HC Deb 10 February 1938 vol 331 cc1303-24

4.12 p.m.

Mr. T. Smith

I beg to move, in page 44, line 19, to leave out "a member, or."

This Amendment is certainly less controversial than many which have been discussed in Committee, but it raises a point to which we wish to draw attention. The President of the Board of Trade will agree that the whole intention of Paragraph 4 of the Schedule is to make membership of the Commission perfectly free from direct interest in the mining industry. Of that we have no complaint. Paragraph 4 states: A person shall be disqualified for being appointed or being a member of the Commission so long as he is a member, or an officer or servant, of an organisation of employers or of workpeople in the coal-mining industry, a practising mining engineer, or in any other manner directly connected with that industry. I can well understand a man who is appointed to this Commission having to sever his active connection with a trade union, with, say, the Mineworkers' Federation or the Mining Association of Great Britain, but I cannot see the significance of the requirement that a man should relinquish his membership of a trade union if he desires to retain that membership. Men who join a trade union often do not like to leave it under any circumstances. Indeed in some districts, when a man gives up colliery work and goes into business or takes up another occupation, there are cases in which he has been allowed to retain his membership of the union for old time's sake. While I agree that it would be as well for any officer connected with the industry to be disqualified from becoming a member of the Commission I do not see the significance of the man being required to relinquish his membership of a union.

Apart from that, there appears to be a little discrimination made regarding the persons who would be connected with either the workers' organisation or the employers' organisation in the mining industry. The paragraph I have quoted mentions "a practising mining engineer." I presume that an engineer who is not practising could be a member of the Commission and perhaps could also maintain his membership of the Institute of Mining Engineers. I may be wrong. Again, you may have on this Commission a man who is put there because he has experience and knowledge of mining or surveying, and I should say, looking at the composition of the Commission and the work that it will have to do, that it is possible you may have a man placed on the Commission for his knowledge and experience on the surveying side of mining. If such a man was appointed to the Commission, according to the wording of paragraph 4 he would not be compelled to leave the association of which he was a member. He would still be able to maintain his membership of that body.

I will go further, and say that, if a member of the Commission were a member of the legal profession, I do not think that the mere fact of his membership of the Commission would compel him to resign from the Law Society. We have put down this Amendment, in order to point out that, in our opinion, it would be no handicap to a man's work on the Commission if he were allowed to retain his membership of a trade union. The implication, in some people's minds, is that, if anybody has had experience in the mining industry, on either the workers' or the employers' side, he may in some way be prejudiced if he remains in contact with his organisation. I do not see how the mere membership of a trade union would stop a man from doing what he believes to be the right thing on the Commission. One can see that if a man were an officer of a trade union, he might be in some way prejudiced. I recognise the strength of that argument, but I cannot see how the mere fact of his being a member of a union could prejudice him.

4.18 p.m.

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Oliver Stanley)

I quite appreciate the reason for which the hon. Member has moved this Amendment, but I am afraid I cannot accept it. The hon. Member has argued entirely on the basis that continued membership of a trade union would not necessarily make a man biased. That is true, but I think it is important that where we are insisting on the impartiality of members it is not sufficient to say that a man will not necessarily be biased; we should, as far as possible, remove any grounds for making people think that the man might be biased. If you are to allow a member of the Commission to remain a member of the miners' trade union, you must allow another member to remain a member of the Mining Association. I agree that a person who has had to sell all his interests, and yet remains a member of the Mining Association, might do his work without any bias, but I suggest that a great many of the people with whom the hon. Member is associated would think that such a man's continued connection with the Mining Association would prejudice him in some way. Continued association with a trade union would give rise to suspicions, however groundless they might be.

Quite apart from that, from the man's own point of view, I think there would be some disadvantage in accepting the Amendment. When a man becomes a member of the miners' trade union, he has to be a member of a particular lodge, which is associated with a particular district. The Commission might have to deal with a matter in that district, with regard, for instance, to the levelling down of royalties in that district, and it might create difficulties for a member of the Commission who was also a member of the union if he shared responsibility for the decision to level down the royalties in that district.

4.21 p.m.

