HC Deb 13 July 1944 vol 401 cc1910-46

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a further sum, not exceeding £30, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the charges for the following services connected with Fuel and Power, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1945, namely:—

Class X., Vote 5, Ministry of Fuel and Power £10
Class X., Vote 16, Ministry of Works (War Services) £10
Class X., Vote 15, Ministry of War Transport £10

The Minister of Fuel and Power (Major Lloyd George)

While this is by no means the first time on which the work of my Ministry has been reviewed, previous discussions have centred, practically entirely, on the question of coal production. This is not altogether surprising, in view of the circumstances which existed when this Ministry was formed. But I think it is of real importance that the Committee and the country should realise that this Ministry is responsible for all forms of fuel and power. While coal, of course, is the source of most of the power in this country, and will, therefore, attract most attention, we must not forget petroleum, gas, and electricity, which play an extremely important part in our industrial and domestic life. Therefore, I think it important that I should say a very brief word about those three industries, before I proceed to the larger question of coal. On the supply side, most of the work of the Petroleum Division of my Ministry must, for obvious reasons, remain secret. I can only say that, under the direction of the Oil Control Board, of which the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. G. Lloyd) is chairman, it is closely concerned with the provision of adequate petroleum supplies to meet our wartime needs, in the air, on land, and on sea. At home, of course, petrol rationing receives rather more publicity, and, in the nature of things, cannot be popular. I do, however, feel that, on the whole, the flexible method of rationing adopted has' general approval.

What may not be generally realised is the extent to which it has been possible for coal and oil to assist each other. At an early stage of the war, it was thought necessary, for supply reasons, to convert a number of industrial boilers and small central-heating plants from oil to coke and coal-burning. Later, when the supply position changed for the better, some would change back from coal to oil. Another illustration of this has been the relief given to the coal supply position by the use of gas oil for making water gas; this has saved nearly 500,000 tons of coal this last winter. There is much public interest, and rightly so, in the question of producing oil from coal. My Ministry is engaged with the Fuel Research Board in full examination of this problem. During the war we have developed on a very large scale the use of home-produced creosote pitch from coal tar as a substitute for imported fuel oil in industrial plants. This is by far the largest substitution of a home-produced fuel for imported oil which this country has yet seen. We have also greatly extended during the war the production of benzol from coal at gas-works and coke-ovens. This benzol is at present largely used not, as before the war, for motor spirit, but as a component of aviation spirit and as a source of toluene for explosives.

As this war has progressed it has laid an increasing burden upon the gas and electricity industries. It is common enough to think of the question of coal supply as the only difficulty which confronts these two industries, but there are other equally important matters which we have to consider. It is obvious that plants in both these industries have been working under a very great strain since the war started. Replacements and repairs are not easy to make, and labour, particularly in the gas industry, is an extremely difficult problem. But in spite of these great difficulties the output of gas has been increased by over 10 per cent. since the war started and the electricity supply by over 51 per cent. This has been a very great effort, and the country has cause to be grateful to those engaged in these two in- dustries for the magnificent way in which they have met and overcome these very substantial difficulties.

But we must remember that the demands made upon these two industries for our war effort are constantly being increased, and economy in the use of gas and electricity is more than ever necessary. I would, therefore, point out that many domestic consumers have been a great deal less careful with gas and electricity than they have been with solid fuel. There is an impression that by using gas and electricity they are saving coal. Indeed, it was brought to my notice the other day, much to my surprise, that there are certain people who do not connect electricity with coal at all. It sounds a little startling and it is perhaps just as well that I should repeat that there is a very close connection, and that it is not a saving of fuel to save solid fuel, and substitute electricity or gas. In industry, with the assistance of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Production, very substantial cuts have been made, and without any appreciable effect upon our production. In the same way economies by domestic consumers can and must be made, and I believe they can be made without producing any undue rigour or hardship.

Whilst we are dealing with the immediate and pressing problems we have also to consider the long-term needs of these two industries. I recently appointed a Committee, under the chairmanship of Mr. Geoffrey Heyworth, to consider the future development of the gas industry. The Government also have under active consideration the future organisation of the electricity industry, and during the last few weeks I have been collecting the views of the industry itself from as many groups and points of view as possible. I need say no more here than that they were not lacking either in thought or variety.

I now turn to the principal subject of this Debate, and that is the statistical White Paper published last week. I believe its publication in the form in which it has appeared was absolutely essential. Experience has shown me that the published figures were, in many cases, incomplete. I believe that this paper is almost unique in its completeness. Indeed, I think it would be hard to find another industry, certainly in this country, about which so much informa- tion has been made available. It may be that the word "Digest" as a title was slightly optimistic, but whether that be so or not I am certain that the White Paper will be of the greatest value to hon. Members who are interested in fuel and power questions. There are two comments which I would make on the White Paper. First, formidable as this document appears to be, it is only a summary of the figures available to my Ministry for the purposes of day-to-day control. In the second place, for security reasons it has been necessary to withhold certain figures.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

Was it for security reasons that the profits of the coalowners were omitted?

Major Lloyd George

If the hon. Member will read the paper he will find that they are there too. They are shown for every district. When I say "for security reasons" I really mean it, and I can assure my hon. Friend that there have been certain incidents in the war years which fully justify the leaving out of certain figures. It may be convenient, if, rather than deal with items in the White Paper, I review the recent history of the coal industry and refer to the salient figures illustrating its course as revealed in the White Paper. The Committee will recall that when my Ministry was set up in 1942 its prime function was, to put it briefly, to make both ends meet. I have described on other occasions how in each coal year I formulate a budget, which like every budget has to be capable of meeting any strains and stresses which may arise, indeed, which are almost certain to arise in this industry in war time. In 1942–43, when we had a mild winter, we were able to add 4,400,000 tons of coal to our stocks. Last winter, 1943–44, we barely got through, and far from adding to our stocks we had to take 4,500,000 tons out of our distributed stocks.

It is not unimportant to remember that whilst we certainly had two mild winters we have had two very cold summers. On three occasions only this summer, since the beginning of April, has the temperature reached 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Whilst one likes to have a mild winter, which is very helpful indeed, if we do not have a fairly normal summer the effect upon stock-building, which is very important in the summer, is serious. The effect upon the consumption of electricity if there is a sudden cold spell in the middle of the summer is amazing. I remember that on 13th June last year the temperature was exactly the same as on 13th December last year. That does affect the stock position very much indeed, and the effect of it is appreciable over the winter. The Committee will not expect me to give the present figures of these distributed stocks, but I can assure them it has never reached the level estimated by hon. Members of this House who produced a pamphlet not very long ago, which said there was nothing at all. That would imply a rather dangerous accuracy of calculation on the part of my officials, which we could ill afford.

Hon. Members will recall that two years ago to restrict consumption was regarded as of as much importance almost as to increase production, and they will be interested to know the successive reductions in total consumption and will find them in Table 22 of the White Paper. In 1941–;42 we consumed 206,000,000 tons, in 1942–43 199,000,000 tons, and in 1943–44 198,000,000. This last figure of 198,000,000 tons is a remarkable figure in view of the increased requirements during the war of our public utilities, our Services, and certain branches of our industries.

