with respect to the testing of the validity can be made, presumably, to the court apart from these particular provisions.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I agree that there is nothing to prevent anybody disputing the validity of an Order that has gone through Parliament.
§ Sir G. Ellis
The time-table which the hon. and learned Gentleman has given relates to two separate sets of things which are not bound together. He has added them together, whereas, in fact, they can work concurrently.
§ Sir S. Cripps
That is wrong. They cannot work concurrently. I am assuming that the Order is going through the procedure of confirmation by Parliament. What is to stop anyone disputing the validity of such an Order in the courts? There is no provision in the Schedule to say that an Order so confirmed by Parliament shall not be disputed in the courts. It can, therefore, be disputed, as many Orders have been.
§ Sir G. Ellis
I am only pointing out that the hon. and learned Gentleman has added together two things which cannot be added together in order to get his time-table.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The hon. Member will, no doubt, remember some of the litigation there has been about Orders that have been made under the 1930 Act. They were disputed in the courts. They went to the High Court, and one went to the Court of Appeal.
§ Sir S. Cripps
That is all I am saying. In this case, there being no provision in the Schedule that an Order shall not be disputed, some coalowner will dispute the Order. I am assuming an Order that has been through Parliament. The hon. Gentleman does not appreciate the fact that, quite apart from any provisions there are in the Schedule, unless you put in the Schedule that the Order shall not be disputed, anybody can dispute it in the courts.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Certainly. When you have an Act providing for the confirmation of an Order, the Order can be made only upon certain conditions being precedent. Unless there is a provision in the Act to say that you may not dispute 494 the Order, you can dispute it on the basis that the conditions precedent were never performed. It is done frequently. Unless there is a provision in the Act that such an Order shall not be disputed, it is confirmed by Parliament. In that case you cannot have the subsequent dispute in the courts, but in this case, whether by negligence or otherwise, the procedure has been left open.
§ Mr. Assheton
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman be good enough to inform the Committee what the total legal costs of these proceedings would be, provided the best counsel were employed?
§ Sir S. Cripps
The total legal costs would not be such as to alarm any recalcitrant mineowner. I hope that I have made it clear to the Committee that this is a wholly impracticable scheme, and that the only conceivable basis on which it can be put forward is that it gives every possible opportunity of delay. This party will certainly vote against the Amendment.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley
The hon. and learned Gentleman in a very amusing speech has led us a little away, not from the details of the Amendment, but from the wider view which was being taken before. I must confess that the hon. Member for Ecclesall (Sir G. Ellis) in drafting these proposals fell into an error, because he went for his precedent to an Act passed by the Socialist Government in 1930. I understand from my advisers that nearly all the proposals in the hon. Gentleman's Amendment can be found reproduced in the Land Drainage Act, 1930. If I may, I will take the Committee back from the 27 well paid stages through which the hon. and learned Gentleman has taken us to the general idea which was expressed by the hon. Member who moved the Amendment. That is the idea which ran through a good deal of the discussion which took place on the last Amendment. The view was generally expressed that some time at some place not only the coalowners—and the coalowners of course have their rights to make representations—but all interests, coalowners, local authorities and miners, should have some right of being heard on the question which this House has to decide, namely, the question of national interest.
495 Hon. Members will know that in the 1930 Act the question of national interest had to be determined by the Railway and Canal Commission, and it was possible for outside interests such as local authorities and others to appear before the Railway and Canal Commission if they thought their interests were being affected. Under the present scheme that question is no longer to be considered by the Railway and Canal Commission, but it becomes the duty of Parliament to consider it. I reiterate what I said on the previous Amendment, that I believe that change is right. I believe that Parliament, which is, after all, not bound by legal proof or rules of evidence, can come to a better decision on questions of national interest than some formal court of law. It is, of course, vital that if Parliament is to discharge that function it shall have an adequate opportunity for doing it. Expressions of opinion were made on all sides of the House that after Eleven o'clock there is not a sufficient opportunity for performing that function. It is all very well for the hon. and learned Gentleman to say that the representations that a negative resolution on a matter of this kind does not give the House adequate opportunity arise purely from the advertisement of the coalowners. That is not the case. As a matter of fact, representations on this point have been made to me by Members of Parliament, not only from one party, long before this advertisement appeared, and they were made from the point of view not so much of this one particular interest but of the House of Commons. I shall be very surprised—and I shall bear this in mind on future Bills—if hon. Gentlemen opposite maintain that a negative resolution is sufficient, for I have heard them in Committee many times when I have proposed a negative resolution maintain that an affirmative resolution was desirable.
I am not going to be deflected by suggestions that this is a concession to the coalowners. The real thing that everybody in all parts of the House has to determine is this: Under the Bill the House -of Commons has this duty imposed on it. It has to see that the rights of the mine-owners are not injuriously affected. [Interruption.] I say that deliberately. They have their rights and the House of Commons has the duty to see that they 496 are not injured. They have the duty to see that the rights of the local authorities are not endangered. It is their duty to see that all the great consequences which may flow from one of these Orders will be in the national interest. Therefore the thing to be determined is what is the procedure which will make them think that they really are having an opportunity for discharging that duty.
As far as a negative resolution is concerned there is the sort of propaganda which comes from the Mining Association representing that such a procedure is only a pretence, but that is not true. Even in the case of a negative resolution, when Members were determined in their opposition I have on a number of occasions seen matters adequately debated, and although a negative resolution is usually taken in this House after 11 o'clock at night in another place it will come on at a different time. Therefore, it is idle to say that a negative resolution is just a pretence, and that those who are really opposed to a proposal cannot make their opposition vocal. But in view of the issues that may be involved, I feel that a Debate after 11 o'clock upon a controversial subject—for these are almost certain to be controversial subjects—would not, perhaps, give the House an adequate opportunity for dealing with the subject.
§ Mr. Balfour
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House how many thousands of Orders have been passed in the last five years, and how many have been under negative resolutions?
§ Mr. Stanley
I do not think that point is really relevant, seeing that I have just said that I did not think the negative resolution procedure would be adequate. I admit that very few negative resolutions are, in fact, defeated, but I would add that that is usually because negative resolution procedure is applied to subjects which are almost wholly non-controversial. For that reason, perhaps the negative resolution procedure is not appropriate upon a controversial matter of this kind. One hon. Member has put down an Amendment in favour of the affirmative resolution procedure. That procedure has the advantage that a definite vote has to be sought by the Government and a definite opportunity given for debate, even though the hour may be late; but the adoption of that procedure 497 would have a consequence of which many hon. Members are unaware, because affirmative resolution procedure in another place is different from the procedure in this House. Here all that happens under affirmative resolution procedure is that there is a straight vote on the resolution, but in another place it can go through a committee procedure. The result, therefore, of adopting the affirmative resolution procedure would probably be that in another place there would be a committee procedure in which all these questions could be threshed oua, but no such procedure in this House.
Finally, we have got the choice presented in the Amendment put down by another of my hon. Friends. I think he will admit that the steps there laid down are, perhaps, a little long and cumbersome. I admitted on the last Amendment that these interests should at some stage have the right to an inquiry and the right to be heard. The hon. Member's Amendment gives them certainly two and probably three inquiries, and I think that is needless repetition. Whatever representations have to be made on the general principle of a scheme which is put forward I feel that its effect upon the national interest can be represented at once at one inquiry, if it is held properly with full opportunities for all concerned to state their case.
Therefore, I cannot accept the cumbersome and quite exceptional procedure which the hon. Member has suggested, but, as I say, I am prepared to concede that there should be in both Houses of Parliament some committee stage. By that I do not mean a committee stage on the floor of the House, but a committee stage at which the outside interests—the coalowners, the local authorities and others—can appear themselves and can put their point of view. It might well be a joint committee of another place and ourselves. I believe that that committee stage can be provided by a procedure very much simpler than this, by a procedure which I think will do little more than add an examination by a Select Committee to the procedure laid down in the Bill. What, I am prepared to do, if this Amendment is withdrawn, together with the other Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend, is to put down upon Report stage some scheme the basis of which will be that an opportunity for 498 examination by Select Committee will be granted in both Houses of Parliament.
§ Mr. Stanley
There are not to be two inquiries. There could be a public inquiry before the matter comes to the Houses of Parliament and then, on the results of that public inquiry, a straight vote on the resolution; or there could be no public inquiry before it comes to the House of Commons and an examination in detail in Select Committee.
§ Mr. Stanley
In the ordinary way before a Select Committee—Private Bill procedure. I cannot see any justification for two inquiries covering exactly the same ground.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Balfour
I am glad to hear the pronouncement by my right hon. Friend, and I am sure that all my hon. Friends on this side of the House are relieved to know that full consideration should be given to this matter. I rise only on account of the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke from the front bench opposite. In the first part of his speech, in a jeering, sneering way, he represented the action of the Mover of this Amendment as being inspired entirely by the Mining Association. I ventured to interject "Why not?" and I suppose he assumed that I was closely identified with the Mining Association, because he was careful to make it clear that he himself did not own a mining share and had no interest in the industry. I am sorry that the hon. and learned Gentleman is not now here, because I should like to tell him that I own no mining shares and have no contact or association with the Mining Association, but that I represent one of the very largest buyers of coal in Great Britain—bought for consumption direct and not as merchants. Therefore, I am deeply interested in seeing that this industry is properly conducted and that anything we do under this Bill will produce the maximum of efficiency and secure the lowest prices for the consumer.
