HC Deb 19 June 1940 vol 362 cc177-92

(1) Upon an application made with respect to any class of trades or businesses consisting in the getting of minerals or oil from any mine, oil-well, or similar natural source of a wasting nature, the Board of Referees may by Order direct that in relation to trades or businesses of that class the references in Section twenty-seven of this Act to 6 per cent. and 8 per cent. and the references in Sub-section (9) of Section thirteen of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1939, to 8 per cent. and 10 per cent. shall, where the person carrying on the particular trade or business so desires, be construed as if thy were references to 6, 8, or 10 per cent., as the case may be, increased to such extent as may be specified in the order:

Provided that no order shall provide for increasing the said percentages by more than a further 4 per cent.

(2) Where any such order has been made with respect to trades or businesses of any class, then, in the case of a trade or business part only of which falls within that class, the increased percentages shall be applicable to such extent as may be just, having regard to the extent to which the trade or business falls within that class.

(3) The powers of the Commissioners and the Board of Referees under Section twenty-seven of this Act, as applied by the Fifth Schedule to this Act, shall, in relation to any trade or business falling wholly or partly within any class with respect to which such an order as aforesaid has been made, include power to proceed as if the provisions of the said Fifth Schedule so applying the said Section twenty-seven were adapted and modified to such extent, if any, as they may think necessary in order to enable effect to be given to the provisions of this Section.

(4) This Section shall apply to any subdivision of a class of trades or businesses based either on any special feature of the trades or businesses within that sub-division or on locality as it applies to a class of trades or businesses, in any case where the Board of Referees are of opinion that the sub-division can properly be dealt with separately.—[Sir K. Wood.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

3.40 p.m.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Kingsley Wood)

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This new Clause deals with certain aspects of excess profits taxation. The House will remember that when we discussed it on the Committee stage I gave an undertaking to take into consideration a number of suggestions that were made then. I stated that I was impressed with the case that had been put in relation to companies working wasting assets. On further consideration of the matter, I had to admit that a case had been made out for allowing a higher percentage upon the capital of concerns engaged in obtaining minerals, oils, or similar natural wasting sources. In such cases the return on the capital must provide, over the life of the wasting source, for the amortisation of the capital expended on the undertaking. This is particularly necessary at the present time because the wastage of such assets during the war has been and will be accelerated by the demands made on industry for increased output, and this, of course, inevitably affects our natural resources. The Government have recently made many requests in cases of this kind which have been responded to by the concerns affected.

This new Clause will affect two classes of percentages on capital. The first is the 6 per cent. and 8 per cent. laid down in Clause 27 of the Bill in relation to the application for a substituted standard where the profits of the standard period are very low. The second is the statutory percentages of 8 per cent. or 10 per cent. on capital prescribed in Section 13, Subsection (9) of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1939, as amended by Clause 31 (2) of this Bill. I think it is right to weight the allowance for this particular factor and to provide for a ceiling of the ordinary rate plus a further rate of 4 per cent. It is true that under the provisions of the new Clause the Board of Referees might, in theory, grant the whole of the additional 4 per cent. in any case that comes before them. I suggest that it would be much more likely that, although the maximum addition to be made in the most extreme type of case might go to that extent, the Board will grant additions of 1, 2 or 3 per cent. in cases of this description. It is for the Board of Referees to decide whether an application is made by a body of persons who can claim to represent any sufficient part of a trade or business, and they will decide whether an application can be made in general terms or whether individual application will have to be made. On the last occasion the Committee agreed with me that this was a case that I should meet. I have considered the other cases, but this is the only one which is not met by other provisions in the Bill. It is, I think, a fair and reasonable concession to make.

3.46 p.m.

Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)

Those of us who have been connected with the mining industry are wary about this proposal. I well recall that at the end of the 1926 stoppage in the coal industry, when we made new wages agreements, we had to discuss a re-arrangement of the ascertainment of wages, and the question of what permissible costs apart from wages were to be set off came under consideration. The question raised by this new Clause was then brought forward, and the claim was made that, because the mining industry was engaged in obtaining a wasting asset, that coal was being worked and that some day it would be worked away and all the capital sunk in it lost, therefore the owners were entitled to claim an amortisation allowance. I would remind the Chancellor that that claim was closely argued. In the end it was withdrawn in some areas, the owners being convinced that a claim had not been made out, but where it was not withdrawn it was submitted to independent arbitration and turned down.