The necessity for restrictions has been emphasised by the decline in output. Restrictions on their existing scale, without inflicting any real hardship or seriously affecting the output of industry, have only been possible through the exercise of the system of control known as the "programming of supplies," which was referred to in the White Paper in 1942. During the past two years I have instituted a system whereby every industrial firm in the country which consumes more than 100 tons of coal or coke per annum, together with 10,000 non-industrial establishments, received coal under a regular weekly programme. It has meant that the needs of every consumer have had to be estimated by a separate calculation of the requirements met grade by grade in the types of coal required. Similar programming exists for public utilities, Service Departments and other types of consumers. By these means we have been able not only to ensure a regular and planned flow of supplies from colliery to consumer but also a system whereby every ton of coal produced, no matter what its type, size or quality, is sent into essential production. A member of the American Mission now in this country told one of my officials that our coal distribution machinery reminded him of the Chicago stockyards where everything except the squeal was used. I do not know who gives the squeal in this country, but I can assure hon. Members that we use that as well.

Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)

The people who have to use some of the stuff called coal.

Major Lloyd George

That may be so, but I would like to point out to the hon. Member that production has not dropped in this country. We have maintained our war production and given to our people, on the whole, a reasonable standard of comfort. We quite appreciate that the quality of some of the coal is not as good as before, nor could it be, and it is the same with other things. The fact of the matter is that we have done well on the whole and made the greatest war effort that any country has ever seen.

A further consequence of this control over distribution has been that it has enabled us to improve the transport of coal, a very important matter in these days. Cross-hauls have been eliminated and valuable ton-miles saved by a radical rearrangement of transport. In the Midland district, in particular, we have introduced a system whereby a large proportion of the coal goes in complete trainloads straight from the collieries to the consumers. This has eliminated the need for the marshalling of wagons en route and relieved the congestion of the railways. The advantages of this control over distribution and transport were realised to the full during the difficult period we went through in the Spring, when we had strikes in two of the largest coal producing districts, which, as well as the tremendous task the railways were performing in handling military traffic, made ordinary distribution impossible. Through this control alone could my officers determine with precision when somebody must be helped and whence that help was to come. The maintenance of the electricity supplies in South Wales, and the continuance of the railway services during the Yorkshire stoppage, are good examples of the benefits flowing from this control. But in addition to the control of supplies from the colliery end, my regional organisation has been keeping constant watch on the position from the point of view of the individual consumer. Every week—and this is a point I do want the Committee to remember—the stock, consumption and delivery position of all the 23,000 industrial consumers, of the 10,000 non-industrial consumers, the public utilities and the 6,000 household coal depôts is known in my Ministry, and action is taken to adjust their stocks where necessary. That is a tremendous item, and I do not think there is anything like it anywhere else. As a result of that, despite all the difficulties of last winter, the number of industrial consumers who were recorded as stopping production for want of coal was less than 100, most of these being relatively low priority firms.

With regard to the domestic consumer, much the same procedure is adopted. Like the industrial concern, he is encouraged, where conditions permit, to stock-up during the summer so that he can draw upon his store in the winter months. It is vitally important that those people who can store coal in the summer should have every reasonable opportunity of doing so, because, by doing so, they are releasing the distributors' transport and labour to be concentrated during the winter on the consumers who have no storage capacity at all. At the same time, reserves of coal in merchants' depôts must be built up during the summer to provide coal for distribution in the winter, and this is one of the reasons why it is essential to place some restriction, even during the summer, on the amount of coal which householders can be permitted to buy and store. The opportunity to buy coal during the summer carries with it, of course, the obligation to save as much as possible for the winter, and I cannot over-emphasise the importance of rigid economy during the summer in order to meet our obligations during the winter to the people without storage space. To those persons in large tenements, for instance, we give priority of delivery in winter. I still hear of——

Major-General Sir Alfred Knox (Wycombe)

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman state whether private consumers have been able to build up stocks?

Major Lloyd George

Yes, but I could spend all day answering that question. Of course they have. But because of transport difficulties there must be control, in some districts more than others. I am sure my hon. Friend will appreciate that. Some areas will be getting stocks earlier than others, because of operational difficulties, over which we have no control. Where there are cases of difficulty, such as we had last winter, the number has been very greatly reduced and, indeed, it would be much smaller still, I believe, if the people concerned would make use of the services of their local fuel overseer. Many cases have come to my notice which I have found have never been before the local fuel overseer and when sent back to the overseer they have been adjusted. Where a case cannot be adjusted, it comes to me, but, as I have said, in many cases the fuel overseer had never been approached at all and had he been approached he could have adjusted the matter. I am going to make that known during the winter so that people can make use of the overseer to overcome their difficulty.

I devoted some time to the mechanism of distribution since this has proved of such tremendous value to us in getting through this last difficult winter, but our main difficulty is one of production. Production, beyond doubt, as the first Table in the White Paper shows, has been acutely disappointing. I may, perhaps, recapitulate the reasons. Disputes have been a most serious impediment, and voluntary absenteeism, although the paper shows that there has been some improvement, is still of serious dimensions. There are other important considerations, however, such as the increasing age of experienced men, and the time-lag before new entrants attain real efficiency, war-time shortages, and so on, but the big losses have still remained due to strikes and absenteeism. At the time of the new wages agreement, both sides of the industry emphasised their resolve to do everything in their power to eradicate disputes of the kind which led to so many, and such severe, stoppages in the coalfields earlier this year. For that reason I do not want to discuss these strikes, grievous as their effect has been. In one region, however—Scotland—strikes, although mainly short-lived and on a small scale, have persisted, and I should not be doing my duty if I failed to draw attention to the damage done by such stoppages, not only to our war effort but to the confidence engendered by the wages agreement. Far too often these stoppages are for very trivial and unreasonable causes. I do not know whether the Committee will find it easy to believe, but we had a case recently where 1,000 tons of coal was lost and the reason for the strike was that the men wanted the dismissal of the lady in charge of the canteen. That seemed to me to be rather a far-fetched reason for a dispute.

Mr. Sloan (South Ayrshire)

Can my right hon. Friend——

Major Lloyd George

I have not finished. I am simply——

Mr. Sloan

A single incident occurred in a coalfield and the Minister is making a lot of it.

Major Lloyd George

If my hon. Friend had followed my speech a little more carefully he would have noticed that I made the statement that in Scotland there still persisted a large number of strikes, for which it is difficult to find a reason. I can assure the Committee that there are many more, for less trivial reasons, although there exists machinery to deal with disputes through the unions. The unions are just as ignorant as we are of the reasons. Very often the union does not know what it is all about. All I am pointing out is that, if you mean to have agreement maintained and to have confidence in those agreements, you must see to it that they are respected by both sides of the industry.

Mr. Sloan

The Minister is attempting to lead this Committee to believe that the whole of the loss of production in the country is due to strikes.

Major Lloyd George

Would my hon. Friend allow me——

The Chairman

I must point out to the hon. Member that this is not the time to intervene. He is not entitled to intervene unless the Minister gives way.

Mr. Sloan

Pardon me. Major Milner, I understood the Minister did give way, and I only wanted to draw his attention to the fact that if 10,000,000 tons of coal were lost, as stated in the White Paper, several millions of it, of course, were due to holidays.

The Chairman

The hon. Member may have an opportunity of speaking in the Debate. He can then make a speech, but he cannot interrupt the Minister and make a speech now.

