HC Deb 06 July 1938 vol 338 cc422-63

Lords Amendment: In page 2, line 8, leave out Sub-section (1) and insert:

  1. "(1) It shall be the duty of the Commission to exercise their functions as owners of the fee simple in coal and mines of coal and of the property and rights to be acquired by them therewith in such manner as they may think best for promoting the interests, efficiency, and better organisation of the coal-mining industry.
  2. (2) The Commission shall not themselves engage in the business of coal-mining or carry on any operations for coal-mining purposes, other than searching and boring for coal, but shall grant leases for those purposes:
Provided that the Commission may carry on any operations for those purposes which may be requisite for preserving in good order premises that are not for the time being subect to a coal-mining lease.

4.25 p.m.

Sir S. Cripps

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Lords Amendment, in line 12, at the end, to insert "continuing employment and."

The proviso would then read: Provided that the Commission may carry on any operations for those purposes which may be requisite for continuing employment and preserving in good order premises that are not for the time being subject to a coal-mining lease. The Lords Amendment is a recasting of Clause 2 (1) of the Bill as it left this House, and it proposes to insert this express proviso giving the Commission power to carry on any operations, which would include the mining of coal, for the purposes set out in the immediately preceding Sub-section. That would not cover the case of carrying on mines where, for some reason or other—perhaps a purely commercial reason—the lessee abandons the lease, where, for instance, a receiver or liquidator is appointed and he disclaims the lease, and as a result the whole operations immediately come to an end, say, one Monday morning without any warning to anybody. In those circumstances as the Bill stands it would be impossible for the Commission, as owners of the coal, to carry on for the sake of keeping the men in employment while fresh arrangements were made for the granting of a new lease or whatever was necessary for the permanent carrying on of the undertaking. It seems to us that while preserving the premises in good order is a very desirable object, preserving the men in employment is an even more desirable object. If these powers are to be given for the purpose of keeping the premises in good order—which means, I presume, keeping the winding gear and the shaft and the roads in working order, so that it would be possible to go into the pit at any time and start it again—and if that is desirable and necessary, as it is, then it is a hundred times more desirable and necessary that we should have some consideration for the men who are suddenly thrown out of work. They should be enabled to carry on until fresh employment can be found for them.

I am sure that every hon. Member on this side appreciates that this is an important point which ought to be covered in the Bill, and it seems to us that this is the opportunity for covering it. There is a new Clause F which deals with somewhat similar circumstances, on page 8 of the Lords Amendments, under which the court is given power to appoint receivers and managers on the application of the Commission in a case where proceedings are being taken by the Commission to recover possession of premises from a lessee, on the ground of breach of the terms of the lease or something of that kind. In those circumstances, the court can appoint a manager to carry on the undertaking while litigation is proceeding on behalf of the Commission and if it turns out that the Commission is right in its claim, it can appoint a manager to carry on the undertaking.

We feel that where, for some reason or other, a lessee ceases to work suddenly and goes out, there should be some equal power given to the Commission itself to do something to see that the men are not immediately thrown out of work. It may be important from the point of view not only of protecting the interests of the men, but of protecting the continued production of coal, because one imagines that the Commission will try so to arrange matters that there is not an excessive production of coal from an excessive number of pits, and if a large colliery were to go out of existence suddenly, it might very much embarrass the Commission as regards the organisation of the coal production of the country, and it might be a very difficult thing, under a few months, to get anybody else to take on those duties and to continue the running of those pits. In these circumstances, we ask the House to accept this Amendment to the Lords Amendment, as being a ready and handy means of allowing the Commission in such limited circumstances, to carry on a mine for the purpose of continuing the employment of the men.

4.32 p.m.

Mr. James Griffiths

I support the Amendment to the Lords Amendment. I think it is desirable, now that we are setting up a Commission to manage what will become the property of the nation, that the Commission should have the widest possible powers, and I hope this House will reject all the Lords Amendments which will have a tendency to restrict the functions of the Commission and to handicap their powers. This Amendment is very desirable. It sets out that the Commission shall, in certain circumstances, be empowered to preserve in good order premises that are not for the time being subject to a mining lease. We presume that the circumstances which the framers of the Amendment had in mind are that in these days, far too often unfortunately, a colliery company will go into liquidation and forfeit the lease. It will come to the end of its tether, and the colliery will close, unless steps are taken to keep it open, and since the lease, and the premises also, will become the property of the nation, it is desirable that the national owners should keep the property in the best order. We submit that if our Amendment is carried, it will make sure that the premises are kept in good order.

I am sure that all those who know anything about mining will agree that there is only one way of keeping a pit in good order, and that is to keep it working. Once a pit stops, it depreciates very rapidly. It is true that a pit can be partially kept open by keeping pumping operations going and the other absolutely essential things, such as repairs that must be carried out to keep the entrances and the shafts open, but we know very well that the coal face and the general workings of the pit, unless they are kept continually at work, depreciate very rapidly. Therefore, the Commission will be faced with this problem, that if a property, through the lapse of a lease, falls into their hands, it is essential that they should keep it at the higest possible value; and how can they do that? If the Commission are convinced that it is desirable to continue the working of the colliery, we say that the Commission ought to have the power to do so.

There are other considerations of importance. When a pit closes and the Commission's attention is drawn to the fact that a property which they own is closing down, and that a number of men have been thrown out of work, we desire that the Commission shall have the power to look at the problem from the broad point of view of the national interest and shall be empowered, as a Commission, to look at the problem in this way. We want them to be able to say, "If we keep this pit open, we shall be continuing employment for a large number of men, and we shall be rendering a national service."

May I illustrate the point by something that occurred quite recently in South Wales? There was a colliery there which employed 800 persons, and the colliery company went into liquidation. A receiver was appointed to manage the colliery on behalf of certain interests, and he carried on for a period and then notified everyone concerned that he could no longer do so, that for a temporary period he had sustained a loss of £1,000 a month, and that consequently he would have to close down the colliery. The loss is there. It may be that in six or 12 months' time we should be able to prove, as we did in that case, that with the expenditure of a reasonable amount of capital the colliery company could recover and again become a real economic unit making a profit, but the receiver said that that could not be done, and in consequence the colliery closed down. With what result? Those 800 men lost their employment. For £10,000 a month, 800 men lost their employment, and that is a loss to that community, which is dependent entirely on the pit, of approximately £10,000 per month in wages, in purchasing power. These men come on the State, and from inquiries that I have made I find that it costs the Unemployment Insurance Fund for the moment £4,000 a month in unemployment benefit for these persons. Very shortly, because very few of them have prospects of employment, they will come on the Unemployment Assistance Board and will be a definite charge on the resources of the State and will cost the State £4,000 a month.

Assume that such a problem as that comes before the Commission and that the Commission have to look at it, not merely from the standpoint of a receiver who is concerned about the interests of debenture holders, but from the standpoint of a body charged with the management of the property on behalf of the nation, and suppose that we are able to go to the Commission and to prove to them that if this colliery were kept working and the men continued in employment, it would not only keep the community alive, but that in a very short time we could recover a very successful unit. Unless this Amendment is accepted, the Commission will not have the power to look at it in that broad, national way. All that the Lords Amendment says is that the Commission shall have the power to keep the premises in order, and that can be given a very narrow interpretation. We say that in order to make sure that the Commission will be able to look at its job in the big national way, in the national interest, our Amendment should be accepted.

4.40 p.m.

Mr. Harold Mitchell

I am sure that everyone, in all quarters of the House, will sympathise with the circumstances which have been outlined by the Mover of the Amendment and the subsequent speaker about the very great hardships which any of us connected with the mining industry know will happen when a colliery suddenly closes down, but I feel that the House would be unwise to adopt this Amendment. I think we have been quite right in setting our face against the Commission engaging in coal mining. As far as I can see, if the Amendment is carried, there will be nothing to prevent the Commission engaging, in certain cases, in coal mining for an indefinite period or until such time as they can find some other body to take on the mine. I think it is clear—and hon. Members opposite have indicated it in their speeches—that the most likely circumstances in which the Commission would be asked to take over a colliery would be when that colliery had been unsuccessful financially. If that were the case, the Commission might be involved in very heavy financial losses, and I believe that if the Amendment were adopted and put into practical effect, it might seriously imperil the financial structure of the Bill.

