§ Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)
The Opposition have thought it right to exercise their traditional opportunity, by asking for this Vote on the 18th Supply Day. I think the whole Committee will recognise that it would be quite wrong if we were to part for the Recess without a Debate upon the coal position which will give the Minister an opportunity of rendering an account of his stewardship. For nearly 12 months the right hon. Gentleman and his friends have been obsessed with the distant prospect of a Socialist Utopia, and it is perhaps useful and salutary for them to come down occasionally from the clouds, and to debate the present and the immediate future. All Debates in which the right hon. Gentleman takes part have a pleasing element of doubt, and even a certain speculative flavour. There is uncertainty as to what will be his mood. Sometimes he is in a conciliatory and accommodating spirit. Then he adopts the statesman's role. Sometimes the old Adam is too much for 46 him. In the first mood, we, on this side of the Committee, are praised by him as helpful critics. At the end of the Debates on the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill he said he was grateful for "the cooperation received from all quarters of the House." That is pure Jekyll. He has another mood, and when those fits come upon him, generally at weekends—those are the dangerous times and Durham and Northumberland are specially dangerous spots; he had a very bad attack recently at Morpeth—then he puts on what he calls "the full dignity of a Cabinet Minister." On other occasions he relapses into what the Attorney-General, if he were here, would no doubt call "the language of the gutter." Then we have those elegant phrases about "impudence," "cheek," "sewage" and "disinfectants." That mood is pure, unadulterated Hyde. However, there is a certain attraction in this very uncertainty. Sunshine and showers alternate, as on an April day, and are all the more fascinating for that. I, for one, have quite fallen a victim to this almost feminine charm of the right hon. Gentleman, this pleasing inconstancy, this ravishing instability. I know his tricks so well, yet I am always captivated. Of the right hon. Gentleman we can surely say that he is a great performer and that age cannot wither him nor custom stale his infinite variety.
Any Debate on coal must divide itself into two parts, one, the interests of those employed by the industry, the great mining community, and the other the interests of those served by the industry, the domestic and industrial consumers. Unfortunately, owing to the failure to publish the "Statistical Digest" in time for this Debate, we are deprived of the valuable information in that excellent document. All of us owe a great debt of gratitude to my right hon. and gallant Friend the former Minister of Mines, for having instituted this Digest. It gives us an enormous amount of detailed information in most useful form. Unfortunately, although the year 1944 was dealt with and published by May, 1945, at the end of July, 1946, we have not received the copy covering the year 1945. We waited until almost the last Supply Day in the hope of this information, and we are put in some difficulty by the fact that it is not available. If certain statistics I have to use are out-of-date, I must apologise to the Committee.
47 I would first make some mention of the human side of the problem and especially ask certain questions on the subject of accidents. The House of Commons and the nation have always been particularly sensitive and anxious about the risks inseparable from the miner's calling. Although risks are taken by many others by land, air and sea, yet the underground risk has a peculiarly moving, and even haunting, aspect. Much attention has been given to this problem for many generations and much legislation and administrative regulation devoted to it. The Committee and the public would like to be informed and reassured on the progress which is being made. The figures covering 1944 showed a very substantial decline, both absolute and also relative to the number of men employed, in the figures of killed and seriously injured. That is, no doubt, due to measures, which have long been operating and planned, at last bearing fruit. I shall be glad to have an assurance that this happy trend has continued in 1945.
The 1944 figures showed, unfortunately, an increase in the injured and in the disabled—"disabled" being denned as disabled for three days or more—but this may be due to a continual improvement in the reporting and classification of those accidents. It may be due to the fact that older men, or a greater proportion of older men, work in the mines. I was rather concerned to see in those figures a rise from 120,000 in 1938 to 157,000 in 1944. That is in relation to underground work. The total including surface work has risen from 131,000 in 1938 to 173,000 in 1944. the Committee would be very glad to hear that 1945 had shown some improvement in this respect.
I now pass from what I would call the human to the economic problems of the industry. The country wants to know the position and the prospects. They want to be reassured both as to the domestic consumer and the industrial consumer. If they cannot be reassured, at least they want to know the truth. They want to know what prospects there are—if any—of exports. They expect— and I am sure the Minister will not disappoint them—a full, frank and fair statement. If things are bad, let us know the worst. We want to know also what, if any, remedial measures are being taken. This is the first coal Debate I 48 have heard for several years, because I have been away, and I cannot help recalling the old Debates we had for nearly 20 years between the wars. It is a strange atmosphere in which I find myself, from this point of view that all my life the problem has been the apparent over-production of coal in relation to home and foreign demands. The cures we then discussed—many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will remember those Debates only too well— were to stimulate demand, both internal and external, by monetary expansion, by public works, exports, subsidies and similar measures, to reduce cut-throat competition by amalgamation, and to improve the grading and the selling of the coal. All this has been changed—not, alas, by human intelligence but by human folly; not by wisdom and virtue but by wickedness, for this new situation is the outcome of war and the aftermath of war. Then we used to talk of selling coal. Now we talk of saving coal. Then we used to talk of new uses for coal. Now we talk of new substitutes for coal. Then we talked of new markets. Now we dream only of new restrictions.
This must be a shock to us when we reflect upon it. I remember when I was a boy the shock that came over the country when the Navy was first put upon oil instead of upon coal—and the reaction in South Wales. I still feel a shock when I am told that progress is being made in converting railway engines to burning imported oil instead of British coal. I am alarmed at the restrictions proposed or adumbrated in regard to electric power. I particularly fear the ultimate results, for these changes, once made, are not easily reversed. Markets once lost are not easily regained. But we must recognise the necessity for the devices and stratagems in our dire need, and therefore it would be useful if the right hon. Gentleman could say in his reply something of their progress. First, what progress has been made in the conversion of railway, public utility and industrial plant to oil? Secondly, what practical assistance is given to expedite these conversions and which Minister is responsible, the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry or the Ministry of Supply? Third, what financial inducement by way of writing off capital on the expenditure concerned is being granted by the Exchequer? Finally, what progress, if any, is being made with the committee 49 which the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us recently had been set up to consider the import duty upon fuel oil? If the Minister could reply to those four points by saying that a strong, active effort is being made, it would at least make a temporary palliative of our difficulties, but it is difficult to discover and assess the real facts in this coal situation. That is one of our problems. Official and unofficial statements in this, as in many other spheres, are confusing, vacillating, fluid and often self-contradictory. Let me take the Minister's own pronouncements. They leave one in a daze. If I may quote his own words, on 21st October, 1945, he said:The coal position is so grave that I am bound to ask for a greater effort.On 17th January, 1946, he said:The fuel position is very much better than we anticipated in September.On 29th January we are bad again. He said—in the House— on that date:… the existing position contains the elements of an industrial disaster."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January, 1946; Vol. 418, c. 703.]On 22nd March his spirits have risen. He said:At one time it looked as if factories would have to be closed but we have overcome the stringency owing to the fine efforts of the workers.On 15th April his mood changes again:The coal position is still very sticky.On 4th June, 1946, he says:I am not so alarmed about the coal position as some people.At this point when I and many others felt reassured, Mr. Lawther entered the lists, and a few weeks ago declared:The situation contains the elements of an industrial catastrophe.But the Minister was equal to the occasion. In what I might call the absolute, latest stop-press news, he made a fresh revelation to the nation with greater political acumen and more experience than his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. He chose a newspaper of which the Attorney-General said he had never heard but nevertheless saw fit to insult, the "News of the World." On the very Sunday following the great Bat-tersea broadcast—the great Battersea outburst—but of course on another page, there appeared an exclusive two-column special interview with the Minister in 50 which he exclaimed, in beautiful black type:I am a super-optimist.With all these variations we are a little in a maze, and the public have a right to know the truth. Let us remember the story of food. The shuffling, the hesitation and the lack of candour have brought down one Minister of Food, and look like engulfing another. Let the Minister read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the moral of the food story, for the public have the right to know the truth, and in peace, as in war, the public that is taken into the Government's full confidence will always play the game in return. If we are in a mess—as I think we are—let us take counsel together as to how we are to get out of it. For that purpose I would like to put a number of questions which I hope either the Minister when he replies, or the Parliamentary Secretary when he winds up the Debate may be able to answer.
I will first deal with output. We have only the first 26 weeks finished of 1946, and we have to compare that with the first 26 weeks of 1945. I want to be absolutely, scrupulously fair if I can be about all the factors in this matter, and if there arc factors which I have omitted, I am sure the Minister will remind me. I do not claim to be an expert on the figures, which are quite difficult to analyse. I understand there were 18,000 fewer men at work in the first 26 weeks of this year as against the first 26 weeks of last year. That would be generally regarded as the loss of about 2,250,000 tons, which nobody can help That is a loss due to the 18,000 men not being there. Against that, in the first 26 weeks of 1945 there were more holidays than in the first 26 weeks of 1946. I am in formed that the holiday loss, so to speak, of 1946 amounted to 2,600,000 tons and the holiday loss of 1945 to 4,500,000 tons. Therefore there is a gain of 2,000,000 tons. Moreover, in 1945 the wagon position was much more serious than in 1946 because of military operations and other reasons. That, I am informed, amounts to a gain on balance of about 800,000 tons. The loss from disputes was happily very low, in each year not more than about 400,000 tons. Therefore, the loss of manpower is almost exactly equated by the gain on the question of holidays and of wagons. So it is 51 a fair comparison to take the 26 weeks of each year, and I am informed that there is an increase of about 800,000 to 850,000 tons.
That is the situation. If I am wrong in my analysis, I am sure the Minister will put me right, but I have done my best to make it as correct as it can be made. I have certain observations to make on that. What will the July figures show? We do not know. What are the July-December figures estimated to produce? On what figures are we working for our estimates? In the first half of the year we are not losing ground but we are not gaining ground, and for the first year of peace that is a disappointing result. I hope I shall not be thought cynical if I say that I fail to detect in any of these figures that automatic response to the inspiration of a Socialist Government, or that immediate psychological reaction to the prospect of working for a State capitalist monopoly which, we are told, would immediately lead to vastly increased production.
I pass from output to stocks. In April, 1944, the coal distributed and in the hands of users amounted to 12,699,000 tons; in April, 1945, to 10,000,000 tons; in April, 1946, to 6,800,000 tons. That is a decline of nearly half in two years. Is that correct? Let us come to more specialised uses and stocks. There is a classification given in the figures of railways, gas and electricity. I appreciate that this classification is something more than normal—I think about 26 per cent. more than normal That is, of course, largely due to the fact that both domestic and industrial consumers are tending to take coal in the shape of electricity rather than directly into their grates or furnaces, but I am also informed that the stocks are now one-third of normal for these undertakings. Is that correct? Certain industries, including public utilities, have no doubt consumed more coal. I would like the figure of the total overall consumption of coal of all classes. Has it gone up or down in the two periods of 26 weeks under review?
Then I pass to industrial stocks. I am informed that they are 5,000,000 tons less than at this time last year. Is that correct? In May, 1945, the stocks amounted to 4½ weeks, in May, 1946, to 2½ weeks. Is this correct? Of domestic stocks I 52 have no figures. I only know that I have no coal, and I do not suppose anybody else has, but I do not suppose that domestic stocks were ever very large in private houses. I would like to know, therefore, what are the merchant stock piles, which is really the figure. Can the Minister give us any information on that?
Now I come to the effect of this position upon special industries, industries of the greatest importance to the nation. Many are living from hand to mouth. They have a week's supply. Let us take steel first. The steel output, thanks to the admirable work of the industrial leaders—whom the Government propose, as a reward for their efficiency, shortly to liquidate—has a record output, but the Minister of Supply told us only on 20th May of this year that, owing to the shortage of coal, the steel industry was working at 400,000 tons a year below capacity. Is that correct? It must be correct because it was told us by a Minister. Now the position is even worse because the supply of other raw materials, which were delaying the production of steel, is now rapidly increasing, and therefore I am informed that the potential loss is far greater than that because these other raw materials are also acting as a block now in the supply lines and the potential lines, and it is more in the neighbourhood of 2,000,000 to 3,000,000 tons per year below capacity if the coal were available. At the end of June there was about two and half weeks' supply for the steel industry. Is that figure correct? I will take a small example. In the Midland area in the middle of June, a reduction of coal was imposed by the fuel authorities. I am informed that this amounts to a loss of steel products in the Midland area alone of about 4,000 tons to 5,000 tons a week. Is this correct? I turn to the chemical industry. Lord McGowan informed us on 23rd May, 1946, that owing to the coal cuts imposed on the chemical industry in January of this year, he had lost £2,500,000 sterling of chemical exports.
Let me now turn to the other problem of quality, which is almost as important as that of quantity. Here we have a very serious situation. As regards domestic consumption, we know the quality in our own grates. You can make a crazy paving in your garden from the stuff you take out of the grate—[An HON. MEMBER: "If you have a garden."]—if 53 you have a garden, but if not, you can pile it up against your doorway. The damage to industrial plant is really serious because the modern boiler plants, if given the right quality of coal, work to their real planned capacity, but if they have to use bad coal they lose enormously. I am informed that the electricity industry has had to use 2,000,000 tons more coal in the year than it would have done if it had coal of prewar quality.
I have tried to deal shortly with output and with stocks. Perhaps I might say a word on the prospects for the next six or 12 months. On the question of exports, others of my hon. and right hon. Friends who have a greater knowledge than I, will speak and I would only point out that it is a tragic thing that at this time coal exports are not possible. Coal is the most valuable export from the exchange point of view. There are many countries which will sell us their food and raw materials for coal, which will not part with them for blocked sterling. One of them is Sweden, which has just made an arrangement with Poland, so that in the last month Poland has exported an amount of coal to Sweden equal to the whole of British exports for that month. Moreover, it is the export, if it were available, which would be of the greatest assistance to the recovery of Europe. There is nothing more valuable we could do for every country in Europe, countries which I have had the good or ill fortune to serve and know in some detail. It would be the biggest possible contribution we could make to their revival, and it is therefore—I put it no higher than that—a tragic thing that at this moment we should be incapable of reviving our export of coal. For the coal industry itself, it is a tragic thing that markets should be lost just at the time when the greatest prestige and good will could be gained by filling them.
I pass now to home needs. What is the prospect for the next six months or a year? What is the prospect for the domestic consumer this winter? Is the housewife to stand in the coal queue, as well as in every other queue, and, in addition to being ill-clothed, ill-housed and ill-fed, are we also to freeze? What is the position of the industrial consumer? Shall we see a new form of unemployment, undreamed of before, such as neither Lord Keynes nor any other mone- 54 tary reformer, ever thought of? An unemployment not due to lack of credit, not due to a faulty monetary policy, not due to deflation, not due to lack of demand, but an unemployment, for the first time in the history of this country, due to lack of coal? That cannot be solved by White Papers and economic plans. It can only be solved by getting more coal. What will happen if on these narrow margins on which we are working, we should— which God forbid—be subjected to some special difficulties, a very hard winter with a great deal of snow, and be put in the position of an army which, without mobility, is reduced in power; which although it may have a sufficiency of munitions to repel attacks, cannot move from one part of the front to another and has its reserves reduced below the danger point, so that there will be a crash, even if the nominal total reserve is satisfactory?
Is it true that we are about to enter a period in which we shall be consuming coal at a greater rate than we are producing it. In other words, by decreasing what is left of our stocks, arc we about to run on a deficit basis? I would like the answer to this vital question: What is the calculated weekly deficit likely to be during the next six or nine months taking, let us say, the June figures as our estimate? Is it correct, and I believe it is correct, that that calculated deficit is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1¼ million tons, or 1½ million tons a week? If so, we are entering upon a sea of trouble. Hon. Members may have read one of the most exciting stories of war, "The Green Curve." It was a story published during the South African War, of a besieged city in which the commander watched the curve by which the eating up of his food supplies anticipated the approach of a relieving army was expected to operate. Nearer and nearer he got until finally the curve faced him with disaster. The Minister should watch the "Green Curve," if we are in that position, and we should at least be told. I have tried to analyse our output, stocks and prospects. What remedies do the Government propose?
Mr. Srubbs (Cambridgeshire)
What is yours?
§ Mr. Macmillan
I know that hon. Members are not yet quite accustomed to the responsibilities as well as the sweets of 55 office; they are still, mentally, in Opposition. But, on a Supply Day it is the long tradition of this House for the Minister to state the policy of the Government in reply to questions put to him, as I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will very capably and effectively do today. I ask what remedies do the Government propose, because it is for the Government to tell this Committee and the nation what they propose. What do they propose about recruitment of labour at home? How are they to attract men to the industry? I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will welcome the opportunity of stating the position. What is the wastage? How far is it being kept in hand at the moment by the return of men from the Forces, and when is the point reached when that alleviation is expected to dry up? What is being done about juvenile recruitment? We had a statement today by the Minister of Labour. It would have been more comprehensible if we could have seen it. I think the Committee have found it difficult to take in the exact meaning of the statement. But what is the position about absenteeism to be, and what about discipline and the recruitment of foreign labour? What has happened to the Poles? What is the position about the vesting date? Is it to be September, or January? There is a rumour going round that it is to be postponed until next May.
This interregnum when no one owns the industry—whatever one's views may be about legislation which it is not in Order now to discuss—must be frustrating to everyone. The wheels of the industry tick over, but no new plans or developments or creative energy can be put in motion. This hiatus should be shortened as much as possible now that the decision has been taken by Parliament. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides will agree that this gap gives us the worst of both systems. What is the position about the Reid Report? What is being done to implement it? The former Minister, before he left office, started a survey of the whole of the mining industry with a view to ascertaining what steps should be taken to implement the report. Is that survey completed? What steps are being taken? What machinery is being ordered in this period of hiatus, and to whose account, to the account of the firm or of the Government? I am 56 informed that these firms are full of orders for mining machinery. What steps are being taken to increase capacity? During the war we did not feel content merely to say that all capacity was being used for a particular form of weapon. If it was vital, we increased the capacity. Mining machinery is vital, and should be increased.
What is the exact position in regard to the five day week, and what is the Board's decision in the matter? If it is to be delayed until after the vesting date, is that a decision of the Board or of the Minister? We live in a state like that of Mohammed's coffin, suspended between heaven and earth. Since I believe that incentives more powerful than merely the delightful feeling of working for the Government are required, what steps can the Minister adumbrate for better rations, and better supply of consumption goods to the mining industry which, as we all know, would probably be one of the most effective means of increasing production? It would be out of Order to refer to legislation, and that is certainly not my intention, but in the last 12 months Parliament has put forward a huge output of words on the coal industry. A great deal of the time of the Minister of Fuel, and of the managements, has been taken up, and will be taken up, with all the problems arising out of the legislation within the new nationalisation schemes.
During all this time, which should have been devoted to the practical solution of immediate problems, the energies of all concerned, and the best brains of the industry have been devoted to these other matters. These precious months have been devoured by the locusts of doctrinaire controversy. In spite of the "News of the World" this is the gloomy picture. The outlook is bleak. I am certain that the change of ownership even when it is complete will not solve the problem. In some ways it will aggravate the problem. The position is bad now. I warn the right hon. Gentleman that there is a grave danger that it will become worse. Nevertheless, since the British people are always best able to bear their burdens when asked to face them firmly, I hope the Minister, in answer to the questions I have put, will give us a full and comprehensive statement, and tell us, and the nation, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Shinwell)
It is a very warm day and one that seems hardly appropriate for a discussion on the coal situation. Nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman is quite right. We must look ahead; the country must be fully informed of the position; they must, to use his own language, be told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth and that is my intention. But if we are to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, we cannot ignore the historical background of the mining industry. It has bad traditions, extending a long way back. I will not dilate on the sordid, unseemly episodes of the past, but this can be said: If the attention now being given by this House and the public to the coal industry and all that pertains to the coal industry had been accorded over the past 25 years, we should not be faced with the present situation. It is no part of my purpose, however, to trouble the Committee on those matters. I go further and I strongly urge on hon. Members in all quarters of the House to seek to forget the past, and to concentrate on the present position and our future needs.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) has, as usual, made an interesting speech. He has asked many questions, to which, in my own fashion, and in the fashion of the Parliamentary Secretary, answers will be given. He has also tried to tempt me. He has dragged in a number of red herrings. But we are not discussing red herrings; we are discussing the coal position. Such speeches as I occasionally make at weekends, which are not always related to the coal position, but are related to the political issues that confront the country—and surely I am entitled to speak of these matters, just as arc other hon. Members—have nothing to do with the case. The right hon. Gentleman twitted me with alternating in my opinion. He is quite right; of course I have done so. When I found that conditions were improving, I said so. On the other hand, when I discovered that a change for the worse had occurred, I informed the country upon the facts. What would the right hon. Gentleman have me do? He demands consistency, but consistency is no virtue when the facts are ever changing, and the position at 58 any particular moment determines any utterance to which I may give expression. Therefore, I am left quite cold— [Laughter.]—it is amazing how little is necessary to afford the Opposition some consolation for their present precarious political plight, but I will not enter into that. I am, I say, left quite cold, and if I may use hackneyed language, my withers are quite unwrung, when the right hon. Gentleman makes reference to the variety of statements for which I am responsible.