Mr. Shinwell

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will yield to further argument on this matter, because it seems to me that he has failed to meet the point my hon. Friend has put. It is true that a member of the Commission, although retaining his membership of a particular organisation, could at any time sever his active connection with that organisation. There is nothing in the Amendment which affects the partiality of a member of the Commission. Surely, membership alone of a trade union is not sufficient to indicate a strong bias. Men who have been connected with organisations for a long time like to maintain their membership, very often, for sentimental reasons. On that ground it would be unfair to ask them to sever their membership as a condition of becoming a member of the Commission. Moreover, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to create any distinction between a miner who might become a member of the Commission and an owner, or someone associated with the owners' side of the industry. In the case of an owner, or someone associated with the owners' side, he may, under the right hon. Gentleman's dictum, be compelled to sever his association with a particular organisation, but he is not compelled to sever his connection with the interests concerned. There are the social interests, club interests and countryside interests; and associations of that kind induce a greater partiality than does the loose membership of a particular organisation. If that is open to a person on the owners' side, why should the right hon. Gentleman seek to prevent a person who comes from the workmen's side and is a member of the Commission retaining his membership of the miners' organisation?

There is no question here of maintaining active contact. I could understand the right hon. Gentleman's objections if it were proposed that the person who retains his membership of an organisation and becomes a member of the Commission, might maintain an active contact, taking an active interest in the affairs of the organisation. For example, if he were a miner and persisted in attending the meetings of his lodge and taking an active part in the discussions, or spoke on the public platform, espousing the cause of the miners, that might be regarded as active partiality, but nothing of the kind is being proposed. There is a trade union organisation called the Amalgamated Engineering Union. It is one of the oldest trade union organisations. There are many men who have severed their connections with the engineering industry many years ago and yet retained their membership of that organisation. There are, in fact, many hon. Members on this side of the House and, I believe, some on the other side, who are members of that union, though not active members. Is it supposed that, because of that membership, their partiality goes so far as to induce them to take up one side or the other? I am sure the right hon. Gentleman thinks nothing of the sort. Therefore, this Amendment should receive further consideration at the hands of the right hon. Gentleman. What is open to one member of the Commission ought to be open to another, and if the owner member of the Commission is permitted to retain certain associations which may influence him in the owners' interest, surely the right hon. Gentleman would not deny that, by way of trade union membership, to the person who represents the mineworkers.

Finally, I put this practical point to the right hon. Gentleman. We have a somewhat analogous case. I admit that it is not quite the same, but there is an analogy. The existing Coal Reorganisation Commission, which is to be abandoned under this Bill, has on its board a member who is an active member of the Mineworkers' Federation of Great Britain. When he was appointed, it was well known that he occupied a very prominent position in the Federation, and he still occupies that position. The same applies, I think, to other members of that Commission who are associated with shipping, which does affect the operation of the Commission to some extent. It is true that the Coal Reorganisation Commission was responsible only for promoting the amalgamation of mining undertakings, and is not, like this Commission, the actual owner of the coal, but that is the only difference. Surely, it would not be urged by the right hon. Gentleman that the presence on the Coal Reorganisation Commission of a person—a very able and competent person, as I think he will agree—who is not only a member of the Mineworkers' Federation of Great Britain, but the president of that body, taking a very active part in its deliberations, has in any way resulted in partiality. That gentleman has been able to bring an open mind to bear on the problems with which the Coal Reorganisation Commission is faced. If that is so, surely the same thing would happen in this connection. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give further consideration to the Amendment.

4.30 p.m.

Sir John Withers

I think the Mover of the Amendment suggested that a member of the Law Society, as such, should not be entitled to sit on this Commission.

Mr. T. Smith

The hon. Member has missed the point. What I said was that supposing a lawyer was on the Commission, that fact would not demand his resignation from the Law Society.

Sir J. Withers

As long as it is understood that if he is not taking an active part on either side and is not a prejudiced person, he is not necessarily precluded from sitting on the Commission, I am satisfied, but I rather gathered that it was the other way round.

Sir Stafford Cripps

What does the hon. Member mean by "either side"?

Sir J. Withers

Either the miners or the owners.

Sir S. Cripps

There is no difference in this matter between the miners and the owners. This body is not a body appointed to settle wages, but to own coal; it is going to act as the landlord, and the two sides in the matter are the Commission on the one side and the owners on the other. The miners do not come into the picture.

Sir J. Withers

If that be the case, then I do not understand what paragraph 4 deals with at all.

4.32 p.m.