Major Lloyd George

My hon. Friend really must not try to misinterpret what I said. I suggested that the strikes to which I referred last, could be shown to be trivial. I told the Committee that I did not propose to discuss the strikes in Yorkshire and South Wales. Speaking generally, the whole coalfield has been quiet since, but I called attention to one district where strikes persisted for small and trivial reasons. The lady in charge of the canteen has nothing to do with colliery conditions underground. The manager of the pit has nothing to do with the lady in charge of the canteen. I am not going to pursue this matter any further, except to say what is the fact. My hon. Friend cannot say that I am in any way unsympathetic to the miners.

Mr. Sloan

I never said the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was.

Major Lloyd George

It is the only area in the country where there are trivial disputes for reasons which the unions themselves are incapable of ascertaining. Therefore, it is disturbing, and I should like to see it stopped. I do not attribute the loss of 2,000,000 tons to these strikes; I am only saying that it is a pity we have got such a position. I do not think anybody in any part of this House has much sympathy for them.

As regards absenteeism, this does show some improvement. Involuntary absenteeism has increased at the end of the fifth year of war, but voluntary absenteeism has declined from 5 per cent. in the first quarter of 1943 to 4.7 per cent. in the first quarter of this year. A considerable part of the credit for the reduction of absenteeism must go to the work of the regional investigation officers and to the effect of the voluntary fining system of which the Committee is aware. I would like to refer shortly to a special inquiry made six months ago by my Ministry as a result of a suggestion from my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling). This showed——

Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr)

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman what the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) knows about coal production?

Major Lloyd George

If the hon. Member would listen to what I have to say he would realise how irrelevant his remark is. This showed that in a normal week over 76 per cent. of the men lost no shifts at all, voluntarily. Seventeen per cent. only lost one shift and only about seven per cent, two or more shifts. How many shifts were worked? The number of shifts worked per man is still greater than before the war and 76 per cent, lost no shifts at all during the week, which is a considerable achievement. I feel bound to repeat that, having regard to the fact that we are now nearing the end of the fifth year of war and to the nature and circumstances of coalmining work, the vast majority of the men are attending satisfactorily. Only a relatively small minority are taking advantage of war-time conditions to purchase leisure at their country's expense, and the number of these men, as I have said, is actually reduced for last year.

Before I deal with the steps taken by my Ministry to offset these impediments to production, I must briefly refer to the coal won from open-cast workings. To say that this coal has been useful is to put it rather mildly. In the last coal year the output was 5,500,000 tons, and since November, 1941, 9,500,000 tons of saleabe coal have been produced and 7,500,000 tons disposed of. It is hoped that, during the present year, we shall be able to get at least 12,000,000 tons from this source. In the autumn of 1943, a programme for the construction of linking points, railway sidings and speeding plants was undertaken. It was hoped that this programme would be complete by the beginning of this coal year, but there have been delays from various causes which have led to an accumulation of stocks, in the Midland district particularly. Much has been done, however, and the Ministry of Works hope that the work will be substantially complete in about two months. The screening of coal will greatly increase its sphere of usefulness, and add to the large coal available for domestic purposes.

With regard to further production, my Ministry have taken a number of important steps to offset these impediments to production. These steps, which I will briefly outline, are not only of wartime importance. They will, I anticipate, effectively increase the post-war efficiency of the industry. First, as a wartime measure, I have appointed a number of group production directors in each Region, in each case drawn, in the main, from the general manager and managing-director class in the mining industry, who now supervise production at large groups of pits. In this way, their experience and knowledge are pooled for the benefit of the industry as a whole and are not confined to one particular undertaking. It is still, obviously, too early to report on the outcome of this measure, but I can say that it promises well. Secondly, we have recently had the benefit of a visit from a technical and economic mission of United States experts brought here to examine and report upon our methods, with particular reference to mechanisation. I hope that we shall derive considerable advantage from the report of the mission, which I have just received. Naturally, it deals mainly with the problem of mechanisation, to which I will refer later. I would first draw the attention of the Committee to the increase shown in the White Paper in the percentage of coal cut by mechanical means—Table 10. It is now over 70 per cent., as compared with 59 per cent. before the war. The conveying of coal by machinery has also risen during the war and now stands at 68 per cent. I think it was 54 per cent. before the war.

Mr. Foster (Wigan)

May I put it to the Minister that according to page 10, less coal was cut than m 1940? I thought my right hon. and gallant Friend was referring to the quantity of coal.

Major Lloyd George

No, the percentage of coal cut. There is less coal produced. These are the figures, and they are very carefully drawn up.

Miss Ward (Wallsend)

May I ask the Minister whether we are to have the benefit of seeing that report—whether it will be published for the benefit of hon Members who wish to read it?

Major Lloyd George

I will consider that, but I have only just received it myself.

Miss Ward

I think it would be very helpful.

Major Lloyd George

I need not remind the Committee that conditions here differ very greatly from those in the United States. We here have some difficulties arising out of those different conditions, and from the lack of officials and men experienced in handling and using these new American machines. We have been up against inevitable delay in delivery, which the Committee will understand, and we have also been up against teething troubles, and, quite frankly, they have lasted longer than was anticipated. It is unlikely that a large increase will result from the use of American machinery during the present coal year.

Mr. MacLaren (Burslem)

Who is responsible?

Major Lloyd George

I am responsible.

Mr. MacLaren

Yes, but is there not an official?

Major Lloyd George

Certainly, there are responsible officers, but I am ultimately responsible. I think the experiments are encouraging and that they ought to be persevered in. The output per man-shift is already, on the average, some 80 per cent. higher than that obtained by the methods previously employed. It is important to remember that that increase is only half the target figure set. Only last week, at one colliery, the output per man-shift rose from 2½ tons to the target figure of 8.2 tons, while the output per loader shift was 150 tons, which compares quite favourably with American practice. Vigorous steps are being taken to improve the position generally, and we are taking full advantage of American knowledge and practical experience. The number of demonstrations in this country has been increased, and visits to the United States by British mining engineers are being arranged.

The most important step was the establishment at Sheffield by the Ministry of Labour of a Mechanisation Training Centre. Here, American machinery has been installed in prepared galleries, and officials and workmen who are to operate the machinery are given a short course of training. A longer course, lasting six months, has been established for selected workmen from collieries, in which instruction is given in mechanical and electrical work to fit the students for employment underground at the face on maintenance work, both with American and other machinery. The work done at this centre has received high commendation from the American mission, and is clearly of very great value for the future.

The steps which I have outlined to increase production and efficiency in our pits, will depend largely on able and efficient management. We need, everywhere, a relationship between management and workmen based on confidence rather than suspicion. I know from my own experience that such conditions can be created, and, indeed, that it exists at many pits up and down the country. Elsewhere, however, indiscipline and customs restrictive of work exist and I think should be abandoned. This has led to repeated requests by colliery managers that I should remove the Essential Work Order from the coalmining industry, in order that they may again have the sanction of dismissal. I do not think they fully appreciate what the implications of such an action would be, but, apart from this, I must say again that, if we succeed nationally in our policy of full employment, a new technique of labour management in the mines will be necessary, because this has nothing to do with the war; it is a question of the supply and demand of labour. The coal industry might do worse than consider the suggestion made last year by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Fylde (Lieut.-Colonel Lancaster) when he advocated a system of personnel managers. It is for the industry itself to find its way out of this difficulty.