It seems to me that it would serve the convenience of the Committee if I stated the facts. When the present Government took office, we discovered that the previous Government had programmed for the ensuing coal year, and that was done in March, 1945. The coal year is not a calendar year. It is defined in this way: It begins on 1st May of one year and ends at the end of April the following year. We made the discovery that the budget prepared by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd-George) estimated requirements at 192 million tons, and that included exports, and exports included bunkering requirements. That was his estimate of what was required for the year 1945–46. On the other hand, he estimated that supplies, including opencast coal—I ask hon. Members to note that—would be in the region of 188 million tons. That represented a deficit of 4 million tons. So the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, away back in March of last year, budgeted for an estimated deficit of 4 million tons.
I was faced with that deficit when I took office. I am not making any complaint about that. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman was faced with great difficulties. That is why he estimated the deficit at 4 million tons. But another deficit appeared after I took office. It arose through no fault of mine. It was-because of the victory holidays. The official victory holidays lasted for three days. The right hon. Member for Bromley was quite right when he said it represented a loss of round about 2,750,000 tons, but, as it happened, there was a spill-over from those holidays. The men took an additional day, and in some districts two days. In consequence, we were faced with a loss of 4,000,000 tons, which represented a deficit for 1945–46 of 8;000,000 tons. It was precisely because of that deficit that 59 I asked for an additional 8,000,000 tons from the miners. That was the reason for the so called target. Of course we did not get the additional 8,000,000 tons of coal, but we secured another 2,000,000 tons—2,000,000 in excess of the estimate —and that was something to our advantage. It was desirable that a target figure should be presented to the country.
What was the position in the winter of last year? We expected that because of this serious deficit of 8,000,000 tons there would be a cessation of industrial activity in some parts of the country. We knew, of course, that the domestic coal consumer would go short. That was inevitable, that was expected. It was estimated by my predecessor, and there was provided what was called the permitted ration of coal for domestic consumers. In fact, we discovered during the winter, in spite of the grim prospects and gloomy forebodings, that hardly any factories were closed down. A few factories suspended operations for a day or two and there were one or two cases in which they were unable to find fuel, and as a result were closed down for a rather longer period. But there was a minimum of industrial loss last winter in spite of the deficit. That was largely due to the efficient and scientific method of distribution employed by the officers of my Department and fortified, I readily admit, by the merchants outside. That was fortunate. We managed to survive the winter. It was a narrow squeak, there is no doubt about that, but we got through. I agree that during the period I alternated in my opinion. It seemed at one time that we were going to get through, and then it appeared as if we were going to be stuck and that bottlenecks would arise. We managed to get through, and that was certainly an achievement.
I want the Committee to face the budget for this year beginning on the 1st May, the budget for 1946–47. We were left at the end of the coal year with distributed stocks amounting to 6,800,000 tons. That was a low figure. In the previous year it had been 10,100,000 tons. Therefore, there was a deficit on the distributed stocks, stocks available for the electricity, gas and water undertakings, coal merchants, and the like, railway companies, and so on, of about 3,500,000 tons. That is how we began this year. The estimate of stocks at pit banks and 60 open cast dumps is about 2,100,000 tons. What do we expect to derive from deep mined output—not opencast but deep mined output? We expect 177,000,000 tons. That is what we expect on the present rate of production. We expect there will be an output of about 8,500,000 tons from opencast operations and about 400,000 tons from briquetting. That is an addition, an accretion, which is a very useful one, attributable to the briquetting operations where slurry and waste dump coal is being utilised. That gives us an estimated supply position of 194,800,000 tons, including, of course, the distributed stocks available at the beginning of the year. What do we expect our requirements to be? After all, that is the crux of the problem. Inland consumption is estimated to reach 188,000,000 tons, something in excess of the consumption last year. Exports, including foreign bunkers, bunker depots abroad, will amount to 8,200,000 tons. We expect our distributed stocks at the end of the year to be pretty much what they were at the' beginning, that is to say 6,800,000 tons—
§ Major Lloyd-George (Pembroke)
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the figure of 177,000,000 tons for deep mined coal and then he made the total up to 194,000,000 tons for the year, which included the distributed stocks. Is not that the output by itself, without distributed stocks?
§ Mr. Shinwell
No, I am afraid that includes the distributed stocks. The output is not as high as that. I wish it was. It would make all the difference in the world. Six million tons would just make up the difference, as I think I shall be able to show. I want to complete the requirements side of the picture. There will be available for exports—the export figure is not 8,000,000 tons alone; it is round about 9,500,000 tons—but there will be available from previous years' production and stocks at pit banks and opencast dumps almost 2,000,000 tons. That is the picture. The question we have to ask ourselves, indeed the question the country is entitled to ask and to which we have to find the answer, is, "How are we going to bridge the deficit?" Our estimate of the stock position at the beginning of the winter is about 11,000,000 tons. That is about 5,000,000 tons less than is necessary to provide safety. On 61 the present rate of production, plus what is available, we expect that the stock position will be 11,000,000 tons. It ought to be 16,000,000 tons. If danger is to be avoided, if we are to provide for continued industrial activity—and everybody is encouraged by this industrial activity; we do not want any cessation of that and we certainly do not want unemployment —we must have 16,000,000 tons at the beginning of the winter unless, of course, there are certain other conditions obtaining, to which I will make reference later.
How is it to be made up? We expect an addition to opencast production of 1½ million tons. I shall tell the Committee why. It is because there has been an acceleration of output on the opencast sites. We have adopted new methods of contracting. We have made arrangements with the contractors about the use of machinery, and, in some cases, they are purchasing machinery, and, as a result, it is better looked after. In consequence, we expect, and there is no reason to assume that our expectations will not be fulfilled, another 1½ million tons.
Now I come to fuel oil, upon which the right hon. Gentleman asked me some questions. I realised some time ago that it would be necessary to effect a measure of conversion from coal burning to fuel oil, if we were to survive next winter. We entered into negotiations with industrial concerns, and, in particular, with the railway companies, and I am very glad to say that, so far as one company is concerned—the Great Western Railway —they have already effected the conversion of 10 locomotives, and are in process of converting, I think, round about another 40. I want to pay my tribute to the Great Western Railway for its enterprise and assistance in this matter. Of course, it is not easy to induce privately-owned undertakings to convert, first, because it is costly. There is the cost of the equipment, and, in addition, it is recognised that burning fuel oil will be more costly than burning coal. We are in negotiation with the Treasury on the question of the duty. We have discovered that there are some difficulties in the way —questions affecting the Inland Revenue —but the negotiations are proceeding, and I have reason to believe that we shall overcome the objections. At any rate, we are going to make a strenuous effort. 62 I want to assist industrial undertakings and railway companies in every way I possibly can to effect this conversion.
Our estimate is that, if all goes well— and we are being fortified in this regard by the Ministry of Supply, who are doing everything they possibly can to secure the equipment, and we have got a No. 1 priority for equipment of that kind—our estimate is that we can save 3,000,000 tons of coal. The use of 2,000,000 tons of fuel oil will represent a saving of 3,000,000 tons of coal, and that, of course, must be put to the credit side of the picture. We also expect, as a result of improved distribution, that we shall be able to save about 1½ million tons, and there is estimated to be a saving, due to less benzole recovery at gasworks, amounting to about a million tons.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)
Will the Minister indicate how he proposes to save 1½ million tons by better distribution?
§ Mr. Shinwell
It is related to the distribution of our stocks at the end of the winter. If, as a result of improved distribution, we can effect a lower stock position at the end of the coal year, but with advantage to the coal merchants and the general consumer, we shall effect a saving on that head. I must be quite frank with the Committee. This is not additional production, I agree, and I am not suggesting that it is. I will come to the question of production in a moment, but what we have to do, when budgeting for the future, is to consider not only output but consumption, and that is what I am trying to do.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
It would clear the situation if the right hon. Gentleman answered one question. Does he really mean that he is budgeting for coming out of next winter with a stock position lower by 1½ million tons?
§ Mr. Shinwell
Yes, coming out of the winter with a lower stock position, but not to such an extent that we need be apprehensive about the supplies to coal merchants. Now I come to the question of fuel efficiency. This is a subject upon which one may dilate for quite a time, but I do not propose to weary the Committee. I can say that, as a result of the efforts made by my Department in the sphere of fuel efficiency, we have already effected considerable savings in consumption, and perhaps the Committee would 63 be interested to know that, during the war, industrial coal consumption decreased by four and half million tons as a result of fuel efficiency. We are continuing our activities in that direction.
Now I come to the question of manpower—whether it is possible to step up our manpower in time to secure an additional output in the coming winter. On this subject of manpower, I am bound to say that it is a very distressing story. There was a time when we had more than a million men employed in this industry-When I took office, the number of men employed was, I think, 704,000. At the beginning of this year it was 698,000. There has been a considerable reduction over a period of months, partly due to excessive wastage. Hon. Members may be surprised to learn that the rate of wastage in the industry last year was as great as 70,000 a year. That is a most amazing situation, attributable to many causes. In fact, it is very difficult to recover from the effect of such ravages in a short time. In addition, the manpower employed in the industry for two or three years has been of the older type. The bulk of the labour employed in the industry is over the age of 40. It has been improved somewhat in recent months as the result of the return of men from the Forces—and, by the way, that is not a recurring intake. We shall not get many in future. It has been of great assistance to have had these men in recent months, and they have improved the situation a good deal. We have had to turn our attention to the subject of recruitment, and, as a result of the concentrated efforts of my Department, assisted by various other Government Departments and by the National Union of Mineworkers and others concerned with the industry, we have improved the position by about 4,000 intake, since the beginning of the year. I admit that that is not satisfactory.
What is the reason for all this? The fact is that the industry has been written down far too long. There has been constant disparagement. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I am asked why. For obvious reasons, it was an unattractive industry and, for a long period, it was an underpaid industry. It was a dangerous industry, and there were other unattractive features which I need not mention but which are 64 obvious to hon. Members who are acquainted with this subject. May I say, in passing, since the right hon. Gentleman asked me a question about it, that, as regards the accident rate, and in particular, the mortality rate, there has been a considerable decline. The right hon. Gentleman, and other hon. Members, may be interested to know that the fatal accident rate for 1945 was the lowest on record in this country. I need not go into details; that general statement should suffice. There has been a considerable improvement.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question? As very little has been done to implement the Forster Report, can he indicate the concrete steps which he is taking to get these 4,000 recruits, and, roughly, what age are they?
§ Mr. Shinwell
We have got these 4,000 recruits. There are youths and boys among them, men returning from the Forces and men who are coming into the mining industry from other industries. But that is the excess of intake over wastage. We find that there has been a much larger number entering the industry since the beginning of the year, comprising a considerable variety.
§ Mr. Lindsay
Could the right hon. Gentleman say what are the concrete steps which Mr. Newsome and others are taking?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I shall be pleased to do so. We recognise that, as regards boys, we have to make the industry more attractive. The boys have to be trained. We have to provide training facilities and qualified instructors capable of training the boys. In addition, we have, in some quarters, to secure the active services of the teaching profession, who are rendering every possible assistance in order to induce boys to come in. Moreover, we are doing what we can to improve the mechanisation training position. We have a training centre in Sheffield which is now being fully utilised, and, because it is being fully utilised, we have in contemplation the setting up of another training centre in the north—perhaps, in Scotland. In time, I think that we shall require seven of these mechanisation training centres. It is a fact that boys are more attracted to the mining industry if they are going to use machines, and if they are going to become mechanics, 65 than if they are going to be ordinary miners. There has certainly been some improvement as the result of the efforts of Mr. Newsome and the recruitment staff, but I am not satisfied with the present position. Far from it. We have to consider what other steps are required in order to induce young men to come into the industry and, in particular, to induce parents to advise them to come into the industry.
That brings me to the question: What attractions do we propose to offer to the industry in the future? The right hon. Gentleman opposite asked me about the five day week. I have been in favour of the five day week for a long time, and have been quite frank in my statements about it to the country. The present position is that the Government have accepted, in principle, as I stated in the House quite recently, the five day week, but it must be associated with production. In other words, we must get production and conditions associated with the application of the five day week. The principles are now being hammered out, first between the National Union of Mineworkers and my Department and, secondly, between the National Union of Mineworkers, based on a report by my Department, and the National Coal Board. I am pleased to inform the House that the National Coal Board have already met the National Union of Mineworkers, not necessarily on this subject, but in order to have a preliminary canter in the kind of consultations and co-operation that will be necessary between these bodies in the future. I believe that that augurs well for the success of the industry in the future.
I would add that it is quite clear that the industry must be made more attractive. We cannot ask boys to go into the industry if there is to be insecurity, if wages are to come down, and, in particular, if there is to be neglect of the welfare arrangements which are so essential to this industry because of the isolated position of so many of the mining communities. All these things have to be dealt with. In connection with the question of welfare, I should like to tell the Committee that, recently, we made a change, as a result of the Bill which the House accepted and which is now an Act of Parliament, in the welfare position. Sir Frederick Sykes, who was formerly chairman of the Miners' Welfare Commission, has now resigned, and I should like to take this opportunity of paying my tribute to him for the valu- 66 able work he did for the Commission and for the mining community.
I now come to the question of foreign labour. There has been a lot of nonsense talked about the use of foreign labour. Wild statements have been made by the newspapers and by other people. What are the facts? We were ready to avail ourselves of any kind of labour in order to step up production, provided that labour was sufficiently trained and expert to produce the coal. But there is no use talking of introducing green labour into the mining industry. Green labour has to be trained, and it takes time to train men. What is the shortage we experience in the mining industry as regards labour? It is not surface labour—in fact, we discovered recently that there is redundancy as regards surface labour—and, in the measure that improvements are effected on the surface, fewer men will be required there. More men, however, are required at the face. We want trained expert coal getters, and they are not available. We have tried every possible means to up-grade men. First, we have tried to induce men working in other parts of the pit— on the haulage, at loading points and doing other jobs—to accept upgrading and to go and work at the face. Many are reluctant to do so. Managers, also, are reluctant to upgrade men. We are now dealing with that matter as effectively as we can, and we hope, now that the National Coal Board is duly constituted, that they will be able to bring pressure to bear on the managements in the industry or, if it is not yet opportune to bring pressure that they will use their influence with the industry in order to upgrade men. We must have more men at the coal face, and have them as soon as possible.
That brings me to the subject of Poles. We have conducted a very careful analysis into the possibility of employing Polish labour. The other week somebody said that we could employ 40,000 Poles. That is just wild talk. There are, of course, more than 40,000 Poles in this country, but they are not miners. In fact, some who are miners are reluctant to enter the British mining industry. After a close analysis, we have discovered that there are 200 Poles who are willing to enter the industry. That does not rule out the possibility of attracting a fairly large number, which may ran to 1,000, 2,000 or even 3,000, who may be willing to present 67 themselves for training. But I beg hon. Members to note that these men have not only to be trained for work in the pits; they have to be taught English. We cannot have men working in the pits who are unable to speak English and, therefore, are unable to understand the safety regulations. That would be dangerous. We have been asked whether the National Union of Mineworkers have stood in the way of the employment of Polish labour. Naturally, the National Union of Mineworkers wish to safeguard the interests of their members, and they demanded that if Poles in large numbers— not a matter of 200 or so—were to be employed, they would expect, them, first, to become members of the trade union, which is quite a proper demand, and, secondly, that, in the event of redundancy—and there may be redundancy in the industry some day—the Poles should go first, and should not be employed to the detriment of the British miner. These matters are under discussion, but I am satisfied that we shall overcome any difficulty that presents itself. Finally, on the question of recruitment, we are likely to secure the services of a fairly large amount of labour from elsewhere, not necessarily foreign labour, which is ready to be trained, and we propose to make that labour available to the industry as early as possible.
I come now to the question of what is to happen in the industry, first, next winter, and, secondly, in the future. I must speak in the frankest possible terms. I look to the men of the industry to make up the estimated deficit this coming winter of five million tons. That is all I ask. What are the prospects? In the month of May the average weekly output was 3,700,000 tons. That was, on the average, an excellent output It has since declined, but that is due to the holiday periods. The miners in most parts of the coalfields are on holiday, with the result that we have lost 200,000, 300,000, and in one week 400,000 tons of coal. But that is inevitable. We expect, with the full resumption of work after the holidays, providing we can maintain the labour supply, that we can step up the production again, at any rate, to 3.7. If we do that, plus an estimate of over 200,000 tons of opencast, we think that we may get through 68 the winter, but I repeat that it is necessary for the men to give every possible assistance in making up the leeway; otherwise, I am bound to admit to the Committee that there may be some stoppages in industrial undertakings in the course of the winter. I am as anxious to avoid a cessation of activity in that regard as any hon. Member in the Committee.
There is a further point in connection with this matter. We have now secured the full and wholehearted cooperation of the National Union of Mineworkers in the sphere of recruitment. Previously they were not too anxious to assist us, for reasons into which I need not enter, but which, no doubt, are familiar to hon. Members. They have now expressed their willingness to cooperate with us in order to bring as many people into the industry as possible, and if there is some stepping up of the manpower position I am satisfied that we can get out of the wood.
There is another aspect of this matter which will face us in the coming winter, to which I must direct attention. That is the question of consumption. We are consuming at the present time more coal than we have ever done in the history of this country. I. am speaking of coal for inland consumption. Exports and bunkering needs apart, for inland consumption our estimated requirements this year are in excess of anything we. have known. That is a fact of which the Committee must take notice. What is the position with regard to gas and electricity? It is much more serious than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley indicated. He spoke about an increase in the electricity demand of 26 per cent., but I will give the Committee the actual figures.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Gentleman says that we have not published the document. The reason is that there are a great number of additional statistics relating to petroleum—
§ Mr. Macmillan
I apologise. I did the best I could to get my figures accurate. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not charge me with inaccuracy.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right. There is a monthly statistical digest in which all these figures appear, and it is available at the Vote Office. But apart from that, the annual return is not published at the moment because we are adding a great many figures concerning the petroleum position, and those are not ready. First, the estimated inland consumption will amount to 188 million tons. That is the highest figure that we have known. As regards the public utilities and industry, they will consume more coal than in any non-war year since 1923 or, indeed, since 1913. If one excludes the war years, the consumption by public utility undertakings is higher than anything that we have yet experienced. For example, gas consumption in the present coal year is 23,700,000 tons. That is the highest in history. Today it is running at a rate 24 per cent. higher than in 1938. As regards electricity, the consumption is 26,300,000 tons, which is 2,300,000 tons higher than in 1945, and 76 per cent. higher than in 1938. That is a most amazing increase, and it is very largely responsible for the present position in which we find ourselves. If I gave an example expressed in unit consumption relating to electricity, what do we find? The Committee may be interested in these figures. In 1922 we consumed in the domestic sphere 370 million units, in 1938 5,360 million units; in 1944, 7,799 million units, and in I945 8,848 million units. This year we expect it to be in excess of that figure.
§ Mr. Shinwell
As I pointed out, the total inland coal consumption of 188 million tons is in excess of any figure which we have yet known.
§ Mr. Shinwell
It is higher, at any rate. In the face of the present output position, naturally we are presented with great difficulties and great problems. In spite of all I have said, with the prospects of fuel efficiency, of conversion of coal to fuel oil, of opencast production in excess of last year, the stepping up of manpower, and, over and above all that—and 70 to this I attach the highest importance— a better atmosphere in the industry, I think we can get through. At any rate, we are going to make a real attempt to do so.