Mr. Stanley

I must say that I do not think the analogy of the Coal Reorganisation Commission is a good one. This new-Coal Commission will take decisions "on its own," whereas whatever decisions are taken by the Reorganisation Commission are subject to future revision both by Parliament and by an independent Commission, and I submit that it is a very important difference. I am not saying that continued membership of a trade union will necessarily make a man partial, but I think it is very important to avoid the suspicion that he might be. Would hon. Members opposite say that among the people whom they represent continued membership of the Mining Association would not make them suspicious and that, however little ground there might be for it, they would not think that, as a member of the Commission, he might be partial?

4.33 p.m.

Sir S. Cripps

I will answer that question gladly. I do not think it would make two pins of difference. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well—he knows as well as I do—that membership of the Mining Association would not make two pins of difference. These people will meet just the same, whether they are members of the Mining Association or not. They will meet in their clubs, in Newcastle, or London, or wherever it may be, or they will meet as directors of companies and in 101 other ways, constantly, and be able to discuss these problems. It will not make two pins of difference whether they are members of the Mining Association or not. How often do the individual members of the Mining Association ever meet, as such?

Mr. Stanley

I have no idea.

Sir S. Cripps

Then what a preposterous argument to put forward.

Mr. Stanley

I can imagine the kind of speech which the hon. and learned Gentleman would make if a member of this Commission were to continue his membership in the Mining Association.

Sir S. Cripps

The right hon. Gentleman says he can imagine the kind of speech I should make, but let me tell him that we were perfectly well aware, when we put down this Amendment, that it would not permit a member of the Mining Association to become a Commissioner. The view that we took was this, that he would not be affected in any way, that he would still have all his associations with other people, and that it would not make any difference to the question whether or not he was- biased as to whether he maintained nominal membership of the Association or not. On the other hand, a member of a trade union is a member of a body which is, as it were, a social as well as a business body. His connection with his friends is very largely through his trade union. He has not got a lot of clubs or directorships, and therefore he would like to retain his membership of his union.

There is a social aspect of the membership of a trade union, and it is that side that we desire to safeguard. If the right hon. Gentleman is so keen that nobody should have any connection with anything at all connected with the mining industry, surely he must say the same with regard to mining engineers and mineral agents and everybody else of that sort, and the mining engineer and the mineral agent must give up membership of his professional institution, or else he may go and discuss the matter in his professional institution with his friends, and they may bring pressure to bear upon him. That would be just as bad, from the right hon. Gentleman's point of view, as membership of the Mining Association. We say that, on the right hon. Gentleman's argument, he ought to alter this paragraph so as to make it impossible for anyone to retain membership of any association of any sort which is connected in any way with the industry. If he wants to be so foolish as to deprive himself of one of the main values of the Commissioners because he refuses to let them continue to associate in a professional body from which they get most of their technical information, then let him do it.

4.38 p.m.

Sir Alan Anderson

What I think is wanted here, in order to avoid bias on the part of a member of the Commission, is that he should have no personal interest of a pecuniary nature which could make him suspect. I do not think the question whether he is a member of an organisation has anything to do with that. It would be very easy for a man to give up his membership and still remain biased.

4.39 p.m.

Mr. George Griffiths

I do not expect that I shall have one of these jobs, and therefore I think I can speak on this question without bias, but since coming into this House I have kept up several of my connections. I am still a member of the Yorkshire Miners' Association and also of other organisations connected with the pit in which I worked for so many years. If this Amendment is not carried, I take it that I should have to sever every connection if I were to be appointed a member of the Commission. I would point out that when a member of the Yorkshire Miners' Association has paid for a certain number of years, he gets a pension, and it would be serious for him, therefore, to have to sever his connection entirely with what is his very blood and bones and part and parcel of him. This provision means that a man would have to separate from the West Riding Permanent Relief Association also, because that is an organisation of miners inside the Yorkshire Miners' Association area. If a chap gets this job, he has got to clear out from all his life's connections. I suppose the President of the Board of Trade has not seen that point before, and I hope that, now that the ordinary working man s point of view has been put to him, he will see the force of the argument put by my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith).

4.40 p.m.