This leads me to a short account of the work of my Ministry on labour problems. I would first of all emphasise the importance I attach to the new wages agreement. Again and again, on my visits to the coalfields, I was impressed by the attitude and point of view of the workmen, who always expressed anxiety as to their future, and particularly with reference to what happened after the last war. I was determined that some form of security should be secured, and we all know that the agreement prescribes a minimum period of four years free from wage strife, during which the transition from war to peace can take place, and future needs can be considered and agreed. In addition, the agreement seeks to encourage greater output by providing a suitable reward for effort. The new wage rates must lead to an increase in the price of coal unless output is increased, but a greater output per man-shift will diminish, or possibly avoid, the need for such an increase in price.

Throughout my term of office, my principal concern has been to obtain the best return possible from the man-power available, within the framework of Government policy. I do not propose to discuss the problems of the ballot and the direction of new entrants. I should like to refer, however, to the results of this policy. I have now received returns from all the regions of my Ministry, and these show strikingly similar results. No less than 80 per cent. of the new entrants are satisfactory or more than satisfactory, while only 6 per cent. are really disappointing. I think that is a very encouraging figure. I think it is right, and I think the Committee will agree, that the efforts of these young men should be recognised. I would like also to pay tribute to those in the mining areas who have welcomed these young men, particularly the workmen, who have made much easier the new entrants' task of adjusting themselves to totally new conditions. In every case that has been so.

I have mentioned recruitment during the war. No one will dispute that it is going to be one of our major problems in the post-war period. It will be seen from Table 3 of the White Paper that, in 1943, less than 50,000 youths below 18 were in the mines, compared with over 70,000 in 1938. Further, at the present time, juvenile recruitment is running at the annual rate of 11,000, against a national gross wastage of nearly 40,000. It is not necessary for me to drive home the lesson of these figures. Hon. Members are entitled to ask what is being done to meet the situation, which is not of wartime importance only. If the industry is to attract our youth, it must be made an industry that offers real opportunity. It is, however, difficult in wartime to make changes affecting the industry. Materials and labour are in short supply, and it is generally necessary to think in terms of weeks rather than in terms of years. Even so, since the Ministry was set up two years ago, we have been able to establish a Mines Medical Service, to extend to the number of eight the rehabilitation centres operated by the Miners' Welfare Commission—two more have been opened in the last few weeks in Durham and Northumberland—and to bring into operation, again through the Miners' Welfare Commission, canteens serving about 1,000 collieries employing nearly 700,000 men. We have also set up, with the help of the Ministry of Labour, 13 training centres for new entrants, through which nearly 20,000 men have already passed, and a special mechanisation training centre at Sheffield, for training mine personnel of all grades, in the operation and maintenance of all types of machinery.

Mr. Tinker (Leigh)

Does the Minister mean that the new entrants are the "Bevin boys"?

Major Lloyd George

Actually, the 20,000 were "Bevin boys." The value of these training centres at any time is conspicuous, and I would encourage hon. Gentlemen who are interested, to visit them. I think it would be a very good thing if more were known about what goes on, particularly in the training centres.

Mr. Bernard Taylor (Mansfield)

Is that an invitation, generally, to Members of Parliament to visit these centres?

Major Lloyd George

I should be very glad to arrange for parties to visit them, because I think it would be of tremendous interest. I honestly believe that the more mechanisation you can bring into the pits, the less is going to be the drudgery of the miner's work. It is important that we should get efficiency in the industry, and far too little interest has been shown in the operations of the mining industry.

Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)

The miners think they have seen plenty of it.

Major Lloyd George

I want to show them something good, for a change. The allocation of the trainees is proceeding smoothly, but hon. Members will appreciate that it is not easy to maintain the appropriate weekly rates of flow in view of fluctuations in the rate of supply and the obvious desirability of respecting the preferences of the trainees themselves. Further, there are one or two areas of special difficulty. The number of men becoming available in the mining industry in Lancashire, for instance, is much in excess of the numbers required to meet with the region's requirements and it has been necessary to send a proportion of them to neighbouring regions. Housing has also presented difficulties, but reception in private houses in mining areas has been remarkable. At the moment there are about 2,500 new entrants lodged in well-equipped hostels, which have been established by my Ministry in the coalfields.

My hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will deal in detail with matters affecting safety and welfare, with which he is peculiarly fitted to deal, but I would like to draw attention to Tables 28 and 29 in the Digest which deal with the number of fatal and other accidents. They show a decrease in the number of fatal accidents and those producing serious injuries. The total of 713 fatal accidents is, indeed, the lowest ever recorded for a full year's working which I think, in the fifth year of war, serious enough. Still it is encouraging to know that this year it is the lowest that has ever been recorded. The decrease in serious accidents has been evident both at the pits and on the haulage roads, the former being due to fewer falls of roof, consequent, no doubt, on better roof control, a matter to which we are paying particular attention. There has, however, been an increase in minor injuries resulting in absence from work for more than three days. No convincing explanation is given of this increase, and it is not easy to visualise a change in working conditions which would simultaneously result in a decrease of minor accidents. It may be that the cumulative strain of five years of war has caused a somewhat longer recuperative period to be necessary in the case of some injured men.

I do not want to detain the Committee longer than I can help but there are one or two points on which I shall have to touch again before I conclude. Members representing the mining regions will be glad to hear that it has recently been possible to make some small headway—and I emphasise this—with the preparation of a new Coal Mines Safety Bill on the lines of the reforms worked out by the Royal Commission of 1935 to 1938, so that we may be in a position to press forward with this legislation at the earliest possible date. But, as I say, I emphasise the fact that, owing to circumstances beyond our control the matter cannot be dealt with at the moment. Even during the war itself it has been possible to make some progress, without recourse to legislation, on some of the recommendations of the Royal Commission—for instance, in the compulsory installation of mist-spraying and dust-laying apparatus in the South Wales anthracite pits. I must refer, too, to the report which has just been submitted to me by the special committee which I set up to study the incidence of pneumoconiosis in those pits, and I hope soon to report what action is being taken on its recommendations. This report, which will soon be published, is being very closely studied. This record of reform and improvement in wartime is not, of course, complete. I am hoping, for instance, that when circumstances improve the Miners' Welfare Commission will be able to resume, even in war-time, the erection of pithead baths at those pits which are most in need of them. Here again, progress will have to be slow because of shortage of labour and material.

Finally, I am glad to report that there has been a gradual and steady improvement in the standard of pit production committees during this last year. It has considerably improved on the figures which I gave the last time I spoke on this matter, and I would like to say that there has been more co-operation, as a result of my appeal, particularly through the managements, and definitely they have very greatly improved. Much still remains to be done, however, and much must depend on the active interest of the district miners' unions. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the managements."] I made an appeal to the managements. Hon. Members opposite may agree that it would be helpful to encourage special pit ballots for the men's representatives.

Mr. Kirkwood

Is there behind that a suggestion that, when the committee is appointed, there is some underhand work?

Major Lloyd George

I said that because I happen to be a democrat. That is purely my own suggestion, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will acquit me of any desire other than that which is right.

Mr. Kirkwood

Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman find that these committees are a success and a great assistance to production?

Major Lloyd George

What I said was that last year 25 per cent. of them were very good, and the rest not so good. There has been a tremendous improvement this year and I am saying that we want moo per cent., because, in my view, it will be of tremendous value to the industry, and the more there are, the better it will be.