I can imagine cases in which considerable pressure might be put on the Commission to take over collieries which were in difficult circumstances, and if the Amendment were adopted, there would be the risk of a large expenditure of the Commission's money being undertaken; and one has no guarantee, in an uncertain industry like coal-mining, that the results would ultimately be beneficial. While sympathising with the reasons for the Amendment, I think the Government, if I may say so from my own experience of coal-mining, would be most unwise to put the Commission into the very invidious position of having to decide, every time a coal mine had to close down, whether or not it should be taken over and operated for a period by the Commission.

4.43 p.m.

Mr. Mander

The Amendment to the Lords Amendment seems to be a reasonable one, and I hope it will be accepted. There is a great deal in this Bill to protect the financial and commercial interests of the various persons concerned, but there is not so very much for protecting the interests of the employÉs, and here an opportunity is presented for doing some little, in certain circumstances, to keep them at work. I must say that while it is possible to hold out all sorts of terrible prospects as to what the Commission might do, I do not think they are in the least likely, in view of their background and everything else of that kind, to venture into these coal-mining operations at a loss, as is suggested. I imagine that it would be most difficult to get them to do anything at all on those lines, but I think it is reasonable to give them all the powers we can, believing that they will exercise them in a proper and not in a fantastic or extravagant way.

4.44 P.m.

Mr. Aneurin Bevan

The hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Mitchell) seemed to be labouring under a slight misapprehension, and he did not seem to me to do full justice to the Amendment itself. He said that the Commissioners might find themselves put to very heavy expense indeed. As the Bill has been amended by the Lords, the Commissioners may involve themselves in expenses without having any means of obtaining income except the income they receive from rents. To keep the airways in condition and all the surface apparatus in condition involves heavy expenditure, but it does not sell an ounce of coal to enable the Commission to get any income to set against that expenditure. The Amendment to the Lords Amendment means that if the Commissioners find it necessary after an examination of all the facts—because they are not obliged to do it—that a colliery ought to be kept alive until such time as it can again be privately exploited, they can in the interregnum earn some money to set off against the expense to which they have been put.

Mr. Mitchell

Does the hon. Member think that the process of keeping the colliery alive should be profitable to the Commission?

Mr. Bevan

The point is that the Lords Amendment involves the assumption that it is necessary to keep the premises in good order. We are dealing in our Amendment with the case in which the Commission, after an examination of the facts, come to the conclusion contemplated by the other place that it is necessary to keep the colliery in good order. There is no point in keeping it in order indefinitely; the object is merely to cover the period between the collapse of one company and the entrance of another for the exploitation of the mine. Our Amendment would make it possible in that period for the Commission to produce coal and earn money which could be set against their expenses, and, at the same time, it would keep in employment the people who were working in the colliery at the time the company collapsed.

There have been lots of articles written to the "Times" recently about the demoralisation which occurs among the industrial population as a consequence of long periods of idleness and of industrial obsolescence. There is nothing worse for men who have been accustomed to hard physical labour than to be thrown out of work for some months and then to be taken on again. It is far better that there should be some continuity of employment. There are instances in the Rhondda Valley where collieries have closed down because of the financial exigencies of the companies. As a result of one instance a village was rendered derelict. That colliery is now being started again at enormous expense. All the social activities of the district have had to be revived and men who went away have had to be brought back to the village. If the Commission had been in existence with the powers that we suggest they should have, they could have said to this colliery company, "We propose to run this pit because it is necessary for the intelligent exploitation of coal measures in this area that it should continue in operation." That would have introduced an entirely new element into the situation and it would probably have induced a larger company to take over the exploitation of that pit instead of resuming its exploitation after a lapse of six or seven years.

It is fantastic to think of keeping colliery premises in order and to speak merely of the apparatus above ground and the airways under ground. You always have to think of the coal face. In colliery stoppages there has been acute controversy in the Miners' Federation in Great Britain concerning the right of deputies to produce coal. Sometimes we have had to concede the case that coal should be produced, not for commercial purposes, but for technical reasons in order to freshen the face so as to prevent huge falls of roof in the face itself. So far as I can see from the language of the Lords Amendment, if the Commissioners won any coal and sold any, it would be a violation of their powers, but if they put miners to work on the coal face merely to keep the colliery premises in good order and the face fresh, they would not be going beyond their powers. Their Amendment is so narrowly drawn as to prohibit the duties which we think the Commission ought to discharge. It is desirable in the interests of the principle which has been introduced by the other place that the Government should accept our Amendment. I hope they will not take a political view of this point. There is no desire on the part of my hon. Friends to convert the Commissioners into coal-owners exploiting the coal measures. Many occasions will arise in the industry where these powers will enable the Commission to tide over two periods of commercial exploitation.

4.53 p.m.

Mr. Pritt

I would like the House to look at this question from the business point of view, and to consider the problem that will face the Commission if a pit comes into their hands because somebody has stopped working it. They are not bound to operate the mine, but they would say to themselves, "We are a Commission charged with onerous duties, anxious to fulfil them and to preserve a national asset, and we have a pit which can be made into a good reasonably paying pit. Obviously it must be kept going, for it will deteriorate rapidly if we do not look after it properly until we get another lessee. What are our powers?" Another place suggests that their powers should be to keep the shaft and airways in order, to prevent falls, to keep water down, and so forth, but they must not employ productive labour or win coal. The expert advisers of the Commission would tell them that that was the only practical thing to do for a month or two and that it would diminish their losses in keeping the pit in order by many hundreds of pounds a week, but the Lords Amendment says they must not do that. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) has pointed out that in order to keep the coal face fresh you must win coal, but the Amendment says it is wrong to win coal and sell it.

Looking at it from a lawyers' point of view, and therefore possibly quite wrongly, I should have said the true construction of the matter as it has come from another place was that if the proper way of keeping a pit in good order was to win coal you should win it, but that if you sold it to somebody you would at once get an injunction against you. When it is a question of giving the Commission powers to maintain a valuable asset and their powers are limited to maintaining it without really operating it, although they might think it best in their wisdom and in trying to do their job properly to operate it, it is legislation by what is euphemistically described as a series of mischances.

4.57 p.m.

Mr. T. Smith

Hon. Members opposite seem to view with horror the idea of the Commissioners engaging in the business of coalowners, and they argue that if the Commission were given these powers they might be saddled with a number of uneconomic pits and would incur some financial liability. I am not sure that that is the real reason, because it is possible, if the Commission were entrusted with pits in order to keep employment in the locality, they might make the pits a success. The House must remember that all the pits that have been closed in the past 10 years have not been closed through economic reasons. Some of them were closed because there was a good deal of financial jugglery. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) said he spoke from the lawyer's angle, which I do not understand. I am speaking from the miners' angle with due regard to the social consequences of legislation. When the market for coal began to diminish, colliery companies began to amalgamate, and some of them actually closed pits that were economic because it paid them to have fewer collieries working and to concentrate production in them.

Some of the colliery owners paid little regard to the social consequences of their actions. I could tell the House of a colliery company in the constituency from which the last recruit from Yorkshire came which a few years ago bought a colliery in order to close it. They left the village derelict, with social consequences that were appalling. I regret that the rules of Parliamentary language prevent our expressing what we feel about the Noble Lords. When they passed their Amendment to enable the Commission in certain circumstances to keep premises in good order, a process which certainly costs money, for what purpose was it to be kept in good order? The Amendment will saddle the Commission with the cost of keeping a pit in order until such time as a colliery company can work it economically and make a profit. Their Lordships were not so much far-seeing as selfish in their outlook. If our Amendment were carried and the Commission were given power to keep a pit going in order to continue employment, it would be a power of great benefit to mining localities.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. R. J. Taylor

I wish to support the Amendment which has been moved to the Lords Amendment, because I believe that it is vitally necessary that it should be accepted. Many of us on these benches speak with the knowledge which practical experience of the pits has given us and we know many cases to which this provision of the Bill would apply. I can understand that there should be some reluctance on the other side to accept our Amendment because, as the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) said, there seemed to be some "havering" in another place on more than one occasion about what the powers of the Commission ought to be and who should compose the Commission, accompanied by the suggestion that a trail of tragedy would follow the advent of the Commission. We are familiar with the tragedies which have followed in the train of the present system of controlling the coal industry, and, recalling one or two cases which have occurred within my own knowledge, I feel that unless we take the very necessary precaution which we on this side are proposing whole localities may be laid destitute merely because an existing colliery company are not willing to continue operations.