My various interests consume 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 tons of coal per annum, and therefore I am vitally interested in seeing that this industry is conducted on lines 499 which will not only be regarded as efficient but which the consumers will welcome as producing results to which we all look forward and as cheapening the price of coal. Recent legislation has up to the present done nothing but increase the price of coal, and we must beware lest any steps we take now continue that process. I welcome the pronouncement of my right hon. Friend, and I trust that when this Clause is redrafted it will be drawn on lines which will assist the industry and the consumers of coal and leave the country satisfied that we have put a wise Measure on the Statute Book.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I am not surprised at the speech which the right hon. Gentleman has made. I expected it. My mind goes back to 1936, when a previous President of the Board of Trade introduced a Coal Bill, which was changed over the week-end and brought back to this House as an entirely new Bill—under pressure from the Mining Association. I would recall to his mind that occasion in 1936 when the Government were beaten, under pressure from the Mining Association. The Bill has not reappeared until this Session. I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman has given way, but I cannot understand, and neither can my hon. Friends, why the Government cannot make up their mind what kind of Bill they want. They have had plenty of time. They have had 18 months. Now, after the Second Reading and on the very edge of the day when the matter is to be discussed, the Mining Association come out in public.
§ Mr. Greenwood
We have made our position clear from the start, but the Government have had innumerable opportunities to discuss the matter with the Mining Association, the local authorities and the Mineworkers' Federation as to how the machinery of amalgamation would operate and could best be worked. The Bill has been before the House for weeks, but within the last few days the Mining Association have come out into the open, and the right hon. Gentleman has quailed before their opposition. When I heard hon. Members on the opposite benches get up this afternoon and support the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend I saw 500 the whole of the conspiracy. I knew that we would be driven back to this Private Bill procedure. This was to be the answer, that the case of the local authorities, the miners and other interests could then be heard.
What is now to be the procedure? Nothing is to be in this Statute which orders anybody to protect the local authorities or the miners. There is to be a Select Committee; indeed, as a further concession to the mineowners, the right hon. Gentleman offers a Joint Select Committee with the House of Lords, where the local authorities and the miners are, of course, always very well represented. What is to be the position there? There will be wangling which may go on for almost an indefinite time, and the expenditure of a very considerable sum of money which the mineowners will provide, because they will be fighting for their own interests.
§ Mr. Greenwood
The hon. Gentleman had better leave the fight for the miners to people on this side of the Committee.
§ Mr. Wragg
I would say, with all due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, that I probably represent as many miners as he, and that when I speak in this House it is not for one class but for my constituents. All I have to say is that these amalgamation proposals affect the miners even more than they affect the mine-owners. The right hon. Gentleman knows that is so, and it is special pleading at the present time for him to put forward that only the Mining Association want this. Everybody knows, and I have quotations here to show it, that the miners' trade unions and others are dead against amalgamation and want some amendment of the Bill.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I do not quite see the relevance of those remarks to what I was saying. I can claim to represent miners in my constituency, and the hon. Gentleman probably misrepresents his. We are not against amalgamation on this side; to-morrow we shall move for a much greater amalgamation of the industry.
§ Mr. Greenwood
That is the hon. Gentleman's opinion. These amalgamations ought not to be carried out without 501 regard to the interests of the local authorities who have put money into the areas, and to the interests of the miners. The right hon. Gentleman has tried to trick us to-night. He has made a concession to the Mining Association. The hon. Member asks leave to withdraw his Amendment, after the undertaking which has been given by the President of the Board of Trade, and the family circle will undoubtedly be quite happy again in the future. What is being offered now is something quite illusory. If Parliament will not make up its mind to determine the criterion upon which amalgamations are to be carried out, what reason have we for supposing that after the lengthy proceedings of a Joint Select Committee of both Houses, justice will be done to the local authorities or to the miners? It is fantastic. The right hon. Gentleman has capitulated to the mineowners. That is true. This concession is not one of ours. If the right hon. Gentleman likes to persist with his Amendment we shall vote against it. When the right hon. Gentleman's concession comes before the House we shall vote against it.
§ Sir G. Ellis
The proposal for a preliminary inquiry was put into the Amendment before the Debate had taken place in this House. All we were concerned with was that there should be an opportunity somewhere for local interests to be represented. I understand that steps are now to be taken to ensure that local authorities shall be represented before the question comes up in Parliament and that an opportunity will be given to them to make representations.
§ Mr. Stanley
I have said that I think there should be only one stage of representation and that is the Select Committee.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
May I get that clear? Does that mean that the Select Committee will be set up after this scheme is put on the Table?
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Macdonald
I want to express on behalf of the Mineworkers' Federation our disgust at the way in which the Bill has been passed through this House. I called attention previously to the dumbness of the mineowners during the Second 502 Reading, and said that it was ominously indicative of what would happen when the Bill reached the Committee stage. Consultations on this very issue of amalgamation took place between the Government and the Mining Association before the Bill was framed. Consultation also took place with the Mineworkers' Federation. I do not suggest that this was compromise legislation, but both sides were consulted. We took it from the President's own speech that the Government were going to stand by their proposals. They had given serious consideration to the matter and this was their final decision. I warned them on the Second Reading that the coalowners in this House and in the other place would attempt to alter the legislation, not in the interests of the coal industry as a whole but in the interests of the coal-owners.
This is an attempt to safeguard, not the interests of the coal industry, but the interests of the coalowners. I do not think it is fair that the President of the Board of Trade should be too ready to compromise on an issue of this character, which is a serious issue to the Miners' Federation and all its members. I agree that an inquiry is essential; our previous Amendment suggested it; but when it is suggested that it should be by a Select Committee of both Houses our suspicions are aroused at once. Whatever may be said of this House, it is more representative of the nation than the other House, whose Members are there simply as representing vested interests. I have no desire to reflect on the other House, but we very much resent overloading this Select Committee against the representation of the miners, and I hope the President of the Board of Trade will consider whether the other House ought to be brought into this inquiry at all. Surely, out of this House we can get a Select Committee which could do justice to this issue.
I am sorry that the coalowners have such a tremendous influence on the Government. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) has told the Committee what happened in 1936, when, although the Government compromised in every direction, we could not get the wishes of the miners attended to. I am interested to know that the Secretary for Mines is meeting the Miners' 503 Federation next week to discuss some of the provisions of this Bill. I would ask the President of the Board of Trade to be as ready to meet our point of view as he is to meet that of the owners. He must know that the interests of the miners are involved in this part of the Bill as much as, if not more than, those of the coal-owners. I fully appreciate the willingness of the Secretary for Mines to meet the officials of the Federation, but we expect also from him a readiness to meet their point of view in connection with this Bill equal to his readiness to meet the wishes of the mineowners.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Evans
I speak as an advocate of amalgamation, and as one who has always been prepared to face compulsory powers if necessary, but I have always felt that there should be a special inquiry. I should like to hear from the President of the Board of Trade what exactly it is that he has promised.
§ Mr. Stanley
What I have said is that the procedure will be the same as that which is now followed in laying an Order, but, instead of a negative Resolution, the Order will go to a Select Committee of the House. Just as the Resolution goes through both Houses of Parliament, so this procedure will be followed in both Houses of Parliament. Whether or not there is a Joint Select Committee will depend upon the wishes of both Houses, but there will be a Select Committee by which the proposals will be examined.
§ Mr. Evans
The constitution of a Select Committee of this House depends very largely upon the political constitution of the House. I should like also to ask whether the Select Committee will be able to call for evidence, and whether the people interested in a proposed amalgamation, whether owners, mineworkers or consumers, will have the opportunity of appearing before the Select Committee with evidence and, if necessary, by counsel. Will the Select Committee be such that it can be depended upon to be a fair and impartial tribunal? Is it not the case that the majority of the Select Committee will be composed of members nominated by the Government?
§ Mr. Stanley
Clearly it will be a Committee before which the interests affected can appear and be heard, and, as I said before in answer to a question, they will be able to appear by counsel if they so desire. With regard to the question whether the Committee will be impartial, we have numerous instances of this kind in Committees on Private Bills and under the Sessional Order procedure. Hon. Members in all parts of the House have sat on those Committees, and I have never heard any suggestion that they carry out their work otherwise than in a judicial spirit, quite apart from their party views.
Mr. J. J. Davidson
Will the President of the Board of Trade have the power to impose a time limit on this Select Committee in discussing any particular case?
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Mainwaring
An Amendment which was particularly pressed this evening was that in which an effort was made to secure safeguards for social interests in general, and I am beginning to wonder whether the Committee is not being led away from that issue to an attitude of complete satisfaction with what is now being proposed by the coalowners. The assumption here is that the procedure which has been outlined, and which the President of the Board of Trade, with reservations, seems ready to accept, is going to deal with amalgamation proposals generally in this country; and there also seems to be an assumption that coalowners as such are opposed to amalgamations, and particularly to compulsory amalgamations. On both of these points there is something to be said.
From the experience I have gained in my own district, I should say that compulsory amalgamation on the lines outlined in the Bill will be exceedingly rare in this country. I live in an area which has been amalgamated, and where most of the amalgamations took place compulsorily—not, it is true, by legal procedure of this kind, but as a result of bankruptcy, which is just as compulsory as this procedure can ever be. Let me enumerate some of the undertakings in the Rhondda Valley that are now included in the chief signatory in opposition to these proposals of the Government, the great Powell Duffryn Association. One might presume, from the appearance of their signature on the literature that has 505 been sent to Members of the House, that they are most bitterly opposed to amalgamation, but in my own area the Albion Colliery Company, the Great Western Group, including Maritime, the Lewis Merthyr Group, and the great Cambrian Combine, have all gone into what is now the Powell Duffryn Association, and in our area there is hardly anything left for further amalgamation procedure. But the assumption here to-night is that the amalgamation in this coalfield is going to be by the procedure laid down in the Bill, and that, in some miraculous way, social interests are also going to be safeguarded. My submission is that they are not, under this procedure.
The measure of safeguarding that is even hinted at by the President of the Board of Trade under this procedure will be limited to amalgamations compulsorily brought about by legislation. The hundreds of others will have no defence whatever. All the social interests will be sacrificed, and the miners, too, will be sacrificed in a way not recognised here. I do not know where this Committee is being led if it is going to assume for one moment that this procedure offers any kind of safeguard in general for the social interests involved in the mining industry. One hon. Member on the other side was anxious to find out just now whether the miners were supporting this. I have no hesitation in saying, as a miner from South Wales, that by far the greater amount of distress and ruin involved in the mining industry is left out of the procedure suggested here.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member cannot discuss that on this Amendment. Mention has already been made of an Amendment on the Order Paper to deal with amalgamations carried out otherwise than under this legislation.