Mr. Glanville (Consett)

Is the Minister aware that at most of the collieries these representatives are balloted for? What does he mean by suggesting that there should be special pit ballots? There is a ballot for the position of chairman of the lodge, or that of secretary of the lodge, and as such a man automatically sits on the production committee. That is understood when he undertakes the office.

Major Lloyd George

My hon. Friend will forgive me when I say that that is not so everywhere.

Mr. Glanville

I was on one myself for many years.

Major Lloyd George

But that is not the case everywhere. No observer of the coalmining industry in this country, certainly no one who listened to our Debates in the old days, could fail to be impressed by the constant harping on the past. If such references are merely in order to keep alive resentments and suspicions, then all must agree that they are to be deplored; they can be justified only where there is an intention of learning from the mistakes that have been made in the past. In the coalmining industry, more perhaps than in any other, our attention should be focused on the needs of the future; for the industry is not merely of importance to the nation in the stress and turmoil of war, but is the very basis of our industrial prosperity in peace. It is, of course, for Parliament to decide, as it has been laid down, what the future control of the scheme of this industry shall be, but I do want to stress this. Whatever the system or structure of this industry after the war, whether it be nationalisation, private enterprise or any other form of control—whichever form it takes—the industry will have to be run efficiently.

Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)

Private enterprise has failed to make the industry efficient.

Major Lloyd George

I am not going to enter into that.

Mr. Griffiths

It is obvious.

Major Lloyd George

My hon. Friend cannot tempt me on that. I am simply making a statement which needs to be made, with great respect, that whatever form of government there is for this industry, the industry will have to be efficient. Some people seem to think that a change will be sufficient in itself.

Mr. Murray (Spennymoor)

Will the Minister tell us who is to be the judge?

Major Lloyd George

I will tell the hon. Member in a minute what I think is best and I think the hon. Member will agree with me. This has to be agreed upon—if the industry is to make a proper contribution to national economy, if it is to maintain the people who work within it at a decent standard of life we all wish to see, we must have an efficient industry. Hon. Members will agree that this industry will not be able to make that contribution either to national economy or to the standard of living of its people, on the present low output per manshift, and consequently the present high cost of production per ton. I believe in good wages. They are the spur to efficiency, and I am glad, and so is everybody else, I think, in this country, that the miner is being remunerated more in accordance with the arduous and dangerous character of his calling, and in a closer relation to other industries, than he has been before.

Mr. Kirkwood

Look what a terrible fight he has had to get it.

Major Lloyd George

But the men themselves must understand that high wages can only be maintained by a high output per manshift, so that the cost of production permits the supply of coal at a reasonable price to our industries, particularly those manufacturing goods for export, and to those who buy our coal overseas as coal. [Interruption.] It may be an old story, but it is none the less true. What are the steps which have to be taken to increase the efficiency of this industry?

Mr. Kirkwood

Nationalise the mines.

Major Lloyd George

I would say without hesitation that the first essential is to improve greatly the present relationship between the two sides of the industry.

Mr. Henry White

That is impossible.

Major Lloyd George

I do not think that, generally speaking, this country has much to learn in the matter of labour relations from any other country, but I do know that visitors from overseas, who have visited our coalfields, have been astonished and dismayed to see how poor are the relations between owners and men in some sections of our coal-bearing districts. I am certain that a genuine improvement in co-operation between those engaged in the industry would cause a substantial and speedy increase in coal production. Wise leadership on both sides now is therefore essential. The second requisite is to have pits properly planned and equipped, so that proper effort and co-operation will reap their reward in output. This is a conservative industry and while it is true that much coal-face mechanisation has been done in this country, involving the use of coal cutters and conveyors, the underground transport systems have never, generally speaking, been overhauled. We are still working very largely with the same size of tubs, the same type of haulage equipment. Delays due to poor facilities of this kind have, in many cases, prevented our getting the fullest advantage of the face equipment that has been put in.

Where they can be applied, American methods and machinery can do much to increase the productivity of our mines, but it must be recognised that the use of the longwall system, either advancing or retreating, will still be necessary over a large portion of our coalfields. There is, therefore, need for considerable research——

Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)

They have done it in America without resorting to the longwall system.

Major Lloyd George

I say that it will still be necessary in this country.

Mr. Grenfell

One cannot compare the systems of working at all.

Major Lloyd George

I say that there is still need for it. There is need for considerable research into new methods of coal-getting which will be applicable to British conditions. A resulting reduction in the cost of haulage and road making of itself should make an overhaul worth while. There must, too, be a marked increase in efficiency where men can be transported to the face, rather than walk, as in some pits, as much as two miles or more underground before reaching their working place. Apart from the question of efficiency, I take the human side to support that. That should certainly be overcome and it is one of the things which will have to be done. It is true to say that in far too many of our pits to-day we are trying to carry the motor traffic of the pre-war days on the roads built in the last century. That is a thing which has to be put right. In addition, surface equipment must be brought up to date so that coal is properly prepared for the market. Properly planned development work, including new sinkings, should be put in hand to replace obsolete and uneconomic pits. Many, I am sure, will have read with approval the passage in a pamphlet to which I referred recently and in which we are reminded that the interests of a coal-bearing area should be considered as a whole, rather than the interests of a particular undertaking.

No less important than efficiency in the production of coal is efficiency in its utilisation. This is, in my judgment, the third essential for a more efficient industry and one of the most important lessons we have learnt in the past two years. Substantial reductions in industrial consumption have been made as a result of education in the utilisation of fuel. I commend my hon. Friends to look at what has been done by the fuel economy experts in my Ministry. Hon. Members will have observed the scale of my Ministry's efforts. I attach equal importance to improved fuel utilisation in peace time, not in this case to balance the coal budget but to reduce the fuel costs of industry. War-time research and education will provide a valuable contribution to this. My Ministry, together with experts in the industry, are already working on peacetime problems of fuel utilisation. I have previously informed the House of my decision to appoint a National Fuel and Power Advisory Council, one of whose principal functions will be to advise on certain major technical and economic problems of fuel and power production and utilisation. I am glad to inform the Committee that Sir Ernest Simon has accepted my invitation to act as Chairman.

The Committee will appreciate that, inevitably, my attention and that of my principal officers in the past has been devoted almost entirely to the urgent task of ensuring that essential industry should get the coal necessary for the successful prosecution of the war, and that there should be adequate supplies to maintain health and reasonable comfort among domestic consumers. Nevertheless, discussions were begun last December, in accordance with the Prime Minister's pledge that uncertainty and harassing fears among miners should as far as possible be allayed. These discussions were interrupted by the strikes following the Porter Award and the wage negotiations over which I presided, but I hope they will now be resumed.

Meanwhile, I have asked my Regional Controllers to prepare a factual survey of the present resources and future development required in their regions. My hon. Friends from Scotland will be aware that work of this kind has already been undertaken in that region. In the preparation of these surveys my Regional Controllers will be assisted by representatives of owners, mine-workers, and expert advisers. When they are completed we shall, I hope, be in a position never before attained in this country I would say, to decide how to develop our resources in each region to the best advantage, and I believe, until we get that, it will be very difficult to know exactly haw developments will work out.