I would ask the Chancellor to give further consideration to this question. Those of us who are connected with the mining industry want to see the owners given the same fair play as everybody else, but we do not want to see, and we shall not stand for, profits being made out of the mining industry in this war on the scale on which they were made in the last war. In company with my colleagues in South Wales, I attended a conference last Saturday at Cardiff at which the miners were asked, and willingly and enthusiastically gave, a pledge to do their utmost in the national interest at this time. They were asked to give up things which they valued very much. The South Wales miners were asked to work on a Sunday night, and that was asking them to do something against their religious instincts. They were asked to give up practices and customs, and they agreed to give them up willingly because they believed they were thereby doing a service to the nation. A personal appeal was made by my hon. Friend the Secretary for Mines. We were asked, "If the miners respond to this appeal and put forward their best effort, are we sure that that effort is being made for the nation and not for the profit of individuals?" We replied, what we all understood to be the case, that the profits of the coal mining industry would be subject to the same provisions as other industries, and that there would be 100 per cent. tax on all excess profits.

What is the position in which the Chancellor is placing us to-day? Under this new Clause the mining industry may be able to get more favourable terms and extra profits. That is the meaning of it. They will be able to go to the tribunal and say, "We are working in the mining industry, engaged upon what is a wasting asset and therefore we are entitled to an increased rate of dividend, to something over and above what is going to other industries." It is not merely the coal that is a wasting asset; the life of the miner is a wasting asset, and when men are asked to speed up in the pits it means that they are being asked to take greater risks. We are not merely speeding up production but speeding up danger. I would speak frankly and say that this is not the time to give the mine owners greater profits.

Mr. Spens (Ashford)

What does the hon. Member mean by mine owners? Does he mean royalty owners?

Mr. Griffiths

I understand that this provision does not apply to royalty owners. We settled the royalty owners a long time ago, and they have no claim. I ask the Chancellor to consider the point of view I have put forward, because it is not a service to the nation but a disservice to give the owners of coal this augmentation of profits. We know what the position is now. We know that profits are being made, far too large profits. Why should the owners be allowed to make this appeal? It is an appeal which has been turned down before. It is something they have tried in wages ascertainment negotiations for many years past. As it has been turned down in that connection why should the Chancellor admit the claim now? The Chancellor said that representations had been made to him about the matter. In days like these, when we want national unity, it should have occurred to him that in a matter of this kind, having regard to the agreements existing in the mining industry, the men's representative should have been con- stlted. In the wages ascertainment arrangements, first of all the prices realised for coal are ascertained and then there is set off against that sum wages costs and costs other than wages. Therefore, proposals of this kind vitally affect the wages of the men. Was any consideration given to the question of consulting the Mineworkers' Federation of Great Britain? The Financial Secretary to the Treasury was for years Secretary for Mines, and in considering this problem he must have had in the background of his mind his knowledge of the mining industry and its problems. Why should not the Mineworkers' Federation be consulted? It has quite as much right to be consulted as have the mine owners. Therefore, I ask the Chancellor to withdraw this Clause. In the interests of the nation we have asked the miners to give everything for the nation, and they will do so, but if it goes out from this House that we are giving the mine owners more profits, that will undermine anything that we are doing.

3.55 p.m.

Mr. Spens

I do hope that my hon. Friends opposite will not think that I am speaking on behalf of property or anything of that sort. I take an entirely different view from that which I was so very sorry to hear put forward by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). I would remind him that during recent years the mining industry has been working under Government schemes. All bon. Members opposite know this. Those Government schemes have been introduced under the Coal Mines Act for the reason that the mining industry, and particularly the export section of it, has been a depressed industry. The mine owners, I mean the working owners, the lessees, have been controlled by sales schemes and all sorts of things, and in the depressed sections of the mining industry, as hon. Members opposite know very well, there has been a constant carrying forward of deficits on wages ascertainments, particularly in Durham and South Wales.

Mr. Batey (Spennymoor)


Mr. Spens

No, let me put my point. I want to put it fairly. Hon. Members also know that as the war approached and since the war has started the mine owners of this country have been called upon by the Government to make superhuman efforts to increase production in order to increase the export trade.