§ Mr. Mainwaring
The only submission I would make on that is that we have no opportunity to put forward any suggestion we might make for safeguarding more fully people who are affected by amalgamations brought about in other ways. The Government are only seeking to perpetuate the system whereby the big sharks may swallow up small fish, as they have been doing in the mining industry for a number of years past.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.506
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
I beg to move, in page 37, line 29, to leave out "may," and to insert "shall."
After the Debate we have had to-night and the evident confusion that has arisen, it seems to me that this is an Amendment which would clarify at least what we expect the conduct of the Commission to be. If the virtues of amalgamation are such as we have heard, and the dangers such as have been portrayed by the spokesmen of the coalowners, it seems that, instead of this permissive word, the word "shall" should be used, so that the Commission shall have no doubt as to what they are expected to do.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Captain Crookshank
I am not quite clear whether the two Amendments in the name of the same hon. Members are meant to be read together, or whether they are separate Amendments, because the first is to leave out "may," and put in "shall" and the second is to leave out "cannot otherwise be," and to insert, "is not being."
§ Captain Crookshank
I think it is a very difficult thing to envisage that we should make this absolutely mandatory, when all this afternoon and evening the whole feeling of the House has been that there should be an opportunity for reconsidering certain aspects of the problem and my right hon. Friend has said that he will consider machinery for that. Therefore, it would be, to a certain extent, stultifying this to say that the word "shall" should apply in all cases. Therefore, I ask the Committee to reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. Taylor
On thinking it over, I agree that the full sense is provided in the two Amendments taken together.
§ Captain Crookshank
If the hon. Gentleman wants the two taken together, I still think it would be wrong to make it mandatory in all cases that the Commission should do this, but I am prepared to meet him half way. If he would leave in "may," I would be prepared to accept the second Amendment, and insert "is not being."
§ Amendment negatived.507
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Taylor
I beg to move, in page 37, line 31, to leave out "cannot otherwise be," and to insert "is not being."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ The Chairman
Mr. Ernest Evans, Sir Hugh Seely, Mr. Owen Evans. I have had handed in a manuscript Amendment in the names of the three hon. Members I have called. I do not know whether it is intended that it shall be moved.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
The right hon. Gentleman has suggested a Select Committee to examine these schemes. Previously the Clause, as it stood, offered no protection to people whose interests were going to be affected. There was nobody to whom they could appeal if they thought that a compulsory amalgamation order might seriously affect their interests. But, speaking for myself, I am astounded that all opposition has been withdrawn because the Minister has met that particular point. I am opposed to compulsory amalgamation, whether it be in respect of coal or anything else, and the principle still remains in the Bill. I am not concerned particularly about the Bill, but I am concerned about the tremendous precedent it creates.
There is no reason why, in the future, a Minister of any political complexion occupying a place at that Box should not come along and introduce this principle for every industry in this country, whatever protection might be afforded by the suggestion of the President of the Board of Trade. This House accepted the principle in 1930, and once again it is being asked to subscribe to the principle of amalgamation. I have been a Member of a Select Committee, and I do not criticise the way a Select Committee carries on its business. It is very effective, and I am certain that due regard is paid to the people who appear before it. Yet in regard to the man who is an economic and profit-producing unit, whatever he may say, if the Committee is satisfied that some compulsory amalgamation is necessary, it has the power to make him join in an amalgamation scheme provided it passes this House. The man who is an economic unit and 508 who, through his initiative and enterprise, can run his own business without desiring amalgamation of any sort, will, under the terms of this Bill, be bound to come into that amalgamation if the report is against him. Looking through this Bill there is nothing to say what he will get for his particular unit. He has to take shares in an amalgamation. There is no provision that he shall be paid out in cash.
As one who believes in private enterprise, I do not want it to be thought that no voice was raised in opposition to compulsory amalgamation. I do not want to bore the Committee with figures, for we have all had a tremendous number of documents sent to us, but I can see no need for this particular Clause for compulsory amalgamation. We have voluntary amalgamations, their number growing year after year. I believe that 77 per cent. of the output is produced by 129 undertakers. Voluntary amalgamation has been going on the whole of the time, and I submit that there is no need whatever for Clause 40. I have listened to speeches from all sides of the Committee, and to Members on this side who have given from their own experience the result of what voluntary amalgamation has meant in this particular industry. I cannot conceive why hon. Members above the Gangway should accept a Bill in favour of the principle of compulsory amalgamation. I know of no amalgamation in this country that has been successful unless it enjoyed a monopoly. Our experience in the textile trade is that the firm which has succeeded in carrying on has been the firm that could control its own units. I heard the present Lord Baldwin, standing at that Box some years ago, speak against this very question of amalgamation. He showed how amalgamations had failed to function. They were too big; there was not the personal touch in the control of them. I do not know of any amalgamation that has succeeded unless it has reached the point where it really can have a monopoly so far as price and everything else are concerned.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
I am certain that the hon. Member did not quite hear me when I said that I spoke for myself on this question. Had I been here in 1930 I 509 should have voted against it, as everyone would agree, knowing my political attitude on this question. I cannot see where any good can arise out of this Clause at all, because if you make a thing bigger you do not necessarily make it more successful. I do not think that it can be proved or contended by any person in this House that, because you get a bigger unit, it is either more satisfactory from the point of view of the employer or the employed. I refuse quietly to acquiesce in the acceptance of the principle of compulsory amalgamation. I am told that it is a voice crying in the wilderness, or, as an hon. Member here said, a voice from the dead or something. I believe that even Members opposite, who are calmly acquiescing in things with which they entirely disagree, would, if they were allowed a free vote on this Clause, divide in the Lobby against the Clause. Nine-tenths of the Members opposite disagree with the principle of compulsory amalgamation. I do not think there is the slightest doubt about that. It is simply loyalty to the Government which makes them accept it. I believe the time is coming when there will be a really effective opposition to the growth of this kind of thing.
This type of legislation is growing day by day, and, if we are not very careful, the time will soon come when there will be no need for a Socialist Government to destroy private enterprise. The very protagonists of that kind of capitalism will destroy it themselves. Day by day we are simply giving to the people here their own particular thing. All the preparatory work is being done on the Front Bench opposite. Why hon. Members above the Gangway are disturbed about general elections and getting into power I do not know. In two or three years the Government have done more, as far as compulsory amalgamations and Socialism are concerned. than these people would have done in 20 or 30 years. I would like to see somebody on that side of the Committee with sufficient courage to get up and say what he believees.
The hon. Gentleman the Minister of Pensions has just come into the Chamber. I read his speech on the 1930 Bill about compulsory amalgamation, and I wonder whether he has been to the Library to remind himself of speech after speech at that time in this House. There were the Prime Minister, the right hon. 510 Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air, Lord Runciman, men of that type, protesting against the principle which we are so calmly accepting in this Committee at this moment. I should have liked to have heard the reasons why the Minister of Pensions has changed his view. It was a very opportune moment for him to come into the Chamber. It is astonishing what has happened during the last six years. It used to be said that the old Conservative did not mind what was done or who did it. He did not object on principle, but he objected to the other fellow doing it. If there is a Division on this particular Clause, it will give me great pleasure to go into the Lobby and vote against the principle of compulsory amalgamation.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Batey
I shall oppose the Clause, and I hope the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Holdsworth) will go into the Lobby with me, though perhaps for a different reason, and vote against it. During the time I have been in the House I have never witnessed such a spectacle as I have seen to-day. The first time the coalowners begin to throw pieces of coal at the Government the Government run away and give them all they ask. I am opposing the Clause because of the difference in the treatment by the Government of the coalowners and the miners. We pleaded earlier in the day for some protection for the miners, but every time the right hon. Gentleman spoke he made the position worse, until we were forced to the conclusion that so far as the miners were concerned they can expect no consideration whatever from the Government. On the next Amendment the Government were only too anxious to meet the coalowners' representations, and pacified them by giving them a Select Committee. What use will a Select Committee be to the miners? When an Order comes before the Select Committee the coalowners will be represented by counsel, and it will simply be a debate on the financial questions. Where will the miners stand in that case?
Before the Commission makes an Order we want the miners' case to be considered, and the only place where their case can be urged is in the district where they live. We do not want amalgamations which will close our small collieries. Some of us come from districts where there are many small collieries, and to allow these 511 amalgamations to go on without any protection for men in these small collieries will simply mean that the pits will be closed down and the production centred in the big collieries. There is in my own district a colliery which has just been reopened after being closed for six or seven years. It is employing 600 men. If hon. Members could go to that village and see the difference that even this small colliery makes in the district I am certain there is not one who would vote for this Bill unless it contained some protection for our small collieries. Before any colliery is closed, whether under compulsory or voluntary amalgamation, there should be a public inquiry as to why the owners want to close it.
The owners sink a pit and bring into the village perhaps a few hundreds or a thousand men, women and children, who depend on that pit for their living. If it is closed without any reason these men and women and children have to face starvation. I know it will be said that there is no need for them to starve, that there is unemployment benefit. Under the voluntary amalgamations which have taken place and which have led to the closing of collieries, the men are getting unemployment benefit, but it is under the means test. The only thing for these men is the means test, and if they are not able to work they are thrown on the public assistance committee. That is what has happened in many of our mining villages, and we feel very strongly that the Clause should not pass unless there is some protection for men in these small collieries.