I have detained the Committee longer than I meant to do but I have, I hope, given the Committee in outline the work of my Ministry in the main part, at any rate, in the two years since its formation. Our record of achievement in these two very difficult years is not insubstantial. I have referred in the latter part of my remarks to work to be undertaken in the future. In reality, however, it is impossible to draw distinctions between work done to meet present needs and work designed to meet future needs. Our aim is, in short, that the value of our war-time efforts shall not be diminished when the war ends. For the time being, however, our efforts are directed, above all, to maintaining and increasing coal production for war-time purposes. That has still got to be done. An increase of even one cwt. per man shift would produce 10,000,000 more tom per annum. The need for it is as great as, if not greater than, ever. Not only have we to maintain our great war industries but we must maintain our civil population in reasonable comfort. We have also to provide coal supplies for operations by the Allied Forces on the Continent, and we hope that in the near future supplies of coal may also be required for the succour of the liberated peoples of Europe. That is a very formidable task but, I am satisfied, not one beyond our powers.

Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)

I would like to congratulate the Minister from this side of the Committee upon the very comprehensive survey he has given us to-day. He referred to the publication of the White Paper. It supplies much information of value to Members. More information was available before the stringencies of war compelled us to withhold it. This information is not nearly as complete as the Committee would like, or as was contained in the Annual Report up to 1938, but it is a good summary and enables the Committee to pass judgment upon the day to day proceedings of the Department and the industry.

I want to say at the beginning that I do not hold my right hon. and gallant Friend responsible for any shortcomings of the industry at the present time. He has only been at the Ministry about two years and all he could do to justify himself would be to say that he had done better in those two years, than had been done before he went there. Unfortunately, for the country and himself, he is not able to do that. The White Paper shows us that there is a reduction in production compared with 1940, a reduction compared with 1941, a reduction compared with 1942. Each year there has been a progressive decline in production and, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said, his duties when he assumed office were to make both ends meet, and he has only been able to do so by imposing limitations on consumption. He has not contributed a single ton by way of higher production to the solution of this problem. I do not blame him. I would be blaming myself if I blamed him because, when I was in the Mines Department, I warned the Department and the House time and time again. I said that we could not maintain the production of coal for the duration of a war and that the longer the war went on the more difficult it would be. I said, "You cannot maintain production unless you have more men than you are likely to have in that period." The fact is that we have not enough men and we have not as much material. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech was interspersed with handicaps which explained the failure of his Department over production, and so I excuse him from any personal responsibility for the failure, but I cannot really excuse the Government. After all, the Government are responsible. The Government know that the House of Commons has discussed the coal situation for many years, and warnings were given by myself when I was Minister and since I came to this side—through no fault of my own, if I may be allowed to say so. I came here to do my duty and I have tried to do it just as loyally as when I was on the other side, and I believe I am doing my duty to-day as loyally as ever.

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman made one or two points to which I must refer in the most friendly way. He knows that there is no personal desire to score in this, and there never will be. He said that the publication of the White Paper was essential, and that only a summary of the figures has been available to the Ministry. I hope everybody will read this, not only for the purpose of the Debate, but to see exactly what has taken place in this country, as far as the information goes. I would go back a little further than 1938 to show what has really been done. I join the Minister in congratulating the industry on what it has done, and I will refer to that very shortly. But this is a fact—and I mention this because the Minister himself quoted these figures—that in 1941 we were producing 206,000,000 tons of coal; in 1942 we produced 199,000,000 tons of coal; in 1943, 198,000,000 tons. The White Paper gives these figures and shows that the production has decreased, and is decreasing, at an alarming rate. I do not believe that the economies which were possible under certain weather conditions can be relied upon each winter and each summer. I have never heard anybody complain of the cold of summer in this country. The Minister is quite right, this barometer of consumption is very, very sensitive and in the Mines Department of the Ministry of Fuel they must pay attention to it. The winter consumption, on an average for many years past and particularly during the war period, has been 1,000,000 tons a week more than the summer consumption. That is the round figure. Twenty-six millions tons more coal are consumed in the 26 winter weeks than in the 26 weeks covering the summer period, and there are all kinds of fluctuations and deviations within that period which affect the Minister. He may have a better summer in one year than in another but, taking an average, there is no likelihood of a great diminution in consumption and I want to express that warning as clearly as I can.

Let me take the Committee a little further back than 1938, because this is a very old industry. One cannot understand the problems if one takes the short view since 1940 or 1942. Let us go back to 1913, which was the high peak of industrial attainment in this industry. Never was as much coal produced in this country before, never were as many men employed before or since. No less than 286,000,000 tons were produced in 1913. In passing judgment on the question of production per man, the Minister has been far more unkind than he meant to be.

Listening to him, one would have thought that the Minister was not his kind, generous self. I absolve him from any desire to show unkindness and I know his feelings are better than they appeared. In 1913 the production per person employed per week was 5.02 tons. In 1914 there was no record, the war prevented calculations. In 1915, the production was 5.21 tons—a better production than in 1913—and 300,000 men had gone into the war. In 1916 the production declined to 5.03 tons. In 1917 it was 4.79 tons. In 1918, the last year of the last war, the production per person per week had declined to 4.45 tons.

Let us take this war. We began in 1938 with a production which can be explained largely in terms of mechanisation production of 5.57 tons per person per week. In 1939—a very good production year—5.81 tons per person per week. In 1940, 5.72 tons per person per week—it was coming down a little bit from 1939. In 1941, 5.67 tons per person per week. In 1942, 5.5 tons per person per week. In 1943 and 1944 we have been producing at a still lower level. But the output per person per week throughout this war, even in 1942, was 10 per cent. better than the best output ever registered in this country in 1913. So the Minister is quite right, we must not adopt too censorious an attitude towards the industry itself. The industry has not done as badly as some of us have assumed from the very hard sayings sometimes uttered in the House and. the hard words written in the Press. A comparison of the days worked gives an equally favourable picture, but does the Committee realise that throughout this war we have nearly half a million less men than we had throughout the last war? And we have made both ends meet in this industry with its many faults and have produced tolerably satisfactorily. We are not yet very deficient, and we have kept the industry of this country going with half a million less men employed in the mines than we had in 1914–18.

The Minister did not dwell upon the question of man-power. Man-power reached the record low level of 686,000 when I was in the Mines Department, but at that time, in 1941, the production per person per shift was higher than has ever been recorded in this country before or since. I am very proud; of course, I was not responsible for the production but I helped, as the Minister is helping. I set up organisations, as the Minister is seeking to do, and we were highly successful.

We produced, in 1941 and in 1942, nearly 300 tons per person per annum. When anybody finds fault with miners who produce that quantity of coal I would like to talk to them privately and say, "Go to the coalfield and see the conditions under which the work is being done. Go down there and share the men's labour for one day, or for one week, and then, judge as ye would be judged and do unto others as you would others should do unto you." I regard the miners as being no worse or better than the rest of us in this Committee. That is the kind of judgment you must pass upon them. What has happened? The industry is older in personnel than ever before. Never has the average age been so high as it is now. Men slow down as they age. You cannot get the same amount of work from older men as from the men at a lower age level. The older men have done very good work in this war. They are men of my generation, my best friends, and they have been as good as any men in the world. Is it too much to give them a word of praise? I make this allegation against the Government: Not a word of official praise has been given to the miners during the war. I know the Minister has praised them. I am speaking of the Government. The Minister lapsed a little in my opinion today, but I know it was not ill-meant. There has been no vote of thanks to the miners for the immeasurable service they have given in this war.