Mr. Gordon Macdonald (Ince)

So have the miners.

Mr. Spens

Yes, and the miners. I want hon. Members to listen patiently. I am not trying to put a hostile case. Indeed, so different is the position that I wish the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), with whom I have talked this over, were here. I very much regret his absence from the House. What was the position? These mining companies, which had been struggling in these depressed areas, had little or no finance with which to open up and develop additional coal faces. They were in grave financial difficulties. But, answering the call of the Government, they set to work to raise additional finance and to get the mines back into production. There is not an hon. Member opposite who does not know that in Durham, in South Wales and elsewhere coal is being produced to-day which none of us could have hoped two years ago would have been produced.

What was the position when the 100 per cent. Excess Profits Duty was introduced? It is not a standard of distributable profits. Hon. Members must realise that the standard profits are all that the owner of the business has to put aside for reserves, for capital improvements and for distribution of dividends—they are all he has to deal with as his. All the rest belongs to the Government. Therefore, when the 100 per cent. Excess Profits Tax was introduced owners said, "We are willing to do all we can to get our mines back into full production. We want to employ every miner we can. There are miners whom we can get back into production, but we must have money to do it. If we have only the ordinary standards of profit left to us we shall not have finance with which to do it." It is not only the mine owners who are affected, but hundreds of thousands of miners cannot be brought back into work unless some exception is made for this particular depressed industry.

I make no apology to the House or to those who represent miners for saying that in the last three months I have been doing all I can to try to get out of my right hon. Friend an arrangement under which some special consideration shall be given to the mining industry in order that this great development of the mines of the country may go on. I ask hon. Members who take the opposite view seriously to reconsider whether they are doing a wise thing, because, believe me, if this Clause does not go into the Bill, the extension of the mining industry which is so desperately necessary for our war effort, particularly in Durham and South Wales in respect of our export trade, is bound to be curtailed. Therefore, I beg my right hon. Friend to hold fast to the Clause, which I regard as one of the most essential in the Finance Bill.

4.0 p.m.

Mr. Batey (Spennymoor)

I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will withdraw the proposed new Clause. If he does not, some of us will be almost compelled to vote against it in the Lobby. The hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) began by stating that he did not intend to speak on behalf of the coalowners, but I thought he did extremely well for the coalowners. I do not know any hon. Member who could have delivered a better speech on behalf of the coalowners than that to which we have just listened. What were the reasons advanced by the hon. and learned Member? He argued that the coalowners had been hampered and had had put upon them conditions, such as those relating to sales associations and other things of that kind. In whose interests was that legislation passed? It gave power to the coal-owners to fix prices, to arrange production and to sell the coal. That legislation was passed in the interests of the coalowners and nobody else.

Mr. Holdsworth (Bradford, South)

That was supported by the hon. Member and his colleagues.

Mr. Batey

Yes, we supported it, because while it was in the interests of the coalowners, the miners also got some benefit. But our men would get no benefit whatever from the proposal in this new Clause. The hon. and learned Member for Ashford argued that in order to develop the coal mines at the present time, it was essential that the coalowners should have money. If they want money, let them get it as other people have to get it. Why should the Government provide them with money? I submit that the development of the coal mines in order to employ more miners does not depend upon the coalowners getting more money. During the past week-end I was looking at an ascertainment in the county of Durham covering the past 12 months. It showed that the profit of the coalowners had been 1s. 5d. per ton. That is not a bad profit. Nobody can sneer at it. It is, indeed, a handsome profit, and when the coalowners are getting profits of 1s. 5d. a ton there is no need for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to extend any pity to them, or to say that because they are only getting 10 per cent. there should be power to bring that up to 14 per cent. That kind of thing we will not stand.

We remember how coalowners and others in 1929 were relieved of three-quarters of the local rates. Although industry has been having a good time since then, while owners of property have had to bear the burden of local rates, there has been no proposal to rescind that legislation or to ask the coalowners and other owners engaged in production to pay what they had been paying prior to 1929. That was one of the actions of the late Prime Minister when he was Minister of Health and when the present Chancellor of the Exchequer was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry. They relieved the employers of three-quarters of the local rates, while poor people occupying houses and shopkeepers and others had to bear the burden of local rates. There is no proposal to put these employers of labour back where they were in 1929 in relation to local rates. We have also to remember that coalowners and others have had advantages in regard to reliefs for wastage of machinery and in other respects.