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the new set-up. He said that we had been obsessed during the past I2 months because of nationalisation. He is quite wrong. In spite of the difficulties associated with getting the Bill through the House, we have been devoting ourselves assiduously to the immediate tasks that were in hand, but at the same time we must have regard to the future position. The right hon. Gentleman has asked about the Reid Report and mechanisation. I can only give him a very short answer, because I do not want to occupy the time of the Committee any longer than is necessary. The National Coal Board are now constituted. They have got to plan. But before they plan they must be able to take the persons employed in the industry—men and technicians—into their confidence. That is essential. They must have before them the plans prepared by the various colliery undertakings. The hon. and gallant Member for Fylde (Colonel Lancaster) is well aware of what I mean. He himself has presented plans. These plans cannot be immediately applied; it takes time; but I can tell the Committee that there is every prospect of success, because wherever mechanisation has been applied—and hon. Members who are associated with the mining industry are well aware of these facts—there has been an actual increase in the output. I need not go into the figures, but they are available. There is no doubt about the effect of mechanisation. I believe— and I think there is every reason for this belief—that as a result of the new dispensation and the new atmosphere in the industry resulting from the operation of the Coal Board, we shall get the output we want.
I am bound to admit that as far as exports are concerned, it will take some time before we can recover our export trade. No one regrets that more than I do. I agree with the economic analysis with which the right hon. Gentleman furnished us. I am familiar with all that, as he knows. I have used the same language myself many times when I sat on the opposite benches, and I continue to use the same language now. I agree 71 with him entirely that we must step up our export trade in order to pay for imports. In the meantime, we cannot do it, and we are being inundated by applications and frantic appeals by various other countries demanding coal. I would be only too glad to comply with their requests, but I am unable to do so. I beg hon. Members to understand this. If I am faced with a situation in which I have to make a choice between keeping our own factories and public utilities running or exporting, then obviously I must consider the home position first. I must do so until such time as I see an opportunity for stepping up exports. I give hon. Members this assurance: As soon as I see that opportunity, as soon as I see a likelihood of more output, then those countries who need our coal, who are old customers of ours and whom we want to be customers in the future, will be given the treatment to which they are entitled.
That is the general position. I say one other thing before sitting down. I make no complaint because the Opposition have raised this matter. They were perfectly entitled to do so. I am glad they have done so, because it has enabled me to put the facts before the country. Whether the prospects are grim or otherwise, it is better that the public should be fully apprised of the position. Over and above that, it is just as well that we—and hon. Members on this side of the Committee are not execpted from what I am now about to say—should place some measure of responsibility on the men in the industry.
§ Mr. Shinwell
We now have a situation quite different from that which existed in the past. There are glowing prospects for improvement in this much battered and harassed industry. We are trying to escape from the horrors of the past. That is the purpose of us all; there is not an hon. Member in this Committee who desires a return to the bad old conditions, in whatever quarter of the Committee he may sit. I agree that the management will have to cooperate. Unfortunately, there are cases—and I am bound to say this—were both men and managers refuse to cooperate. In the case of the men, there are far too many unofficial strikes, 72 as a result of which i have had to take drastic action, with the full consent of the men's organisations. Equally in the case of the managers who, very often, refuse to cooperate. I am hoping for an improvement in the situation. Whenever I find sufficient evidence to convict a manager of not cooperating, the matter is being dealt with.
If we are all anxious to escape from the sordid position with which we were so familiar in the past, if we want to build up this industry and make it a real going concern, one that can minister to the national needs, both industrial and domestic, I am bound to say that to achieve those ends we must have cooperation from everybody concerned. The only complaint I have to make is that the right hon. Gentleman sought to acquit himself of not having presented any constructive proposals, on the ground that it was not the duty of the Opposition so to do. I remind the Committee, first, that when hon. Members on this side sat on the benches opposite we frequently availed ourselves of the opportunities afforded to us of presenting constructive proposals.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I repeat, even on a Supply Day. However, I will not enter into that. Why should we have a controversy about what may be regarded as a minor point? There is much more in this matter than that. Are we interested in the future of this industry, or are we not? That is the question. Or, are we merely concerned with dialectics and polemics? I am as much addicted to polemics and dialectics as the right hon. Gentleman, as he well knows. The position is much too grave for that sort of thing. We have to get out of the wood, We have to assist our industrial recovery.
Last, but not least, if this industry under the new organisation proves to be a failure, if we do not secure the coal we need, if we fail to use the coal efficiently and scientifically according to the national needs, and if we fail to step up exports in due course, then it will be a bad look out for the whole country. It is not merely a matter for the Government, or the Opposition: It is a matter 73 for the whole nation. That is what we are anxious to avoid. So far as I am concerned, whatever I may say at week-ends, when I must have a little pleasure and relaxation, at any rate within the Department, with the good offices of my officials—some of the ablest men in the Civil Service—with the afcle assistance of my Parliamentary Secretary, and with the cooperation of hon. Members—and they have been wholehearted in that cooperation; I have very little criticism to troubles about—I will do my level best to build up this industry, so long as I am in the Department, to make it a real national asset.
§ Colonel Lancaster (Fylde)
Before the Minister sits down, there is one question to which he did not refer. My right hon. Friend asked him specifically whether at this moment we were travelling at a weekly deficit of between a quarter and a half million tons. Despite all the figures the Minister has given in reply, he has not answered that question. On the answer to that question depends whether or not we get through this winter. Are we travelling at that deficit at this moment? In the figures the Minister has given us, does he see any prospect of getting out of that position? He has not given that reply, and that is what we want to hear.
§ Mr. Shinwell
It is quite impossible at the present moment to give an accurate estimate, because of the holiday situation. If I were to take the month of May as an example, I would say we were overcoming that difficulty, and were not experiencing anything in the nature of a deficit. However, I am not satisfied that that can be maintained. We must get the additional output from opencast coal and step up manpower in the industry in order to secure that. I may be in a better position to judge, and will be only too willing to tell the Committee, when we come to mid-September or the beginning of October.
§ Mr. John McKay (Wallsend)
On a point of Order. Before the hon. Member speaks, is it possible to put a question to the Minister?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
No. I have called upon an hon. Member to speak. The hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. 74 McKay) will have an equal opportunfty with other hon. Members of catching the eye of the Chairman. It is better that we should proceed by debate rather than by question and answer.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Bowen (Cardigan)
While I am sure we all welcome the wholehearted assurances which the Minister gave us in his closing remarks, at the same time, we fee] little relief from our general anxiety about the immediate prospects of the fuel situation in this country, about the coal industry, and particularly about the export trade as a whole. I was one of those who did not oppose the nationalisation of the mines, because I sincerely hoped that that step would do much to put on one side what the Minister referred to, namely, the unfortunate history of the relationship between the employees and employers in the coal industry; that it would have a salutary psychological effect on all persons employed in the industry, and, in particular, on the recruitment situation. So far, I would suggest, nothing has occurred to indicate that my hopes were well-founded. In fact, there are many factors and much evidence to indicate the contrary. It is an industry which, in contrast to many of our basic industries, is not faced with the problem of a shortage of raw materials, and is not faced with a problem of not having ready home and overseas markets. Despite that situation, the coal industry today is in a desperate plight because if cannot maintain the prewar production level. By reason of that fact, which certainly has not been concealed by the Minister, our whole national economy and the organisation of our whole industrial structure are in danger, the housewife is in danger of being faced with yet another hardship in the coming winter. As the right hon. Gentleman has frankly said, the response to his appeal for new recruits and for greater production by the men in the industry has been poor, and I should like hon. Members of the Committee to ask themselves why this has been so. What does it indicate?
§ Mr. Bowen
Yes, and I will attempt to provide that answer in a moment. I have here the figures of production per manshift in South Wales for the first three months of 1939 and the first three months of 1946. Comparing March, 1939, and 75 March, 1946, for example, there is a drop of over 20 per cent. in production per manshift, and the position with regard to June, as it appears from the figures I have seen today, is worse, I think this applies to the whole of the country, but it certainly applies to South Wales. For the 42 weeks up to 13th July the Minister fixed a very modest target, and during those 43 weeks the target has only been exceeded twice. On both those occasions it was a week preceding a holiday—the V-day holiday and the Christmas holiday. As the Minister himself has indicated, I do not think anything is to be gained by casting aspersions or making attacks. I do not think that is the remedy, but I do say, as a young man and in fairness to the older men in the industry, that I think the real trouble in regard to poor production figures is the action—or rather the inaction—of the men under 30 in the industry. For example, in South Wales more than half the wilful absenteeism is on the part of men under 30 years of age. The absenteeism of men under 30 is three times as great as that of men over 40.
This is no time for recriminations against the workers, and I do not see any useful purpose in recriminations in respect of what the owners might or might not have done 10, 20 or 30 years ago, but if this position is to be remedied—and that is the only practical point for us to consider—we must ask what different conditions we are to created I suggest that the first essential is to create a state of affairs in which the miners have faith in the Minister, and in the Coal Board. I infer, from the present figures relating to production and recruitment, an absence of that faith and confidence in the present administration on the part of the workers in the mining industry, Whatever the reasons for that may be, I am sure the Minister is conscious of it himself, and his assurances that he will work towards establishing "a better atmosphere in the industry"—that was the phrase he used— is the key to the whole problem. Reorganisation and mechanisation can do little if we do not get a finer and better spirit of cooperation in the industry as a whole. The Minister has referred to the five-day week, and I should like him, I hope in the very near future, to tell us that his own personal views on that matter will be implemeated. The miners have indicated that if they are given a 76 five-day week they will guarantee to maintain the production level. If he would give them a five-day week it would be an act of faith on the Minister's part which, I think, would prove well based.
Reference has been made earlier this afternoon to the position with regard to the Essential Work Order. I myself would have much preferred the change to be more drastic. I believe that one of the difficulties in the way of recruitment in the industry is the fact that workers in it are tied to it. It is certainly a substantial discouragement to young men coming into the industry that even now they are to be tied to it, to the industry if not to a particular colliery. Another aspect of the matter has also been touched on, and from my conversations with many miners in South Wales I feel it is an important part of the problem, namely, the absence of consumer goods in the shops on which the colliers can spend their money once they have earned it. I have met men who do not work more than two shifts a week, and when I have asked them why, the reply has been, "Why should we? The money we get from our two or three shifts is as much as we can spend, and we have never been brought up to save."
§ Mr. Bowen
Whether they had or had not anything to save in the past, they certainly have now, and their attitude at present—I do not blame them for it—is, "Why should we earn more than we are able to spend at the present moment?" The obvious remedy is to provide consumer goods on which they can expend the extra money they could earn if they chose.
I do not wish to detain the Committee much longer, but a reference was made to the difficulties with regard to the machinery of the Ministry of Supply and the Ministry of Fuel and Power and I should like to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary what means there are for coordinating the activities of those two Departments in so far as they relate to the mining industry. In his final remarks the Minister referred to the future. I believe that if we get the right atmosphere in the industry our present problems will prove to be purely temporary. It is somewhat sad to recollect 77 that hardly 10 years ago we were talking in terms of 20 million tons of exports, and the "back to coal" campaign was at its height. I do hope that while he is taking these drastic, necessary and urgent steps to meet the problems of the moment, the Minister will bear in mind our future prospects with regard to the export trade. These steps, taken to substitute coal for oil at the moment, should be regarded as only temporary steps. I say that as one who represents a South Wales constituency. The plight in the docks in South Wales is very largely the result of the coal situation. I sincerely hope that when the right hon. Gentleman carries out these measures he will bear in mind that, if the results of his activities are what he wishes, and what we all wish them to be, then the coal trade will once more make a very substantial contribution to the whole of our export trade, and provide a very valuable form of employment, not only for people in the coal industry itself, but for many thousands of other British workers.
§ 5.31 p.m.
From whatever angle one may look at the coal position in this country today, one will not find much happiness, so far as the immediate future is concerned. The figures given by the Minister of Fuel and Power, showing that we are producing at the rate of 177,000,000 tons deep mine coal, show that that is about 7,000,000 tons less than we were producing last year at this time. There is no doubt that the basic cause of it all today lies in our manpower position. I would say to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) that, when he is dealing with output per manshift in districts like South Wales, contrasting present output with that of a few years ago, he must remember one or two things. There is a big waste in the South Wales coalfield due to the prevalence of the diseases of silicosis and pneumoconiosis on that coalfield.
The manpower position, generally, is rather worse than the Minister of Fuel and Power made out. Quite frankly, although I am no pessimist by nature, I am not too optimistic about future prospects. As the "Monthly Digest of Statistics" shows, it is true that, in the first three months of this year, there is an excess of about 4,000 entrants over those who went out, but one must not forget one thing—that 11,144 78 persons have come out of His Majesty's Forces, and that will not recur in the next three months or other months ahead. It is also true to say that there are men from other industries who will not again be recruits for the coal industry. Today we have, I should say, not more than 640,000 effective workers in the mining industry; which is the lowest figure in the history of the industry for at least 70 years; and one cannot look forward with any degree of optimism to the prospects this coming winter.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), in opening this Debate, rather twitted the Minister of Fuel and Power by saying that here was an opportunity for him to give an account of his stewardship. He also said that during the war the problem was to get rid of coal, and that that was the opposite to the problem we have to consider now. I would put this to the right hon. Gentleman: that were the Opposition in power today, and if we had had at this Box, since the General Election, a Conservative Minister of Fuel and Power, the position would be no better than it is now, because these factors are factors beyond the control of the present Minister of Fuel and Power, or of any other single individual.
I agree with the Minister of Fuel and Power in saying that we have to forget the past and have to look to the future. The prosperity of this nation has been built up largely on coal. Unless we can maintain a sufficient output of coal in the future, England's position as an industrial nation will be weakened, and none of us wants to see. that. Therefore, all of us must be concerned with the prospects for the future. Personally, I am one who believes that mining is a man's job, and I was more than pleased to hear the Minister of Fuel and Power say that this industry has been run down too much. I remember saying that, year after year in the House of Commons, when some people did not agree with me. I have always believed mining is a man's job, and have absolutely refused to believe that miners were lower in intelligence than anybody else. We have always believed that we are as good as the best, but not better. A great deal of the trouble in this country has been caused by the constant badgering of those who are in the industry.
I have participated in the campaign for increased production. I will tell the Com- 79 mittee one of the faults of that campaign. It is worth considering here. Along with my colleagues, I was addressing a meeting of a production committee. We were telling both sides of the industry what the coal position was, showing them the seriousness of the situation, giving them actual figures. To my surprise, I was told in the Press the next morning that the output was going up. I could not reconcile that statement with what we had told the production committee. That sort of thing had much to do with the stopping of the campaign for 8,000,000 tons. Moreover, I wish those who are urging people to work inside the pits would not tell people from the platforms that their sons would not work in the pits, if they had their way. That sort of thing does more harm than anything else. Economic necessity used to drive people into the mining industry
§ Mr. T. Smith
There was no alternative industry. We used to have men coming from Ireland, coming straight to the pit-yard, asking for jobs down the pits without training; and they turned out to be good mineworkers. I started my life in the pits—I was just under 16 years of age—by pony driving for some of the Irishmen, who were some of the strongest men I ever met, and who did good work. But it was economic necessity that drove them there; and if we are to do what is right in the future, we have to put the industry into a decent position. I believe we can. This is the right time. We have now got the pits under the control of the National Coal Board. I believe that this is the time to get the restoration of confidence; this is the time to appeal for cooperation—managerial, technical, and manual—in the interests of the country, and of all those sections of the industry themselves, in order to get maximum output. I honestly believe we can get it, if we only show the right spirit.
I say, without the slightest hesitation, that for many years, both on the platform and in this House, in the pits and elsewhere, we have advocated the nationalisation of the mines. We have been participants in that campaign. We recognised it in those days, not as an ideological doctrinaire aim, but as a means towards an 80 end. a means towards getting better circumstances. We preached it. Today we have got it. Personally, I want to see it made a success. I want to see these things we talked about, and almost dreamed about, come true; and I believe all this can be done.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley asked about the accident rate. It will be pleasant for everybody concerned, in this Committee and in the industry, to know that the tendency has been for the rate of fatal accidents in the mining industry to decrease. There is no one particular set of persons responsible for that. There has been cooperation with regard to roof control; that has been more than justified by the results. There has been research with regard to the prevention of accidents. It has done a marvellous job of work. We are pleased to know the tendency is in that direction. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley also spoke about the minor accidents, and gave a figure of 170,000 men out of work for three days a week. There are other causes for this which, perhaps, would not appear to some people. In the old days, when we had a man off with nystagmus, dermatitis, or some other kind of industrial disease, the compensation rates were so low that he was often driven back to work before he should have returned. Poverty drove him back. Large numbers of men have returned to work sooner than they should have done, because they could not live on the rates which were paid. During the war, wages have been higher and the compensation paid has been better, and there has been a tendency among the men to get better before returning to work. I admit that the figure of 170,000 is an increase compared with a few years ago, and that it is responsible for some of the reduced output, but one must have regard to the reasons why the figure has increased.
There is bound to be a new Mines Bill. Under nationalisation the miners expect to see pits made more safe. I believe that the man who works underground has the right to know that everything is being done which can be done to make the pit as safe as possible, and to give the best standard of conditions. All of us would like to see a five-day week, and I believe that it will be accomplished. One has to remember that there are difficulties when talking about a five-day week. We can- 81 not close down a pit on Friday night and leave it to look after itself until Monday morning. Someone has to be there. I believe that the National Union of Mine-workers and the Coal Board will be able to bring about a satisfactory solution.
The prospects cannot be too good for the coming winter. We all have to hope for the best. I think I can say that the campaign for fuel efficiency has more than justified what was expected of it. It has to be continued. An economy campaign will have to be kept going through the winter. During the last two or three years we had a large amount of wood fuel stocks. We had a good deal of those stocks during the lifetime of the Coalition Government. I think we had 100,000 tons as a kind of cushion against a bad winter. The country is entitled to know what is the position in regard to wood fuel. What arrangements have been made with the local authorities for liberating this fuel, and what arrangements have been made with the merchants for distributing it? The Minister should give a reply to this question so that the public will be aware of what they are entitled to in the event of coal being too scarce.
The next Debate we have on the Estimates of the Ministry of Fuel and Power will, perhaps, take quite a different turn. It will be an account of what the National Coal Board have done, and no doubt we shall have many questions as to why something has not taken place, and why something else has. I am one who believes that the National Coal Board have a very great task before them. I believe that their great advantage lies in the long-term policy. I know that they will do all they can on the short-term policy. Upon our shoulders rests the responsibility to try and make this nationalisation a success. I say to my right hon. Friend that whatever we can do to help, and whatever cooperation we can give, we shall do it gladly, because we have at heart the best interests of this great industry.
§ 5.45 P.m.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
I was interested in what the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) had to say about the campaign for the saving of coal —I intended in any event to refer to that aspect. The remarks of the Minister struck me in this way. He was telling us that, in the face of great difficulty and in 82 the face of this extremely cold and depressing situation, the picture was one which we could just tolerate having to look at over the next few months and that it was one which he could not improve or make more pleasant to our eyes during these months, The picture was also one which could not be looked at, if we were to begin to think in terms of exports. That is one of the most grim pictures which any Minister responsible for the fuel industry has ever had to present to the House. I would say that it is more grim from the point of view of this Committee and the country than any picture, at any time, in the history of the coal trade. A sort of negative horror appears to have grown into the situation, which is so foreign to the whole of our approach to the coal problem that we are even now unprepared to meet it.
I was rather sceptical when the Minister used the argument that he could save 1½ million tons of coal by reducing stocks at the end of the winter; that a the end of the winter period we would come out with 1½ million tons less, but the balance of the stocks would be so generally distributed that the security of the consumer and user would be as good as, if not better than, it is at the present time. It is a little difficult to believe that such a step is possible. I do not want to be more depressing than I need be. I want to put some hope and some work into this to put it right, but it seems to me that we should face these hard facts. If the Minister had told the Committee that he was going to reduce stocks in the course of the winter by 1½ million tons, and that he believed by redistributing the balance of stocks he would still retain safety, would the Committee have treated that statement quite so calmly? Let us face it squarely. Let us realise that we are reducing our working capita] for the ensuing 12 months. The Minister cannot do the same thing for the next period. With the very bad stock position which exists today, at best we shall have 1½ million tons less in stock than the Minister would have had at the end of the period.
I consider that far more should be done, something far more drastic, on the question of saving fuel. I know that a lot of posters are being scattered about the country, and that there are notices in every newspaper, but we want something far more drastic, something which will 83 grip the people's imagination. I do not believe that this Debate will help to get it under the people's skin. We shall not get it under the people's skin unless they are reminded of the position every day of the week. An hon. Member opposite is inclined to smile, which seems to imply that he does not wish to get it under the people's skin, but unless every individual in the country is prepared to help in the coming months, we shall be in trouble. This is not a laughing matter. If Members just grin at this, they are not helping the country. This is not a party matter. This is a matter in which every Member of every party and every individual in the country has to play his part.