The Government to-day have shown, disgracefully, how quickly they are prepared to climb down when the coal-owners ask them and how they are still prepared to refuse to do anything so far as the miners are concerned. On the Second Reading of the Bill we said that it would mean nothing to the miners. After to-day we are bound to repeat that statement again and again on every platform in the country. The Government have no regard for the miners. The only people for whom they have any regard are the coalowners. Until the Government are prepared to give some safeguard to the miners and some protection to small collieries, so that people will not be thrown on the means test and the public assistance committee, we are 512 entitled to oppose the Clause and to vote against it.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Seely
There seems to be an idea that compulsory amalgamation is almost a new thing and that we are entitled to do battle against it, whether we believe in compulsory amalgamation or not. But the 1930 Act and the Reorganisation Commission have been sitting now for some seven years and Sir Ernest Gower, the Chairman, has been paid a sum of £7,000 a year for carrying out or attempting to carry out compulsory amalgamation. Unless hon. Members opposite believe in compulsory amalgamation they have no right to continue Sir Ernest Gower in office. It seems to me that the propaganda we have had in regard to compulsory amalgamation in the coal trade is entirely wrong, and really does not carry very much weight. I am certainly in favour of amalgamation, and I believe that it has got to come. I believe that those amalgamations which have taken place—I am not speaking of anthracite in South Wales—will prove beneficial, but they are not going to be of any use unless you have power to make them compulsory. Cases where those at the top come together for financial reasons are the only ones where you will get amalgamation unless you have compulsion. There was one case in which we started amalgamation but it fell down when it was found that compulsion could not be put through. It would have been an advantage if it had gone through. Unless you have real powers of compulsion you will not get people to consider amalgamation from the point of view that it is to the advantage of the industry. The idea that this conception is to be an advantage to the owners is not going to happen, because an amalgamation will be a success only if it is one not based entirely on financial reasons. We must face the fact that amalgamation means unemployment, and that ought to be in everyone's mind, because there is where you get the difficulties and the troubles and where you will not get economic success, which is happiness and betterment for the whole industry, which I hope will come.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Bevan
I believe there is now general agreement in all parts of the Committee that more efficient administration will not necessarily follow from 513 having larger units than exist at present. Many companies have reached a size which is entirely incompatible with efficiency of administration, and the centre of authority is so very far removed from the point of operation that very considerable laxity has arisen. There are large combinations which are at present in process of de-centralising their administration because it has been found that the optimum financial unit is not necessarily the optimum unit of administration. That is probably true in mining as in almost every other industrial enterprise. I should be surprised to find anyone advancing the claim that there ought to be amalgamation in the mining industry because it will bring greater industrial efficiency. I think the argument is somewhat more fundamental than that and, in order to appreciate what it is, it is necessary to have a short resume of the history of this legislation. Everyone in the industry has started off since the War upon a comparison between productive capacity and the market for coal. We achieved towards the end of the War a productive capacity which was in excess by 50,000,000 or 60,000,000 tons a year of the coal market. This excess productive capacity hung upon the market and favoured the buyer as against the seller for something like 15 or 20 years. As a consequence, the price was unremunerative, many owners were ruined and they felt obliged to make a series of attacks upon the miners' standard of life in order to bring down the cost of production to meet the decline in price which was the expression of that excess productive capacity. All our economic consideration has, therefore, been devoted to trying to bring about some relationship between the available market for coal and the productive capacity of the industry.
For many years the owners tried to do it themselves by attrition. As a consequence of the fall in the price of coal, they drove company after company to the wall and swallowed them up. As was pointed out on a previous Amendment, that form of attrition found its expression in the establishment of the Amalgamated Anthracite Company in South Wales. Very large numbers of companies were unable to stand the high cost of production or to introduce more efficient methods for want of capital. Very often the larger units of operation did not introduce more efficient methods because 514 they were more concerned with the Stock Exchange. Under this economic attrition very large numbers of colliery companies were swallowed up. Slowly the productive capacity of the country was approximating nearer and nearer to the market for coal. Nevertheless, large numbers of colliery companies were still able to offer stubborn resistance to being swallowed up, and in that resistance the joint stock banks of the country took a very great part. These joint stock banks had advanced large sums of money to the colliery companies. I know of an instance where an advance of over £1,000,000 was made to colliery companies at exorbitant rates of interest. In that way the colliery companies were kept alive, and the joint stock banks remained in control and resisted amalgamation in the hope of salvaging their commitments. The joint stock banks, having very little industrial experience to guide them, were for many years responsible for the resistance of many colliery companies to amalgamation.
As a result of a serious situation in which about 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 tons of coal per annum were ready to come on to the market in excess of what it could take, it was impossible for the colliery industry to recruit new finance, and it was impossible for the technical and logical reorganisation to take place. At the same time, the country was plunged into a series of stoppages in which the miners were made the scapegoats of the situation. The General Strike in 1926 was a classic expression of that struggle. In 1930, the Government decided that there could not be brought about a contraction of British coal production merely by a war of economic attrition, and that some State interference was necessary. The first thing which the Government did in 1930 was to introduce legislation which arrested competition in coal prices; in other words, they said that instead of the market being distributed as a result of competition, there must be minimum prices for coal. Of course, after having fixed minimum prices and having arrested the ordinary laws of supply and demand in the distribution of the coal market among operators, they had to take some further action. When the ordinary laws of supply and demand operate, the coal market is naturally enjoyed by those persons who can offer coal at prices favourable to the seller. Once 515 minimum prices were decided upon, new methods of distributing the market for coal had to be devised, and a quota was invented to meet the situation.
I apologise to the Committee for sketching that background, but it is essential to bear it in mind if we are to understand the present position. Having destroyed the ordinary methods of attrition, the Government had to adopt the principle of compulsory amalgamation. If competition had wiped out all the redundant units in the mining industry so that the production capacity approximated to the coal market, compulsory amalgamation would not have been necessary; but having conferred upon the mine-owners minimum coal prices, the Government had to proceed logically to the next step, which was to force a contraction in production capacity, for unless that was done, the minimum prices would be used as a means behind which mine-owners could protect themselves against contracting their productive capacity.
Therefore, we are faced with a proposal by which the Government propose to wipe out between 20,000,000 and 30,000,000 tons of coal per annum production capacity in the mining industry. I admit that this proposal for compulsory amalgamation is, within the limits of private enterprise, a logical corollary of having established minimum prices for coal and coal quotas, for unless there is compulsory amalgamation, the surplus productive capacity will have to be maintained in the mining industry without making any economic contribution to the nation. Our objection to this proposal is a fundamental one. We claim that the proposal starts from the assumption that there are coal mines in Great Britain in excess of the needs of the country; in other words, it begins from the assumption of scarcity economics.
Large numbers of people are denied the right to consume coal, as can be seen in London any winter. In London, the cost of coal is 2s. 9d. and 3s. a cwt.; people have to buy it by the cwt., not only because they cannot afford to buy it by the ton, but probably because they have no room for storing more. The price of coal is fixed at a level which denies its consumption to hundreds of thousands of people. The same is true industrially. If the Minister is disposed 516 to reply to me, he may answer by saying that domestic coal occupies only 20 per cent. of the available coal market. But the same is true in the case of industrial coal; the price at which it is sold denies its consumption to very large numbers of people who would use more if the price were lower.
I see that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is smiling, and I suspect the reason for it. From time to time hon. Members on this side have supported selling schemes which artificially fixed the price of coal. We are the victims of that kind of economic anarchy as much as the country as a whole. It is true that as long as the price of coal is reduced by reducing the wages of the miners, one merely decreases the market for coal, because if you reduce the price of the product by reducing the wages of those who produce it, all you do is to contract the consumption of that product ultimately by increasing the cost of production further on. Consequently, no way out is to be found by continually reducing the miners' wages. We object to the assumption that there is no market for coal in Great Britain in excess of from 220,000,000 to 240,000,000 tons per annum. We object to this compulsory amalgamation, which destroys the productive capacity of the country, and simply takes the existing low standards of consumption as a basis upon which to proceed and then contracts the productive capacity of the country on that low level. We think the price policy of the Government is altogether wrong.
I see that the hon. and gallant Gentleman looks surprised. I am not trying to express it academically, but if a reduction in the price of a product were achieved by lowering the level of wages of those who produced it, you would have achieved nothing but a contraction of the market. If you lowered the price of coal in Great Britain by lowering the wages of the miners, you might temporarily increase the consumption of coal, but the ultimate effect would be to reduce the market for all commodities, and ultimately you would meet yourself coming back. If you reduced the price of coal by economies in the costs of production other than wages, then you would bring about a reduction in the price of all commodities, and the fact that the miners' wages would then be more valuable would provide a market for the increased cnosumption of other commodities. But nothing, I suppose, is 517 accepted more definitely than the idea that there are any economic advantages to be obtained by reducing the price of a product by reducing the wages of those who produce that product. So that when I argue for a different price policy in the mining industry which would result in the consumption of larger quantities of coal, I am not arguing for a reduction in miners' wages.
What the Government are doing by compulsory amalgamation is that they are regarding the coal market as a fixed thing and reducing the productive capacity of the industry accordingly, whereas I—and here I believe I express the views of a number of my hon. Friends—believe that the Government's attention ought to be directed to a different aspect of the matter altogether. It ought to be directed to the question, How is it possible to achieve a larger consumption of coal in Great Britain so as to give greater employment to our people and at the same time preserve and raise the standard of the coal miners? They are not doing that at all. There are various directions in which it could be accomplished. Suggestions have been made from this side over and over again as to ways in which it would be possible to increase the consumption of coal in this country. I oppose this proposal because it is a defeatist proposal, because it assumes that we have achieved our maximum consumption of coal, because it tries to stabilise poverty, and because it makes no provision at all for the expansion of the coal industry of Great Britain in accordance with raising the standards of livelihood of the population as a whole.