I do not think I should be betraying an official secret—I have kept it locked up for some time—if I told the House about the miners of Kent. In 1940 we had to rally and summon all our sustenance, moral and physical, all the courage we possessed. The Prime Minister played a large part in rallying public morale, and we stood firm. The best example of national loyalty and valour that I can quote was that exhibited by the miners of the Kent coalfield in June, 1940. The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Transport and my poor little Ministry, on behalf of the Government, had been persuaded that the Kent coalfield was untenable, and trains, tickets and destinations had been arranged and plans for compulsory evacuation had been mapped out in every detail. But I realised that we relied upon Kent to show an example. We were producing 30,000 tons of coal a week. If those men ceased to produce, because of imminent danger, what would have been the attitude of Northern miners when the night bombers went to the Tees and the Tyne, and of the Scots miners when the bombers went to the Forth? If they started to decamp and leave their posts their example might have been uncontrollable and ruinous to the country. The Kent coalfield, with no public honours or acknowledgment, carried on. I asked John Elks, the miners' agent in Kent, to come and see me. Four of the men's leaders came. I said, "Will you stay on?" They said, "Yes" without any hesitation. The colliery owners were also willing to stay on and do their job, but the men were going down pits 3,000 feet deep, through a hole that might have been plugged and kept plugged for the duration of the war. But they volunteered to go down. I saw the highest military authority in the country at that time. He came to the Mines Department and I said, "You cannot evacuate these miners, because they want to stay. Cancel your trains and arrangements. Let them stay on." And they stayed there, producing coal.

Mr. Kirkwood

They were heroes.

Mr. Grenfell

Certainly they were heroes. There have been incidents. Bombs dropped and men were detained down the pits for more than their normal shifts. When they came up they went home, but were back at work again next day. The authorities told me that they could not protect those people, that they could not guarantee their safety. I replied that miners had never asked for guaranteed safety. Day after day they did their job in the service of this nation without guarantees from anyone.

I want to say a word or two about wages. The Minister was good enough to say that he thought men would work better if they were paid well. That is true. No ill-paid body of people can acquire great skill or great courage. A man loses his self-respect and his quality of good service unless he gets a fairly decent wage. Miners' wages are better now, but let us not forget that when the war started the miners were 81st from the top of the wages list. Now they are in the 21st position, but will anybody in the Committee say that that position is too good, having regard to the service they are rendering to the country? There is equality between districts now, and I am sure everybody connected with the mining industry will give me a little credit here. I know the industry well; I know all its difficulties, as well as I know anything in life. I carry its handicaps in my body and soul. It is an industry where great qualities are required all round, and I make no distinction between the colliery manager and the miner in that respect. I could not, when the war started in the existing circumstances when I went to the Mines Department, devise a decent wage system. There was that wonderful system of ascertainments of which my hon. Friends are only too well aware. Inequalities were perpetuated and aggravated by the very terms of that system. I started in December, 1940, by a Resolution in this Chamber to level out those inequalities by the introduction of the Coal Fund. There has been a considerable uplift of wages in the poorer districts, and men in the best districts have not suffered. I do not know a better way of achieving a larger measure of adjustment than the method I put forward in 1940, which is still being carried on and extended. We have been repairing the coal economics of the last 30 years, and especially the last two years. For the last two years the Minister has been privileged to share in the repair work on the wage system in the industry, which has been long overdue. The future will show still better results. We cannot afford to look upon this report to-day as the final report on the coal industry. As the Minister has said, there is much to be done.

I will say no more about wages and prices, but I want now to say something about time lost by strikes. The war has gone on for nearly five years now, and the average time lost by strikes in the industry is less than one quarter of an hour per week. Count the figures, work it out, and you will find that that is so. I have never, at any time, encouraged strikes. I believe that an organisation of labour which does not do its work when the men are working, is not a good organisation. If men have to stop to get their organisation to work then that is a bad thing. I have never wanted strikes. But when you measure the service which these men have done, and are doing, and do as the Minister did to-day, cast doubt on their loyalty and seriousness——

Major Lloyd George indicated dissent.

Mr. Grenfell

I know my right hon. and gallant Friend did not mean it.

Major Lloyd George

No, I will not even accept that; I did not cast doubt on the part anybody had played.

Mr. Grenfell

Well, we shall see the Minister's words in the OFFICIAL REPORT. That is how it sounded to me and to others of my hon. Friends.

Major Lloyd George

Read the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow.

Mr. Sloan

The Minister said that the men were buying idleness at the expense of the State.

Mr. Grenfell

Let me turn again to the figures. A quarter of an hour lost per week represents 12½ hours per annum counting 50 weeks per annum, or 62½ hours in five years. Will the Minister deny that the men work illegal overtime, far in excess of the time lost by strikes?

I also want to say something about outcrop coal. The Minister said he was glad it had come to the aid of the country and the industry during the war period. He is a fortunate man; he would have been in a bad plight if it were not for this coal coming in, and his position next year would have been still more serious. I started outcrop coal. In October, 1941, I went to the Orchard Colliery, in Warwickshire, and arranged for machines to make a cut. I went there again on 12th December, 1941, and saw what had taken place.

I want to tell the Committee what a great achievement has been performed in outcrop mining on this one site alone. This is a site where a number of seams of Warwickshire gas coal come very near the surface on a narrow, anticlinal ridge. I saw it. I thought the extent of the working might not be more than 10 or 12 acres. We started work immediately. From October, 1941, till to-day 375,000 tons of coal have been brought from that one site alone. The average price of the coal obtained has been 28s. a ton. That place has paid for itself every day and there are still 1,000,000 tons. I also started the first site near Sheffield. We made very exhaustive inquiries into the possibility of working by this method.

At Keltie, in Fife, the coal is covered by bog and peat land. There is a terrible surface approach to the coal that lies underneath. But we decided not to proceed then with the exploitation of the Keltie coal. But there is a way. If your over-burden is light you can take it away' by mechanical diggers. Later on the limit of your over-burden may be far greater. It may be 50 or 100 ft. provided there is plenty of coal beneath but there comes a time when you are not deep enough to work by ordinary underground methods, and too deep to work by opencast methods, and that is where I believe the Minister should immediately take steps to convert these seams of coal—60 ft. of coal within a range of 100 ft. altogether. That is a very fine opportunity of trying out something that has been done in Soviet Russia by gasification, in situ, with wonderful results. You have not to go down 1,000 ft. to strike the seam. You get to the seam with the shortest possible approach and sink a shaft here and a shaft there, join them up and start. There is no reason at all, why in Keltie and Orchard Colliery, Warwickshire, we might not get a better example of gasification than there is in America or in the U.S.S.R. We must take our opportunities. Never be tied down to old methods. Old conditions have resulted in declining production. We have failed to maintain production by old methods. The Minister must show more enterprise. The Government which is the Minister's boss also must show far more enterprise. The economics will look after themselves if you make a proper study of them. Outcrop coal is paying, because we have introduced a new economic factor in the capacity of these wonderful machines which are now being brought in to do the job. Technical improvements are constantly being made.

The Minister said something about electricity and gas. This, is a remarkable thought to Members, and to the public. Electricity and gas are being maintained at a low level of prices in the last 30 years when the nominal price of coal has gone up more than three times, because of technical improvements in the consumption of coal. You get from one unit of coal, three units of electricity, compared with the one that you had 30 years ago. There is a constant improvement. The Minister emphasises the price of coal. I should prefer him to pay more attention still to the real value of coal, and not to the sham price that we fix upon it from time to time. The range of by-products in coal is amazing. You want to be a poet and not a scientist to conceive of the wonderful range of wealth contained in this treasure.