I admit that the Government are in a difficult position. We have had some amazing appeals in different forms during the war years, and it is difficult to follow that sort of thing with the people in their present moods. Cannot some means be devised by which a more pungent use can be made of the wireless, for instance, on this matter of saving fuel? There is another way of saving fuel and that is by installing up-to-date fuel saving equipment in houses. At this stage of house building, I am not going to say that that would be a very drastic saving; but how far has the Minister gone with his Department in putting pressure on the Ministry of Supply, and other people interested, to see that priority is given for the use of modern fuel-saving devices and equipment in houses? There have been very rapid developments in fuel-saving devices, and not only could fuel be saved in that way, but a lower grade and cheaper fuel could be used. Unless pressure is put on, however, the equipment will not be produced in time. If we are to provide this country with houses, let us equip them with fuel-saving equipment and devices. I hope that the Minister will look into that matter and give us some sort of indication of what is being done in that direction.
As a user of coal—there are no pits in my constituency—I believe a great deal more could be done to save fuel by a better allocation of the kinds of fuel that are available among special types of fuel users in industry. One hears of a particular industry needing a particular type of fuel and not being able to get it, and yet the very fuel in demand by that industry is available only a few miles away. That seems to hint at the fact that the 84 allocations of different types of fuel are not working smoothly, and that if the allocations worked more smoothly, and the right type of fuel could be got by industries, a saving would result. I would ask the Minister to see that every care is taken to ensure that, wherever possible, the right type of fuel is sent to the right type of industry, for while modern, high efficiency, solid fuel burning plant is very economical with the right fuel, it is very uneconomical with the wrong type of fuel, even if it works at all.
Then, again, the use of coal in the agriculture districts raises a very wide issue. I understand that there are in existence area committees which allocate fuel to different types of users, and that the whole of the Southern, South-Eastern and Western parts of the country are very largely under the control of a committee as regards distribution. Equally, I understand that the allocation of fuel to the electricity and gas companies is governed by a special committee. I would like to ask exactly what is the structure of these control committees and advisory committees, and, who, in fact, finally settles the priority as to who is to get what. I am particularly interested in one aspect of this matter. It may be that the consumption of fuel and power in the agricultural districts is not regarded as being so important as it is in the bigger centres of population. I would like to remind the Minister that, during the past few years, owing to the shortage of labour, large numbers of milking and other machines have been put into farms. These machines are driven, in the majority of cases, by electricity. If there is to be difficulty in the supply of electricity, we shall not get milk, and I cannot imagine any other winter when it will be more essential that we should get milk, than it will be this winter. It is no use saying that if the machine does not work we must milk by hand. The labour is just not there. These machines were installed because the labour was not there, and we cannot switch back. I would like that aspect of the matter borne very carefully in mind, and I think that it may be necessary to reconsider what fuel should be allocated to the electricity companies. Unless we ensure that an adequate supply of electricity is available in the rural areas, milk, among other things, will not be available.
85 Finally, may I say that we have only been looking at this matter so far on a very short-term basis. Let us punch over this idea of the necessity of saving coal. Let us do something more; let us get it into the public mind, so that it is realised that unless we can get the coal industry going as a whole—and that some of the finest men in the country are working at a job of which they may well be proud —the country is going to suffer dire disaster. Not only have we to get sufficient production to keep our own industries going for our own livelihood, but we must get sufficient to keep the flow of exports and imports going through this country. It is not enough to keep our own industries going. If this country is to live at all, we must import, and encourage those imports by exports, and in that, coal plays a vital part. I beg the Minister to put these issues before the country, just as fairly and squarely as he has given us the figures this afternoon. The people must know the truth.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Mr. T. J. Brooks (Rothwell)
I am glad to have the opportunity of saying a few words in this Debate. I want to speak on matters which are rather different from those raised by the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing) although I appreciate the importance of the questions to which he referred. The Coal Industry Bill provides for the taking over of ancillary industries with the collieries, and I want to deal with that matter in connection with the saving of coal. The Minister has a great task before him, and he requires all the support and help we can give him in taking over this vital industry. I think that we have to try to create a new spirit, and give a little more credit to the personnel in the industry. Encouragement, in the shape of good wages and conditions, will give better results. This industry has been a Cinderella in the past. It is in a better position today, and we hope that there will be even bigger improvements in the future. Coal is our richest asset. It provides for our industries, railways and factories, and it generates our electricity. It can be transformed into thousands of by-products from dyes to plastics. It is the lifeblood that courses through the veins of all our industrial life. How long shall we continue to waste this valuable 86 product? It is a national disgrace in my submission to have allowed this precious mineral to be wasted all these years. It has been won from the earth with great skill by both management and men and at great loss of both life and limb. Past Governments, coalowners and managements have been very remiss in allowing this wastage to go on.
It is estimated today that over 2 million tons of small coal is left in the pits every year, because it does not pay commercially to bring it out. It is also dangerous to leave it in the pits. Practical men, having had many years below the ground at the coalface, know what the dangers are, such as combustion, and this small coal has the same chemical properties as the larger coal, in proportion. Let us not forget that 80 per cent. of our electricity is generated by small coal. It may be information to hon. Members that 85 per cent. of our total output is burned in its raw state, which is a standing disgrace to our country today. If arrangements were made to process all the coal produced, this enormous wastage could be stopped and we should have a great saving in both health and property for the nation. It is estimated that three-quarters of a million tons of smoke and soot are emitted annually from the railways and industry. Furthermore 35 million tons of coal are burned and used for domestic purposes. Think of the damage to the crops in our fields, in our gardens, in our parks and also the loss of yield, the increase of rickets, respiratory diseases, loss of daylight and ultra-violet light, loss of visibility and the deterioration of buildings and materials—all through the burning of this very great asset of the nation. None of us can estimate the great loss to the nation from these things. There is the extra amount of cleaning and laundry, and the extra amount of labour involved in the home. Who can gauge the illness and disease that we may get from air pollution?
In my travels to and from this House each week I notice a number of places— in particular I will mention Sheffield— which are built at or near the pitheads. I know something of the conditions in those places, and I often think of the hard work the women have to clean up the dirt coming from the pitheads. In Sheffield thousands of houses are built around the industry, and the people living in them 87 are breathing in this awful filth all day. Why should we be compelled to build and staff hospitals to deal with the effects of a cause which we could and must remedy? We are really submerged in filth of our own making. Over every town anyone can see the pall of smoke which the people have to breathe to the great detriment of the nation's health. We cannot estimate the serious consequences of the air pollution by coal.
If we could take these derivatives from coal, we could supply the plastics required by all manner of industry—because this is the plastic age—such as engineering, aeroplanes, motor cars, refrigerators, radio sets, shop fittings, and synthetic rubber. Even silk stockings and nylons can be obtained from coal. In 1937, we are told, the gas industry sold 86,000 tons of sulphate of ammonia for fertilising purposes on our land, benzole, road tar, pitch, creosote, disinfectant, paint, varnishes, dyes, perfumes, drugs, and even explosives. Chemists have made more than 2,000 substances from coal tar with unlimited number of uses. Why should we go on wasting this valuable material? We could still supply the necessary motive power to industry in the shape of gas and electricity from coal. The same applies to the homes of the people, eliminating the drudgery and work our women folk particularly in the industrial areas have to do.
We cannot afford the sentimental pleasure of a cheerful coal fire, particularly in the position in which we are today. I mention that even at the expense of differing with people who think we have no right to take away this joy and pleasure from the fireside. The fact remains that today we cannot afford this luxury. We must provide better devices to give cheaper and better fuel and light to the home. This process can be done at the pithead. The filth can be left there, and warmth and light supplied through pipes to industry and the homes, saving millions every year in transport. Just think of that for one moment—the transport of coal from one place to another, and then dragging of it upstairs to tenements; the dangers in the streets which this transport involves and so forth. All of this could be saved. Then there are exports which were mentioned by the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare. We want exports, but we are using up a great deal of shipping room by send- 88 ing out coal in its raw state, whereas if we took the derivatives from coal, it would be much better and we would get a greater return for it. This industry provides employment in research work for the most accomplished scientists and a great deal more must be spent on it. Very little has been spent so far. Let us take science away from the bondage of money and harness it to the service of mankind. If we do that we shall do a great deal more good.
I want to appeal to Members of this House, leaders in the industry, colliery proprietors, and big financiers to stop decrying the industry. It has been done in the past even by Members on this side, including myself, unconsciously, and that is having its effect today. Let us think a little more of the industry, and of the men in it. We have some great technicians, and a fine body of people who comprise the office staff, a staff which is very badly paid. Further; we can and must harness atomic power to the industry. By doing that we shall not do away with the need for coal. We shall still need all the derivatives we can get from it, and which could be used to set up half a dozen excellent industries. Without manual labour and drudgery, power of wealth is removed. The period of gestation is practically over. We have been born into a new freedom. The sunlight at last is beginning to penetrate the darkness, and everyone must do his best to help the Minister to work his new Act.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North)
I am sure that the Committee value very much the instructive speech which we have just had from the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. T. J. Brooks), and that we have all derived great benefit from what he has told us. I think, however, that he painted a rather gloomy picture of a mining village. I live not very far from one, and I know a good many others in my part of the country, and people do not seem entirely cast down by the dirt and unpleasantness of their surroundings, as he seemed to suggest. However, exaggeration is the soul of argument, and I do not in the least object to what the hon. Member said—
§ Mr. Brooks
I did not exaggerate. I know the conditions, and I say that some 89 of the people living near pits are living in conditions which are shocking in these enlightened days.
§ Sir C. Headlam
Well, that is not my experience. I have taken part in a great many coal Debates during my time as a Member of the House of Commons, and I do not recollect one which has been conducted in a more amiable manner than today's Debate. I was glad to hear the Minister in one of his less aggressive moods, because I sympathise with him in his difficult task which he had to explain to the Committee. He has a very hard job ahead of him, and I do not think he attempted to minimise it. We all of us shall have to go through a hard time in the next six months, especially in the coming winter, and everything that can be done must be done to improve the industry, and increase the production of coal.
So far as I could gather, the announcement made by the Minister of Labour today was satisfactory. I have not had an opportunity of reading it yet, and absorbing its lull meaning, but I am certain that the removal of the Essential Work Order from the pits should be of great assistance in the production of coal. I say this because I realise that this Order, which has been in operation all through the war, has caused considerable difficulties in pits, as those who are familiar with its working know. Its removal, therefore, and the freedom which will be given for men to move and to be moved to other pits, will be of great advantage. I was a little depressed, however, by what the Minister of Fuel and Power said about the export of coal. I gathered from the right hon. Gentleman that there was no likelihood of that being possible for some time. That is one of the most serious announcements which he had to make. Unless we can begin to export coal quickly, and secure the foreign markets which are available, we shall find that, just as we did after the last war, others will gain those markets because we have not been able to do. anything. I am, therefore, anxious that the right hon. Gentleman should keep his mind fixed on the export side of our coal trade. Everything must be done, as soon as possible, to promote the export of coal. From what the Minister said I am sure he shares that opinion with me, and with everybody else who knows anything about these matters. 90 I was glad to hear about the establishment of a five-day week. I believe that will have a good effect in the industry, if it can be brought about. Five days a week in a pit is enough for any man, and if that is recognised it will lead, I believe, to far less absenteeism. An hon. Member, whose constituency I forget for the moment, emphasised the necessity for production of more consumer goods in the shops, especially in mining villages. I know full well how difficult it is nowadays for the people of mining villages easily to get away to neighbouring towns to purchase necessary requirements. I hope the Minister will use his influence with his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, and ask him to be a little more anxious and willing to have a larger distribution of consumer goods in the shops. That would do more to make our people satisfied, and ready to bear the heavy loads they have to bear. The Minister and Members opposite have impressed upon us that the nationalisation of the pits will bring us into a new world so far as the coal industry is concerned, that it will being about a much better feeling among workers, and that we shall be free, possibly for ever, from the troubles we have had in the past. There is no one in the Committee who is more anxious than I that that should be the case. I have always preached the necessity for a good spirit in the industry and I have pointed out, time after time, that it is no use living in the past and dwelling upon grievances. I have urged that we must live in the present, that we must appreciate that it is infinitely better than the past, and that we must determine that the future shall be still better than the present. I preached that before the nationalisation of the mines took place.
If we can secure that better spirit I am convinced that it will bring great benefit to the coal industry. There is plenty of coal, and there should be plenty of workers, but it is only if they will work that the coal can be obtained. If the miners themselves are satisfied with the new arrangements, if the Coal Board works properly and gives satisfaction to the men, I presume that the Miners' Federation will do all that they can to keep the peace among their followers. But I warn the Committee that there are influences at work at the moment, which arc for ever fomenting trouble, and which even the leaders of the miners cannot con- 91 trol. Some of these leaders have told me so themselves. I therefore beg all Members that are interested in the coal industry to bear that in mind, and not to be too optimistic about the results of the nationalisation programme. I am afraid I have never found that people are any more anxious to work hard for the State than for private owners. I hope the reverse may be the case with regard to the coal industry. I believe there is a chance, b,ut do not let us be too certain. Let us realise that difficulties are likely to arise in the same way as they have arisen in the past, that local customs are very difficult to get over, and that when anything is done to upset them, there is likely to be trouble. Hon. Members who are connected with mining districts know this as well as I do, but I warn them not to be too optimistic, and to realise that they will have to keep their people in good order in the future, just as they have done in the past. I believe that if there is peace in the coal industry there will be a flow of new workers into the mines.
A great deal has been said in the past about the dangers of the pits, and colliers have often said to me that nothing on earth would induce them to allow their sons to go into the pits, for various reasons—the danger, the want of good pay, troubles with the owners, and also anxiety that their children should get on in the world better than they have done themselves. Now, we are told, there are new openings for miners to get to the top of the tree in the industry. Let that be an inducement to men to come into the industry. I believe it will be, if that is really to be the case. Therefore, although I do not honestly believe we are going to have an El Dorado under nationalisation, although I believe that there are many difficulties ahead of us, yet I wish the new scheme the greatest success, and I am certain that hon. Members on this side of the Committee, although they have opposed the scheme of nationalisation, will do their best to assist the Minister in working it now that it is the law.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Holmes (Hemsworth)
I want to strike rather a different note from that which has been struck in the Debate so far. The right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), who opened the Debate, made a speech which was 92 throughout a sort of condemnation of the Minister. His words inferred that all the blame was on the Minister, although he said that he did not want to indulge in any recriminations. I felt that it was a case of Satan rebuking sin. The same thing applies to another hon. Member who, having said that he did not want to offer any recriminations, immediately made a tirade about absenteeism. I want to make no recriminations. Probably I know as well as anybody in the Committee the conditions and difficulties of the mining industry. I do not sympathise or commiserate with the Minister; I congratulate him on being on the verge of a great opportunity, and I wish to tell him that he will get the cooperation of the rank and file in the industry.
I often tell the story of a chap who used to be a collier with me. If I filled 12 trucks, he filled 11, and if I filled 11 he filled 10. I asked him why he did not fill the last one, and he replied that if he did so, it would benefit the royalty owner. I could not rub that idea out of his head. When royalties were taken over by the State, he started to fill the same number as I did. The right hon. Member for Bromley quoted a verse of poetry. As far as the past is concerned, I only want to say that it isBetter by far you should forget and smile, Than that you should remember and be sad.I am prepared to forget the past and to smile. I came to the House directly from an executive position in the mining industry. A day before taking my seat in the House, at half-past three in the morning, I was called out to make an inspection of a fatal accident in a colliery. It took me an hour, walking in a creeping position, to get to the scene of the accident, and I had to crawl on my stomach the last 60 yards. It is not possible to get the best results from the mines in those conditions. I give that as only one instance.
There is no immediate approach to the coal problem. The immediate situation can be met by pulling the plums from the lowest branches, and by organising 'the pits for the next few months so as to get the best production. The general approach must be from the point of view of a longterm policy. After many years of close examination and with a knowledge of what machine mining means, I say that the industry can be reorganised 93 to give the output required with 500,000 men; but it has to be reorganised. The managerial and technical staff, with whom I have been in close contact, now have a different approach. They feel that they are free now, as they never have been before, to expound their ideas and show initiative. I went into the colliery in 1901, and I have worked in the industry all my life. For 25 years I had an executive position in a big trade union branch, and during those 25 years I never saw the board of directors. Is it to be wondered that there is no cooperation?
I have examined the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill very carefully, and there is one point I want to see watched particularly. I want the Coal Board to get together the best possible organisation. I want the Regional Boards to function in the best possible manner. But the most important cooperation and coordination must be done in the pits. Unless there is cooperation and coordination there, we shall not be able to get it anywhere. I want to see welfare or liaison officers constantly on the spot and able to bring about close liaison between management and men. We have heard references to unofficial strikes. Nobody has stood out against them more than I have. I have always said to the men, "There is proper trade union machinery to meet any situations that arise." Many incidents that have arisen could have been avoided if there had been a proper approach by the management.
With regard to the situation generally, there is one aspect that must not be forgotten. There has been in recent months a close survey of seams, and we shall be receiving the reports of those surveys. There are in the Library two books, one entitled "Planning for the Future," and the other written by Sir Richard Redmayne—neither of them Socialist documents—which put the coal industry in a proper light. We are losing our best seams. We are faced with the prospect of demands for increased production from deteriorating seams. A week before I came to this House, I spent something like four days in a pit where my back touched the roof when I was creeping. Men have to work under those conditions; it can be done and some of the best production in the country is from thin seams with machine mining. I am asking the Minister to approach the problem from that point of view but I 94 urge hon. Members on both sides of the Committee to remember that we have not an El Dorado before us. The El Dorado has passed, so far as the coalmining industry is concerned, because the best seams have been worked. The peak output was in 1913 and it has deteriorated ever since. At that time the Doncaster and Barnsley areas were working the finest steam coal seams of any in the country, but the Barnsley area is now completely worked out.
It is on the basis of working these thin seams that we have to face the future unless scientists can develop ways and means of working down a pit 1,000 yards deep. Those who watch the Press will know that recently boring for oil has been going on at Gringley, Nottinghamshire, and that coal was discovered, but at a depth at which it is not possible to work it with present methods. The seams are no good unless they can be worked on by some proper method. In Yorkshire we have discovered seams where men have been working in a temperature of 80 degrees, day in and day out, with the consequent strain upon them. I ask the Minister to watch the position from that point of view, remembering that the thinner seams can only be worked by mechanisation.
To return to the question of labour and recruitment, I would add that I sat on an advisory committee for a while, and I have said, until I am sick of saying it, that the coal industry has been too much in the Press. If we had been able to keep it out of the Press to a greater extent, it would have been an advantage. The effect of what has appeared in the Press has been to keep people from the mines. There is an approach to this problem to which I have drawn the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary. The management and men of a big colliery concern had a meeting with a schoolmaster, as the result of which they decided to take a group of young boys down the pit in order to allow them to see the good side and the bad side, to judge the prospects of the industry and the opportunities for semi-skilled workers —electricians, borers, and so on—and to see for themselves the system of training and welfare arrangements. They have been down that mine and according to the last report 23 of 28 boys who went on a tour of inspection opted for the pits. 95 If we can get that kind of spirit we shall do something.
There is one point which has not been mentioned this afternoon, and on which I am rather worried. I understand that the Essential Work Order is to be revoked on 1st September. I hope that does not mean that the guaranteed week will also go.
§ Mr. Holmes
I am very glad about that because while I know something about the good and the bad side of the Essential Work Order, I think the miner is entitled to some security and I am very satisfied with that assurance from the Minister. We have a great future before us and I am asking that through the various channels right down to the pit-mouth where it really does matter, there shall be the closest co-operation.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Major Lloyd George (Pembroke)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Holmes) except to underline one thing he said with regard to a liaison officer or some official who could ensure close cooperation in the pit itself. It is my experience, and I am sure it is the experience of the Minister, that a very large number of disputes occur, the cause of which neither the union nor the owners seem to know. A great deal of this is due, I suppose, to frayed tempers and tired people, and I heartily agree with the hon. Gentleman that there should be some method through which closer cooperation might be achieved—personnel officer, management, or whatever it may be called. I am sure it could only lead to better relations.