Now when we expected that the Government really intended to do something and to make coalowners and others pay 100 per cent. of their extra profits during the war, when we felt that, at last, a really important step was about to be taken in this direction, we have the Chancellor of the Exchequer coming forward with a proposal to make up the profits of coal-owners and others. This proposal applies not only to those engaged in coal-mining but also to those engaged in the extraction of oil. There cannot, however, be very many oil mines in this country, while we have an enormous number of coal mines. It is not right that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should at this time bring for- ward a proposal to increase the profits of coalowners up to 14 per cent., and if he in tends to go on with it, we shall be compelled to go into the Lobby and vote against the Clause.

4.5 P.m.

Sir K. Wood

I think there is some misapprehension about the meaning of the proposed new Clause. I hardly think that anyone who has followed the discussions on the technical parts of the Finance Bill, and especially those who took part in the Committee discussions, would easily reconcile the speeches of the two hon. Members opposite with the actual proposal in the Clause. All we are doing in this Clause is to make an equitable arrangement in connection not only with coal mines, but with other concerns which have wasting assets. The Clause, I would emphasise, applies not to coal mining only, but to all mines and in particular to copper mines which are being called upon to produce, in one year, a copper output which normally would not appear for several years. It is very largely to assist concerns of that kind in the special circumstances existing to-day, that this concession is being made, and I do not think the fact has been sufficiently appreciated by hon. Members opposite that apart from new businesses and new capital it applies only in relation to the provisions of Clause 27 (2) of the Finance Bill. Those provisions relate to cases where there have been no profits in the standard period or where the profits of that period were so low that it would not be just to ascertain the standard profits of the trade or business by reference to the actual profits of the standard period. Therefore, this is not a proposal having results such as those to which hon. Members opposite have referred. It relates mainly to the particular cases which I have indicated, and the main purpose of the new Clause is to provide a fair standard for those concerns—not only coal-mining concerns, but many others—which may have had losses or which have had practically no profits at all in the standard period. Under Clause 27 provision is made for fixing a figure of 6 per cent. on the amount of the capital employed as a maximum in ascertaining the standard. The main object of what I propose to do in this Clause—and I have rejected all the other proposals which were suggested to me—is to provide that in cases where there have been no profits in the standard period or where those profits were so low that it would not be just to ascertain the standard profits of the trade or business by reference to them, the Board of Referees shall have the right, on a case being made out to them, to increase the percentage by 4 per cent.

Mr. J. Griffiths

The right hon. Gentleman has obviously gone into this matter very carefully. He must be aware that of the cases which will be submitted, the great bulk will be cases of coalowners. It is plain that the coalowners are chiefly concerned, and the speech which we heard from the hon. and learned Member opposite was on behalf of the coal-owners. May I, then, ask the right hon. Gentleman who has been considering this matter very closely, what is the tonnage profit rate which he has in mind as being low enough to justify this new ascertainment?

Sir K. Wood

It is not a matter of a tonnage rate at all. It applies, as I have said, to cases in which the Commissioners of Inland Revenue or the Board of Referees are satisfied, in the words of Clause 27 (2): (a) that there were no profits in the standard period; or (b) that the profits of that period were so low that it would not be just to ascertain the standard profits of the trade or business by reference to the actual profits of the standard period.

Mr. Griffiths

What is to be the basis of deciding whether profits are low or not? How is the referee to decide that in a given period the profits were low?

Sir K. Wood

The words are: so low that it would not be just to ascertain the standard profits …

Mr. Griffiths

The right hon. Gentleman, in making up his mind about this Clause, must have had before him evidence that there were concerns in the coal-mining industry whose profits were low. Did he fix in his mind a figure of what he considered to be a low profit?

Sir K. Wood

That will be a matter for the Commissioners or the Board of Referees themselves to decide, and they are an independent body. If no profits at all were made, that is easily ascertainable, and it would then be possible to operate the new Clause.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)

Will the referee be entitled to take into account profits made by subsidiary concerns?