The chemist and the fuel technician has far more to do with the raising of coal-values than either the coalowner, the collier or the Government. These scientific men are constantly working, making surveys of coal and discovering fresh secrets every day. This is the brightest prospect in our survey of coal. But there is no organisation for the purpose. Science only finds its way into the industry by the back door. There is no open way for the introduction of science into the industry. It is hard labour and sweat every time, with no welcome for science in industry, and no means of joining the good will of my hon. Friends and others, who would like to work together. They cannot work together in these conditions. The whole industry is in need of thorough reorganisation. We have to secure an output of coal larger than we have at present if we are to hold our place in the world. All national planning begins with coal. With no ill-feeling, and no desire to wound the sentiments of anyone, private enterprise is not strong enough for the job. It cannot do it. The physical difficulties are too heavy.

Private enterprise has failed and those who have failed most grievously are the larger combines. The large combines have sometimes fared worse than the smallest concerns. None will undertake the essential development that the Minister referred to. Even the largest combine is dependent upon public subscriptions. They advertise to Smith, Jones and the others, "Lend us your shillings and your pounds. We want to start a large colliery. We want £2,000,000. Will you please find the money?" The money has not been found and cannot be without the writing of attractive prospectuses and specious promises of reward. And then we failed. We passed a law to impose amalgamations and the amalgamations, so far, have consisted only of the selection of the best pits, and the ruining of the rest. We have suffered ruin and desolation in almost all our coalfields where the combines have found a resting place. We have jeopardised the existence of the industry itself. The Minister knows how many pits are being kept by him. I started the bad habit. He referred to the danger to Sheffield's gas supply, if the men stopped work. But the coalowners failed to produce sufficient gas coal for Sheffield until the Department came to their rescue and paid the expense under a system of control. The Minister has maintained the supply because private enterprise cannot keep it up even in war time. Private enterprise, I say, has failed.

In 1940 I planned to redistribute the coal trade. We are barely safe so far, but we cannot go much further without taking over responsibility for planning and owning the industry. Planning which leaves ownership undisturbed does not achieve our purpose. We have tried it. There are people on both sides who have condemned it. I beg my comrades in the industry not to be too impatient, not to give up the scheme that is working now, because I believe this is the road to the next and final thing that has to be done. We can- not maintain production for the generation following to-day unless in the next 10 years we invest £50,000,000 of new capital in the industry. Where is it to come from? What member of the Committee would lend his money to any private company which wants to sink a pit in Lanark, for example? In parts of South Wales it cannot be done without State auspices, State resources and State organisation. Take the Coal Commission and the nationalisation of mining royalties as examples, forced on the House not by political parties but by the actual conditions.

I put something before the Government six months before I left. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. A. Greenwood) received my submission. He had arranged to set up a Committee before which I was to give evidence in detail on the scheme. He soon lost his job and it was not long before I followed. I took my scheme for the second time to the Minister without Portfolio. He arranged to see me and have a detailed discussion on it. The scheme is still there. I warn the Committee that it cannot allow these submissions to be made and to remain unheeded. Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman deliver the goods now? Can he do it over the next 10 years? It is impossible without real planning and without resources. This £50,000,000 of capital consists of new shafts to do away with these roads three miles long, about which the Minister has spoken, new machines to improve production at the coal face, new machines to do the pumping and ventilating, new materials and a new lay-out. That is why we want new capital. If we cannot get it rightly placed and apportioned, under private enterprise, let us scrap private enterprise and do the job ourselves. The country cannot afford to do without making those changes.

I want to come back to the man in the pit. We can have our schemes and do what we like but we must come back to the man who gets the coal as the fruit of his labour and experience. He is a very good man too. I say to miners every day "Do not stop working. It is not worth it. We have to beat Hitler first, and then put our house in order." They generally accept that view. The Minister can cease to operate this agree- ment that he speaks of, as suddenly as the decontrol that happened after 1920. Suppose the war does not end until 1946, and two years afterwards the agreement ends and we start to make a new agreement under new conditions.

Major Lloyd George

There is this difference, that the date is now known.

Mr. Grenfell

It does not matter. I say that unless the war finishes very quickly it will be as in 1921. I do not say that that was the intention, but that will be the effect. Six months' notice is not very much. The owners can very easily wait that time. I would go to the men and lay down conditions which can be defended on all grounds—on grounds of production, of maintenance, of manpower and of peace and good will. The Minister might now say, with the approval of the Government. "We have promised to amend the Coal Mines Act so that the men will have a five-day week and sevenand-a-half hours a day as soon as the war comes to an end." The actual working times in 1913 was under 5 days a week. We should not go down below the average working time, but we should regularise and organise production by establishing a reasonable working week which will enable the best use to be made of manpower.

Old Thomas Carlyle, whom I read in my early days—he was a great critic and the strongest national scold we have ever known in literature—made a comparison in "Past and Present" between the men who worked and lived in the slums of our cities, and the horses in the contractor's stable, which were well-fed and treated, in order to maintain their health and strength. I do not want to use that simile again, but every hon. Member in this enlightened mechanical age knows the importance of paying proper attention to a motor car. If you want to get the best results from a Ford or a Daimler it must be driven carefully and must not be overworked, or stinted of lubricants and petrol. In that way you get better results over a period of time. The same is true of man-power. You can work your men to death, and drive them to physical and mental breakdown if you like, but in the long run you pay for it in lost production. The lesson we should learn here to-day is that we should praise good men; let us say a kind word to them from this Committee—to those men who have laid the foundations of our industry and have shown, by example after example, the steadiness and courage of our race. Let us pay a tribute to the men of Kent, to the men in all the Coalfields, and say that the best we can do for these brave men in the future and the best we can do for the industry they serve shall be done by this House.

Lieut.-Colonel Lancaster (Fylde)

I should like to join with my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) in congratulating my right hon. and gallant Friend on his account of the stewardship of his Department during the last year, and particularly on his factual approach to the problem. I was much encouraged by several of the conclusions to which he had come in regard to the problems of this industry. I think that the whole Committee has welcomed the publication of the White Paper, and we on this side particularly welcome this opportunity of discussing the problems of the industry at this critical moment in its affairs. I do not propose to criticise the figures in the White Paper, but I feel that it has omitted to disclose certain facts and figures which are relevant to our problems and which would have been of help. Costs are confined to the period up to April this year and take no account of the effect of the Porter award and the agreement on wages of 21st April. The second criticism I have to make is that the White Paper is confined to a limited period for the coal production only of this country. We have the advantage of knowing something of what we were confronted with during the last war and the immediate post-war period, and we should be unwise to ignore the lessons we can draw from that period. My right hon. and gallant Friend rightly urged the Committee not to jog back, and I do not propose to do so. The Committee is only interested in these figures in so far as they disclose the contribution which this industry can play towards the objectives of the White Paper on full employment and the part it can continue to play as long as the war lasts. In that respect it seems to me that there are only two factors which are really relevant —the availability of the quantity of coal required and our ability post-war to produce it in a world competitive market.

Whereupon The GENTLEMAN USHER OF THE BLACK ROD being come with a Message, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair

Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair.

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