Let me say that any one who studies the figures of coal production and consumption can only regard the position which faces us at this moment as extremely serious. It has certainly not appeared less serious as the result of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon. He referred to the budget I had prepared before I left in February, 1945. On the whole the output was roughly what I suggested, although down, and whilst it is true, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, that this month consumption is higher than it has ever been, I am bound to say that there was only one month during the last coal year, 96 when coal consumption was above the year before. So, taking it altogether, consumption during the last year was down also, but there are very significant increases in the figures of consumption about which I will have to say something later.
I would point out at the beginning that the history of the industry during the recent war, as in the first world war, is one of continued decline in output, although it has to be said for the war just ended that whilst the number of men engaged was considerably lower than at the beginning—and in the first war there were actually more—the output in this last war decreased appreciably less than it did in 1914–18. Despite the decrease which we have suffered in annual production, we were able to maintain an ever-increasing war effort, and I think it is true to say that it was done without inflicting any undue hardship upon our people. Inconvenience, yes, but I do not think it could be said generally that it inflicted great hardship. In 1942, when I first became Minister there was a gap between the estimated production and the estimated consumption of, at first, 14 million tons. That was reduced to 11 million, a gap which had to be bridged. This was done through a very greatly increased distribution system, control, and, largely, through fuel economy.
I think that the Ministry of Fuel and Power, who are responsible almost entirely for putting this scheme into operation, deserve a great deal of credit. In particular I should like to extend my thanks to one who is, I am glad to see, a Member of the present Government and who was responsible for collating the information without which it would have been impossible to carry out this work. By efficiency and economy we were able to bridge the gap, but as the war progressed, it became increasingly clear that there was a limit to what could be done, both in distribution and economy, owing to the shortage of labour and materials —particularly the material necessary to make the instruments, without which it was really impossible to put efficient fuel consumption into effect. That limit was, I thought, well in sight by the beginning of the last year. I was also afraid that with the end of hostilities the enthusiasm for fuel economy would not be quite so great as it had been during the war years. 97 I was able to close the gap, because, as far as economy was concerned, I was practically in virgin territory. The right hon. Gentleman is not so fortunate; he has a gap, as he indicated this afternoon, and the only short-term method of filling that gap is, I suggest, man-power in the mines of this country.
Reference has been made this afternoon to improving the conditions under which men arc employed in our mines. It is only fair that I should point out that, despite the fact that we were engaged in a very great war, never at any time did I lose sight of the necessity of making this industry as attractive as possible, so as to interest men in it after the war. We had the wages agreement, and the Sheffield plan was started to encourage youth to take an interest in the machines that are to count so much in the future of the industry. Rehabilitation centres were set up and a great deal was done during the war to make the industry more attractive. That is only the short-term policy. The long-term policy can only mean reorganisation of the industry, as suggested in the Reid Report.
I was particularly anxious with regard to stocks at the beginning of last year. The indications were that we should finish the winter with 10 million tons, as we practically did, but my advisers warned me that that was really below the limit for safely. I want the Committee to observe that figure of 10 million tons and to remember it, in view of what the Minister said this afternoon. The cessation of hostilities made the building up of stocks extremely difficult, for reasons to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. We succeeded in putting 3,500,000 tons, I think, into stock during the summer of last year. The right hon. Gentleman, during his first winter, was fortunate, as I was in my first winter, in the weather. A very good thing it was for all of us that it was so. Even with the comparatively mild winter, we finished with just over 6,000,000 tons in stock, more than 3,000,000 tons below the figure I was advised was the safety limit.
There are one or two questions I would like to ask, and it is important that we should get the answers. The right hon. Gentleman said he was prepared to let the country have all the facts He said that he expected to put 5,000,000 tons into stock this summer. I hope he does. We have varied between 3,000,000 and 6,000,000 tons put into stock in the 98 summer months. I think the right hon. Gentleman is a trifle optimistic in his 5,000,000 tons, in view of the increased consumption at this time of the year. If he gets his 5,000,000, he will start the winter with 11,500,000 tons. He got rid of 7,000,000 tons last winter, a comparatively mild winter. The indication is that consumption will be considerably increased in certain directions this winter. If the right hon. Gentleman disposes of only 7,000,000 tons as he did last year, he will finish the winter with 4,500,000 tons in stock. Does he, or does any of his advisers, think that is a position that we can face with safety? If he does not get his 5,000,000 tons, the figure may be below 4,000,000 tons. That will mean that the coal will be unevenly distributed and that scores of public utilities and industries will be put out. I knew that the public utility consumption was very greatly increased, but the right hon. Gentleman has made it seem even worse than I thought it was The gas companies today have just over two weeks' supply. If they put 1,000,000 tons into stock between now and the end of October, which will be quite an achievement, they will get up to four weeks' stock. In other words, they will begin the winter with four weeks' supply of coal. That will be the average.
Is that considered safe? The electricity stock position at the moment is just over two weeks. If those stocks are to be got up to four weeks, about 1,000,000 tons will need to be put into stock. What are the prospects of that being done? Even when it is done, the undertakings will have just four weeks' supply at the beginning of the winter. Is that considered safe by the advisers of the right hon. Gentleman? Those are the significant increases to which I referred just now. In many other directions consumption is down, but in public utilities and other industries it is significantly up. That is not due altogether to increased industrial consumption. It is very important that we should realise why it has gone up. I suggest that hon. Members might have a good look at this very excellent book which I have here, when they will see the house coal position for this year, compared with what it was three or four years ago. The stocks of house coal are low. Disposals of house coal from the merchants account for about 200,000 tons per week 99 less than they did in 1942 and 1943. In my judgment, that is the explanation of the tremendous increase in the consumption of gas and electricity at the present time. People will have warmth and cooking, if the means are to hand. Nobody can blame them.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am very sorry to interrupt the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. I am anxious to understand what he is trying to imply. I would remind him, as I reminded his right hon. friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Mac-millan), that the overall consumption is in fact very much higher this year than it was last year. It is the highest at any time yet recorded.
§ Major Lloyd George
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look at the figures. Since last May, apart from one month, the total household consumption for 1945 was down.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am not quarrelling with the right hon. and gallant Member's interpretation of the statistical record. It is true, as he suggests, that there has been a reduction in household consumption, but there has been an overall increase in consumption, and there has been a transference—
§ Mr. Shinwell
Will the right hon. Gentleman permit me to finish the point? —of consumption from house coal to electricity and gas. That is true, but the overall consumption is much in excess of anything—
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Gentleman wants to know how much. My answer will apply also to the right hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George), who was speaking of consumption in the year 1945–46, for which year he was partly responsible. The inland consumption was 178,000,000 tons, including exports. My estimate of inland consumption this year is 188,000,000 tons, 10,000,000 tons more, in the coal year beginning next April. That 10,000,000 tons of inland consumption is the difference that I have to meet.
§ Major Lloyd George
I hope it is some consolation to the right hon. Gentleman to recall that my estimate of consumption in 100 that year was 191,000,000 tons. I hope that he will have the same good fortune of being well out in his estimate.
§ Mr. Shinwell
We do not want to be at variance on the facts. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman budgeted for 192,000,000 tons, which excluded exports. That is the point.
§ Major Lloyd George
My estimates of consumption all excluded exports. For my estimate of home consumption I had 187.8 million tons which it is quite fair to call 188 million tons. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be just as fortunate as I was in being out in his estimate. As the same people made it, he might be just as lucky. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to be unable to understand what I was driving at. I am sorry. I was trying to point out—and nothing that he has said has altered it—that it is because of the decrease in the consumption of domestic fuel, that there is this tremendous increase in the consumption of gas and electricity. People are not going to be cold. I have had experience of that myself. One of the great difficulties of rationing—on which the right hon. Gentleman was very keen at one time but of which I have heard nothing today—
§ Major Lloyd George
Oh, yes, the right hon. Gentleman did. In 1942 he was very keen indeed about it when I was not introducing it. Being now in a position of greater responsibility and less freedom, as they say, the right hon. Gentleman has come to the conclusion that it is not quite such an easy matter as it appeared to be in 1942. It is, in fact, practically impossible. This position with regard to public utility authorities is very serious. The right hon. Gentleman has changed the policy regarding stocking of coal. What is the purpose of this? The main purpose of the policy of allocation of coal to domestic consumers was for merchants to hold back in their stocks about 10 per cent. and to deliver the rest. The basis of that policy was that in the summer months, with better conditions for transport and so forth, it was wiser to distribute the stocks to those who had the 101 accommodation, within the allocation allowed, so as to release in the winter the whole labour and transport force to supply the little men—of whom there are 400,000 in London—who have to have a cwt. of coal delivered each week. The trouble in the winter months in London previously has not been any shortage of coal, but the difficulty of delivering in bad weather. It is a mistake to use labour at the moment to stack up merchants' yards, when it would be far better to have delivery of the coal to its proper destination within the limits the right hon. Gentleman has laid down. That releases the labour force, or most of it, during the winter months for supplying people who must be supplied once a week with small quantities—
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is mistaken. We are not holding up stocks. They are being distributed to coal merchants and the coal merchants are distributing them to the consumers.
§ Major Lloyd George
But there is a change. What about the right hon. Gentleman's announcement in the Press not so long ago that the merchants had to hold far more in stock? The change is a mistake. These little men suffer in the winter months because of their weekly necessity for coal.
§ Mr. Shinwell
May I explain this point? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is well aware that when he was in office it was necessary to have Government dumps of coal. Well, they are going. They are practically gone. That is why we have to have a certain reserve in the hands of the coal merchants although they are permitted to provide consumers up to a reasonable amount.
§ Major Lloyd George
I sincerely hope that if we have bad weather this winter, the right hon. Gentleman will have the necessary labour and transport available. In London that will be one of the most difficult problems the Minister will have to face. We were talking about the tremendous increase in the consumption of electricity and gas. Owing to war conditions much plant has been damaged. Owing to shortage of labour and materials the repair and maintenance of that plant is far in arrears. We had indications of that last winter and the winter before that. During the peak load periods many stations in various parts of Britain had 102 to cut off the load. The position this winter will be very much more serious owing to the increased consumption. What priority does the Minister get for labour and materials in order to speed up the work of maintenance and repair? It is a matter with which I was always in difficulty during the war, and if more labour and materials had been available far more plants could have been in operation. With the tremendous increases in consumption which the Minister has referred to, I am afraid that he will get the shedding of load very much earlier than last year, which will not be a very great help.
One word about fuel economy. What is the right hon. Gentleman doing about the economy campaign? Today he spoke very seriously but, if he will forgive me for saying so, some of his speeches have not been of great assistance towards fuel economy. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) suggested that the right hon. Gentleman made a speech one week saying one thing, and another next week saying something else. The Minister said that he must inform the House as the position changes. But the position in regard to coal does not change every fortnight. If we had to have changes every fortnight we would be in a very difficult position in a short time. The Minister said this in London quite recently. Does he think this is a help?I recognise that the industry is passing through great difficulty at the present moment —the difficulty of coal supplies—but I am not so alarmed about coal supplies as some people. One might imagine from what one reads in the papers that we are getting no coal at all. We are getting quite a lot of coal.I cannot believe that that speech is going to bring the urgency of the position home to vast numbers of people in this country.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I must protest against this sort of thing. First about the dates of the speeches which disclose alternating opinions, the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) gave the dates and they were not so close together—
§ Mr. Shinwell
As regards the speech to which the right hon. and gallant Member has referred, what I was pointing out— and it is very necessary to point this out— is that there are people talking, not only 103 outside but in this House, as if we were producing no coal at all. I was referring to the month of May. So far from having produced no coal at all during that month —to say which is an insult to the men in the industry—we had produced on an average 3,700,000 tons weekly Taking that alongside more than 200,000 tons of opencast coal, it is a lot.
§ Major Lloyd George
Nobody ever suggests that no coal was produced. I am trying to get into the right hon. Gentleman's mind that he is not really conveying to the people of this country a sense of the urgency of this present position. As to his speech, the question of what is meant by "lots of coal" makes no difference. The impression given in that speech of his is, "I am not so alarmed about coal supplies as some people are." The right hon. Gentleman ought to be more alarmed than anybody else, because he knows more about it. The interview which I saw in the newspaper referred to just now, in which he called himself a super-optimist, was all very well, but the right hon. Gentleman was giving the impression that things really were not too bad at all. How can he expect the public to realise the seriousness of the position if he, as the Minister, gives the impression that it is not too bad?
What is the Minister doing about opencast coal? Here again, I am sorry to have to say it, his figures are quite misleading. In the interview to which I have just referred, the Minister said that we had produced one week 220,000 tons of opencast coal, which was more than ever produced before. According to his own statistical tables, that is not true. That has been exceeded. In two weeks in the previous year, 241,000 and 239,000 tons were produced. That is from the Minister's own paper and it is an official figure. As a matter of fact, less opencast coal was produced last year by well over one million tons—
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is not entitled to say that. The opencast figure for last year was in excess of the previous year.
§ Major Lloyd George
I am very sorry. I am speaking subject to correction. The figure is, I believe, 9,300,000 tons compared with 7,800,000 or 7,500,000 for the year before. I am open to correction, and 104 my statement will appear in the OFFICIAL REPORT. If I am wrong I will certainly withdraw it. The fact of the matter is that it was actually less last year than the year before. What is the right hon. Gentleman doing about that? One of our difficulties in the war was that we had to take secondhand machinery from America. It was not good machinery. Now that the war is over, why cannot we get better machinery that will produce far more opencast coal than before? We were constantly being held up by breakdowns. For days on end machines could not be utilised because they were the second best. Why should not we, now that the war is over, get the best machines, which produce far more coal than those we had to put up with during the war? What is the right hon. Gentleman doing about that?
The fact of the matter is that in this question of fuel, as in so many other questions, the Government are not putting first things first. Too much time has been spent on politics and too little time on the immediately pressing, urgent question of providing fuel for this country at the present time. I have never blamed the Minister, as he knows perfectly well, for the position he found when he arrived, nor would I dream of doing so; it was nothing whatever to do with him. However, I do blame the Minister about this, that he must have been fully aware of the seriousness of the position the first day he arrived. He had a report—
§ Major Lloyd George
Well, the figures were there for him, supplied by myself, to decide on what was to be done in the longterm. The last words were, as I have said before, "No time is to be lost." What has he done? The Minister has devoted most of his time during the last few months to drafting a Bill and piloting it through this House. I cannot discuss it here, but to say it is a bad Bill is putting it mildly. He himself said when he spoke at Bournemouth that they had very little guidance in detail, so that when they came to legislation and detail they had to improvise in the light of circumstances. He did not improvise in the light of circumstances because of meagre information in the Ministry; he had all the information necessary from the Reid Report and if, there and then, he had put this Bill on one side for the time being and concentrated all his 105 energies and those of his staff in putting the Reid Report into operation, we might have had some results by now. At least the position would have been no worse. The Bill has not led to greater output. As everybody knows, the output is going down. Do not be misled by the output per man shift; that is purely a mathematical calculation. The real test is, what is the output of each man each year? That is down this year, as it was every other year before.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is no good constantly appealing to the men. I think to some extent that is right, but better conditions are vital. The Minister referred to the five-day week. An agreement was reached two years ago, clause 4 of which said that in no circumstances, until the agreement came to an end, would there be any alteration in payment. Does the conceding of the. five-day week destroy that agreement, because it is an agreement that the miners of this country hold in high value. The five-day week must mean an alteration in payment. That is a very important point which should be cleared up, because we had an agreement to keep that payment for four years. I should be grateful for an answer to that question by the Parliamentary Secretary.
There is one point I can make to the Minister which I think will help. I believe that he could find an incentive for greater output. Miners' wages today are better than they have ever been in this country, but the tragic part about it is that when there were plenty of goods in the shops, they had very little money with which to buy them; now, they have the money, there is nothing to buy with it except one thing—leisure—and that is being bought on an increasing scale at present, because the wages are good enough to enable a man to purchase leisure and still maintain a fairly good standard of life. Now a great export drive is being conducted by the Government. Coal is almost our greatest single export. My right hon. Friend referred this afternoon to the tremendous advantage it would be in the Argentine and in Scandinavian countries for getting wood and food. I believe that while it is true that everything should be concentrated on export, it would be an indirect but valuable contribution to export if more consumer goods were made available to the miners of this country. I believe it would be an incentive for 106 them to produce more coal, and I hope the Government will give that very serious consideration.
Finally, I do not think it is possible to exaggerate the seriousness of the position with which we shall be faced this winter. We may very easily have serious breakdowns in our public utility undertakings; we may have industries going under, with consequent hardship and unemployment for our people. All I would beg the Minister to do is to continue to keep the House of Commons fully informed of the facts of the situation so that whatever action may be necessary can be taken in time.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)
I would say that all of us on this side of the Committee, when the right hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd-George) began speaking, listened to what he had to say with interest and respect. He was giving a very grave analysis of the situation. His material was, perhaps, not novel but we cannot be reminded too often of what are our production problems. But what is really astonishing is that with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's association with the mining industry, which presumably must have brought some knowledge of the miners, he should, in a later part of his speech, scold the Minister of Fuel and Power for having in this first year of a Labour Government, spent a great deal of Parliamentary time in the constitutional processes of nationalising the coalmines. Was the right hon. and gallant Gentleman really serious?
§ Miss Lee
Does he not know that far from too much politics having been introduced into this situation this year, there has been rather too little politics— [Laughter.]—yes, politics in the best sense of the word? Does not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman realise that if we had not nationalised the mines of this country, we would have had a general strike in all probability; that the miners simply would not have tolerated any further postponement of their legitimate hopes of a more prosperous and more dignified relationship between themselves and their industry? I see the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) smiling. He also had a good time earlier 107 in the Debate, and none of us grudge him his fun in scolding the Minister and saying several times over that the miners were not enjoying working for a nationalised industry as much as we had led him to believe. I am not going back into the past, but do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite really know what the situation is at this moment in many of the coalfields? Do they know the game that many of the managements are playing, not only with the men, but with the men's households and with the whole amenities of the mining districts? I was very glad that the American Ambassador was at Durham the other day, because there he would see a great optimistic body of men who mean to make a success of this industry. But there is a dichotomy in their soul at this moment. I can give one or two instances of what is going on, and of the niggling, last-hour behaviour and conduct of the old owners. In part of my constituency, on the Chase, a really serious effort was made during the war to stop gas fumes from the coal tips, because the illumination at night was a risk to national security. How do the miners and their wives feel now that the national security problem is ended, and nothing like the same effort is being made to stop the irritating and unpleasant burning of these coal tips? I have tried to bring the matter to the Ministry, but we are still only becoming responsible for the pits. It is remarkable that while the miner has been chided again and again in this Debate today—
§ Miss Lee
Yes, indirectly. We have been asked what discipline would be applied to the men, but no one has asked what discipline has been applied, or should be applied, to many managements who are cheeseparing at the expense of the miner, and the mining community. No doubt, if they get an opportunity later on, they will think it splendid to be able to say that the industry, as run by the Coal Board, has been extravagant on certain items on which they have been able to save. The miners are very human people. They can be persuaded to make 108 the most enormous efforts for their industry, and their nation. The Minister has left the Committee, but I know that what I am saying will be brought to his notice. There are certain dangers in the present situation. From every quarter of the Committee there is a complete awareness of the need for the technical reorganisation of the industry. The Minister said with pride that he was being given number one priority by the Ministry of Supply for new technical machinery for the mines. I have not yet heard that number one priority is being given in doing certain things quickly to improve the amenities of mining communities. It is the time factor of which I am afraid. We will do it all in time; we will do it once the Coal Board gets into operation, but at present a number of things could be done. I have mentioned the nuisance of the coal tips. Another example: We had to beg the Ministry to intervene for us with some of the collieries which were not taking the precautions they could to minimise subsidence affecting houses and other buildings. I do not wish to elaborate that point, but I can give instance after instance where there is up to the last minute of coalowner control a callous disregard for the amenities of the mining community.