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Salter
The essential question before us is whether the general procedure for securing compulsory amalgamation is on the whole a reasonable and fair one, giving sufficient safeguards on the one hand and at the same time sufficient opportunities for compulsory amalgamation to go through in cases where it is wanted. I want to say at once that, even apart from the additional procedure which the right hon. Gentleman indicated this afternoon he intended to introduce on the Report stage, I believe that with the procedure as it stands now in the Bill, the safeguards for the interests of a resistant minority are at least adequate, and I do not believe that compulsory amalgamation will really 518 be a workable thing. I have no particular association with the coal industry and no special knowledge of it. I am a layman, and I have no views as to what are the conditions in which amalgamation is or is not desirable. As a layman, I take the evidence before me, and I say that in a whole series of Commissions from 1926 onwards the evidence is overwhelming that there is a considerable number of cases in which amalgamation is imperative but cannot be obtained without compulsion.
Taking that view, I ask whether this scheme is likely to secure that in those cases amalgamation will be effected, and in asking that question I naturally must have regard to the general history of this problem. Assuming that there is a certain number of cases in which there should be starters for this difficult course towards ultimate compulsory amalgamation, I would like to ask, under the Bill as it stands, even without the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, what sort of chance there is of the schemes that should be put through really getting through. The Bill itself very carefully defines that it is only in areas where there is an excessive number that they may start the procedure of undertaking. Therefore, some are disqualified before the starting post. But again, I do not see any reason to think the Coal Commission, composed as it is to be composed, will have any undue bias towards unnecessary amalgamation. On the contrary, that Commission, starting out to do its duty as instructed under the Bill, will, if it has a bias at all, necessarily be inclined not to take on the unnecessarily difficult marginal cases. I think it is very unlikely that anything more than 50 per cent. of the cases that should start, will ever get as far as the starting post.
Supposing they do get there, what happens next? The Commission puts a certain number of cases forward, and they then go before the Board of Trade. Again, what possible reason is there to think that the Board of Trade will be disinclined to consider adequately the real, legitimate objections of a resistant minority to any particular amalgamation? Surely the whole policy and tradition of the Board is in the other direction. The Board of Trade has formed its traditions in laisser faire times. It has been pushed out of those traditions in 519 one respect, in respect of giving assistance to industry, whether by tariffs, by selling schemes, or by subsidies, but it has not by any means readjusted the whole of its outlook to the extent of being actually biased in favour of pushing or passing schemes that are designed to give the State powers to protect the public. That, I think, is a modest understatement of the position. If Members want to know the general outlook of the Board of Trade in this respect, I suggest that they should refer to the Memorandum put in to the Royal Commission in regard to the location of industry. The philosophy and outlook of the Department are made perfectly clear there. It is, therefore, highly unlikely that anything like a large percentage even of the starters will get over this first fence.
But that is not all. Supposing the Board of Trade does make an Order, then the scheme has to come to this House. Even apart from the changes that have to be made, while I agree that in the ordinary way the procedure does not give a very great opportunity for resisting Orders. I think it depends largely on the character of the Order, and I think that in this House, where mining interests have such good opportunities of making their wishes respected, even in the Bill as it stands that stage would be likely to be a substantial obstacle to such small remnants of the original starting field as had got as far as that. But let us imagine that they get over this fence too. They have then the Railway and Canal Commission. I do not wish to suggest any criticism of that body, but I am impressed by the fact that after the failure of the Reorganisation Commission to get anything through, when a real attempt was made in 1936 to amend the procedure so as to give a reasonable chance to the Reorganisation Commission, apparently the most prominent change proposed then by the Government was to omit the Railway and Canal Commission stage, though it is true that the criteria which they then had to consider have been somewhat changed.
I do not think anyone can look at the history of this question without realising that at this stage again there is another very important safeguard, if you like, or obstacle, if you like. I would refer to one among a number of the conditions which 520 have to be considered even at this last stage by the Railway and Canal Commission. They are definitely instructed to see that a scheme is calculated to avoid financial injury to any of the constituent companies. That is a pretty stiff condition to satisfy, and incidentally it is instructive to compare it with the subject matter of the first Amendment discussed to-day. When one considers that, in regard to the smallest resistant minority, after all the preceding safeguards and precautions, the Railway and Canal Commission has to see that the scheme will avoid any financial injury to that resistant minority—against which there is a certain presumption from the fact that a scheme has gone through against them up to that stage—and when one compares that with the complete absence of any provision in the case of financial injury to the people employed in the industry, it is a rather striking comparison.
To see these difficulties in proper perspective one has to consider the procedure in relation to the structure of the Bill as a whole. We are not now dealing with State control over private property which otherwise would be operating under the conditions of the nineteenth century. Compulsory amalgamation is the counterpart of the very valuable State powers given to the industry in relation to selling. We see that these principles have been regarded as complementary and interdependent—that when, on the one hand, the State gives special power to enable industry to get higher prices, then as the only really adequate counterpart it attempts to secure that in cases where waste and inefficiency are very great there should be some power to remove that waste and ineffiency.
§ Sir A. Salter
That, of course, would bring one into a discussion on the whole structure of the Bill. I am not now countering the suggestion made in the earlier Amendment that other things should be taken into account besides the property interest. I am only saying that if you are looking at this purely as a property interest, the safeguards are certainly adequate and the procedure is such as will clearly involve a great deal of delay.
§ Sir A. Salter
That may or may not be so, but that consideration would take us into a rather long economic argument which is not relevant to my main argument now, which is that, without any further addition to the procedure which has been devised to secure that the interests of the minority are taken into account, there is already, taking the scheme as a whole, at least adequate protection for those interests. One should remember that we attempted to get compulsory amalgamation as far back as 1926. In 1930 there was provision for selling schemes with the Reorganisation Commission which was intended to secure amalgamation, but owing to the changes made in the Measure of that time, the procedure did not work. We know what happened afterwards. We had successive reports in 1933 and 1936 of the Reorganisation Commission and even in the few cases in which the position was pushed far ahead, they got no results. Even when they had, of 60 concerns affected, 56 in favour and only four opposed to a scheme, even there, amalgamation could not go through.
That was the situation with which the Government recognised they had to deal when they introduced the Bill of 1936. I think it was an honest Bill, and I was prepared to accept it as a scheme to effect their purpose, but in a few days pressure had been brought to bear on the Government and they ran away. Now, after more than a year's delay, we have a new Bill repeating the concessions which were then promised under that pressure and with further concessions, because whereas it was promised then that it should not begin to operate until the middle of 1938, now the date is transferred to 1940 and there are other changes as well. To-day we have, even beyond that, further concessions with no indication of any counterpoise or make-weight on the other side.
I suggest that that is a very disquieting history. Suppose that I am wrong in thinking that these obstacles are as serious as I have indicated. Even then, it will be 14 years after compulsory amalgamation was first attempted and 10 years after 522 selling schemes were put into operation, and 10 years after the Reorganisation Commission was established to encourage amalgamation and a year and a half later even than the date suggested in the concession promised in 1930, before anything at all can be done. I am concerned with this question not so much from the point of view of the coal industry or even of the consumers of coal. I am concerned from this point of view. In successive Acts we are, in regard to one industry or another, constructing a wholly new economic, and, indeed, political structure in this country. It will make a vital difference to the future of the system under which we are to live, and it is being gradually evolved as Measure after Measure comes before this House. I greatly fear that, as we have surrenders of this kind one after another, as one Bill after another is produced by which State powers are given to industry on the one hand and State supervision on the other, and the first becomes effective immediately and the second never becomes effective, we shall gradually build up a kind of bastard Socialism which will have none of the advantages of private enterprise and none of the advantages of true Socialism.
That, I suggest, is the real danger which confronts us to-night. In expressing this view I do not now question the judgment of the Government, either of this Government or of the Government in 1936 or of any previous Government, because they are, by the very sequence of events, self-condemned. In the 1936 Bill the Government had, of course, taken into account the legitimate interests of the coal owners. They produced their Bill which they thought was a right Bill, but at once they ran away from it and promised concessions. Then they delayed over a year and produced a Bill obviously giving more concessions than had been promised. Now, within a few hours of this discussion in the Committee stage of this Bill we have the prospect of a substantial further concession. I sincerely hope that the right hon. Gentleman, if he is going to make such a concession, will consider whether he cannot change the rest of the procedure in such a way as to make it probable that this part of the Bill will work. We are building up a new form of economic system which is neither the freely working competitive system of the past, nor on the 523 other hand a system of complete nationalisation. When we are trying to achieve a suitable combination of State assistance and State supervised private enterprise—which personally I would prefer to a general scheme of socialism—I do suggest it is essential that the principles should be so developed as to give an even balance between the different parts of the problem.
An essential requirement of the new kind of order that we are trying to build up is that any Government in office, and Parliament which supports and criticises that Government, should really be able to govern. And a Government which gives these powers and attempts to impose its supervision should really be a Government that represents the public as a whole, and is not captured successively by each industry which is the subject of the particular Bill before Parliament. I would much prefer an attempt to get a mixed system of this kind, if it can be done successfully, but if I had to choose between the kind of bastard Socialism which one sees growing up in one Bill after another—we have had a long succession of Bills in which the same principle arises—and true Socialism, I should prefer the true Socialism.
§ 10.6 p.m.
§ Sir Henry Fildes
I should like to give expression to a feeling that is general in the House, regretting that the Minister was not able to accept the Amendment on which a recent Division was taken. I remember that many years ago I accompanied the right hon. Vernon Hartshorn to South Wales, where he showed me derelict colliery after derelict colliery which had been closed down, and where the only asset upon which to realise was a big hole in the ground, and the liquidator was discussing whether it would pay to pull up the trolley lines from the bottom of the mine. My point is that if on investigation it is found that the allowance of a few pence per ton would turn a colliery which is losing money into a profitable one, a concession of that kind might very well be undertaken with advantage, rather than the closing down of the mine.