Mr. A. Bevan

This provision means' that a man ought to divest himself entirely of any industrial or political association before becoming a member of this Commission, though the assumption that by divesting himself of such membership a man becomes impartial is all nonsense. Partisanship derives clearly from other influences and not from membership of a trade or professional association of this kind. There would be some point in it if the members of the Commission were nominated as representing a trade union or a mining association, but they are not to be representative; they are to be appointed by the Board of Trade out of such members. The organisation, therefore, will have no control over them either nominally or actually, and there is no reason why they should not retain membership. That civil servants or quasi-civil servants of this sort ought to be regarded as social eunuchs is something that we should deplore. I must say that this puritanical attitude of the Minister's in this regard compares very queerly with the attitude of the Minister in some other parts of these Schedules. Here you have all the outward seeming of complete purity, whereas in other parts of the Schedules the right hon. Gentleman has, I am afraid blotted his copybook most remarkably, and even blacked it. It is rather stupid, and I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to have a little more flexibility and to accept Amendments which are obviously designed to improve the Bill. I am not sure that I ought not to accuse him of verbal hypocrisy.

4.43 p.m.

Sir Hugh Seely

I am inclined to support the Amendment and to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will not reconsider his decision on this point. I do not think that, because a man was a member of a trade union, the owners would necessarily think him suspect. It is an absolute fact, as has been stated by one hon. Member, that those who join trade unions do it, not entirely from a business point of view. I know many cases where men have left a pit and have still kept up membership of their trade union for various reasons, such as have been mentioned in the Debate. You are asking more of a man in asking him to give up his trade union membership than you are asking of a man who happens to be on the Mining Association to give up his membership of that association, and I think that if the Schedule were so worded as not to entail a man's giving up his membership in a trade union, it would be very helpful.

4.44 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher

I have had occasion before to draw attention to the fact, which is not generally recognised in this House, that the whole tendency in connection with the Civil Service or employment by the Government is to lay it down that under no circumstances can a member of the working class hold any responsible position in the State or occupy a position in any responsible body. That is the whole concern and method of carrying forward the work of the National Government, to make it absolutely impossible for a working man—

The Chairman

If the hon. Member develops that point, he will be out of order on this Amendment. There is no bar to the appointment of a member of a union to the Commission, but if a member of a trade union is appointed, he must give up his membership of the union.

Sir S. Cripps

It is provided that a person shall be disqualified for being appointed a member of the Commission as long as he is a member of his trade organisation. If he continued to be a member he could not be appointed.

The Chairman

The hon. and learned Member is right in that assumption. If he were likely to be appointed he would have to give up his membership of the organisation. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) has raised a point with regard to the Civil Service generally, which we cannot obviously discuss.

Mr. Gallacher

My point is that while a man may originally have been a member of the working class or a member of a working-class organisation, in order to sit on this Commission he must sever his connection with the working-class organisation and ipso facto with the working class. There is nothing to prevent him but everything to induce him to become a member of some highly respectable and reputable or disreputable Conservative Club. On this side of the House we ought to insist that this practice be stopped, and that it should be laid down emphatically that a man can still remain a member of a working-class organisation and a member of the working class and yet give service to the State. The presumption, on the other side—and it is inherent in this Schedule—is that no man from the working class should be brought into public service unless he becomes absorbed into the class that is represented by the other side of the House. That is an insult to the working class, and we ought not to tolerate it. We have a right to insist that this deliberate insult to the working class should be removed.

If a member of the Mining Association goes on to the Commission, he will still remain a coalowner, and if he were biased before he went on the Commission he will not cease to be biased when he goes on. That does not in any way affect his position as a coalowner. He remains a coalowner, and continues to be associated with the same people with whom he has always been associated. He absorbs the prejudices of the people with whom he has been associated, but if a working-class representative goes on to the Commission, then he must cut himself away entirely from his old associations and try to get a new association. I insist that this process of corruption be ended, and that if a man is capable of sitting on a body of this sort he ought to be able to retain his membership of, and association with, the working class.

4.48 p.m.