Sir K. Wood

I take it that it would be a matter of the general profits of the concern, but perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to deal now with the point put by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). I want to satisfy the hon. Member that there is a misapprehension of the purpose of the Clause. It applies mainly in the two cases which I have mentioned. Where there are no profits, there will be no doubt or difficulty. I should imagine that no one would argue that where there are no profits at all in the standard period, the Referees should not be able to put this extra percentage into operation. Then the hon. Member asks what is meant by profits which are so low as not to represent a fair standard. The Commissioners or the Referees themselves will have to be satisfied on the case presented to them, that it would not be just to ascertain the standard profits of a concern by reference to the actual profits of the standard period. They will have to determine, having taken into account all considerations whether or not it would be just in the special circumstances of the particular case to fix the standard profits by reference to the actual profits in the period.

The primary purpose of the new Clause is to give a fair standard to all those companies which have either losses or have made practically no profits at all in the standard year. I do not think the hon. Members opposite have appreciated the fact that for all ordinary trading concerns under Clause 27 six per cent. on the capital employed is the maximum nor do I think they have sufficiently appreciated the fact that the 100 per cent. Excess Profits Tax applies in these cases. This new Clause is an effort which is being made, I think justly and rightly, to give a reasonable standard to concerns which are in such a condition that the profits for the standard period would not be a fair or proper basis. Unless you do this, you are taking away from them not only the 100 per cent. excess profits, but probably the possibility of any profits at all, which would not, I think, be in the interests of anybody concerned. There is no attempt to give an extra 4 per cent. profit to the mining industry generally. It is merely an attempt to meet fairly a very difficult situation in cases where it can be shown that the profits are so low that a standard calculated on them would not be just. I hope that hon. Members will be satisfied with that explanation. I would examine the matter further in order to see whether there are any additional safeguards which I can suggest to meet the points put by hon. Members, but I think they will find that it will be in the interests of everybody concerned that this proposal should be adopted.

Mr. J. Griffiths

As this has some relationship to the question of wages ascertainment, may I ask, Was it thought desirable or will it be thought desirable to consult the Miners Federation of Great Britain?

Sir K. Wood

I must say I did not think it was an appropriate case for such consultation. It is entirely a matter of the considerations which I have already outlined, and I did not think there would be any objection to the proposal from anybody concerned in the industry.

Mr. Graham White (Birkenhead, East)

Nobody has mentioned the matter, but I presume that the maximum of 14 per cent. will still be subject to Income Tax at 7s. 6d. in the £. It would be most surprising if the result of this proposal were to allow any company to make anything more than a most modest return on its capital.

4.16 p.m.

Mr. Craven-Ellis (Southampton)

As I understand the proposal, it is put forward to give to certain mines an opportunity of making a profit because they may have had a bad period, and also because the profit which it is intended by this Clause that they should have is dependent upon a wasting asset. I do not understand how coal, oil or any mining business is a wasting asset. It is a diminishing, but not a wasting, asset. The point which was put forward by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) was a very good one, but was entirely beside the point of the proposed new Clause. The points put forward by the other side have also been very good, but I cannot see that to regard the use of minerals as a wasting asset, and as a basis for further provision for profit for the owners and operators of those mines, is the right course to adopt. If this course is accepted, it means the acceptance of a very vicious principle. The basis upon which it is intended to make a reserve fund for the purpose of meeting losses suffered from time to time by mines—like every other industry—is wrong in principle, and I should like to see the proposed new Clause withdrawn.

Mr. Jennings (Sheffield, Hallam)

How does the hon. Gentleman differentiate between ordinary plant, machinery and assets in a company which are allowed depreciation and, on the other hand, the assets of a mine or mineral concern which are not?

Mr. Craven-Ellis

There is no relation whatever between the machinery or plant which is operating in a mine and that in any other factory. That machinery is justifiably carrying depreciation and maintenance allowances; that is a vastly different matter from the mineral itself.

Mr. Jennings

They are both assets.

Mr. Craven-Ellis

Yes, but after careful calculation as to the value of the asset underground and taking a proportion of it in each ton sold throughout the period of operation of the mine, the value of the asset should have been disposed of.

4.18 p.m.