I have realised, as I am certain most hon. Members have realised, that it is not so much a matter of closing down a mine and finishing with it. In these 524 cases the whole community has been built around the mine. You have churches, chapels, shops, public houses and institutions, and the whole life of the community is threatened and crushed if that colliery goes out of business. That is why I sympathise so much with what the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) said that there should be an obligation on the Commission to consider not only the effect upon the particular colliery but the effect upon the whole community. We ought to see whether we cannot devise some scheme by spending a little money. We can fix prices now. There was no need for this coal Bill in that regard. We all know that the householders have paid a fair and equitable price for the coal they burn, and when one comes to the coal supplied to our industries we have to bear in mind that if it has been supplied at a low price, it has been of benefit to the industries. What I object to, and what the whole House must have objected to, was the spectacle in years gone by of corporations and great utility undertakings buying coal at starvation prices and making profits.
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I will not express my views on the principle of amalgamation. This must be about the thousandth time that we have discussed the mining industry in this House and the country. Sooner or later the House and the country will have to realise that there is only one real remedy, and that is to make it a purely public service. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]. If hon. Members will be in attendance to-morrow they will hear why from one of my hon. Friends. We have had a very interesting speech from the hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter), who has repeated what is so often said in this House and the country, and I should like briefly to refer to that history and give it its proper setting. The justification for the proposal for compulsory amalgamations was the Samuel Commission, which has been quoted. The Committee ought to realise the situation in which that Commission worked. Its recommendations for compulsory amalgamations were conditioned by the kind of problem we had to meet at that time and by the urgency of the problem. The 525 Commission was set up in 1929 in order to avoid a conflict. The Government of that day, which was of a political colour very much like the colour of the present Government, was faced with an impending dispute in the mining industry, and the Government secured a postponement of the stoppage in 1925 by two means (1) by handing out a subsidy to the owners, which eventually reached the colossal sum of £25,000,000, and (2) by the appointment of the Commission.
That Commission, as every Commission has had to do, had to face the problem which has been explained in a very interesting speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), namely, that there was a surplus productive capacity in the industry as compared with the demand. The coalowners from those days have pursued a policy for which the industry and the country have had to pay a terrible price. A great deal of nonsense has been written and said about the heavy price that has had to be paid for the policy of the Miners' Federation. The industry and the country has certainly had to pay a big price for the policy of the Mining Association. In 1919, after having been taken by the Government for four years and given an artificial life, the industry was, almost without warning, thrown on its own resources and had to seek to adjust itself. There was a wage conflict. The miners had to give very substantial concessions. Those concessions were all whittled away in reduced prices and that has been the history from 1921 to 1930.
It is a history of attempts to set this industry on its feet by price cutting, each cut resolving itself into an attack on the miners' standards. It is in that atmosphere that all these Commissions sat. Eventually they recommended amalgamation. All they had in mind was to try and find some way by which productive capacity and the demand for coal could be met in order to avoid these controversies in the industry. In these urgent circumstances they recommended compulsory amalgamation. The one Commission which gave consideration to the conduct of the industry was that of 1919, which said that what the hon. Member for Oxford University described as the bastard Socialism of the present system stood condemned. This Bill is the present system. It is private ownership, it is financial ownership, and that is the kind 526 of ownership that was condemned by the only Commission which went thoroughly into the control of the industry.
There is no justification for invoking the names of those Commissions, because they were faced with the problem of finding an immediate solution, not for the best organisation for the industry, but for the wages problem in order to push forward the crisis for a year or two. There is another way of dealing with this problem which we shall eventually have to reach unless we are prepared to see the industry become a contracting industry. A serious contraction is already taking place, not merely by the closing of uneconomic pits, but by the enormous effects of mechanisation. In 1937 we reached, for the first time for eight years, a productive level of 5,000,000 tons per week. In 1929 the production per week was about 5,000,000 tons. After 1929 it fell, and in 1937 it again reached that figure, but with this difference. In 1929 the miners were working eight hours a day in the pits. In 1937 they were working 7½ hours, and yet they were producing 5,000,000 tons of coal with 176,000 fewer men employed. In eight years mechanisation has destroyed a coalfield equal to the size of Yorkshire. If we are to equate the demand and supply in an industry like this it is time we considered some other steps. This Government will not do so.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I would only say in parting with this Clause that we are holding out to the country a false hope in saying that this is a way out of the difficulty. It is not, and we shall have to come back once again to the proposals of the Sankey Commission and the Miners' Federation before we solve the difficulties in this industry.
§ 10.18 p.m.
Mr. David Adams
Coming from a mining area, I should feel it a dereliction of duty if I did not make one or two observations before we part with this Clause. This is an age in which there is a new outlook on social responsibilities, an outlook in which the whole community is agreed to admit the rights of the individual to protection in certain cases. An occasion when we are discussing amalgamation, which will dispossess labour 527 of its means of livelihood, affords an opportunity to this House, which is supposed to be the grand protector of large sections of the community, of doing justice. I am not one of those who believe that amalgamations are necessarily bad. It may be possible to have amalgamations, either voluntary or compulsory, which would be to the general interest of the entire community, provided adequate safeguards are supplied by Parliament, but if local authorities who will be affected by amalgamations are to suffer without redress such amalgamations ought to be condemned by all right-thinking persons.
The local authority has come into being as a result of the presence of the collieries. It supplements in many respects the colliery undertakings. A very considerable amount of public expenditure is entailed in the making of roads, and so forth, as a result of the presence of the colliery undertakings in its area. The community concerned are entitled to ask that their financial and other rights, which existed during the successful operation of the pit or pits, should be adequately considered and set on the other side of the account. In addressing my constituents upon this Bill I endeavoured to discover in it some crumbs of comfort, so as to be able to show that there would be some improvement in the conditions of the workers. I was quite unable to do so. Not only are the miners to have no statutory protection against being scrapped and left, in many cases, derelict for life, but the compulsory amalgamation will leave them without the opportunity of getting alternative employment.
The principle of compensation to a workman is not unknown. When the electric grid was established, and the large works were set up at Dunston-on-Tyne under the auspices of the Central Electricity Board, the engineers who were employed in the lesser undertakings which came to an end as a result of the operation of the grid were compensated for that loss of employment. The Amalgamated Engineering Union negotiated with the respective undertakings, which admitted the right of their servants to compensation on losing employment, and I have no doubt—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
There are one or two new Clauses dealing with compensation 528 which I hope to call, but if hon. Members raise that question in detail now I shall be unable to select them.
The point I was making was that in the North of England, at all events, they admitted the right of workmen to be compensated, and when the grid was established substantial sums were paid to members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
That is precisely the point of the new Clauses on the Paper, and I think it would be better to raise that point when we take them, but if the hon. Member discusses it now I may find myself unable to select those Clauses.
I will leave that point, having made it. All I desire to add, which has been so very well and fully expressed on both sides of the House, is that unless the Government, at some other stage of the Bill, make provision for the protection of the local authorities and the miners, we shall have perpetrated a great injustice upon both. The President of the Board of Trade has given us a definite assurance that that protection will be accorded. We hope that the good sense of the House, in a new age which has a deeper sense of responsibility towards the community than that through which we have previously passed, will meet this responsibility by placing upon the Statute Book in this Measure the protective Clauses which we suggest.
§ 10.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison
Before the discussion on this Clause terminates I desire to give the indication which is due to the Committee why the Opposition will divide against the Question, "That the Cause stand part of the Bill." It is not that the Opposition are opposed to the principle of amalgamation as such but, when amalgamation of anything of an economic or industrial character is put before us, we have a right to ask what the amalgamation is for and the conditions under which it will take place. We have a right to consider whether the amalgamation is likely to be effective for the economic well-being of the country and of the industry itself. This Clause, as it was brought before the House, contained certain safeguards whereby there could be a Parliamentary check upon schemes of amalgamation that might be proposed 529 by the Commission, and approved, with or without modification, by the Board of Trade. An Order was to be laid upon the Table of the House and if the House wished to upset it, a Prayer could be brought forward, debated and divided upon.
We thought, by means of the Amendment which we moved earlier in this discussion, that if anybody ought to be heard it was the people living in the areas concerned and likely to be affected by amalgamations that would lead to the closing down of pits. We did not propose a system of hearing which would involve an elaborate Parliamentary procedure upstairs, the appearances by counsel, expert witnesses and so on. We proposed in our Amendment that before the Commission came to a final conclusion it should have regard to the representations made to it by any local authority in the area, or by the Commissioner for the Special Areas, with regard to the interest of local government or of the people in the area and of the social capital invested there. It was a very simple request, namely, that the Commission, before coming to its conclusions, should take into account the representations received. There was no question of appearing by counsel, elaborate inquiry, expert witnesses, examination and cross-examination and perhaps months of legal procedure. It was a simple request, a simple direction to the Commission that it should take into account not merely the interests of the people whose undertakings were to be amalgamated, but the interests of the people who were more vitally concerned, the mining community, including workpeople, small tradesmen and local authorities, whose very lives and existence, and the whole future of whose villages and small towns would be affected by any decision to amalgamate resulting in the closing down of pits.
That very simple, modest, and limited request, which could not by any stretch of the imagination obstruct the reasonably speedy operation of the Clause, was rejected out of hand by the President of the Board of Trade. He got up as the apostle of Parliamentary rights, and said it had been provided that the Order should be laid on the Table of the House, when a prayer could be moved and that point of view expressed in the House itself. Our proposal that the people in the area should have a right 530 to make representations, and that the Commission should take their representations into account, was speedily and without hesitation rejected. That means that the interests of these financially embarrassed small local authorities in depressed areas—many of them depressed because of the closing down of colliery undertakings—which have large sums of municipal capital invested in schools, drainage, highways and so on, could not be considered in this simple way, nor could the interests of the county councils in those areas.