Mr. Gordon Macdonald

I should like to appeal to the President of the Board of Trade. He has all the safeguards that he needs. He will make the appointment and will have satisfied himself of the man's impartiality before he makes the appointment. Under the Schedule he will say to the man: "I consider you a fit and proper persons to serve on the Commission, but I understand that you are a member of a trade union connected with the mining industry. Before I appoint you, I must, under the Act of Parliament, ask you whether you are willing to resign your membership." I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will gain much by that. If the man is a coalowner and he remains a member of the Mining Association, it may be said that the miners will be suspicious, and if the man is a member of a miners' organisation, then it may be said the coal-owners will be suspicious. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman brings in this provision in order to remove that possibility of suspicion. If he thinks a man is a fit and proper person and he is satisfied as to his impartial approach to any question which may come before the Commission, he Ought to be able to accept our Amendment. He may pick out five men and then find that one is a member of the Mining Association or of the miners' organisation. Why should he then say: "I am sorry, but I cannot appoint you unless you resign your membership. You may continue to have your sympathies, but if you do not resign your membership I cannot appoint you." I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see that really there is no need for him to resist the Amendment in order to attain what he wants.

4.51 p.m.

Sir John Haslam

As a supporter of the President of the Board of Trade I should like to make an appeal to him. In my view it is not necessary to insist upon this condition. I think the point is amply covered in the subsequent paragraphs, which provide that a member of the Commission shall not have any financial interest in the coal industry, so that he will not be biased by financial considerations in any discussions. I know something about the mining industry, as I do of other trades. When a man has spent from 10 up to 40 years in a particular trade or profession it becomes part of him and he cannot eliminate that fact, whether he is a member of a trade union or not. He ought to be able to retain his membership of such an organisation after appointment to the Commission, provided that he takes no active connection with the organisation, as is provided for in the subsequent words of the paragraph.

Where is the right hon. Gentleman going to get his Commission except from experts who have devoted their lives to this particular business, either on one side or the other? If it is feared that a man would be biased because of his former connections, we might well bear in mind the old saying that the best gamekeeper is the former poacher. My experience is that the more employers and employés come in contact with each other and the more they see of the other point of view the more rational and sane are they in their judgments. I have known scores of trade union officials who have been accused in later life of selling themselves to their bosses because they have come to see the employers' point of view. Frequently the same thing happens in regard to employers who when they have had the employés point of view placed before them by a hard headed trade union official, see that there is something to be said on the employés side. I appeal to the Minister, because I think he is well covered by the subsequent paragraphs. These men ought to be able to retain their membership of their organisations after having perhaps paid their subscriptions for a long number of years. Why should they have to resign and lose benefits for perhaps a temporary appointment? It would be a hardship to ask any man to conform to the Act if the Schedule is passed in its present form.

4.54 p.m.

Mr. David Adams

I should like to reinforce the observations made relevant to a man being permitted to retain his trade union membership. I would quote the case of the right hon. George Nicoll Barnes, who at one time was the general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. He entered this House and became a Member of the War Cabinet, a very important office, and one in which prejudice might have entered. There was no suggestion that he must abandon his trade union membership. He is at the present time a member of the Committee which deals with recommendations for political and other honours. Surely that is an office into which prejudice might enter if a person was in any sense prejudiced by his trade union membership. Mr. Barnes retains his membership of the Amalgamated Engineering Union and is a regular contributor to the Amalgamated Engineers' Monthly Journal. In connection with the Governments of which Mr. Barnes was a member, both national and otherwise, no one would assert at any time that by virtue of his trade union membership he was ever a prejudiced person. It is now proposed to ask a person to relinquish what he has built up in his association. He ought not to be asked to abandon that because he is entering into what may be only a temporary appointment.

4.56 p.m.

Mr. Leslie

I belong to a trade union whose rules provide that where a man starts business on his own account he does not need to relinquish his provident membership of his union. He retains the right to be a provident member of the union but he has no voice in its management. A man may have been a member of his union for 20 or 30 years, insured for provident, sickness, unemployment and death benefits. Is he to throw all that up because he gets a job as a member of the proposed Commission? I hope the Minister will consider the argument which as been put forward and will accept the Amendment.

4.57 p.m.

Sir Edward Grigg

I should like to join in the appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his attitude towards the Amendment. On the question of possible partiality, the danger is fully covered by the later wording of the Schedule. I cannot help thinking that by resisting the Amendment the right hon. Gentleman is, quite unintentionally, legislating in a way which suggests some discrimination against members of trade unions who may be considered suitable for appointment to the Commission. Quite apart from the political or professional aspect of the matter, there is a most important social aspect of that membership, and it seems to me that asking a trade unionist to abandon membership of his union is almost parallel to asking a person to abandon his life insurance policy, to which he has been subscribing all his life. That has nothing whatever to do with his fitness or unfitness for membership of this Commission. I am sure that my right hon. Friend has no such discrimination in mind. I was nearly dissuaded from rising to ask him to reconsider the matter, by the speech made by the Communist Member of the House. His suggestion that an insult to the working classes is intended in this Schedule, is ridiculous. If there is any discrimination, I am certain that it is absolutely unintentional. I, therefore, beg my right hon. Friend to reconsider the matter.