The Lords Amendment proposes that the Commission may carry on such operations at a pit not for the time being the subject of a coal-mining lease as may be requisite for preserving it in good order, and we are proposing that they shall also be allowed to carry on operations for continuing employment. If a colliery is to be preserved so that another company may lease it, one of the first essentials is that pumping operations should be maintained. If the Commission are to preserve the colliery in a good working condition—I am not now dealing with the question of keeping the face fresh—it will mean in many cases that coal will have to be obtained from somewhere for the purpose of raising steam, and it would be much more economical for that colliery to produce its own coal for the purpose than for coal to be purchased. Several of my hon. Friends here have had experience of sinking operations, and where it has been a case of putting a slant or drive into a higher level the company have always had recourse to opening a small seam in order to produce their own coal for raising steam rather than go into the market and purchase it.

I have in my mind a district where there is more coal still under the ground than has ever been taken out of it, but the pits have been abandoned and the water is now, I should say, up to the level of the top of the shafts. That will preclude those pits from ever being worked again, I suppose. The abandonment of those pits happened at a time when the price of coal in Northumberland was at its lowest ebb. Had we had coal-selling schemes and had a "bottom" been put into the selling price of coal, those pits need not have been abandoned. Therefore, the Commission may feel it necessary in future to keep a pit in good working order while awaiting an offer from another colliery company—preserving not only the premises and machinery on the surface but also the underground workings, and in doing that it would be much more economical for them to produce coal from the coal face. That process would have two advantages. First, it would keep the roadways and the face in good condition and also keep the ventilation in a good state; and, secondly, it would have the much more important advantage of providing work for the men. In the particular district of which I am thinking, the men have been unemployed for years, and a large percentage of them are not likely ever to get employment again in the mines, and if the Commission had the power to get the necessary coal out of the pit they would be giving employment to the men, who would be kept in a fit state and be earning their own living instead of having to fall back upon unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance.

I remember another pit which had been closed for a considerable time. Then a man who had been attached to another colliery in the district came along and had sufficient courage to re-open it, and that pit is to-day employing 500 or 600 men and boys who would otherwise have been out of work. If where pits are abandoned the Commission are not to have the right to work the coal during the time they are keeping the pits in good order, in the hope of a new company resuming operations, we shall be in the unfortunate position of having men kept idle and whole districts devastated. For these reasons I support our Amendment to the Lords Amendment.

5.9 P.m.

Mr. Batey

The Government spokesman in the House of Lords, the Lord Chancellor, claimed that they had improved this Bill. If their Amendment to Clause 1 is an improvement, then the Amendment which we are now moving would be a still greater improvement. They were satisfied to give power to the Commission merely to keep the pits in good order, but we ask that the Commission shall also keep in mind the question of preserving continuity of employment, which to us is a most important matter. Some of us are able to draw upon our experience of keeping collieries working for the purpose of continuing employment, and we believe it is essential that the Commission should have this power in order that men may be kept at work. I remember the first colliery in which I worked. A fall took place in the shaft, and although there was an immense quantity of coal still to be worked there, the company, instead of putting the shaft right, closed the pit, with the result that all the men and lads working there, and I was one of the lads, were thrown out of employment. As far as the colliery company were concerned we could go where we liked to find other work. Had such a Commission as is now being set up been, in existence they would have said "Here is simply a fall in the shaft; it can be remedied at very little cost and we can keep the pit working." Therefore I submit that the Commission, which will own the coal, ought to have the power to preserve colliery undertakings in good order.

One of my hon. Friends has referred to water which penetrates colliery workings from a distance. In South-West Durham we have had the most bitter experiences of collieries being troubled by water. Even the Commissioner for the Special Areas has had to provide money to deal with the water which is running from a river into the pits, flooding them and making it impossible for some of the pits which are closed to-day ever to be reopened. In that part of the county of Durham there is no less than 13,000,000 tons of coal still underground, and it is natural that the Commission, as owners of the coal, will want to get it. They will want the royalties upon that coal, and it will be their duty to see that the coal measures are worked. We want the Commission to be given power to deal with water, so that water will not be able to close other pits and throw men out of employment, because that water may mean the closing of other pits unless something more is done in the future than has been done up to the present.

Take another case. When I was a coal hewer in a certain colliery I was working a mile and a half from the shaft. An unwise manager put a lot of the men to work about a mile from the shaft and close to the wagon-ways, and his action was the means of closing that district, causing a loss of the coal which was a mile and a half from the shaft. In all these years that I was there after that happened—and I was there a long time—that coal was never worked again. As owners of the coal the Commission will want to preserve the coal, and it is essential that they should have power to prevent blunders like that, which closed a large district.

Continuance of employment is one of the functions of the Commission. A strong argument is based upon the sad experience that we have had in many villages in Durham in which collieries had been closed down. An hon. Member opposite evidently had in his mind the one fact that a colliery company was not able to carry on because it could get no financial advantage from doing so, and he was afraid to give the Commission power to take over such collieries. We have in mind collieries which have been closed down, especially in South-West Durham, when it has seemed to us that the reasons were most trivial, although the result has been that many men have been thrown out of employment. In cases where that happened nine, 10, or even 12 years ago, some of the men are still out of employment to-day.

In the other place, no respect was paid to the interest of the miners. Very little respect was paid to their interests when the Bill was previously considered in this House, but only one Amendment was moved in the other place in the interests of the miners, and it was beaten by two votes to one. I ask this House to show a little more consideration for the miners than was shown in the other place. As we have said before in the discussions on this Bill, the miners will get very little out of it. The whole trouble in the other place was caused by the interests of the royalty owners. In this Amendment we want to do something in the interests not only of the miners but of the miners' wives and families. A colleague reminds me that our Amendment is in the interests also of the public and of the local authorities. We believe that it is essential that the Commission should have all these interests in mind so that there will be continuity of employment and men will not be thrown out of employment without something being done for them, and without their being, as far as possible, kept in employment.

5.19 p.m.

Mr. Ritson

I wish to emphasise what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor). The hon. Member who spoke from the opposite benches, and who is a coal-owner, should bear in mind that the more machinery we get into the pits the more necessary it is that the pits should be kept in order. In the old days when we had "boards and walls," the pit could stand a considerable time, but on these long-wall faces it is absolutely necessary that they should be attended to. Regarding keeping the pit open, if we did not use coal and if the Commission were not allowed to carry on, the longer the pits were left open the greater would be the neglect. Accumulation of water in the pit is bad enough. If you asked any coalowner in Durham to-day you would find that derelict pits with water filling them nearly to the top of the shaft are the greatest nuisance and cost he has to bear.

It is no use hon. Members making any bones about it; the Government are afraid that this scheme may be the beginning of nationalisation. Let us be honest about it. I know that hon. Members on the other side of the House are wondering whether this scheme might be a success in keeping some of the collieries open. As practical men we know that certain strata will stand for weeks while other strata will not stand for hours. When some collieries have been re-opened after a stoppage, as coalowners will be aware, the cost of doing so was nearly as great as the cost of sinking a new shaft, because of the nature of the strata. Cost in the presence of such strata is a very serious matter.

I was one of the fortunate or unfortunate men who went to the other place, and I wish we could have the same class-consciousness as they have there; it would be the best propaganda we could have. I wish my colleagues and I could be half as interested not only in the dignity of this House but in the practical financial aspect of things as those whom we saw in another place. I am sure that every village, instead of being derelict, would be an assurance to the people in the counties, particularly in Durham which, apart from South Wales, has suffered as much as any other area from collieries closing down. An hon. Member on the other side spoke of derelict villages and their cost to the nation, but that cost is a good deal more than that of allowing the Commission to do what is necessary.

When a house has stood empty for some time, even in this city, people are allowed to go into it and help to keep it decent so that there may be a good sale quickly. I would ask coalowners whether they would take over from the Commission a colliery that had not been properly tended or whether they would not much more readily take over a colliery that had been kept in order. We are pleading to-day because we feel there has been far too much closing down of collieries and because we have suffered from that in the mining areas. Not only homes have been left derelict, but local authorities, who have spent much money on churches, chapels and other amenities. A Roman Catholic priest came to see me about a colliery which had been closed down because, he said, the owners had not been satisfied with 2½ per cent. profit. He said also that it was very hard lines that because some people could not get 5 per cent. profit he would have to go somewhere else. That is the spiritual aspect of the situation, and it is an argument showing how necessary it is that the Government should spring a point in this matter.