Our own Government begin to carry these responsibilities, and will carry them well. I beg them to convey to the Coal Board that mining is a highly technical operation, but at the same time it is a highly human operation, and that the problems of the mining community have to be looked at as a whole. For instance, Lord Hyndley has caused me considerable embarrassment—[Laughter.]—not personally—by a speech he made the other day in discussing the Chase coalfields. He said something which gave the impression that some of the collieries would have to be closed down. Immediately following that there were banner headlines in the newspapers, which caused dismay and alarm in the mining community. In the clubs where the men gather they were talking about this, and young fellows, coming back from the Forces wondering if they would settle down in the traditional industry, or go elsewhere, came back to this atmosphere of unrest. I have the greatest sympathy with any technical expert who is so absorbed with the technical side of his job that he forgets the personal side, and 109 that is why I beg the Minister not to under-estimate the value of certain points which I am putting to him, and which I have put before. Some of us do not presume to be technical experts, but we do know the social needs of mining communities. Incidentally, as this has not been a very cheerful Committee, I think we are overdoing the dirge note. When I go from London to Cannock Chase, I find that although there are black spots, there is also lovely countryside—
§ Miss Lee
And lovely people. But there are lovely people even in London. I am not trying to make any easy demagogic point. What I ask the Committee to do is to look at mining life as a whole. The mining village is near to the fields and, if the miner has a normal week—the five-day week is absolutely essential—and has time for hobbies, he can have a very much better environment than many working folk living in large cities or dreary suburbs outside large cities. In the meantime we have to keep the men we have in the coalfields. The Minister was good enough to give me an explanation of the speech of Lord Hyndley. I handed that letter personally to the Press, who were at a meeting I addressed on this subject, because it was of great moment to our people. I am not suggesting that the Pressmen there did not do their best to see that it got the same publicity in reassuring the miners of the Chase as did the original statement, but that did not happen. It is very important when re-planning our mining industry that we should watch these points.
"The Economist," in a recent issue, was saying that we must not become local advocates insisting that the situation in our own areas will always be the same. That is not the position at all, but if there have to be readjustments, it is not just the mining problem but the whole environment problem which has to be looked at. If we could get the five-day week it would mean that on a Friday night the family would have the luxury of feeling that the alarm clock would not be going off early next morning, and they would have a clear day. The rhythm of the mining life means that on a Saturday they need a bit of fun and, maybe, the mother and youngsters can go to the 110 neighbouring town. There is time to go to a theatre and throw one's energies around carelessly. Then there is the Sunday when one may have a gentler kind of day. In terms of the health of the miner, I am absolutely convinced that a five-day week need not necessarily lead to a reduction in output. I think indeed it will increase output.
But it has to come quickly, and it has to be linked up with other things, so that we do not find the impression in the mind of the mining community that the Government are having to be nagged by hon. Members opposite, because hon. Members opposite, and particularly their representatives back in the constituencies, are now asking for things to be done, even before the property is vested in the Coal Board, saying that they are urgent and cannot wait. That is creating a good deal of misunderstanding.
Another problem about which I am deeply concerned, and which I want handled quickly, as much for my right hon. Friend's sake as for the sake of the country and the mining community, is that of dealing with certain aspects of subsidence in the mining areas. I suggest to the Minister that the most difficult thing in the world is retrospective justice. Therefore, if he will send a commission round the country, each of us in our own constituencies can advise and guide them quickly where there is a situation that violates the collier's sense of fair play. These may seem rather trivial points to this Committee, but I can assure hon. Members that they add up to what makes the psychology of a mining community. One instance, again in my own area, is that of 20 old miners belonging to a veterans' club who came to see me the other day. They said they wanted a club of their own. They had a room which they were allowed to use in a community centre, but there was not enough space, and it was not their own. That, too, may seem very trivial, but the care of the old evokes the chivalry of the young as well as satisfying the old.
Our people can be made happy if they see certain specific things happening, if they can see that there has not only been a technical change of ownership in the mining industry but that we are concerned with their old people, that they are being given priority. Just as there are priorities for machinery there should be priority for 111 housing, hospitals, certain foods and consumer goods, and also priorities for certain clubs and social amenities. It may be thought that the miner is putting his price too high. He has to put it very high indeed if he is to counterbalance anything like the average of what his price was when hon. Members opposite were in control of this country. I am not raising these points in any spirit of opposition to the Minister today. We all know his difficulties. We all know that he is only recently in control. But I am convinced that if we lose no time about certain social amenities that affect the miner's home and his life, then, if he is an old man, he will feel that at last he is being properly cared for and respected. If he is a young fellow he will be able to bring his young woman into the coal mining area with pride, they will weigh up the advantages of settling down into the traditional life of a mining community, where there is good comradeship and local groups large enough to enable a sports group to be formed, or for singing or whatever recreation or activity one wishes to follow.
I do not take the view that mining need continue to be the Cinderella industry of this country. In a sane society it gives any man great pride—every miner in this House bears testimony to it—to be working at something which is absolutely essential. If we will combine, in these next weeks and months, the concern for technical efficiency in the industry, which we all share, with a concern for the happiness, comfort and amenities of the mining community, I am by no means as pessimistic as many hon. Members here have sounded about the future of the industry.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Baker White (Canterbury)
I realise very deeply the sincerity of the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) in speaking on this matter. If I deal with facts, figures and statistics, I hope that she will realise that my sincerity is not any less than hers. There is probably no industry in the world so set about with facts, figures and statistics as is the mining industry, but there is one figure from which one can never escape—the tonnage of commercially disposable coal that comes out of the pits week by week and month by month. I obtained from the Ministry 112 their latest figure, an output of 3,117,000 tons of commercially disposable coal for the week ended 6th July. They have also given me the figure for the comparable week of 1938— 3,787,000 tons. That means that, by and large, week by week, we are getting something between 500,000 and 600,000 tons of coal less out of the pits than we were before the war and as the Minister has pointed out, the demand is much higher than it was then.
I wish to refer to a subject which I know is unpopular, that of absenteeism, voluntary and involuntary. I recognise that avoidable absenteeism is a psychological problem, with a hundred and one factors in it, ranging from food to football. It has to be tackled, whether the industry is nationalised or not, as a psychological problem. In the week ended 6th July, avoidable absenteeism at the coalface was 8.11 per cent. No calculation has been made, in the lifetime of this Government, of what absenteeism means when translated into tons of coal. But a careful estimate was made, in the lifetime of the Coalition Government, that 6.8 per cent. voluntary absenteeism at the coalface meant an annual loss of output amounting to 15 million tons. On that basis 8.11 per cent. means an annual loss of output of 17.8 million tons. To take avoidable and unavoidable absenteeism at the coalface, the figure in the week ended 6th July was 14.76 per cent., that is 32 million tons a year. That is the amount which would be obtained if we achieved Utopia, an impossible state, in which there was no avoidable or unavoidable absenteeism. I wish again to emphasise that avoidable absenteeism at the rate of 8.11 per cent. means a loss of 17.8 million tons of coal a year.
I wish to touch on the question of exports. I fully realise the situation in which the Minister finds himself, but I wonder if the Committee realise how serious and how tragic are the results of our inability to export coal. In the first half of 1938 we sent abroad just under 18 million tons of coal. In the first half of this year we sent abroad 2,470,000 tons, most of it low grade coal. What is the effect? Let us take the Argentine. In the first half of 1938 we sent there over 1 million tons of coal. In the first half of this year we did not send the Argentine one solitary ton. The Argentine today is burning her maize, the maize 113 for which our farmers are crying out, because they have not got any coal. What is even more tragic is that farmers in Kent and elsewhere are using as a fertiliser vegetable ash which is imported from the Argentine; it is burnt maize. In the first half of 1938 we imported over 8,000,000 cwts. of maize from the Argentine. In the first half of this year we imported 1,164,000 cwts.
Let us turn to Sweden. For housing purposes we are crying out for timber. Those of us who are connected with horticulture and agriculture also want timber to make decent containers in order to market our produce. We cannot get it. In the first half of this year we sent to Sweden just over 2,000 tons of coal; in the corresponding period of 1938 we sent 1,327,000 tons. What is the effect of that? I will give one figure, that in relation to pit props. In the first half of this year Sweden was able to send us 814 piled cubic fathoms of pit props. In the first half of 1938 she sent us over 20,000 piled cubic fathoms. Sweden cannot send us more timber. She is burning it because we cannot give her the coal. We sent to Egypt in the first half of 1938, 788,000 tons of coal. We did not send a solitary ton during the first half of this year. We got from the Egyptians 157,000 tons of cotton seed oil during the first half of 1938. This year we have not had one ton. Egypt sent us 124,000 tons of feeding stuffs for our animals during the first six months of 1938. This year she was able to send us just over 11,000 tons. Why? She is burning her cotton seed cake because we cannot give her the coal. We have a mission in Egypt today trying to sell locomotives to the Egyptians, but we are not in a position to give them coal in order to make the locomotives function.
We sent nearly 1,500,000 tons of coal to Denmark during the first half of 1938; this year we sent 332,000 tons. Most of the heavy boiler plant in Denmark was supplied by British manufacturers and built to burn British coal. Danish industry is being retarded in its recovery by our inability to supply coal. That is having an adverse effect upon the food supplies which Denmark send to this country. Danes with whom I have fairly close contact say that, unless we do something more about the coal, sooner or later, probably sooner, they will have to go to the 114 Russians and do a barter deal with Danish food for Russian coal.
The Minister referred to the question of unofficial strikes. I know this is an unpopular subject, but I think we ought to face up to the figures. In the first five months of 1946 there were 978 stoppages of work in the whole of industry. Of that number 592 took place in the mining industry. The stoppages involved 108,000 workers and resulted in a loss of 227,000 working days. During the same period of 1945, there were 473 stoppages. Figures show that strikes are becoming more frequent but shorter in duration and involving a smaller number of men per strike. We cannot get away from the fact that unofficial strikes are the barometer of discipline, and that there were 119 more strikes in the mining industry in the first half of this year than there were during the same period of last year. I commend this point-to the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary. Two regiments with which I had the great honour to come into contact during the war were the Durham Light Infantry and the Northumberland Fusiliers. There are very few regiments in the British Army, not excluding my own, who have a finer fighting record and a finer standard of discipline in the field. That is not only the effect of Army training. There is a psychological problem which has not yet been solved. I refer to the discipline of the young miner.
I now come to the question of the recruitment of labour for the mines. I have endeavoured in a small but very humble way to play some part in the recruiting campaign in the county of Kent. In Kent we can offer amenities which are probably better than those in other fields in the country. Recently the Minister opened at Betteshanger what is probably the finest and certainly the newest training school for boys in the mining industry. It has been brought home to me again and again that we can go out from this House and make speeches, we can have propaganda films and campaigns, but the real recruiting sergeant for the mining industry is the miner himself. The position was just the same in the Territorial Army before the war. The men themselves brought in the recruits. The finest recruiting sergeants were the riflemen, the private soldiers, and the sappers. The real recruiting sergeant of the mining industry is the miner himself. That is why I hope that a small minority 115 of miners will read the Minister's words and forget the past. It is a small minority of miners who go about abusing their own industry and it is they who are listened to.
I will give one example of what I mean. I was in a public house the other night and there was a miner there. He said, "Send my sons into the industry? Of course not; not likely." I know for a fact that that man has three sons who are already in the industry. We had just the same state of affairs in the Army. We had men who went about telling the girls the awful things that would happen to them if they joined the A.T.S. I beg of these very few miners that they should forget the past and realise the future which awaits their industry. The mining industry has a very high degree of comradeship. Let it have as well a very high degree of esprit de corps. If it does not, we must recognise the fact that if output continues to fall and coal becomes scarcer and dearer, sooner or later, with the achievements of science, coal will become an obsolescent fuel.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Brown (Ince)
It was not my intention to intervene in this Debate and I would not have done so had it not been for one or two of the arguments advanced by hon. Members opposite. We have been advised from time to time by various speakers to try to forget the past. Almost following upon those words they tell us something of the past which awakens our thoughts of days gone by. I know the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Baker White) will pardon me if I do not follow him in the arguments he advanced about the importance of exporting coal in order that we might secure the commodities which are essential for home consumption. I would remind him that there was a time when hon. Members opposite, or at least hon. Members of the same school of thought or the same political philosophy, were importing coal into this country in order to bring down the wages of the miner. It is well that we should remind them of what happened in those days and how hon. Members opposite drove the miner down to the lowest possible depths of poverty in 1922, 1923, and 1924, culminating in the great strike or lockout of 1926. That was due to the fact that the school of thought that is now 116 advocating the exportation of coal was importing coal into this country to bring down the wages of the miners. I will leave that matter, and will only say that it is as well that those hon. Members should be reminded of the things that happened in the past.
I want to follow the line of argument which was expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee), who stressed the importance of the Minister dealing with the very important and vital subject of subsidence in our mining villages. In my judgment, this matter has been treated too lightly by Governments of the past, and our own Government will scan over it very lightly unless we are constantly prodding the Department to give some attention to this vital matter. I know that the Committee will forgive me if I give one or two illustrations which I gave in Committee upstairs when the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill was under consideration. Fifty years ago, in my constituency, there occurred, caused by mining subsidence, the collapse of two houses. All the inhabitants, the furniutre and equipment went down, and not a particle of furniture or a body has been recovered. In order that those people should have the decency of what we call a consecrated funeral, the ground in which they were buried due to mining subsidence was consecrated. Their bodies have never been recovered. That is the effect of mining subsidence in a mining village.
Twelve months ago last April, in the same constituency, there was a subsidence which swallowed up one railway engine, 13 wagons and the driver. Neither the railway engine, nor the wagons nor the driver have been recovered, and that piece of land has also been consecrated, and there the driver's body rests, with the railway engine and wagons. Last September, a retired servant of one of our authorities spent £1,200 on the purchase of a house. She had the assurances of all the experts who were available that there was no danger from mining subsidence. "You are all right," they said, "you are secure." Within three months of her entering that house, after spending £1,200 upon it, the whole place collapsed. I mention these points in order to bring the attention of the Ministry, the industry and this Committee to the very great importance of dealing with mining subsidence. 117 Speaking as a practical miner with 35 years' experience underground, I believe that, if proper methods were adopted in the mining of coal in this country, subsidence would be reduced to an almost negligible amount, but, as long as we are prepared to extract coal without paying due regard to the effect which that extraction will have on the township in which it takes place, so long shall we have these dangers arising from mining subsidence. I could tell the Committee a long and weary story of what it has meant to the local authority in my district. In my judgment, the rates of the local authorities in the mining areas are far in excess of what they ought to be, and I find, on close analysis, that the excess is due to the fact that they have got to bear financial burdens upon their sewers, gas and water mains which have been damaged largely as a result of mining subsidence. I know that the Minister has promised the appointment of a committee to go into this question, but we have had committees and commissions in the past, and I say that the time has long gone by when we ought to apply those methods. We ought to get down to it and say to the mining constituencies and to the nation at large that we will set to work to put an end to the colossal damage that is being done by mining subsidence.
May I mention one point about improvements in the industry? I know the long-term policy of the Government under the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill, and that is not the point I want to discuss now. I want to refer to what I would call the short-term policy. I was very much impressed with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), who opened the Debate, and who stressed four points. He touched upon the human aspect, the output aspect, the stocks in hand for domestic purposes and the industrial stocks—four very important elements—but the technique has changed today in comparison with that of some years ago. We have never had the human aspect put first before the House. It always came last, but, today, we have had the human aspect put first, and it is a rather remarkable change in the technique of the Opposition.
I want to say a word or two about transport. I live in a mining constituency, and the transport facilities 118 which are now provided for our men, who have to travel long distances, are ancient and out of cate. May I tell the Committee that there are men in my constituency who have to rise as early as 4.45 a.m. in order to get to their work to be able to start at 7 a.m.? They have to board four or five different buses before they reach the colliery, and, when they get there, they have to walk a distance of between two and a-half and three miles underground. It takes some of these men longer to get to their work, and from their work, than it takes me to get from my constituency to this House. The matter of transport is of vital importance in order to improve the conditions now prevailing in the coalfields. Hon. Members who have not witnessed the conditions which I have described may ask why it is necessary for these men to travel such distances.
The constituency adjoining mine includes a coalfield which is becoming worked out. In 1919 and 1920, we had 19 or 20 pits in full commission, employing 10,000 men and boys. Today, we have not a wheel turning. There are the effects—19 or 20 pits gone out of commission, and not a new shaft has been sunk, and 10,000 men and boys are being compelled to migrate, or, at least, travel considerable distances in order to earn their livelihood. Why are these men compelled to do that? It is because they have not been provided with the proper transport facilities which are expected by the ordinary man; and I want to ask the Minister to give serious consideration to the provision of better transport facilities in order to ease the burden of long periods of travelling now being experienced by these men, and not only on the surface, but underground. Even when our men get to the pit, they have to walk two and a-half or three miles underground, perhaps in a stooping position. We cannot expect men to give of their best at the coalface after a journey like that.
The hon. Member who spoke last made reference to avoidable absenteesim. How can we expect men to give of their best at the coalface when they have lost about one-half of their energy in travelling to their work? Therefore, I beg the Minister, in his consideration of these points, to see to it that, first, there shall be an approach to the subsidence question quickly and, second, that there shall be a definite approach to the minimising or 119 abolition of the subsidence which is now occurring on our minefields. I am hopeful that, if we can approach this question in the spirit and with the attitude of mind with which we should approach it, not only can we produce the coal which our nation needs, but we can make the lives of our miners and their families happier than they have ever been before in the history of the mining industry.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Jennings (Sheffield, Hallam)
I have listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) who put his case, particularly with regard to subsidence, in a very human way. If he will forgive me for saying so, I listened to the same story in the Standing Committee and I believe that no hon. Member in any part of the Committee could fail to have sympathy with regard to the occurrences about which he spoke. That is the spirit I would like to see engendered in all hon. Members because of the picture which the right hon. Gentleman painted this afternoon with regard to this great industry. I say "great industry" because I have lived. in a mining county for 50 years. I was very glad to hear an hon. Friend refer to the Durham Light Infantry, and I felt a little tinge of pride about having served with them in the last war.
I know that there are faults on both sides in this particular industry. Some people may blame one side and some the other. Sometimes the blame is placed on one particular section without any attempt being made to find out the correctness of the facts. The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) mentioned things which were going on in her area with regard to fumes, and pinpricks with regard to managements. I feel that she could not have made out a better case for my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) in his plea to the Minister this afternoon to hasten the vesting date. Let us get this period of suspense done away with, because it is doing the industry endless harm. For instance, the hon. Lady mentioned these irritations. Is not that likely to cause some dissatisfaction? Are the owners—
§ Mr. Jennings
The hon. Lady is quite wrong. I am grateful to her for the interruption because it affords me an opportunity to ease her mind on the matter. These things go to support the plea of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley that the vesting date should be hastened, and that the miners should not be left in suspense any longer than can be helped. It is not good for the miners, and it is not good for the owners. A better case could not have been made out.
I was very glad to hear my hon. Friend raise the question of the export trade. For many years the coal barges on the rivers Tarn and Weir have brought in the coal which was exported to the Scandinavian countries. Durham and Northumberland have, very largely, lived on this export trade, and it is a very sad thing that they should not be exporting coal and bringing back foodstuffs to this country. I would point out to the Minister that, economically, this is a very serious matter for this country. If we are to lose our coal exporting trade permanently, we are going to be in a very serious economic position. I cannot think of anything to replace that great export trade which we enjoyed before the war. It is a most serious position, and I ask the Minister to give full consideration to it.
I have a dual interest in this matter because I represent a constituency whose inhabitants earn their livelihood in the Sheffield steel industry. The one thing which concerns me is the economic position of the coalfields today. We get a drop in output and a lessening of our export trade Anybody knows that when there is a drop in production, the costs must be increased because the ratio must be increased. There are two or, perhaps, three things which can be done. I will give an example of two. An endeavour can be made to cut down administrative charges or expenses in order to lessen costs, or there can be an increase in the selling price of the commodity. This industry is in a very bad position, and I am sure that nobody will dispute that fact. Although we are attempting to better the immediate position, we are approaching it in the manner of "any port in a storm" and "Do 121 whatever you can.'" I agree with my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd-George) who said that manpower is the immediate answer to the problem. It always was and always will be. What the Minister has to do, by hook or by crook, is to get as many people back into the industry as he can. As my right hon. and gallant Friend suggested, let the men realise that they can earn good wages and that there is something in the shops for them to buy, and they will work, and encourage others to go into the industry.