That is the first chapter in the consideration of this Clause. But when this Amendment comes along from Conservative Members, promoted and framed, as we all know, by the Mining Association of Great Britain, with political power behind it, with influence in the Government behind it, influence over the Ministers concerned with the promotion of this Bill, and with enough money to take great advertisements in the whole Press of the country during the past week—a proposal, not that the Commission should take their views into account before it came to conclusions, but that there should be an elaborate procedure which we know, which the right hon. Gentleman knows, and which the Secretary for Mines knows was designed to make the Clause inoperative—then the Government listen with attention, and, although they have not given the Mining Association its own draft, they have given it something else which may well be just as serious and just as obstructive of the economic purpose which the Government have in mind, and which will at the same time make it infinitely difficult for these urban and rural district councils to be heard before the tribunal of a Select Committee of this House and of their Lordships' House before whom the mining interests will be heard. It is one thing for the chairman and chief officers of an urban district council to go to the Commission which is to be set up under this Bill and to argue their case, probably perfectly intelligently and effectively and in a way that will be fully understood by the Commission; but it would be quite another thing for that chairman of an urban district council to go to a Joint Select Committee of the two Houses of Parliament, where the room will be full of lawyers and where he may be cross-examined by lawyers.
531 indeed, if an urban district council is to be heard at all with any effect or with any persuasiveness before that Joint Select Committee or Committee of this House, the poor little urban district council will be faced with the necessity of employing learned counsel, expert witnesses, and so on, and, therefore, put in the most embarrassing position, and its financial resources taxed to the utmost. What the Government have done is to make it easy, as we would expect the Government to do, for the big capitalist interests affected in this inquiry to have their voice effectively heard, not in the interests of the human lives of the people in these areas who are the victims of pits closing down, but in the interests of dead capital. The local authority, speaking not for dead capital, but for human life, for the livings of its citizens, for the financial structure of the local authority, for the little tradesmen whom you will find in these villages struggling to make a living, the Government have made it hard for them to be heard. How will the small tradesmen be heard before the Select Committee?
The local chambers of commerce of the little villages, or the tradesmen's associations, could easily put their case before the Commission; but does the President of the Board of Trade think it will be in the least practicable for some local tradesmen's association or chamber of commerce to brief counsel to appear before a Select Committee or Committee of this House? The Tory party does not want the little tradesmen to be heard. The Tory party only wants the big mining capitalists to be heard. That is why this Amendment is being made in this Bill. It used to be said, and is still said on some Socialist platforms in this country, that the Conservative party in office are the executive committee of the capitalist class. The proceedings to-day have demonstrated that that is an essentially true statement.
The Cabinet is not the representative of the nation, acting in accordance with the wellbeing of this great and vital industry, but the political instrument and agent of the Mining Association of Great Britain and the great capitalist interests that stand behind that organisation. It has treated the royalty owners handsomely. It is now going to treat the colliery owners handsomely. The 532 Amendment that the right hon. Gentleman is going to accept is an Amendment designed to see that the public interests shall be subordinated, and that the local interests of the people in these little towns and villages, the interests of shopkeepers and others, are definitely to be subordinated to these great combinations of capital and to the interests of the Mining Association of Great Britain, which we have seen this week spending large sums of money on advertisements to intimidate hon. Members on the other side of the House. They have surrendered, as a Tory Government has always got to surrender, to the determining capitalist opposition, because they are not the instrument of the nation, but the political instrument of the vested interests which live upon the nation and not for the nation.
We have listened to two hon. Members speaking from the Liberal Benches tonight. I wish my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) could do something for his party. As was not unusual, they expressed diametrically opposed views upon the matter of amalgamations. An hon. Member who came out of the Ark and represents South Bradford was thoroughly opposed to amalgamations on the principles of the old Manchester school. I cannot help recalling the Debates upon amalgamations under the Bill of 1930. The hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth), in the discussion to-night recalled these Debates. It was not for nothing that the mineowners put the name of Earl Baldwin in their double or treble column advertisement. Within seven years there is an amalgamation proposal in a Bill similar to that which happened in 1930. When the harassed Labour Government were in office and William Graham was in charge of the Bill, the Liberal party insisted upon amalgamation and indicated that they would defeat us if we did not bring in amalgamation. We brought it in, and the Tory party saw to it that the amalgamation Clauses were thoroughly messed up before they passed through this House. Today we find the Government bringing in amalgamations and then surrendering to the mineowners, as they must always surrender to the coal interests. We find the Liberal party split asunder when one hon. Member speaks in the voice of 1930 and the other speaks in the voice of 533 1630. So history goes round and round and Earl Baldwin is in another place and is not obliged to say anything about it at all.
But what is going to happen when this Clause operates as amended? I shall not forget giving evidence as a Cabinet Minister on the London Passenger Transport Bill before the Select Committee. This is what is going to happen. The Grand Committee Room was packed with lawyers. Nearly all of them cross-examined me, and I had the happiest two days of my life. They had expert witnesses there, and all of them were highly paid. Our lawyer was highly paid, too. I said, "Pay anything in order to get the best trained lawyer that money can obtain." We paid him the full trade union rate, and I did not begrudge him the money. He was a very good fellow. They kept that Bill going in the Joint Select Committee stage for about 30 days. When these amalgamation schemes come along, if they are in the public interest and are not in accordance with capitalist interests, the procedure of inquiry before a Joint Select Committee—and remember it need not be a Joint Select Committee, for if their Lordships do not agree, it can be a Select Committee here and a Select Committee there—on every one of these amalgamation schemes can be delayed just as long as the proceedings on a Private Bill which is before a Committee of this House, or a hybrid Bill promoted by the Government but which affects private interests.
Amalgamation schemes can be delayed and obstructed, and time after time, if they do not please the vested interests, they will hold us up, and thousands of pounds of their money and, unfortunately, many thousands of pounds of the Commissioner's money and possibly of Government money will be spent in arguing about the interests which are involved in the whole matter. But it will be most profoundly difficult to see that the public interest survives. If the scheme is in accordance with public interest it will not go through easily, if at all; it will be fought. The usual way in which the Commission will be able to get a scheme through will be for them to make surrenders to the vested interests in the industry in framing a scheme contrary to the public interest. If they are to get their schemes through they will have to surrender time after time to the 534 capitalist interests, even as the right hon. Gentleman has surrendered to the capitalist interests this afternoon in order to pass his Bill. Therefore, this Clause is not for the promotion of the public interest but to safeguard the capitalist interest. It is not a Clause for swift and speedy action for the reorganisation of the industry, but a Clause which will make it difficult for proper and speedy action to be taken.
The hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter), in a speech which took a little time to indicate that he was going to take a clear view about it—I am not grumbling because a representative of Oxford University who has progressive views has to be a little more careful than one who represents South Hackney—said truly towards the end of his speech that the Conservative party was trying to get the best of both worlds in the matter of reorganisation. That is true. If I were a railway general manager I would much sooner have socialisation than the present position; and in the coal industry what you are going to get under the Bill is a whole mass of meticulous regulations, constant friction, arguments about amalgamations and about schemes, as a result of which all the best brains and ability of colliery managers will be devoted, not to the better management of the industry but to framing particulars and arguments for lawyers who will appear before the Select Committees on schemes of amalgamation.
The Government are doing a most dangerous thing for British industry. They are diverting the minds of the best capitalist brains—there are some good capitalist brains and some capitalist brains which are not good—in the mining industry—among colliery managers there are many who are able men and quite a number of whom wish they had got the other thing straight away—from the better management of the industry in the public interest; their energies will not be directed towards promoting the welfare of the industry and the people who work in it. Half their energy is devoted to keeping out of legal troubles, or getting into them, as the case may be, watching Acts of Parliament, watching all the meticulous legislation and regulations that they get, preparing arguments for amalgamation commissions and preparing arguments for Select Committees. When are we going 535 to take hold of the industry, reorganise it and run it in the public interest instead of messing about with it in this way? The Tory party is giving industry all the worst effects of bureaucracy, all the evils of meticulous interference and regulations and State control. To-morrow we shall ask the House to do the clean thing and take the industry out of competitive capitalist hands and make it a national public service working for public ends. The more I hear of these Debates on amalgamation, the more I hear of Tory schemes of capitalist rationalisation, which give you the worst of both worlds, the more I witness the humiliating surrenders of the Conservative party and of its Government demonstrating repeatedly that they are not the instrument of the nation, the more I feel that the sooner we get out of the habit of trying to patch up, regulate, supervise and control capitalist industry, the sooner we socialise it and run it as a business for the nation, for the benefit of the nation, the better it will be for our people and for the country as a whole.
§ 10.52 p.m.
§ Captain Crookshank
From the latter part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech I can only assume that there is some reason why he will not be here to-morrow. He says we are going round and round. Several things have been going round and round on that Front Bench this evening, because the right hon. Gentleman went back to where the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) started a long time ago by saying that he was not opposed to the principle of amalgamation as such, and indeed the hon. Member for Seaham instanced a certain number of reasons why he thought it desirable in itself. Between the first and the last speech a variety of Members behind him have taken a very contrary view. The right hon. Gentleman says, "I am not opposed to the principle of amalgamation but I shall vote against the Clause which deals with it in the Bill."
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Did not the hon. and gallant Gentleman gather from my speech that we are going to vote against the Clause because the Government resisted a reasonable Amendment of ours, and in order to mark our disgust at the surrender of the Government to its capitalist friends?
§ Captain Crookshank
Like all his friends, the right hon. Gentleman will not wait; he will press forward He is not opposed to the principle of amalgamation but he will vote against the Clause which deals with that part of the problem. On the other hand, I gathered from his speech that he had read some of the recent advertisements of the coal-owners and that he does not like them, and yet he is going to do the one thing which, if he were successful, would make them the happiest people in the country. Earlier on I was asked if I had had any representations from the coalowners about this. Whatever representation I have ever had from that quarter has been that there should be no Part II to this Bill. There is a Part II to it and I trust the House will see that it remains there. The right hon. Gentleman referred back to the Amendment moved earlier on, and said that what the Labour party wanted was a little inquiry for the local authorities to put their case to the Commission and after that a little Prayer in this House, and that would be quite enough.