This country was made in the cottage homes. You can never be sure in Durham when a colliery is to be closed down because of some particularly bad management. In some cases a colliery has been closed down by owners who said they could not carry on, and three or four months afterwards another company, more active and far-seeing, has taken it over and developed the colliery into one of the best in the country. That proves that if collieries are managed well from the beginning by people who know their work it makes all the difference. We press this Amendment in the interest of our men, as those in the other place pressed their material interests. In the other place I heard the Lord Chancellor appealing to his colleagues that, while they might criticise certain Amendments, the Government hoped that if they were financially interested they would not take an active part in the voting. They promised, but they became the vilest sinners during the rest of the discussion. They fought for their financial interests, and I therefore make no apology for appealing for our people, who are bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, and who are interested in the local administration of the surroundings which they have learned to love, however horrible these may look. I do not believe in a moving population, but in men who love the places which have been their homes from the days of their forefathers. Men cannot be uprooted from such places without damage to their fine and sensitive natures.

5.27 p.m.

The Secretary for Mines (Captain Crookshank)

The hon. Member speaks always with such feeling that I am afraid the remarks which I have to make will appear very trifling by comparison. The human point of view which he and others have put forward is the natural interest of us all, in relation to the problems of employment in the mining industry, but he took us a little further than we should go on this Amendment to the proposed Lords Amendment. The House will recollect that when the Bill left us we had decided by vote on several occasions that the Commission were not to engage in any operation outside that of coalmining. It had not occurred to anyone at that time to raise a question as to what might happen if there were a breach of a lease and production ceased. It was to meet that point that in another place this proviso was inserted which it is now sought to amend.

If there were for the time being a breach of any coalmining lease and it was necessary to carry on certain operations in order to keep the premises in order—an expression which means the whole thing, although some people think that "premises" means only what is above ground—this proviso which has been inserted would deal with the point. I do not want to anticipate a later Amendment, but it is relevant to the point we are discussing to remind hon. Members of the Lords Amendment to insert in page 19, line 41, at the end, a new Clause F, which allows the Commission to apply to the court for an order for the appointment of a receiver. Some people, like the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, may say that that Clause is limited in its application. We can discuss that when we reach the Lords Amendment in question, but I am advised that the words of the new Clause are the widest possible words that can be found.

Sir S. Cripps

Surely, the whole of that Clause is governed by the opening words: In any proceedings in which the Commission claim to recover possession of premises. Unless there are such proceedings in the court, no claim can be made.

Captain Crookshank

It goes on to say: or other relief.

Sir S. Cripps

But there must be proceedings.

Captain Crookshank

We can discuss that later on. I cannot discuss it now; I was merely making an allusion to the fact that there are powers for a receiver to be appointed in certain circumstances. But at all times it is within the power of the Commission to do what may in their view be requisite for preserving in good order the premises. The hon. and learned Gentleman now moves an Amendment which would provide that that power should extend, beyond the preservation in good order of the premises, to the continuance of employment. I think he said that, if the Commission had not this power, they might be in an embarrassing position, because they would not be able to make any production. If that be so, it brings me to the point that it is very nearly making it possible for them to carry on mining operations indefinitely, because they have only to take no active steps to grant a new lease of the premises, and they will be able to go on. The hon. and learned Gentleman says that he moves the Amendment from the point of view of employment, and he admits that the consideration of production, from which royalties would come, might be in the minds of members of the Commission. If that be so, it entirely gives away a part of the case which is at the back of the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I have a suspicion that this very clever method, if I may say so, has been brought forward partly in order to raise again the possibility and desirability which we know they have in mind—they need not disguise it—of the Commission——

Sir S. Cripps

I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that that is not so. This Amendment is put down for the genuine and honest purpose of doing what we believe it is essential that the Commission should be able to do. We do not mind any words of limitation being associated with our words, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman so desires.

Captain Crookshank

The fact still remains that these words, if inserted, would have the possible effect of enabling the Commission to say that, a lease having come to an end, they will not do anything about renewing it, but will act under the powers of this proviso, because it is important that they should keep employment up and important that they should preserve the premises in good order, and they will go on doing it.

Mr. J. Griffiths

This must be read in conjunction with the rest of the Bill. The Commission will work under the directions of the Board of Trade.

Captain Crookshank

That is another question altogether. We are now dealing with an Amendment to the Lords Amendment, which has nothing to do with the directions of the Board of Trade at all. I am merely trying to make the point that in certain circumstances, if these words were inserted in the Lords Amendment, they might involve the possibility, under the protection of this proviso, of enabling something to be done which this House, while the Bill was before it, decided should not be done, by enabling the Commission to carry on the operation of coal-mining.

Mr. Mander

Surely, the position is governed by the words of Sub-section (2) of the Lords Amendment: The Commission shall not themselves engage in the business of coal-mining or carry on any operations for coal-mining purposes. … That is the mandatory instruction of the Clause, and these are quite exceptional circumstances.

Captain Crookshank

It is true that those are the main governing words, but, if you add a proviso which is almost as strong the other way, it leaves the position a great deal more open. The hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) said that he wanted the Commission to be able to act in the event of danger arising to other collieries from water in a colliery which had been closed down. That seems to me to be just the kind of case in which the Commission could act under the new Clause, by making an application to the court on the ground that it was essential in the interests of all concerned.

Sir S. Cripps

I think that the way in which the hon. and gallant Gentleman is putting it to the House is, if I may say so, a little misleading. It is clear that no application for a receiver can be made unless there are proceedings against the lessee. That is an absolute condition precedent to any application for a receiver, and, therefore, in the case which the hon. and gallant Gentleman is now imagining, there could not conceivably be an application.

Captain Crookshank

I do not see why there should not be an application for a receiver. However, we can discuss the question later on.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Captain Bourne)

I think we had better deal with the later Amendment when we reach it. Obviously we cannot discuss it now. To do so would not be satisfactory to any quarter of the House.

Captain Crookshank

I think there is an answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman, but I will not give it now. The fact remains that, if the Commission are not to have any power of running the coal industry or taking part in any mining operations, it is essential that there should be a proviso to allow them to act in certain circumstances to keep the premises intact. That is the only purpose of the proviso—that, when there is not a lease, it may be possible for the Commission to do something that they could not do before, namely, maintain the premises in good order. For that purpose the words of the proviso are quite adequate. But to introduce the question of continuing employment is not really germane, and might in certain circumstances extend the sphere unduly. For that reason we ask the House not to accept the Amendment to the Lords Amendment.

5.42 p.m.

Mr. Herbert Morrison

I will not make any extended reference to the later Amendment which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has mentioned, but will only say that it seems to me to have nothing to do with the general argument of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) and other hon. Members on this side of the House. The circumstances contemplated in the new Clause may not arise at all, but the real problem to which they have drawn attention will arise. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has attempted to prejudice the consideration of this businesslike and modest Amendment to the Lords Amendment by leading hon. Members on his own side of the House to believe that it is a quiet, secret and very artful way of bringing in the social revolution. I know that hon. Members opposite are easily roused, that it is quite simple to arouse political and economic prejudice in their minds in the consideration of a matter like this, and they may be led to believe the hon. and gallant Gentleman when he urges that it is a case in which my hon. and learned Friend has gone exceedingly Fabian in his methods of legislation. I know, however, that he is not concerned here with promoting any violence in this industry or any big change, but that he is quite reasonably concerned with a perfectly simple, restricted issue which requires businesslike attention. The Secretary for Mines has argued that under my hon. and learned Friend's Amendment the Coal Commission could proceed indefinitely to manage as many mining undertakings as they wished within their sphere as royalty owners, but surely he cannot have read either the Lords Amendment or the original Clause. The Lords Amendment distinctly provides, in Sub-section (2), that: The Commission shall not themselves engage in the business of coal-mining, and it goes on to say that they shall grant leases for those purposes. The only purpose of the proviso is to provide for certain exceptional circumstances in which they may do exceptional things. It is clear that any attempt on their part to engage in extended and wholesale coal-mining operations under our Amendment would be contrary to the spirit of the Clause as a whole, and an injunction would almost certainly descend upon the heads of the Commissioners. Apart from that, the Secretary for Mines, when he says that the Board of Trade itself has not under this Clause any power to give general directions, seems to have forgotten Sub-section (2) of the Clause, which is not affected by the Lords Amendment, and which provides that: The Board of Trade may give to the general Commission directions as to the exercise and performance by the Commission of their functions under this part of the Act. Therefore, directions could be given by the Board of Trade with a view to preventing the Commission from going in for an indiscriminate and wholesale socialisation of the actual job of winning coal from the mines. In any case, as my hon. and learned Friend has said, if the Government and their legal advisers think that these words go too far, we should be quite willing, as long as the purpose of the Amendment is met, to consider in a friendly way any other words which may be considered more appropriate. The Lords Amendment provides that: The Commission may carry on any operations for those purposes which may be requisite for preserving in good order premises that are not for the time being subject to a coal-mining lease. The Amendment to the Lords Amendment is concerned with preserving in good order human beings who have been working in this industry. It would seem that, from the point of view of the Government, it is right and proper that capital shall be kept in good order, that premises shall be kept in good order, that property shall be kept in good order; but they seem to be completely indifferent to the desirability of live human beings being kept in good order by continuing employment as well. It is typical of the state of mind of the Government that on this issue, as on nearly every issue that comes before the House, they are infinitely more concerned about the protection of dead property than about the protection of live human beings. It is utterly inconsiderate on the part of the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary for Mines to resist this Amendment.