§ Mr. Jennings
I could say a good deal about 1926, and the hon. Member for West Birmingham would not shine over it. However, I do not wish to be drawn into any party controversy because I feel that this is a matter which must be kept out of party politics. The position is too serious for that. But I do feel that this Government have to think again. If the answer to the problem of the Minister of Fuel and Power regarding manpower is the putting of more consumer goods into the shops, then the present policy of the Government has to be reversed. That is essential. Further, with regard to the uneconomic situation in the coalfields, I am apprehensive that, in the near future, we shall have to face a rise in the price of coal. In fact, I think I am right in saying that the Minister did say in a speech made elsewhere that there will have to be an increase in the price of electricity. That, I believe, goes also for gas. If my steelworks have to pay more for their coal, it will increase the cost of the steel. The result will be to lose further steel export trade That is a very serious prospect. I would rather take almost any step than add to the cost of our steel which we require so badly for export markets. There is an additional point. If the consumer is to be asked to pay more for coal, I suggest that the housewife has just about enough to bear at present without having to pay more for her coal—that is, when she gets it, because it is not often that she does get it.
That brings me to my last point. Last winter we had a serious situation in Sheffield owing to the shortage of coal. Transport difficulties played a big part in that shortage. There is plenty of time between now and the winter in which to organise 122 and cooperate more with other sections where further cooperation is needed, so that there will be no bottleneck and the coal distributors will get their proper supplies and will be able to supply the householders. If we have a hard winter and we get an extreme coal shortage, as appears possible, there will be some terrible heartburning in the country. The responsibility is that of the Government. The Government have brought in this Coal Nationalisation Bill at a most inopportune time, and the Bill has not given one ton more of coal.
§ Mr. Jennings
We cannot wait for ever. Some of the promises of the party opposite take a long time to materialise. If it takes as long as the housing promises, it will not be fulfilled until the very dim and distant future. The responsibility is that of the Minister and the Government, and if they fail, I hope they get a life sentence.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. D. J. Williams (Neath)
I am very pleased to have the opportunity of making some observations in this Debate. I say that for three reasons First of all, I have spent most of my working life in the mining industry in many of the British coalfields, and I have experienced in my own life most of the vicissitudes through which this industry has passed during the last 30 years. Secondly, coalmining is the principal industry in my constituency where 10,000 miners and their families are directly dependent on it as their only industry. The future of this industry, therefore, is a matter of very serious concern to all of them. Thirdly, coal is, and must remain for a long time, the foundation of our national economy, notwithstanding atomic energy. Without coal this country cannot possibly survive as an industrial nation, and certainly cannot survive as a modern world Power. Coal is a very important raw material. Indeed, it is our only important raw material. For the last half century and more coal has provided one of the chief exports, and these exports have paid for the imports, which have made possible the standard of living of the British people. Without coal Britain could not maintain a quarter of her present population. Without coal our industries would wither, our towns and 123 cities would decay and our population would decline.
It is a truism to say that modern Britain was built on coal. What wool was in our national, economy from the 14th to the 18th centuries, coal became in the 18th and 19th centuries. It became our staple industry and trade. I have heard it said once that the Woolsack in another place should be replaced by a coal sack. That was many years ago in the spacious days of "King Coal." I am wondering whether we could afford the luxury of an ornamental sack of coal in these days of stringencies, and I have little doubt that my right hon. Friend the Minister would long since have turned his attention to that sack and added it to his dwindling stocks. I gather from some of his recent speeches that Wentworth Hall is not the only place where he would like to turn loose his bulldozers.
The mining industry is faced with a number of very serious problems. I have only time to deal with two; namely, technical reorganisation and manpower. Those are the fundamental problems of the industry. If we fail to solve those we fail in everything. All the Amendments laboriously moved by right hon. and hon. Members opposite and all the Amendments from another place will avail us nothing unless we can solve the problems of the technical reorganisation of the mining industry and get new recruits into it. I appreciate that these two problems are very closely connected, but I would also stress that they are, in essence, two different problems. There is a tendency to confuse them and to misunderstand their exact relationship. I have heard it argued that if we had sufficient new machines in the industry we could solve the problems of mechanisation and of manpower. It has also been argued that if we had machinery in the industry, that in itself would make the mines attractive and would attract new labour. I very much doubt whether either of those arguments will bear objective analysis. First of all, machines in themselves do not provide an attraction for labour. Today in the British coalfield, in the districts which are most highly organised, there is the same reluctance on the part of the youngsters to enter the industry as there is in my own district which technically is the most 124 backward in Britain. Secondly, however much machinery we can get in the next five years it will need men to operate it; all the machinery we can get—and I hope we get quite a lot as a result of the American Loan—will need at least 800,000 people in the mining industry. That is over 100,000 more than we have at present, and the number is decreasing every day.
I now come to the technical side of the mining industry. This is in a positively alarming state. If is the legacy left by so-called free enterprise to the Coal Board and to the nation. In the last 25 years there has been absolute technical stagnation in the British mining industry, and a sort of technical paralysis has overtaken the industry. Between the two wars not a single piece of new technique was introduced into British mining. I agree there were extensions of existing technical processes, but everything that we had in 1940 we also had in 1920. That is surely a condemnation of the anarchy and the mischievous, malicious mismanagement which operated in the mining industry for the whole period between the two wars. I have no time at my disposal to deal with the alarming decline that took place in this industry between the two wars. May I give one reason why the technical situation in the mining industry is so deplorably serious? All sorts of reasons are given from time to time—mechanical difficulties, geological difficulties, and human difficulties.
I suggest that the main reason for the technical stagnation of the mining industry is that for 25 years labour was too cheap. Any economist will say that in every industry where labour is cheap there is no inducement to introduce new mechanisation, new processes and new machinery. On more than one occasion in the course of the last six months or so I have heard complaints about the high price of coal. Coal is dear today because colliers were cheap yesterday. That would not have been the Case if we had been able to maintain reasonable, sensible and civilised standards of living for the miners in the mining industry, and if the owners had been compelled to introduce far more machinery and far more up-to-date mechanical processes of every kind. The job of the Coal Board today is of colossal dimensions. It is not simply a question of introducing a few coalface machines here and there. 125 For quite a while now the tendency has been to concentrate on face machinery, and to neglect the equally important feature of transport. I know of collieries in my own district where there has been considerable face mechanisation, but the underground haulage system is in precisely the same condition mechanically as it was 50 years ago. Physically the roads are far worse, because they have been neglected; repairs have been neglected; timber men and repairers have not been put in to keep the roads in good condition, for the simple reason that a horse needs far more space in which to travel than a rope.
I now wish to make a few suggestions to the Minister for dealing with this problem. There is the problem of manpower, which is very serious, especially in my own district. The decrease of personnel in the British mining industry has been quoted time after time. Last year in my own village, in three collieries, we lost men at the rate of one every day: 350 men came out of those collieries in 12 months through pneumoconiosis and silicosis. Last year 9,000 miners from South Wales applied to the medical board for a certificate of suspension; 5,000 certificates were granted. I understand that already up to May of this year there had been 3,000 further applications to the medical board, and we expect another 7,000 by the end of the year. This problem is very grave. It is important for the welfare of the miner after he leaves the pit, and important for the future of the men who will not go into the pit until this problem is solved.
There are three aspects of this problem. First, there is the technical aspect, the question of introducing and applying preventive measures to reduce the incidence of dust disease. Some progress has been made in this respect, but it is far from adequate. Second, there is the medical aspect, the question of treatment and, if possible, cure. However, I am advised by all the medical men who have examined this problem in South Wales that so far medical science knows of no cure. It is true that at the moment certain experiments are being conducted in Llandough hospital, but they are in an embryonic stage. It will take medical science quite a long time to find a cure for this dread disease. The third aspect of the problem, which I stress, is the 126 social side. In South Wales at the moment we have about 25,000 people who have been suspended from the mining industry because of this dust disease. They cannot return to the mines, and in most of the valleys of South Wales there is no alternative employment.
Six months ago my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade set up a working party under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) to investigate this problem, and to make recommendations. It was my privilege to serve on that committee, and I am a party to the report. We recommended that immediately in these remote and isolated valleys in South Wales the Government themselves should establish a number of factories in order to employ these people. That has a very important bearing on the problem of recruitment for the mining industry. So long as these people have no alternative employment nobody will go into the mining industry in South Wales. The mothers will warn the children that the fate of their fathers awaits them if they go into the mines. I have seen all the appalling tragedy attached to this problem. I have seen men of splendid physique fading away and declining, and dying in the prime of life. There are thousands of young men in South Wales of 30 and 35 years of age for whom there is no employment. I urge my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power to get together on this matter, and to get these factories started in order to provide employment for these people, to provide new inducement for young lads to enter the mining industry.
In the present state of suspense in the mining industry we face a very critical coal situation next winter. I urge the Minister to bring forward, with the greatest possible expediency, the vesting date when the Coal Board takes over. I had made a note to say something similar to a phrase used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), namely, that the mining industry now is suspended, like Mohamet's coffin, between the giving up of responsibility by the coal owners and the assuming of responsibility by the Coal Board. In other words, we have an industry that has a body without a head.. The result is that there is no planning; no 127 arrangement is being made for what is to be done tomorrow, because nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. I believe this is vital for the future of this industry. It may be possible to run a capitalist society without a plan, but it is not possible to run a colliery without a plan. If we do not have a plan for the next year we will have disaster and catastrophe. At the moment nobody is planning. I do urge that the Coal Board should take over the running of the mining industry with the maximum speed.
I hope the first act of the Coal Board will be a dramatic act; an act which will have tremendous psychological repercussions in the mining industry. As its first act it should give the miners a five-day week as a token payment of good will; in effect, telling the miners: "Here we are, a new organisation, a new management, based on new principles. The first thing we do is to give you something to show that we are concerned, as nobody in this industry in the past has been, with the welfare and the future of the miners themselves." The principle of the five day week is already found in the industry. We have it in South Wales, in the "bonus shift" system for the afternoon shift workmen. A man works five, and he gets six shifts. If he loses a shift he loses two. I believe that this would be of tremendous psychological value amongst the miners. I am perfectly satisfied that is would remove some of the headaches about absenteeism which are worrying people on the opposite benches. With proper organisation and systematic mechanisation, a five day week would mean a tremendous increase in coal production, and that after all is our main problem.
I would like to make one last suggestion to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power on a subject I raised some time ago in a Question. It is that in order to bring this industry into line with modern needs it must be mechanised from the ground floor upwards. To do that we need machinery, and to operate that machinery we need men who understand the machines. You cannot put a man of 50 years of age, who has been handling a pick and shovel all his life, in charge of an American power loader tomorrow morning. I suggested some time ago to my right hon. Friend that he 128 should select a representative deputation of miners from all over the British coalfields and send them to visit American mines, to see how machinery is operated there. We have sent technicians over there, we have sent welfare workers and ambitious managers. Now I suggest we should send some miners. I believe that if we do that we shall bring a new spirit into the mining industry. The miners will feel, for the first time, that the Government are interested in them, and are anxious to use their experience and knowledge. I believe that with such a new attitude we shall put the mining industry on its feet once more, and it will become a solid and sound foundation for the new Britain we are anxious to build.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles (Down)
I wish to speak for a few minutes on three points only. In the first place, I am raising again the point concerning consumer goods. After all, we have now got the nationalisation of the coal mines, and it is no use going back again to 1926 or 1906; we had better confine our attention to 1946, and things as they are today. For a start I think that everybody in the country realises the seriousness of the position in the coal industry and, with a view to attracting men into the industry and to getting them to work when they are there, we should like to see a bit of weightage in the coalmining districts—that is to say, there should be even more consumer goods in the shops up there, there should be even better houses built, and new houses built more quickly, because we know that the country depends in the first place upon the coal industry. Everybody in the country would be only too glad to see the miner get a square deal, and a good deal, immediately.
It is no use saying hard words about the Minister of Fuel and Power. We must turn over, in our own minds, what we would do, if we were dictators to the coal industry, as he is. Perhaps I should not say "dictator," because that might be a breach of Privilege. I should say "master," as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General said in his speech that "he is the master of the country now." The first thing I would do would be to give better houses, better transport and more consumer goods in the shops in the coalmining areas. The other point I want to raise is concerned 129 with quality as against quantity. I have received several letters from my own constituency about the quality of coal supplied to Northern Ireland. I will quote only one, which I received this morning from Shaw's Bridge, a place in County Down. A lady there writes to me:Dear Sir,Seeing there is to be a Debate on coal next Wednesday, would it be possible for you to draw the attention of the Minister of Fuel to the inferior type of coal sent to Northern Ireland? On July 8th I received a quarter ton, supposed to be Grade II, which cost me £1 is. 11d., but which was only steam coal suitable for a furnace and entirely unsuitable for a house. After trying daily for a week without success, not to mention the waste of sticks, oil, etc., to light a fire, I went down the following Monday to complain to the coal merchant. One of the head men told me that this was a cargo they had received from North Wales by the s.s. "Oliver", and admitted it was only steam coal. It seems they have told the Coal Control Board about this, but the Control Board have said that it had to be given out as Grade II to their customers. This sort of thing is really a scandal. This gentleman wanted me to go round to the coal office and complain, which I did, but they said all they could do was to allow me a quarter of a ton to burn the bad stuff up. This second quarter ton cost me £1 2S. 2d. How the working people are going to live if every other week, there is an increase on things like coal I do not know.I would only point out to the Parliamentary Secretary that it cannot be economy to send steam coal to people to use as household coal, or to send household coal to be used in a boiler. I suggest that that is one of the things he might draw attention to, now that he is the master of the coal industry at last.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Bolton)
We have heard sufficient today to warrant the Opposition desiring to turn in their seats and ask forgiveness for all the things they did not do, and all the things they ought to have done, to avert the tragedy which has been brought home to us today more than ever before in the history of the country. I do not want to deal at length with the past. Scratching old sores will not do a bit of good, it will only make the sore bleed and become more inflamed. I was particularly interested in two speeches today, one by the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) and one by the hon. Member for the Hallam division (Mr. Jennings). They wanted three or four things to be done. The hon. Member for Hallam complained about housewives not having coal 130 and about there being no coal for export. He wants it to be exported, he wants it in the housewives' cellars, and at the same time he wants it in the steel works in Sheffield. He cannot have it all ways. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Because there is not sufficient.
I want to say a few words about the wastage of coal in the steel industry. I would like the hon. Member for Hallam particularly to go with me this weekend; I could take him to places in his own constituency and show him furnaces, under private enterprise, where thousands of cubic feet of gas are being wasted. If he would go with me to my constituency, I could take him into iron works where raw coal is blazing away on the hearths of furnaces, with natural draught, burning away to blazes. Then there is the question of exports. The hon. Member wants us to export coal, to send away this raw material which it is so vitally necessary to keep at home—at the moment at all events—to create all those many things which he wants to put into the shops so that the miner can spend his money. He cannot have it all ways. The problem is one of the correct and proper distribution at the moment, having regard to all the factors.
Much has been said today about the history of the industry. I think everybody is agreed that the right and proper thing has at long last been done, except that the date should be brought forward, so that the Board can get on with its job. I want to say just a word about the spirit of the industry. Hon. Members opposite know that I come from the great steel industry. I have slogged and slaved, just as a miner does, for 32 years in front of a steel furnace, and I know something about sweat and hard work. I can claim for my industry, despite what may have been said in the Debate on the steel industry, that there always was a good spirit of cooperation between men and management. We got round the table, and discussed our problems together, whatever we thought about each other; and there was always a decent relationship, and that is important. I think that it is the spirit of the miners that requires to be encouraged. I have heard it alleged that the miner is fond of his whippet and racing and so forth. Why should he not be? I have heard it alleged that he would give a chop to his dog. I have heard all sorts of allegations about loss of time and absenteeism. 131 I am not in favour of absenteeism in any industry. There has been, following the war, time lost, and that could have been avoided; but men were tired, very tired. The victory celebration days were occasions when we lost coal production that we could not afford to lose, but they celebrated a victory without which we should have lost the country in which the coal is situated. Those are things that ought to be taken into account.
I want, as a practical working fellow who has come into this Chamber, to make my appeal to the miners, and, particularly, to the young fellows in the industry, to put their backs into this job, to create a spirit of comradeship, a spirit in which they can say, "This is our job, and the future of Britain depends on it." I appeal to them to forget the past. Recrimination will not do—although it is a good thing sometimes to remind our hon. Friends opposite how the conditions which pertain today came about; and that was that in times past things were not done that should have been done. But we have to face up to the position as it is, not as it was, and the position in which we are in this industry is a parlous one. Every industry, and the steel industry, in particular, will want coal this winter. I do not want hon. Gentlemen opposite to be able to say later on when debating steel that we should have done better if the miners had given us more coal. There is nobody more adroit in picking up that sort of point than hon. Gentlemen opposite. They will pick up points like that, and use them. Therefore, I make my appeal to the boys in the coalmining industry, to the men coming back from the Forces, to put their backs into the job. It is not easy to come back from the Forces, from that way of life in which they had a straight stance, and now to bend and crouch at the coalface. I do not speak as a miner, but I have seen miners at work. I have seen negro miners at work in America during the war, and since the war I have had the opportunity of seeing the German workers, underfed as they are, producing more coal in the Ruhr coalfield, because of better mechanisation.
What we must do is to give the miner the feeling that he is the most important citizen in the country, and not the least important, as he has been made to feel in 132 the past. I remember, as a boy, standing on the quayside at Port Talbot in South Wales and seeing reparations coal being brought in, while our miners were standing idly about the streets. From the Minister, downwards, all of us, including the Opposition, should get into our minds that there are bad miners and bad managers, but that, generally speaking, the men in the coal industry are honest-to-God fellows who want to see this country's future safeguarded. Some people have said that coal is our most important asset. It is not our only asset. There are the industries of ore, clay and limestone, and so on; but our coal industry is vitally important, and I hope that, as a result of this Debate, all of us will go to our constituencies and mix with the miners, encouraging them to work so that this country can be made what it cannot be without their efforts, and what it ought to be—the finest country under the sun.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Bucklow)
I think most hon. Members will agree with the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. J. Jones). I could not, however, myself resist the thought that, had he and his friends been actuated by those motives and those ideas in the earlier part of this century, we should not be discussing the mining industry in so parlous a state as it is at present. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is not my desire to pursue that point, but to try to bring into focus the main problems of this industry to which, I feel, too little attention has been given during this Debate. We have certain basic conditions. Production in 1945 was 170 million tons, and 240 million tons in 1937. There are approximately 70,000 fewer people in the industry than at that time, and output per man shift at the coalface was 60 cwt. in 1937, compared with 54 cwt. today. In 1937 absenteeism stood at 7 per cent., and today it is 17 per cent.
These are the basic facts on which this industry rests, and from which we have to proceed. The plain argument against the Minister of Fuel and Power is that he has not proceeded anywhere. He has told us nothing about what he intends to do with this industry. We have heard nothing of the future plans, and nothing about the means by which he intends to put this industry on a sound footing. What is the effect of the present position? It means that trade is in grave danger 133 of dislocation. It even means that trade has been dislocated. I resent very much the attempt of the Minister to assume that the stoppages in industry last winter were very few. It was very much worse than the Minister tried to make out. Let us think for a moment of the large number of industries which draw upon gas supplies. Think how many days last winter the supply of gas was at half pressure or even less, and how many working hours were lost as a consequence of this failure or partial failure of gas supplies. The Minister is doing a disservice if he attempts to underrate the loss industry suffered last year as a result of the failure of supplies.
Is not the housewife entitled to some consideration in this matter of coal? There is a tendency on the part of hon. Members opposite to underrate the consumer as being of no importance at all [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh,"] I think that is true. The present position and cost of coal is a matter of serious moment to many people in the country who have to burn coal domestically. I want hon. Members opposite, who are supposed to have sympathy for those people not very well off, to think of the position of aged women living on their own in one room, who have to buy a bag of coal at a price two and a half times higher than it was before the war, and then find that a considerable percentage of the coal cannot be burnt. That is a very damaging and difficult situation for thousands of elderly women. They are entitled to some consideration from the mining industry.
The danger of a failure or partial failure of supplies will make more likely the possibility of inflation during the winter. If we have a partial suspension of fuel supplies it will add very materially to the costs of production. It is essential that we get over this difficulty and proceed to a basic plan for managing and developing the industry. It is remarkable that the Government seem to combine successfully all the disadvantages of control with none of its advantages. They produce a scheme of nationalisation and give us no effective control, or effective planning. I want the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies, to answer one or two specific questions, because many people, miners, users and the general public, will not be able to make certain decisions unless they are sure of the future of the industry. I want to ask him when he expects to restore the 134 output per manshift to what may be considered the normal level; when he proposes to restore the quality of fuel to its proper level? That is a important factor.