Talk about going round and round! The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) most emphatically said that there was not power to amend the scheme and that the House would have to accept it right or wrong. The two things are inconsistent. The right hon. Gentleman, in objecting to the proposals which my right hon. Friend outlined, said that the public interest is completely subordinated to these great combinations of capital which, when they go before the Select Committee, will pour out money in briefing expensive counsel, whereas the poor urban district councils and chambers of trade and so on will not be able to do so. The right hon. Gentleman seems to misconceive the whole situation. The Select Committee in normal cases does not function unless there is a petition against amalgamation. By whom would there be a petition against amalgamation? By the colliery interests.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The hon. and gallant Gentleman refers to the normal case. What does he mean by the normal case?
§ Captain Crookshank
If nobody objects to an Order, there is no point in sending it to a Select Committee. The hon. and learned Gentleman has been present all 537 the evening and he knows that my right hon. Friend said that there would be a form of procedure by which this point of national interest could be considered. To return to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), the colliery undertaking will not brief expensive counsel in order to have amalgamation; if they want to have an amalgamation, hey will have a voluntary one. They will go to a Select Committee and brief expensive counsel only to try to defeat the amalgamation. Why would the right hon. Gentleman's little urban district councils want to come before a Select Committee? Would they come because they wanted amalgamation or because they did not? Presumably because they did not want it. They could line up behind the others.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I would like to be clear on this matter. I think this procedure will be similar to the Private Bill procedure. A very large number of objections are not put in because people want to defeat the Bill, but because they want to get protective Clauses in the Bill.
§ Captain Crookshank
There is one other point to which I want to refer. As a Member of the House, I very much resent the kind of remarks which the right hon. Gentleman made when he said that if an Order under this Bill goes from the House to a Select Committee of the House, it is profoundly difficult to see that the public interests are guarded. Speaking not as a Member of the Government but as a Member of the House, I want to say that I resent the fact that our colleagues who serve very strenuously and who are selected from all parts of the House on the various panels, should be accused by the right hon. Gentleman in general terms in that manner, and I think it really was unworthy of the right hon. Gentleman to say that it is profoundly difficult to have the public interests safeguarded when these things go to a Select Committee.
Apart from the right hon. Gentleman's speech, there have been other speeches dealing with some of the problems involved. The hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Sir H. Seely) put the whole matter in a nutshell, as did the Junior Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter), when they asked us to look at it in the light of previous legislation dealing with the problem. 538 The 1930 Act was passed, which made it possible, or was thought to make it possible, for the Reorganisation Commission, if they could make no headway otherwise, to deal with amalgamations by compulsion, and certain safeguards or obstacles were introduced into that legislation which had to be met or jumped over before you could get a compulsory scheme through. An hon. Member opposite was the only Member in the House at that time who saw the weakness of the scheme, which was that it was left to the Railway and Canal Commission to decide what was in the national interest, and no court could decide a question of that kind. The present Government therefore had to consider where it could place the responsibility of deciding what was in the national interest, and the answer was "Parliament." As a result of demands from all quarters of the House, the local interests, the miners' interests, and everybody else will now have an opportunity of putting their case before Parliament. It is a point which rests for Parliament to decide; it is not even a point for the Commission itself to decide what is in the national interest. Let not the Committee forget that the same Commission charged with this duty under Clause 40 is the Commission which is the owner of all the coal properties under the Bill, and quite clearly its chief function is to look after the general interest and efficiency of the industry. The safeguarding of the national interest must rest with Parliament, and that is the explanation for the Clause being in the Bill.
The hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said that all this dated back to the 1919 Act and the Samuel Commission, which both recommended this sort of procedure, because they were acting under pressure owing to wage stoppages, and therefore there was not much in it now. But he forgets that since that time there has been the Reorganisation Commission set up by the 1930 Act, a Commission of impartial people, who have repeatedly reported that further integration was necessary to make progress in the organisation of the industry. If that is right, and since the House of Commons has already accepted in a statutory form selling organisations for the coal industry, thus giving the industry its great power under Part III for raising wages by raising the cost of coal, it seems to us to be inevitable that you must do everything you can on behalf of those consumers of 539 coal to see that the industry itself is properly organised. The country, as a whole, I am satisfied, does not mind the increased price, provided it is going to bring a better livelihood to the men and that as a result of the return on capital it is easier to raise capital for further development. The country wants to be satisfied that it is an efficiently organised industry, and therefore you come back to the Commission, whose function it will be to see that everything possible is done on the economic side.
I should like to remove one other misconception—if that is the right word. When the Commission has come to the conclusion that something more should be done than it has already been able to do, it reports to the Board of Trade and the Board of Trade may give effect to its recommendation either wholly or partly. I wish here to deal with one criticism which has been made not here but in those advertisements to which reference has been made. There is no power of initiation by the Board of Trade. The initiative comes from the Commission and the Commission is an outside and independent body. For the very reason that it is also the owner of all the coal and has to deal with all these other matters it can, probably, safely claim to be the most knowledgeable entity in the country on coal problems. The Commissioners have the initiative of making the report and suggesting that in a particular area, things have gone so slowly that they should be endowed with powers of compulsion there. All this talk of bureaucratic power I set aside because it is not with the bureaucracy but with the outside independent Commission that the initiative will rest
§ As I have said, when their report comes to the Board of Trade the Board may give effect to that recommendation fully or partly. It is for the Commission to set the maximum limit of the area within which they shall work. They define the area in which they think their powers should be exercisable, and show as far as practicable what undertakings are likely to be affected by the exercise of those powers. It is that order—and there is no question of a Bill such as the hon. Gentleman opposite mentioned—which it is proposed should be referred to a Select Committee of this House in order that this House may be satisfied that while the coal point of view is being considered, no injustice is being done in other directions. After that, the scheme has to go before the Railway and Canal Commission whose business it is to see that it is fair and equitable.
§ That is a brief description of the procedure involved in this Clause. As regards the general principle I think I have said enough. It is not the case, as some people seem to think, that as soon as this Bill goes on the Statute Book thousands of compulsory amalgamations will suddenly be started everywhere. It is only in the last resort, if sufficient advance cannot be made by voluntary means, that we think it necessary to have this final report in the power of the Commission itself in order that they may do what they can to secure real efficiency in the industry in return for the advantages which will be conferred under the Bill.
§ Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 205; Noes, 124.543
|Division No. 82.]||AYES.||[11.9 p.m.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Colfox, Major W. P.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Conant, Captain R. J. E.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Bull, B. B.||Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Burghley, Lord||Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Butcher, H. W.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Butler, R. A.||Cox, H. B. Trevor|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Crooke, Sir J. S.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Cartland, J. R. H.||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Castlereagh, Viscount||Croom-Johnson, R. P.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Cross, R. H.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Crosslsy, A. C.|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Crowder, J. F. E.|
|Bottom, A. C.||Channon, H.||Cruddas, Col. B.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Davies, C. (Montgomery)|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Christie, J. A.||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Clark", Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||De Chair, S. S.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Clydesdale, Marquess of||Dodd, J. S.|
|Doland, G. F.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Rowlands, G.|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Keeling, E. H.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Dunglass, Lord||Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Leech, Sir J. W.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Lees-Jones, J.||Salt, E. W.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Levy, T.||Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Lipson, D. L.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Emery, J. F.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Savory, Sir Servington|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Scott, Lord William|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Errington, E.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||MacDonaid, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Foot, D. M.||Macquisten, F. A.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Mander, G. le M.||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Furness, S. N.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Somervell. Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Markham, S. F.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Goldie, N. B.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Spens, W. P.|
|Gower. Sir R. V.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Storey, S.|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Munro, P.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Neven-Spence, Major B. H H.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-(N'thw'h)|
|Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnol)||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N. W)||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Guinness, T. L. E. B.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Hannah, I. C.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Patrick, C. M||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Harbord, A.||Peat, C. U.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Harris, Sir P. A.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Harvey, Sir G.||Pilkington, R.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsead)|
|Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Procter, Major H. A.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Radford, E. A.||Willougnby de Eresby, Lord|
|Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Wise, A. R.|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Ramsbotham, H.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Higgs, W. F.||Rankin, Sir R.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Holmes, J. S.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Wragg, H.|
|Horsbrugh, Florencs||Rayner, Major R. H.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||TELLERS FOR THEAYES.—|
|Hunter, T.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Captain Hope and Lieut.-Colonel|
|Hutchinson, G. C.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Kerr.|
|James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Dunn, E, (Rother Valley)||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Ede, J. C.||John, W.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwsllty)||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Kelly, W. T.|
|Allies, Rt. Hon. C. R||Everard, W. L.||Kirby, B. V.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Frankel, D.||Lathan, G.|
|Barr, J.||Gallacher, W.||Lawson, J. J.|
|Batey, J.||Gardner, B. W.||Leach, W.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Garre Jones, G. M.||Lee, F.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Gibbins, J.||Leslie, J. R.|
|Benson, G.||Green, W. H. (Dsptford)||Logan, D. G.|
|Bevan, A.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Lunn, W.|
|Broad, F. A.||Grenfell, D. R.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)|
|Bromfield, W.||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||McGhee, H. G.|
|Buchanan, G.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||MacLaren, A.|
|Capo, T.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Groves, T. E.||Marshall, F.|
|Chater, D.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Maxton, J.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Messer, F.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Hardie, Agnes||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S)|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Hayday, A.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham. N.)|
|Cove, W. G.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Muff, G.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.|
|Daggar, G.||Hills, A. (Pontefraot)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Holdsworth, H.||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hollins, A.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Day, H.||Jagger, J.||Parker, J.|
|Parkinson, J. A.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Smith, E. (Stoke)||Walker, J.|
|Pritt, D. N.||Smith, T. (Normanton)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Sorensen, R. W.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Ridley, G.||Stephen, C.||Westwood, J.|
|Riley, B.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-ls-Sp'ng)||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Ritson, J.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)||Tasker, Sir R. I.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Salter, Or. A. (Bermondsey)||Thurtle, E.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Sexton. T. M.||Tinker, J. J.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Silkin, L.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Silverman, S. S.||Viant, S. P.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.|
Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.