Let me remind the House of the essential point that is involved. Unforeseen circumstances arise, economic difficulties arise, or a company may be making a profit and does not think it is making enough profit, and it ceases to operate. It sacrifices its lease or goes into bankruptcy. Something happens that prevents it continuing operations. There are two things that can happen. Either that is a permanent failure on the part of that mine and there is not the slightest likelihood of it going into profitable production again, in which case the Commission will consider whether it is expedient to continue production or not. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) pointed out that our Amendment is not a mandatory Amendment. The decision will still be entirely within the discretion of the Commission. The Commission has to consider its own income and expenditure and its own balance sheet. If, after examining the particular circumstances of this mine, it comes to the conclusion that there is no likelihood of it ever, or perhaps for a long time, being let to another lessee, because it is unlikely that it will ever pay, no doubt it will take that into account, and, on business grounds, in its own interests, regretfully as we may think, come to the conclusion that it cannot continue production.

But the case we have particularly in mind is where production ceases and the Commission says to itself, "Within a short time it is tolerably certain that another firm will take this lease up and resume production in that pit." In that case two considerations arise. One is the property consideration, to which alone the Government attach any importance. Even from that consideration, it is a fact that the property will be better safeguarded by mining being continued. But suppose the Commission can, by looking ahead, say to itself, "Within a reasonable time this mine can be opened for production and somebody can take up the lease." If, for quite a short time, the Commission can prevent one of those tragic, grievous interruptions in a mining village, surely thereby they have done no harm to the industry, they have done no harm to the nation, and they ought not to have done any harm in the opinion of any hon. Member of this House if they say, "Not only in the interests of the industry itself, but also in the interests of the life of that village, the interests of the shopkeepers of that village, of the local authority there, of the family life there, and of the miners themselves, we are not going to be guilty of the crime of shutting this mine down for a period and causing all this dislocation."

It is utterly inhuman on the part of the Government, merely as a result of their bitter, intolerant, Capitalist, anti-Socialist prejudices—because that is all it is—to reject totally both the economic considerations to which we have drawn attention and the perfectly legitimate human considerations to which we have drawn attention too. The Government, as a result of sheer economic and political intolerance, sheer dogmatism, sheer inability to see anything outside their capitalist bias, are unable to accept a businesslike Amendment, which is rational from a business point of view and eminently reasonable from human and social considerations as well. I suppose that, at the behest of the Treasury Bench, hon. Gentlemen opposite, having listened to the Minister's speech, having swallowed the appeal to prejudice, intolerance and unreason that has been made, will reject our Amendment. But if that is so we can only say that this is one more instance of the Conservative party putting human interests aside because they are solely concerned with property interests, and it is another instance of the complete indifference of His Majesty's Government to the tragedies which occur from time to time in the mining districts of our country.

5.51 p.m.

Mr. McLean Watson

We cannot understand the attitude of the Government, unless it is that they want to make the Commission as inefficient as possible. Not only here, but in the other place, the Government have shown a desire to bridle the Commission as much as possible. In this Clause we shall have the obligation placed on the Commission to keep the premises in order. Men will have to be employed by the Commission. It will be quite in order for the Commission to employ men underground keeping the premises underground in condition until a new lease is taken out. But it will be impossible for these men employed underground to produce any coal. They may keep the roads and airways in condition, they may keep the shaft in proper condition, but in no circumstances must they produce any coal. The President of the Board of Trade shakes his head. I suppose they may produce coal, provided

they do not sell it. What is the position? In order to keep the pits in condition men must be employed, both above ground and underground. Everybody knows that if a pit is worked by steam, coal must be used in raising the steam. A considerable number of pits are still worked by steam—and, as a matter of fact, the pits that are likely to be left without work for some time are those where steam is used. Where is the Commission to get the coal?

In this Clause the obligation is placed on the Commission to keep the premises in order. That is an instruction not only from the Government but agreed to by the House of Lords. I am not prepared to say that the House of Lords is a place to decide a matter of this kind. The knowledge of mining among its Members is very limited indeed. I would have preferred if, during the course of his remarks, the hon. and gallant Gentleman had faced up to this question and told us how it was possible for the Commission to carry out the obligation placed on it to keep the premises in order, without at the same time producing coal. What is at the back of the mind of the Government is that the Commission might begin to develop and work the coal seams themselves—a thing that is expressly forbidden in this Clause. If there is to be this Commission, with the obligation of keeping the premises in order, we want to see the Commission being able to carry out its duties by producing such coal as is necessary in connection with these operations. But evidently the Government have the greatest terror of the Commission producing a single pound of coal. I hope that we shall show, not only to the Government but to the country, that we want to see this Commission able to carry out the duties imposed on it by this Measure.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Lords Amendment."

The House divided: Ayes, 139; Noes, 249.