4.59 p.m.

Mr. Stanley

I am not sure that the point has been really dealt with, because although we may assume that a man who was a member of his trade union might not take any active part in it, there is no way of ensuring that if he remains a member of his trade union, he will not take some part?

Sir S. Cripps

He is disqualified if he is in any other manner directly connected with that industry.

Mr. Stanley

There is, for instance, nothing to prevent him from going to the Trades Union Congress, which, I think, would be undesirable.

Sir S. Cripps

If it is undesirable that he should go to the Trades Union Congress, is it not also undesirable that he should go to the Federation of British Industries? Surely, no Commissioner on the employers' side would be stopped from attending the Federation of British Industries if he wished to do so, and why should any member be stopped from attending the Trades Union Congress?

Mr. Stanley

I mean, as an active member. Several hon. Members, however, have made a point in which there is some substance. It refers to what may be described as side-lines of a trade union, such as provident societies or pension schemes, or matters of that kind, which do not involve active membership of a trade union but are ancillary to the trade union's work. It is suggested that a man might be deprived of some benefit for which he had paid for a considerable time, if this disqualification applied in such cases. I shall certainly look into that matter and see whether it is possible that a man who is a member of the Commission should be able to remain a member of a body of that kind.

5.3 p.m.

Mr. Shinwell

The right hon. Gentleman has failed to meet our point. We are concerned about the member of the Commission retaining his membership of an industrial organisation in his area, but that is not the primary point. The primary point is that he should be allowed to retain membership of a trade union organisation or an employers' organisation as the case may be. If the right hon. Gentleman is troubled about any activities on the part of a member of a trade union or of an employers' organisation, who subsequently becomes a member of the Commission, I suggest that he should on the Report stage insert the word "active" before the word "member." I think that would provide a sufficient safeguard. It would ensure that no person who was a member of the Commission would take an active part in the affairs of his organisation, and that, I think, would be satisfactory. But if the right hon. Gentleman is adamant and refuses to give way on this question, we shall have no alternative but to divide the Committee.

5.4 p.m.

Sir Percy Harris

Perhaps it would help to clear the atmosphere if we considered, in this connection, the analogy of a barrister. Suppose there was a Measure similar to this dealing with the legal profession. Would it be reasonable to ask a barrister to give up membership of his inn because he had been appointed a member of the appropriate Commission? We know that many members of that profession cease to practice but remain members of the Bar, and surely a trade unionist in this case should be able to remain a member of his trade union without being an active servant of the union or carrying on work as its agent. Perhaps if the right hon. Gentleman would bear that analogy in mind, it would help him to make a concession which is obviously desired by the Committee.

5.5 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher

Membership of this Commission will not, of necessity, be a life job. A man at some time or other might be forced to give up membership of the Commission. If he has broken his trade union connection, he is in a hopeless situation in that event. He cannot get back into the union until he has got a job, and he cannot get a job until he has got back into the union. Precautions could be taken to ensure that a member of the Commission did not actively participate in the work of a trade or other organisation. If a member was attending to his duties at the Commission, he could hardly go to the Trades Union Congress, and in any case he would not be appointed a delegate.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 186; Noes, 120.