Mr. Gordon Macdonald (Ince)

I am glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is talking the matter over, because I can appeal to him more easily for reconsideration of the declaration which he has made. I do not think that he quite appreciates one point about the Excess Profits Tax. The argument about this tax has been used by every hon. Member on this side to convince the workers that, in this war, we are to get a fair deal, and that Parliament is calling upon the wealthy classes of this country. The right hon. Gentleman ought not to forget that the miners have an organisation; he seems to have forgotten its existence altogether. He says he does not think the organisation ought to be consulted. May I remind him that this proposal affects adversely or otherwise every miner in the country? I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has yet appreciated that wages in the mining industry are settled in relation to the whole proceeds of the industry.

We have no desire to divide the House on this matter, but the proposal will not get approval from hon. Members on this side, especially from the mining Members, in its present form. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that he has brought the proposal forward only because he was afraid that the mining industry might suffer an injustice. Very few mines are in operation which were not operating on 3rd September last year. There may be some colliery companies which were not making excess profits on 3rd September; the profits in the quarter at the end of July were not as good as their owners desired them to be. The right hon. Gentleman must not be surprised if we are not impressed by his arguments. He does not appear to know—I say it in all humility—as much about this Clause as does the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens), who was very honest. He told us that he had been working for weeks and weeks to get this Clause, and, having got it, he hopes that this side of the House, whom he never consulted, will be convinced by what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said.

Mr. Spens

Why did the hon. Gentleman say that I did not consult that side of the House?

Mr. Macdonald

I said that the hon. and learned Member did not consult the section of this House which knows most about the mining industry.

Mr. Spens

Which section?

Mr. Macdonald

We know the hon. and learned Member for Ashford. We remember where he stood during the discussions on the nationalisation of royalties. We know that he is not the champion of the miners, but the champion of the coalowners every time, when he speaks in this House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer must give serious reconsideration to this suggestion. During the last war, the coalowners of this country took every advantage to fill their pits with new machinery, paid for by the State. Let me warn the right hon. Gentleman that a similar thing is not happening now in the mining industry. The Secretary for Mines could tell him, as we have told him, that the coalowners of this country are taking great care of their own interests. They always do. I want the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reconsider this question. He has a consultative committee, consisting of representatives of owners and men in the mining industry, national leaders on each side. Surely this important question should be sent to that committee for consideration. The committee should be asked to consider it. The right hon. Gentleman need not be afraid that the national leaders of the miners will not consider every fair proposal. They do not want the coalowners to be treated worse than other concerns, but they do not want proposals brought forward in this House which would give the coal-owners preferential treatment.

At the moment I do not like talking in this House, because my mind is occupied with the serious crisis in which we are placed. I have a job to talk at any time, but when I find an issue brought here which I know will endanger the supreme effort of the miners, I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that, if it gets about in this country to-day that he is championing a proposal which will defeat the 100 per cent. Excess Profits Tax, he will undermine the confidence and the effort of the miners, without which this war, and any other war, cannot be won. I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the proposal. Before the Bill gets to another place will he consult both sides of the industry? We have no desire to divide the House to-day, and there will be no Division so far as I am concerned. I want the Chancellor to say, in return, that, between now and the Bill getting to another place, he will consult both sides of the industry.

4.27 p.m.

Mr. Collindridge (Barnsley)

I should like to add a word or two to the discussion. I think we should congratulate the hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Craven-Ellis) upon the point of view he has put. If the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman were carried out, our people in the mining industry might share what could be veritably called the loot, but we are not wishful to do it, from any point of view. We realise, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) has said, that, in the immediate winning of new coal, old mines are not likely to be opened. It is largely going to be done by further development of existing mines. Not only in the producing, but in the coal-consuming regions there will be great dissent from the right hon. Gentleman's proposal. I heard the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) talk about wasting assets, the implication being that the coal was a wasting asset. We do not object to the idea that the machinery which is used to get the coal is a wasting asset, but to talk about the coal being a wasting asset is like a shopkeeper who sells bacon over the counter saying that he is selling a wasting asset.

We are definitely against the proposal. I contrast the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman and the terms which are brought forward with those meted out by the Government to the human material that they take to fight in the winning of this war. I remember that we discussed to what extent we should have regard to the standard of living in the households from which young men have been taken to fight the country's battles. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Ince, I loathe getting up and striking a discordant note, or anything which might tend to lower the morale of the fighting men of the country in these serious times, but I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that there is a volume of protest in the country against this proposal, and, in view of the difficulties to which it may give rise, I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman withdraw the proposal forthwith.