Division No. 272.] AYES. [5.58 p.m.
Adams, D. (Consett) Benson, G. Cluse, W. S.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Bevan, A. Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.
Adamson, W. M. Broad, F. A. Cooks, F. S.
Ammon, C. G. Bromfield, W. Collindridge, F.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Brown, C. (Mansfield) Cove, W. G.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford
Banfield, J. W. Buchanan, G. Daggar, G.
Barnes, A. J. Burke, W. A. Dalton, H.
Barr, J. Caps, T. Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)
Batey, J. Cassells, T. Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)
Bellenger, F. J. Charleton, H. C. Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Chater, D. Day, H.
Dobbie, W. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Riley, B.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth) Ritson, J.
Ede, J. C. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)
Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.) Kelly, W. T. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Rothschild, J. A. de
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Kirkwood, D. Sanders, W. S.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Seely, Sir H. M.
Gallacher, W. Lathan, G. Sexton, T. M.
Gardner, B. W. Lawson, J. J. Simpson, F. B.
Garro Jones, G. M. Leach, W. Smith, E. (Stoke)
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Lee, F. Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)
Gibson, R. (Greenock) Leslie, J. R. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Logan, D. G. Stephen, C.
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Lunn, W. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Stokes, R. R.
Grenfell, D. R. McEntee, V. La T. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) McGhee, H. G. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) MacLaren, A. Thorne, W.
Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) MacMillan, M. (Western Isles) Thurtle, E.
Groves, T. E. Mander, G. le M. Tinker, J. J.
Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.) Mathers, G. Viant, S. P.
Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Maxton, J. Walkden, A. G.
Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Messer, F. Walker, J
Hardie, Agnes Montague, F. Watkins, F. C.
Harris, Sir P. A. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.) Watson, W. McL.
Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Hayday, A. Naylor, T. E. Welsh J. C.
Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Paling, W. Westwood, J.
Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Parker, J. White, H. Graham
Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Parkinson, J. A. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Hicks, E. G. Pearson, A. Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Hills, A. (Pontefract) Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W. Withers, Sir J. J.
Jagger, J. Poole, C. C. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Pritt, D. N.
Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Ridley, G. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Mr. Whiteley and Mr. John.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Gledhill, G.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.) Goldie, N. B.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Chorlton, A. E. L. Gower, Sir R. V.
Albery, Sir Irving Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead) Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) Clydesdale, Marquess of Grant-Ferris, R.
Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S. Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Gridley, Sir A. B.
Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.) Colfox, Major W. P. Grigg, Sir E. W. M.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Colville, Rt. Hon. John Gritten, W. G. Howard
Apsley, Lord Conant, Captain R. J. E. Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)
Aske, Sir R. W. Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.) Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.
Assheton, R. Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Hambro, A. V.
Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton) Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs) Harbord, A.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.) Cox, H. B. Trevor Haslam, Henry (Harncastle)
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Craven-Ellis, W. Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J. Critchley, A. Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.
Balfour, G. (Hampstead) Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Crooke, Sir J. Smedley Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-
Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M. Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Hepworth, J.
Baxter, A. Beverley Crossley, A. C. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Crowder, J. F. E. Higgs, W. F.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Culverwell, C. T. Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.
Beechman, N. A. Davidson, Viscountess Holdsworth, H.
Beit, Sir A. L. Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) Holmes, J. S.
Bernays, R. H. De la Bère, R. Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.
Birchall, Sir J. D. Denman, Hon. R. D. Hopkinson, A.
Blair, Sir R. Denville, Alfred Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.
Boulton, W. W. Dixon, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)
Bower, Comdr. R. T. Donner, P. W. Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)
Bracken, B. Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H Hulbert, N. J.
Braithwaite, Major A. N. Drewe, C. Hunloke, H. P.
Brass, Sir W. Dugdale, Captain T. L. Hunter, T.
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Duncan, J. A. L. Hurd, Sir P. A.
Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham) Dunglass, Lord Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Jones, L. (Swansea W.)
Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.) Ellis, Sir G. Keeling, E. H.
Bullock, Capt. M. Elmley, Viscount Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)
Burton, Col. H. W. Emmott, C. E. G. C. Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)
Butcher, H. W. Emrys-Evans, P. V. Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.
Campbell, Sir E. T. Entwistle, Sir C. F. Kimball, L.
Cartland, J. R. H. Errington, E. Lamb, Sir J. Q.
Carver, Major W. H. Erskine-Hill, A. G. Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.
Cary, R. A. Everard, W. L. Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)
Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester) Fremantle, Sir F. E. Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Furness, S. N. Lewis, O.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Fyfe, D. P. M. Lipson, D. L.
Channon, H. Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley) Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)
MacAndrew, Colonal Sir C. G. Ramsden, Sir E. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Rankin, Sir R. Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.
McKie, J. H. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin) Strauss, E. A. (Southwark N.)
Macnamara, Major J. R. L. Raynor, Major R. H. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Macquisten, F. A. Reed, A. C. (Exeter) Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)
Magnay, T. Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Maitland, A. Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Reid, W. Allan (Derby) Tate, Mavis C.
Marsden, Commander A. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton) Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Maxwell, Hon. S. A. Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool) Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Parfd., S.)
Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Ropner, Colonel L. Thomas, J. P. L.
Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham) Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge) Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.) Rowlands, G. Thorneycroft, G. E. P.
Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R. Titchfield, Marquess of
Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick) Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A. Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Mitcheson, Sir G. G. Russell, Sir Alexander Turton, R. H.
Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C. Russell, R. J (Eddisbury) Wakefield, W. W.
Moreing, A. C. Salmon, Sir I. Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Morris-Jones, Sir Henry Salt, E. W. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Samuel, M. R. A. Ward Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencestar) Sanderson, Sir F. B. Wardlaw-Milne Sir J. S.
Munro, P. Scott, Lord William Waterhouse, Captain C.
Nall, Sir J. Selley, H. R. Watt, Major G. S. Harvie
Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H. Shakespeare, G. H. Wayland, Sir W. A
Nicolson, Hon. H. G. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree) Wells, Sri Sydney
O'Connor, Sir Terence J. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar) Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Shepperson, Sir E. W. Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Patrick, C. M. Simmonds, O. E. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Peake, O. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A. Wilson Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Perkins, W. R. D. Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Petherick, M. Smith, Sir Louis (Hallam) Womersley Sir W. J
Pickthorn, K. W. M. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen) Wood Hon. C. I. C.
Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Somerville, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald Wood Rt. Hon Sir Kingsley
Porritt, R. W. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor) Wragg, H.
Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton Spears, Brigadier-General E. L. Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.
Procter, Major H. A. Spens, W. P.
Radford, E. A. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Ramsbotham, H. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd) Mr. Grimston and Major Sir
James Edmondson.

Question put, and agreed to.

6.6 p.m.

Captain Crookshank

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This is the first Amendment of which we discussed the proviso at considerable length, and I think that there is no need to have any further discussion upon it. It merely is a rewriting of the Clause as it was when it left this House.

Sir S. Cripps

We have no objection to this redrafting, except the one which we have already expressed, and, therefore, we do not propose to divide against it.

Lords Amendment: In page 2, line 19, leave out" and performance."

Captain Crookshank

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This is purely a drafting Amendment.

Lords Amendment: In page 2, line 24, at the end, insert: Provided that nothing in this Subsection shall be construed as conferring on the Board any power to give a direction in relation to any matter regulated by or under the Coal Mines Act, 1911, or by or under any other enactment relating to the control or management of a mine within the meaning of that Act.

6.8 p.m.

Captain Crookshank

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This has been put in the Bill in order to make clear a point which raised some difficulties in certain quarters. The Clause merely said that one of the things about which the Board of Trade might give the Commission general directions as to the exercise of their functions were matters affecting the safety of the working of coal. I am sure that the House will realise that it was not intended by those words that the Board of Trade, by directions, should be able to override statutory enactments. There is, as hon. Members know, a great deal of legislation for safety, and it would be clearly wrong in our view were it possible to interpret the words, which were in the Clause as it stood, to cover the possibility of directions taking the place of Acts of Parliament. I am sure that that is a consideration which must appeal to both Houses of Parliament, and I hope, therefore, that the House will agree with this Amendment. It is merely to make clear a point which we always have thought was inherent.

6.9 p.m.

Mr. J. Griffiths

I want to oppose very strongly the acceptance of this Amendment of the Lords, because it is another example of what is characteristic of the whole of their Amendments, and that is to try to crib, confine and restrict this Commission as much as possible.

Captain Crookshank

It is not the Commission, but the Board of Trade that is concerned here.

Mr. Griffiths

In any case, in the end, as I propose to show, it is the Commission. We had a very interesting discussion on this matter on the Committee stage in this House, and I propose to quote the words which were used by the President of the Board of Trade, which he will have to go back upon if he accepts this Amendment of the Lords. When we discussed this matter he said that the Board of Trade could give directions to the Commissioners as to the exercise and performance of their duties, and that, in particular, they could give directions, including all matters affecting the safety of the working of coal, and that the Commission could give effect to any such direction. The original Clause as it left this House envisaged the Board of Trade giving instructions to the Commission that, in carrying out their duties, they were to have regard to the question of the safety of the working of coal.

In Committee there was a good deal of discussion as to the actual meaning of the safety of the working of coal. Does it include the safety of the men working the coal? Are the men and the coal to be separated? It is on that point that I want to quote the words used by the President of the Board of Trade on the Committee stage. He was interrupted, as he was very often during the proceedings on the Bill, and he became very definite, so that I shall be quoting words which he used with great emphasis as being the considered opinion of the Government upon this very matter. In column 623, Vol. 330 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, he says: I have told the Committee exactly what we have in mind. It is that before granting new leases the Commission shall consult with the inspectors as to the lay-out of a new pit and try to get a lay-out which is most conducive to the safety of the working. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) interrupted him, and asked: Does that mean the safety of the miners and the workers, or the safety of the surface? The President of the Board of Trade replied: I am sorry that I am not so conversant with the technical terms of the industry as the hon. and learned Member. I thought that safety in the working of coal would convey to hon. Members the safety of those who were working in the mines."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th December, 1937; col. 623, Vol. 330.] Therefore, the President of the Board of Trade clearly envisaged that the Commission, in granting new leases, would consult the inspectorate and take their advice whether they should not lay down conditions in the lease as to the layout of the pit. If we accept the Amendment, what is the position? The inspectors of mines are appointed under the 1911 Act. It is their job to see that the 1911 Act is carried out. That is the basic Act upon which they work. The Lords Amendment says: That nothing in this Sub-section shall be construed as conferring on the board any power to give a direction in relation to any matter regulated by or under the Coal Mines Act, 1911. It shuts out any power to give any direction if that direction is in relation to the 1911 Act. It throws overboard everything on this matter that the President of the Board of Trade said that they had in mind when they introduced the Bill.

Captain Crookshank

May I help the hon. Gentleman, as I am sure that we do not want to argue on a false basis here. I do not think that anything that has been said so far is inconsistent with what my right hon. Friend said. What we always have had in view in this matter were the conditions prior to conditions which are regulated by the Act, the layout, for example, of the pits to which the hon. Gentleman himself has just referred. The Board of Trade under the various Coal Mines Acts have no power to do anything about that; not before the pit starts working and the men go down to work. When it comes to merely planning a pit, which is a matter about which the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite knows, the Coal Mines Act and Regulations under it are not involved, arid, therefore, that part to which the hon. Gentleman is alluding is completely safeguarded.