Division No. 93.] AYES. [5.6 p.m.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Albery, Sir Irving Gluckstein, L. H. Procter, Major H. A.
Amery, RI. Hon. L. C. M. S. Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral) Radford, E. A.
Apsley, Lord Granvils E. L. Raikes, H. V. A. M.
Aske, Sir R. W. Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.
Assheton, R. Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester) Ramsden, Sir E.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.) Grigg, Sir E. W. M. Rankin, Sir R.
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Grimston, R. V. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Balniel, Lord Guinness, T. L. E. B. Rawson, Sir Cooper
Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M. Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W. Rayner, Major R. H.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Haeking, Rt. Hon. D. H. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Bennett, Sir E. N. Hannah, I. C. Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
Bird, Sir R. B. Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Ropner, Colonel L.
Boothby, R. J. G. Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle) Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Boulton, W. W. Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Rowlands, G.
Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Brocklebank, Sir Edmund Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Russell, Sir Alexander
Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.) Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S. Salmon, Sir I.
Bullock, Capt. M. Holmes, J. S. Salt, E. W.
Butcher, H. W. Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Samuel, M. R. A.
Cartland, J. R. H. Hopkinson, A. Sanderson, Sir F. B.
Carver, Major W. H. Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L. Sandys, E. D.
Cary, R. A. Horsbrugh, Florence Savery, Sir Servington
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Hulbert, N. J. Scott, Lord William
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Hume, Sir G. H. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.) Hunter, T. Simmonds, O. E.
Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead) Hutchinson, G. C. Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Clydesdale, Marquess of Keeling, E. H. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Kerr, H. W. (Oldham) Somervell. Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J. Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Conant, Captain R. J. E. Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F. Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Lamb, Sir J. Q. Spens, W. P.
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Leech, Sir J. W. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)
Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Stewart, J. Henderson (File, E.)
Craven-Ellis, W. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L. Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page Lewis, O. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Crooke, Sir J. S. Liddall, W. S. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Lipson, D. L. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Crossley, A. C. Lloyd, G. W. Tate, Mavis C.
Cruddas, Col. B. Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Culverwell, C. T. Loftus, P. C. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
Dawson, Sir P. Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
De Chair, S. S. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Touche, G. C.
Denman, Hon. R. D. MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G. Tree, A. R. L. F.
Denville, Alfred McEwen, Capt. J. H. F. Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.
Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F. McKie, J. H. Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Doland, G. F. Maclay, Hon. J. P. Turton, R. H.
Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury) Maonamara, Capt. J. R. J. Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) Magnay, T. Warrender, Sir V.
Dugdale, Captain T. L. Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Duncan, J. A. L. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Watt, Major G. S. Harvie
Dunglass, Lord Marsden, Commander A. Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M. Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Ellis, Sir G. Maxwell, Hon. S. A. Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Elmley, Viscount Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Emery, J. F. Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Emmott, C. E. G. C. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Wise, A. R.
Emrys-Evans, P. V. Munro, P. Wood, Hon. C. I. C.
Errington, E. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.) Orr-Ewing, I. L. Wragg, H.
Everard, W. L. Peake, O.
Fox, Sir G. W. G. Peat, C. U. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Furness, S. N. Plugge, Capt. L. F. Mr. Cross and Sir James
Adams, D. (Consett) Cocks, F. S. Gardner, B. W.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Cove, W. G. Garro Jones, G. M.
Adamson, W. M. Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Daggar, G. George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)
Banfield, J. W. Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)
Barnes, A. J. Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Green, W. H. (Deptford)
Barr, J. Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.
Batey, J. Dobbie, W. Grenfell, D. R
Bonn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)
Bevan, A. Ede, J. C. Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)
Buchanan, G. Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Groves, T. E.
Burke, W. A. Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales) Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)
Cape, T. Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)
Chater, D. Frankel, D. Harris, Sir P. A.
Cluse, W. S. Gallacher, W. Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)
Hayday, A. Marshall, F. Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Mathers, G. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Maxton, J. Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees (K'ly)
Hills, A. (Pontetract) Montague, F. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Hollins, A. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.) Stephen, C.
Hopkin, D. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)
Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Muff, G. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Naylor, T. E. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Noel-Baker, P. J. Thome, W.
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Parker, J Thurtle, E.
Kelly, W. T. Parkinson, J. A. Tinker, J. J.
Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Han. F. W. Tomlinson, G.
Kirby, B. V. Price, M. P. Viant, S. P.
Lansbury. Rt. Hon. G. Pritt, D. N. Walkden, A. G.
Lathan, G. Ridley, G. Walker, J.
Lawson, J. J. Ritson, J. Watson, W. McL.
Leach, W. Roberts, RI. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.) Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Leonard, W. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.) Westwood, J.
Leslie, J. R. Robinson. W. A. (St. Helens) Wilkinson, Ellen
Logan, D. G. Rothschild, J. A. de Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Lunn, W. Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey) Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Macdonald, G. (Ince) Seely, Sir H. M. Withers, Sir J. J.
McEntee, V. La T. Sexton, T. M.
Maclean, N. Shinwell, E. TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Mander, G. le M. Simpson, F. B. Mr. Charleton and Mr. Whiteley.