Mr. Griffiths

What do we mean by layout of pits? Is it the way the shaft should be sunk, the roads driven, or the pit developed, all of which are provided for and regulated by the Coal Mines Act, 1911? The lay-out of the pit means how the pit is to be worked. The size of the shaft and method of working are all layout and planning. I agree that there have been glaring instances in which the planning of the pit was badly done. That was one of the things which was most clearly brought out at Gresford. One of the fundamental causes of that accident was that from the beginning they were handicapped through bad planning. They could see the explosion coming, because of the bad plan of the pit.

The Commission is charged with the safety of the working of coal and they ought to have the fullest powers, in granting a lease, to lay down conditions as to the planning and lay-out of the mine. They ought to be able to say: "You must conform with that plan." If we accept the Lords Amendment they will not have that power. They will not be able to go to the mines inspectorate and say: "We have had an application from a coalowner or a company, who have asked for a lease to work coal in a certain place; do you advise us to put conditions in the lease as to the lay-out?" The inspectorate might desire to make suggestions which had relation to the Coal Mines Act, 1911, in which case the Commission would be debarred from taking any such action.

In another place they knew well what they were doing when they inserted this Amendment. It has been very carefully prepared. They are looking to their own interests, and are restricting the rights of the Commission. I would ask hon. Members to read the report of the Gresford Inquiry, and they will realise that the fundamental cause of the explosion was that there was bad planning and bad lay-out. When they have read that report, let them, if they like, vote for this Amendment. It is proposed to take away from the Commission the power to prevent future Gresfords. I hope that I am speaking not only for hon. Members who sit on these benches but for hon. Members in all parts of the House when I say that we shall resist the Amendment to the uttermost, because it strikes at one of the powers which it is essential the Commission should have.

6.18 p.m.

Sir Hugh Seely

I support what has been said by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). It was certainly my opinion that in Committee, when this matter was fully debated, we intended to give real power to the Board of Trade, through the Commission, in regard to the lay-out of the collieries. There was one point which the hon. Member did not mention, but it came out when the Secretary for Mines said that the Board of Trade did not come in until the pit had been sunk. There is the question of ventilation, which is responsible for many accidents. There can be no doubt that the proposed Amendment weakens the power which we desired to give to the Commission, and it definitely weakens what was said by the right hon. Gentleman. He stated what the effect of the Clause would be, and now the Clause comes back from another place weakened by this Amendment in regard to the Coal Mines Act, 1911. It would be a mistake if we accepted it.

6.19 p.m.

Mr. Stanley

The hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) has referred to what I said in Committee. I can assure him that I believe, and I am advised, that this Amendment does not make any difference to the object which I then laid down. The intention of the Amendment, and what I believe to be its scope, is one with which I think hon. Members will agree, and that is, that we do not want two inconsistent powers dealing with the same subject. Matters relating to the safety of mines are dealt with under the Coal Mines Act, 1911, by regulations. Clearly we could not have the Board of Trade issuing, through the Commission, what might be contrary directions. That would be contrary to what Parliament has laid down. It is to avoid that state of things that this Amendment has been introduced. As I am advised, the important words are "any matter regulated by." I am advised that those words do not mean that, just because the Coal Mines Act may deal with, say, the number of shafts or the number of roads, the Board of Trade, through the Commission, may never deal with shafts or roads. It means that the Board of Trade does not interfere with matters in connection with roads or shafts which are already regulated by the Coal Mines Act.

Sir S. Cripps

Suppose the Commission desired to say that in a particular pit electricity should not be used, and they wished to make it a term of the lease, because they considered that it was not safe for the working of a particular seam. That, surely, is a matter of regulation under the Coal Mines Act. Would the Board of Trade in those circumstances be able to give a direction through the Commission? Quite obviously, from what the right hon. Gentleman has said, they would not be able to give a direction.

Mr. Stanley

I do not know precisely what are the powers of regulation in regard to electricity under the Act or the details of regulations under which electricity could be stopped in any particular pit.

Sir S. Cripps

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, under the general regulations if there is more than 1¼ per cent. of gas in the air current, electricity must be shut off. Electricity is one of the matters regulated. Therefore, the Board, through the Commission, could not give a direction in relation to electricity.

Mr. Stanley

I should have thought that in so far as it was a question of saying that no electricity should be used, and if there are powers under the Coal Mines Act regulations for that purpose, then that is the way that it should be done, and even if the Board of Trade, through the Commission, could not deal with that, I am not sure that it is right that they should. Parliament has laid down how these matters should be dealt with. As I am advised, although there are regulations which deal with the subject of electricity, that would not deprive the Board of Trade, through the Commission, from dealing with any aspect of electricity not regulated by the Coal Mines Act.

6.23 p.m.

Mr. T. Smith

What my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said in regard to the Committee stage is true. I want the House to have some regard to what they are doing. If they look at page 2 of the Bill they will find that: The Board of Trade may give the Commission general directions as to the exercise and performance by the Commission of their functions in relation to matters appearing to the Board to affect the national interest, including all matters affecting the safety of the working of the coal. If the President of the Board of Trade does not already know it, may I inform him that the Coal Mines Act, 1911, is very comprehensive? It not only deals with what is in the Act, but it confers on the Secretary for Mines, under the jurisdiction of the Board of Trade, very wide powers, under which regulations are frequently made dealing with matters affecting the mines, such as safety, health, shot firing and a hundred and one different things. The Amendment says that the Board of Trade, through the Commission, shall not give directions if those directions come within the Coal Mines Act, 1911.

The real object of the Bill, in addition to acquiring the mining royalties, is, we are told, to secure the more economic and better working of the coalmining industry. If experience shows that in a certain area the methods of working the coal by the present coalowners is not to the best advantage of the country, would not this Amendment prevent the Board of Trade from saying to the coalowners, "We think the national interest would be best served by working the coal in such and such a way." Some mining engineers say that the long-wall retreating system is the best and that it gives better roads, and so on. In practice, we have colliery companies working coal under all kinds of systems. They may be called systems, but there is much that is higgledy-piggledy. Under this Bill the nation is taking power to control the mining industry and to give us, let us hope, a proper plan. There has never been proper planning. The Secretary for Mines has told us that the real purpose of the Bill is not that the Government believe in national ownership but really because private ownership has shown that the best interests of mining have not been carried out. If we pass this Amendment, would it not prevent the Board of Trade from giving directions to the Commission to plan, or to suggest how a certain area should be worked?

In regard to a point raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) as to electricity, it may be in the best interests of the nation and would make for a better working of the industry if the Commission were able to say: "In our opinion this particular area or seam of coal would be better worked without electricity in the pit." In the 1911 Act there are regulations with regard to electricity underground. In this month's Stationery Office publication there are new regulations in regard to electricity. One can well understand the desire to avoid any duplication in orders, but we regard the Amendment with grave suspicion, and we must insist that if the Commission is going to plan, at least they should be able to have directions from the Board of Trade which will enable them to do it in the best interests of the country.

6.27 p.m.

Mr. George Hall

We regret that the President of the Board of Trade has changed his attitude in connection with this very important matter. Complaints were made during the protracted proceedings on this Bill, both on the Second Reading and in Committee, that there was nothing in the Bill for the miners. Now, the little bit that we thought was in the Bill concerning the safety of the miners is being whittled away. From the attitude of the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary for Mines it would appear that there has been some collusion between the Department and the other place on this matter. So far as we are concerned, we desire to emphasise the importance of giving to the Commission the rights they would have if this new Sub-section was not included. We would ask the President of the Board of Trade why it is necessary to include it.

The Board of Trade, in accordance with the Bill, may give to the Commission general direction as to the exercise and performance of their functions. By the insertion of this Sub-section it would appear that the President of the Board of Trade or the Government do not trust the Commissioners before they are appointed. Can they not leave this matter to the discretion of the Commissioners, instead of tying them as it is proposed to tie them by this Sub-section? We see no good purpose in including it. The Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1911, which deals with safety in mines, is entirely out of date, and we have had a Royal Commission sitting for some time to provide necessary information whereby the Act may be amended. The reason why the percentage of accidents is higher in this country as compared with other countries, particularly in the matter of explosions, is because there is no provision in the Coal Mines Act of 1911 for the safety of the mines. I wonder whether the President of the Board of Trade knows of the new system for the falling of roof underground, which is not provided for in the Coal Mines Act. There are a hundred and one things which the Commission, acting in conjunction with the Board of Trade, could do outside those mentioned in the Act of 1911, by which the safety of mines would be better guaranteed.

We are very disturbed at the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman in connection with this question. Gresford has been referred to. It is not a question of planning new mines or mines granted under new leases by the Commission; there is scarcely an old mine in this country which ought not to be planned. The system of working is such that there are very few people other than the coalowners themselves who are satisfied with the planning of the mines. We want to impress on the right hon. Gentleman that instead of strengthening the position as far as the safety of men is concerned, he is weakening it, and we think that he, acting in conjunction with the members of another place, is making this Bill very much worse than it was, as the result of accepting this Lords Amendment. We hope he will reconsider the matter and allow the Bill to stand in its original form.

6.33 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher

I should like to add my plea to those of my hon. Friends that the Minister will reconsider this matter. I am certain that any hon. Member reading the Clause as it stands without the addition of the Lords Amendment would understand quite clearly the powers which the Board of Trade and the Commission, through the Board of Trade, will get. I am satisfied, following the discussions in Committee on this particular question, that the Clause is quite sufficient to give power to the Commission, through the Board of Trade, to do some very valuable work in connection with safety in the mining industry. Hon. Members on this side of the House do not like the Bill as a whole, but the one thing about which they are concerned is that the Commission shall be in a position to be able to bring the mining industry out of the chaotic condition in which it is, into something like a safer industry for the men employed in it. Frankly I would like to have moved a Motion to wipe out the whole of the Lords Amendments. I should like to have moved a Motion to lock the doors of the other place, and throw away the key. It would be to the advantage of the country.

If this particular Amendment is accepted, I should like to ask the Minister whether it is possible for him or for anyone with the most astute legal mind to get any idea what will be the powers of the Commission in connection with the mines. If this Amendment is accepted we shall get a situation where the Board of Trade might advise the Commission to do certain things in connection with a particular mine in a particular district, and when the Commission tried to do these things, up would jump some legal representative of the mine-owners and say, "You cannot do this; under the Act of 1911 and various other Acts of Parliament it is outside the power of the Board of Trade or the Commission to take such measures as you are proposing to take."

The Amendment is designed to stultify the Commission, it is part of a policy to weaken the powers of the Commission, and if it is accepted it would simply cause all kinds of complications and make the proper working of the Commission almost impossible. In view of the discussions which have taken place, and in view of the spirit shown in the other place I would ask the Minister not to accept the Amendment. I never went to the other place myself, I could not have stood it, but an hon. Friend of mine told me that for two or three nights you never heard anything like it, it was nothing but naked greed. I suggest that it would be a good thing if one of Franco's aeroplanes were sent to drop a bomb upon them; in such a case we would not have to give them any protection because they were simply concerned with profits. I ask the Minister, in view of the spirit shown in the other place and the fact that this Amendment is moved directly to stultify the work of the Commission, not to support the Amendment.

6.41 p.m.

Sir S. Cripps

I want to make an earnest appeal to the Minister and to the House. It has been my perhaps unhappy lot to be present at more than one inquiry into a major disaster, and anyone who has been forced to attend throughout these proceedings cannot fail to be moved by any matter affecting the safety of miners. We are all, as I understand, agreed that this phraseology, whatever it may be, should not diminish the power of the Board of Trade to give general directions as to the safety of working. Our difference is as to the effect of the words which have been introduced by the House of Lords. I would ask this House to consider carefully what these words are, because what we are now doing may have a profound effect upon the safety of some mines in future. It may deprive the Board of Trade or the Commission of an opportunity of avoiding a major tragedy in the life of this country and, therefore, I trust that everybody will give their most earnest attention to what we are actually doing. I will preface it by saying that we were all content—we wanted more provisions, but the whole House was content—to let the Bill go through as it left this House.

What is it that has been added? The proviso which has been added is to cut down the meaning of the words dealing with the safe working of coal. That is the object of the proviso—to cut down the contents of those words. How far has it cut it down? It has cut it down by saying that you are to construe these words as not conferring on the Board of Trade any power to give a direction in relation to any matter regulated by the Coal Mines Bill. It is not a direction of performance; it is not a direction contrary to any matter, but it is a direction in relation to any matter, that is, concerned with any matter. The President of the Board of Trade said—and I was sorry to hear him say it—that he was not aware what those regulations covered. Let me remind him of the provisions—not of the regulations but of the Act itself. Let me take, for instance, Section 36 which deals with the requirements as to shafts and outlets, which lays down, for instance, the number of shafts and the position of shafts with reference to the seam. Then you pass on to travelling roads and haulage roads, and it lays down the position and size of travelling roads which may be under Section 45 in accordance with the opinion of the inspector, and deals with the apparatus on haulage roads and the provision of refuge holes on those roads. All these matters are essential in the lay-out of a mine.

Could it be said that the Board of Trade may give a direction in relation to haulage? Clearly, haulage roads are a matter regulated by the Coal Mines Act, and, therefore, it would be impossible for the Board of Trade to give a direction that every haulage road should be at least seven feet in height in all new mining leases that are granted. Why should it not be able to give such a direction? It is not contrary to anything else. It may be necessary or desirable in a particular type of coal and seam that the safety regulations, because they are safety regulations, should be observed in the opening up of a new mine. If the proviso goes in we shall, as the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) has said, give every owner of a mine the opportunity of disregarding these directions. He will say they are illegal directions under the Coal Mines Act, because the proviso has expressly taken from the Board of Trade power to give such a direction.

If it is the desire of the President of the Board of Trade that this should not lead to any duplication—we do not want any duplication—if the Board of Trade are going to exercise these powers, presumably they will not duplicate them, but there may be cases where they may consider it highly desirable in opening a new coalfield that electricity should not be used. All the regulations in regard to electricity come under Section 60 of the Coal Mines Act, and nobody can argue—I am sure the Attorney-General will agree with me—that electricity is not a matter regulated by or under the Coal Mines Act. The Sections dealing with it are headed "Electricity." That is a matter which is regulated, and if that is so, no direction can be given by the Board of Trade in relation to electricity as it is a matter regulated under the Coal Mines Act. Surely, the right hon. Gentleman does not want, after his expressions regarding the safety of working, to deprive the Board of Trade, and therefore by implication the Commission, of the right to give directions in order that certain conditions may be put in leases of new mines to get a greater measure of safety than may be possible under existing regulations.

I beg the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the matter before letting these words go in. We have to make up our minds to-night, but I hope he will hesitate a long time, and let us rather try to think out some other form of words which may achieve his object rather than let words in, and be for ever in the Act of Parliament, which may perhaps endanger gravely the lives of some miners of this country. I beg him therefore not to accept the Amendment, but rather to join with us in rejecting it because it may endanger the safety of mines. To leave it as it was before will not hurt anyone. The Board of Trade is in control, and it can give directions or not as it wishes. It would not hurt anybody if the Bill were left as it was before, but to insert this Amendment might bring danger to some men. Therefore, I beg the right hon. Gentleman to join with us in rejecting the Amendment.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Stanley

I wish to say a few words in response to the appeal of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), who quite rightly drew the attention of the House to the very prominent part he has played in recent years in connection with the inquiries into many disasters, and who therefore speaks on a subject of this sort not only with experience but naturally with a great deal of feeling. I am sure that hon. Members opposite will take my word for it when I say in all sincerity that there is no intention that the words which we are now discussing should be in any way inconsistent with the words which I used on the Committee stage and which the hon. and learned Gentleman quoted, or that, by the acceptance of this Amendment, we should in any way recede from the position which I then took up or deprive the Commission or the Board of Trade of the powers which I then said they would enjoy. The sole object of the Amendment is to ensure that where certain things dealing with safety in mines can be done by the methods already laid down by Parliament, they should be done by those methods, but that where Parliament has made no provision, then under this new provision the Board of Trade would have power to issue these directions.

However, I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that the possible issues which we are now discussing are too grave to depend upon a difference between us, not as to intention, but as to the meaning of words. Despite the weight which I give to the hon. and learned Gentleman's opinion on drafting points of this nature, I still hold that the effect of these words is as I stated it to be, but I think hon. Members on all sides of the House will agree that the possible result of any failure to reconsider this, or of any failure to make quite certain, not of the intention—for that I have explained and I think everyone agrees with it—but of the way we carry it out, is too great to allow it to pass in a few moments. Therefore, I suggest that the best procedure for the House to follow would be to allow the Question to be negatived, not as expressing any disapproval of the intention of the Amendment, but because that is the only way in which we can get a brief period in which to examine the drafting, to look into these words and to make absolutely certain in another place that it is the intention, and no more than the intention, that is carried out by this Amendment. Therefore, when Mr. Speaker puts the Question, I am prepared to recommend to my hon. Friends on this side that they should negative the Question, with the object of examining the drafting, but not the intention, of the Amendment again in another place.

Question, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment," put, and negatived.