5.13 p.m.

Mr. R. J. Taylor

I beg to move, in page 45, line 25, to leave out "two," and to insert "three."

This is a very important Amendment. The Commission is to consist of a chairman and four members, and it is laid down here that a quorum of the Commission shall be not less than two members. The Amendment proposes that the number should be three. The task which lies before this Commission in the new venture which is about to be undertaken is a tremendous one. It might be described as unparalled. The Commission is to be responsible for property of the value of £66,000,000 which is reverting back to the nation, and while it is true that they are not to engage in the business of coal-mining or carry or any operations for coal-mining purposes, they have duties of a very far-reaching and important nature. They are charged with controlling and managing the premises acquired by them under the Act and granting coal-mining leases, and in the discharge of those duties, decisions of the first importance will have to be taken by them. They will be decisions which will have a far-reaching effect on the attitude of the people of this country because of the venture which we are now undertaking in nationalising the mining royalties of the country.

What a tragedy it will be, as we witness private enterprise breaking down here and there, for it to come to the Government for some assistance to help them over the period. We visualise that as the days go by private enterprise will continue to reel and stagger until it collapses. I should think that tremendous pressure would be brought to bear upon this Commission. Certain predilections and prejudices will be brought to bear upon them. This is the second Bill that has been before this House dealing with amalgamations in the coal industry, and we have witnessed what pressure can do. We have seen a Government with a majority like the National Government brought to their knees by pressure. When Mr. Runciman was President of the Board of Trade—

The Temporary Chairman (Sir Cyril Entwistle)

We are only discussing the question of a quorum of the Commission, and the arguments of the hon. Member are much too wide to put to the Committee on that point.

Sir S. Cripps

The question is whether two. is a sufficient number for a quorum of the Commission, and, surely, that is a very material point of issue.

The Temporary-Chairman

Such matters can be referred to but not argued and elaborated to the extent that the hon. Member was doing.

Mr. Taylor

I would not have gone to the length I have, but I have noticed that none of us on this side of the Committee has yet talked long enough to accomplish our object. This will cripple and vitiate my argument. I wish to show that it is most undesirable to have this Commission bowled over and controlled in a dictatorial way. That is my argument. A week ago we saw the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade making an absolutely abject surrender, because the coal interests in this country, according to the Press, have been having dinners and banquets and all that sort of thing to influence people to bring pressure on the Secretary for Mines. Instead of a quorum of not less than two, we want a quorum of not less than three. I think that that is a fair proportion in view of the enormity of the task of this Commission and of our desire that they should be launched on an even keel and given fair weather and a prospect of accomplishing their task. To do that it is necessary that the Commission should be properly manned and that there should be a sufficient number on deck when decisions have to be taken.

5.21 p.m.

Mr. Stanley

I have before in the course of Debates used the formula, "I have every sympathy with the hon. Member's object, but I am afraid that I am unable to accept the Amendment." In this case I have no sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's object, but I am going to accept his Amendment. Frankly, the reason why I do so is that, if there should be pressure from one side or another, the Commission, with the idea that three will be at a meeting instead of two, will be better able to resist it. My only object in accepting it is that I agree that times may arise when very important decisions of principle will have to be taken by the Commission, the members of which will be carefully picked to represent varying interests, and I think it is right that a quorum should be a majority of members, and the Amendment substituting three for two will mean that a majority of members will always be present.

5.22 p.m.

Sir S. Cripps

I must signalise this event, because it is the first of its kind.

Mr. Stanley


Sir S. Cripps

The first substantially of its kind. The last occasion was so long ago as to be almost forgotten by everybody. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman one question. As I understand it, the chairman will have, in fact, the casting vote, but it does not say so. Curiously enough, although in other parts of the Bill, chairmen are given casting votes, in paragraph (13) of the Schedule the Commission have power to regulate their own procedure except as laid down in the Schedule, and it will give the chairman the casting vote. You could not have a quorum of two and a chairman with a casting vote, or it might mean that the chairman as a single person would have the decision. Something should be said as to whether the chairman has a casting vote of not.

Mr. Stanley

It is certainly my intention that he should have a casting vote, and I will look into it.

Amendment agreed to.

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.