The Minister of Fuel and Power has made great play about the amount of extra fuel consumed by public utility concerns. I suggest that a considerable percentage of that increase is accounted for by the poor quality of the fuel supplied, and what, in fact, we are getting is coal produced as saleable coal, which, in ordinary circumstances, would not be so regarded. What is the plan for carrying out the Reid Report? What steps have the Ministry taken to overcome such fundamental bottlenecks, in putting the scheme into operation, as the short supply of castings and electrical switchgear? It takes nearly 12 months to get the switchgear delivered, and unless some improvement is made we are going to be in a very difficult position. What is the estimated annual production for the next five years? That is very important for people to know. What do the Government intend to do about the price level? Is it the intention of the Government to maintain the price of coal at its present level, or do they foresee a reduction in price?
How far is the policy of switching over to fuel oil to be proceeded with? I have never seen such a slipshod method adopted by a Minister before as the present Minister of Fuel and Power has adopted on the question of fuel oil. He has given no undertaking to the industry or to the nation as to the extent to which he intends this conversion to take place. Surely, if people are to enter into this conversion with any degree of confidence, they must be fully aware of the Government's intention in regard to the industry, of what the production is to be in the next five years, and whether they will have the advantage of cheap coal or whether fuel oil is to be the more desirable alternative. The Government have given no indication as to the extent to which they desire this conversion to take place, and no idea of the set up of the industry during the next five years. How does the Minister propose to get over the difficulty of carrying out the recommendations of the Reid Report, which will of necessity involve the use of labour which otherwise would be devoted to mining proper? As far as I can see, 135 the implementation of these recommendations would take away from mining proper a large proportion of its labour. I ask the Minister to tell us how he proposes to overcome that difficulty.
Something has been said today about the human element, and I think very rightly, because I believe that the British miner is still the best miner in the world —and I say that in spite of the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I believe the British worker, in the main, is the be3t worker in the world, and that if he is treated in a proper manner we shall get very good results from him. I am not going to say that the policy of the owners of the mining industry has always been, an enlightened one. I do not suggest that for one moment. I want to see a better feeling widespread in the industry. I have been very grieved to find that the Government have taken what I consider to be an adverse step in connection with the miners' welfare. We had previously a Miners' Welfare Commission, which was a virtually independent body. Now they have chained it to the Coal Board. They have put as its chairman a member of the Coal Board. I think that that is a most undesirable precedent. If a man is charged with the job of developing the miners' welfare, he should be completely untrammelled without any association with the Board. He should be free to fight for the miners without any restriction at all. It would be a good thing in the interests of the miners themselves and of the Government, too, if they reconsidered the position and gave to the welfare organisation a completely independent status.
I want to end by saying that I think there is a need in this industry, as there is need in all industries in this country, to give the workers the impression of having a higher status. A great deal of the ill feeling and the suspicion is due to the fact that the worker does not feel he has a sufficient share in the enterprise. There is a greater danger of that idea and suspicion developing under a highly centralised control like the Coal Board than under the control of individual companies. I am certain that hon. Members opposite will see this danger develop week after week, month after month and year after year, and they would do well to devote a good deal of their time and attention to seeing how far they can work in these 136 two conflicting elements, that is to say, a real interest in the industry by the workers, combined with an unfortunate centralised control, because we have to remember that if this industry and this process fail then this country will be faced with disaster.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Pryde (Midlothian and Peebles, Southern)
I listened today to the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. Macmillan) courageously leading his ragged army to attack and to each disciple on the opposite benches, and what was impressed upon me was the fact that they were talking on a subject that was absolutely foreign to them. Speaking personally,. I worked in the pits in Scotland from St. Patrick's Day, 1904, until on 12th July, 1945, the miners elected me to come here. It can be said then that I covered the period from the system of hand cutting coal to the machine age. I listened to the Minister of Fuel and Power telling us in as few short words as possible where the industry had got to at the present time. It was so unlike the right hon. Gentleman to. tell us to forget'. Forget Hartley. Wellington, the Haig, the Moira, Senhynydd and Gresford in England, to mention only a few, and remember in Scotland, Mauricewood, Udston High, Blantyre, The Redding, Portland, Donibristle, Low Valleyfield, Polton and New Battle. We may not forget, but we may forgive. We may forget 1921 and we may forgive 1926, but hon. Members opposite must remember that private ownership is responsible for the condition of the British coal mining industry today. It is not private enterprise, for there never was any enterprise in it.
§ Colonel Clarke (East Grinstead)
Tonight we have been discussing the great shortage of coal, and may I remind the hon. Member that under private enterprise in 1913 we produced 200 million tons of coal, including what went abroad?
§ Mr. Pryde
I will cover not only that period but the period from 1210 to the present day if the hon. and gallant Member wishes, because I come from the oldest coal mining district in Britain, where the first charter was granted to the monks of Battle Abbey, in 1210. These things are impressed and burned into our brains, for we know the history and 137 economics of our industry. I have here a little black book. An hon. Member said he hoped that the men who composed the Coal Board would get a life sentence if they failed. There is sufficient evidence in this book to give those Members who represent vested interests in coal, not a life sentence, but an execution. In this book, there is the evidence which was submitted, and admitted, at the Samuel Commission. On that evidence, the private ownership of the coal industry stands condemned for ever. Here is the life story of the Scottish Miners' Union. In 1546, there was founded the first coal-owners' organisation in Scotland, by a woman. It was not until recent years that Fallhouse Wilson, a weaver of Ayrshire, organised the Scottish miners. Here is a book which was the property of the late Robert Smillie, containing his photograph. It tells us that between 1873 and 1913, 47,000 miners were lost in the pits of Scotland, not counting men who were disabled for life by injury. The book tells us that, in 1906, the price of coal, sold f.o.b., was 5s. 9d. per ton. These are the conditions to which Members opposite would like to go back. We are never going back to those conditions. In Lanarkshire we gave you as much as 36 tons per man, at one colliery. In the Lothians, we gave you as much as 20 tons per man. We gave you our blood and you, in turn, gave us victimisation and poor houses. As far back as 1908, Mr. Daniel de Leon, the great American economist, demonstrated that there was only one way to attract labour to industry—to offer the inducement of shorter hours and better conditions. You failed to do that.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
I have refrained from correcting the hon. Member because I did not wish to disturb his discourse. He is, of course, out of Order in ascribing these deeds to me.
§ Mr. Pryde
You shut down collieries which can be reopened again on an economic basis. In my own district, 12 collieries were shut, and only one small one reopened. In 1926, you inflicted upon us a levy of 3d. per ton in order to finance the rehabilitation of the industry in Scotland, but no new pits were sunk.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I can. stand some things, but I am not going to be accused of that. The hon. Member must cease blaming me. I assure him I am not responsible.
§ Mr. Pryde
The vested interests of coal, as represented by Members opposite, are responsible for the condition of the coal industry today. More men are employed today on underground transport than ever before. It is no wonder that coal is an uneconomic prospect, because it has always been sold, in international markets, under its economic value. The miner has been the sufferer in consequence.
The Reid Report has been mentioned. There is not one thing in the Reid Report which is unknown to the mining community. We know all about the technique of coal extraction, we know which methods are best, cheapest and most economical. The Reid Report admits that hundreds of millions of pounds must be poured into the coal industry in this country in order to restore it again to economic health. Are we to give these hundreds of millions of tons to the private owners who have brought the industry into this condition? Certainly not. The nation must finance the industry, as only the nation can finance it, in order once more to restore coal to the position it has always occupied in the national economy.
In 1913, 97 million tons of coal, including bunkers, were shipped from these islands to be exchanged on the international markets and to bring back to this country the foodstuffs necessary to give a higher standard of living to our people. Those days have gone for ever. Suppose that the Coal Board begins now to make new borings and sinkings; the coal age will have passed by the time the Coal Board, with all the labour at its disposal, is able again to bring the industry back to the peak position of 1913. But for 40 years at least, atomic energy or not, coal will be king.
I am positive that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Fuel and Power is the man for the job. I appeal to the Minister to apply Socialist economics to the coal industry, to shorten the working day, to give the miners a five-day week, to concentrate upon giving them more new houses. He must see to it that the gap which was created between 1921 and 1933 is filled. In those years the drawers and 139 fillers below ground were displaced, and there was a gap between the apprentices coming into the industry and the strippers. That gap can only be filled by training, as in Holland and Germany. What could be done in Nazi Germany can be done in democratic Britain. The people in the mining industry must be given better housing conditions, and more safety measures must be taken in the mines. I am glad that during the last year there has been a lowering of the accident rate in the industry, and my right hon. Friend the Minister must see that that continues in future. I conclude by appealing to hon. Members opposite not to sabotage the work of the Coal Board, but to second in the country the efforts of a man who has demonstrated since 1924 that he knows the scientific approach to the coalmining problem of this country.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ Major Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
I have listened to this Debate with very great interest. Apart from some very interesting remarks about fuel oil, practically the whole of the Debate has been centred round the problem of coal, and therefore, I hope I shall be forgiven if I address most of my remarks to that subject. Most hon. Members who have spoken have mentioned the new Coal Board. I wish to say that hon. Members on this side, although they may have been opposed to the setting up of that Board, will wish it well now that it has been set up I must, however, point out to the hon. Member for South Midlothian (Mr. Pryde) that it may well be that the Coal Board will have to shut down pits, and I think it is dangerous to suggest that that is a bad practice. We must remember that the Coal Board will have two advantages over the owners. One is that they will have a great monopoly which the owners have not; secondly, they will have the backing of over £150 million of Government money, and I think we must realise that in the hands of wise and good administration, this must have some effect. Our point is that with constructive criticism, we shall try to assist the Coal Board, but I would say that behind the main issue in this Debate I have noticed something far more sinister—the question of coal supplies for next winter which is looming up.
The Minister's speech at the beginning of the Debate contained a certain amount 140 of optimism and complacency, but when I heard the more experienced speech—if I may say so—of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) I began to see the light more clearly. I thought figures given were rather complicated, but I have done my best to bring them down to rock bottom, although I do not think that a responsible Minister having the facts before him as he has should at this time make the assumption that he will obtain an increase of coal from the collieries this year over last year. If I may make a reasonable and, I think, wise assumption, I believe it would be on the safe side to say that output from the mines will be the same as last year, and in that case the figures are these. The requirements for last year were 187 million tons, which included 5 million tons of stock; the requirement for this year, as the Minister has said, is 196 million tons. Making the assumption which I do, that the amount of coal obtained will be the same as that which was raised last year, and allowing an extra 2 million tons for increased opencast and other methods, then we find that the Minister will have to take 12 million tons out of stock, in order to obtain the required 196 million tons. Those are the figures.
We know that the Minister started the year with 15 million tons in stock, so that it is likely that at the end of the year there will be only 3 million or 4 million tons. The latter figure was mentioned by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pembroke and, on the assumptions at the time, the Minister agreed with it. If that is so, it is clear, on the assumptions I have made, that by about March of next year our stocks may be down almost to zero, and that is the danger point. The Minister took into account stocks on the pit bank and so on, which I did not think was quite fair, but being as just as possible, and assuming that we do not obtain any increased production, I can see the danger point being March of next year. I accuse the Minister most seriously of showing too much complacency, a point stressed by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pembroke and also brought out very clearly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) in his very excellent opening speech. Surely we must appreciate, as has been said by many hon. Members 141 in the Debate, the serious danger to our industrial foundation if this is allowed to happen.
The Minister has agreed to give all available information, and I hope that he may not give it too late. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley likened the Minister to the late Minister of Food, and that is an example the Minister must take to heart. It is no use coining down to this House and giving the facts when it is too late; we must have them early. That will assist the industry in planning ahead with production. From Members on all sides of the Committee we have heard about the needs of the consumer and the exporter. The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing) stressed the needs of agriculture, while the right hon. and gallant Member for North Newcastle (Sir C. Headlam) emphasised the exporters' needs, as did the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Baker White) and the hon. Member for the Hallam division of Sheffield (Mr. Jennings). They all stressed the need for coal. If there is to be a cut downwards, we should know now on whom that cut will fall. That point was mentioned by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pembroke.
If we compare inland consumption in 1939 with what it has been in the first half of 1946, we find that more coal has been consumed in the latter period. If we compare 1940 with 1946, the totals are practically the same, but public utility companies have taken considerably more. The domestic consumer has had to take considerably less. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to buy electric heaters and to put electric light in our houses, may be able to use a certain amount of electricity or gas, but the reduction has hit most hardly the poor people who rely, in their single rooms, upon the kitchen cooker and the coal fire. It is on the domestic consumer that the sacrifice has fallen most hardly, and particularly upon the poorer section of the community. The Parliamentary Secretary should tell us when he replies whether he can now give an undertaking that the domestic consumers of coal will not have their supply cut down this winter. On that basis we ought to be able to do some form of planning.
The Debate started with a mention of the Coal Board, and then there was a reference to the ominous future outlook for the 142 winter, but the main theme of the Debate has been, What is the Minister proposing to do? Practically all hon. Members have mentioned the labour situation as the crux of the problem. That was done by the Minister himself, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley, the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) and the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen), who said there was not enough in the shops. The point was taken up also by my hon. Friend the Member for Hallam, and the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams). I suggest that the criticism of the Minister is that he has treated this matter with far too much complacency. That is the main argument against his attitude, not only in the House but outside. He went down to Morpeth on 13th July, and said:Asa result of nationalisation we shall produce roal in sufficient quantities and of the right quality.One can almost hear the words rolling oft his tongue. In an interview with that great organ of impartiality the "Daily Herald" he said:I guarantee 30 years of work without unemployment in the mines.It is most dangerous for the Minister, with the position as it is, to go about the country suggesting that, as if by a miracle, nationalisation, in itself, will solve our coal production problem. It is almost as though the Minister were to stand in front of a throne, on the steps of which are the nine members of the Coal Board looking up at him. He looks out beyond them over a sea of officials. He waves a finger on the vesting date, over sunstrewn meadows, and colliers come wheeling coal out in barrows. That may be an exaggerated picture, but if it drives home my point that is all I want it to do.
The point is that it is complacency to say that nationalisation, by itself, is going to solve our coal problem this year, and it is most dangerous. The Minister of Health, who seems to be vying not only with the Minister of Fuel and Power but with the Attorney-General to see who can make the most dignified speech from their country platforms at the weekends, made a great attack on the coalowners. The Minister today could not help using the word "sordid." The hon. Member for South Midlothian and others have suggested that, on the vesting date, there will be some change of personnel which will 143 have an immediate effect. I most sincerely say that that is a very dangerous thing. We know perfectly well the people who have really been running the industry over a great number of years. They are the managing directors. The shareholders themselves have very little say at an annual meeting. The majority of those managing directors are going into the Coal Board as officials. They will be there after the vesting date just as they are now, and the miner will see exactly the same bosses, the same managers and the same managing directors. If hon. Members opposite say there will be some change of personnel, they will bring disillusionment in two or three months to the miners and will not help us get an increase in the amount of coal.
While the Minister is lulling certain sections of the industry into complacency, what about the managements? My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley stressed this point very well. At this stage if one goes into a colliery office one hears, "What are you doing about Stage 1? What are you doing about Stage 2? What expert witnesses have you got? What is the valuation? What is the arbitration doing?" The real executive heads of the industry are in secret conclave with the Minister in London at this moment instead of getting on with the job and producing coal. That is not all the story. The Minister has mentioned the question of the Polish miners. He only mentioned the question of Polish miners who were in the Polish Forces. He did not mention the question of Irish labour. In the present really serious position, the Minister should accept any form of assistance which he can get wherever it may come from. He should not talk about scraping the barrel, or whatever his words were. I say definitely that the miners of this country would not take up a "dog in the manger" attitude, and say that they would not have those people working with them, if they realised that to do so would mean unemployment for people in other industries. If it was put to them properly, and with proper safeguards, that difficulty would not arise. The alternative is that these people may go to France. They did so after the last war. There have been other examples of people coming into this country—the Huguenots, the Dutch—and we should not turn away this present help.
144 The story does not end there, on the question of the Minister's complacency. There is the question of the five-day week. That has been agreed in principle by the Minister and several hon. Members have mentioned it. My personal view—and I stress that it is my personal view—is that where it can be proved by a colliery that the five-day week will produce more coal, that is a method whereby we can help ourselves this winter. I will elaborate that. If we take the figures of 1938, which are those for before the war, and for 1945, which are those for after the war, the drop in output of coal is 24 per cent. of sales. How is that accounted for? Manpower, we know, has dropped 9 per cent. approximately between those times. The output per man shift at the coalface has also dropped by something over 3 per cent., but that does not allow for the whole 24 per cent. The answer is a rise of absenteeism at the coalface, in one of the largest areas of Yorkshire from 11 per cent. in 1938 to 24 per cent. in 1945, and over the whole country, as we learned today, of 18 per cent.
What is the cause of that? I know hon. Members opposite have mentioned it. It is a long slog six days a week for six years working underground. I myself have to go to the coalface. I know what it is like crawling on my stomach with my back scratching along the top of the roof, going down a 150 yard face and then getting into a small stint, working cut off by a moving belt for six or seven hours. To do that six days a week for six years is harder labour than working five days a week at the Ministry of Fuel and Power. It must be recognised that before the war we had a quota system where the pits had to pay one or two days a week. We also had slack times in the summer, especially house-coal pits. I am not arguing whether or not a five day week should have been introduced then, but they did not work six days a week, and it is a physical impossibility to do it for six days a week for six years. The answer is that they have not. The laws of nature work it out. We have absenteeism at the pits of anything between 18 per cent. and 24 per cent., and that means, in point of fact, that the miner is taking one day off a week. In other words we have a five-day week operating now. But what about the production side of it—the colliery manager who has to keep his pit open six days a week? These men do not take time off 145 evenly. They may come in one day and the next day some of the key men do not turn up. As hon. Members opposite know, mechanised mining now needs possibly on one face 90 men working over three shifts to produce coal on one shift. If key men do not turn up on one shift it means that the whole face does not get working at the next shift. How nice it would be if everybody agreed to be absent on Saturday but all turned up on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. You would not only have the same amount of coal, but more coal.
My criticism—and this is a most serious criticism—is that the Minister will not allow pits which could prove that they could get more coal to introduce a five day week straight away. I agree quite frankly that, from the miners' point of view, there must be an assurance that the men will be no worse off under the new scheme than they were under the old. I think they would agree that it would be a great advantage to have it agreed that a five-day week working underground is as good as a five and a half day week working in an office. That would be something. I do not want this to be tied up with an increase in wages, which is an entirely different matter from the five-day week. I know the Yorkshire miners fairly well. From their point of view, they would not object if it were introduced in one or two pits where it could be proved to be a success, so building up a great deal of experience for the other pits. I see no reason why we should have this Socialist levelling down, and all having to wait until the thing can go through at once. We want coal, and I assure the Minister he can get coal if he will allow these pits who can prove to his satisfaction that they can get more coal, to start the five day week straight away.
There is one idea, which possibly the Minister will not like, but I am bound to put it to him because there is no serious answer to the problem which I have already placed before him—that is, that there is an underlying motive why he will not accept a five-day week now where it can be proved that the pit will produce more coal. I suggest that he realises it perfectly well—the signs are there for all to see—and that he is holding it up until after the vesting date so that he can say to the Coal Board, "You can now go ahead with it and you will get all the 146 advantage." If that is so, I suggest that it is political dishonesty, and if he is going to deny it, let him do so, so that we can see where we are. I suggest that where we see crass stupidity we may find an underlying motive; if there is no underlying motive, then perhaps we can leave it as just crass stupidity.
The Parliamentary Secretary is, I understand, to reply. I wish to say quite sincerely that I think that, since he has been at the Ministry, he has 'been a good influence. We remember the old days when the Minister used to burst out sometimes, but since the Parliamentary Secretary has been by his side, he has been much more restrained. That fact is shown all the more clearly when the Minister goes away from the Parliamentary Secretary into the country. He rather reverts to his old standard then. I sincerely think the Parliamentary Secretary has the interests of the industry at heart, and I hope that his influence at the Ministry will grow. I wish to put to him the main criticisms of the Minister which have arisen cut of the Debate. Unless we can get more information—and my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley put a lot of pertinent questions which were not answered—until we get those answers there is no sufficient or proper evidence to show whether we are going to have suitable and proper supplies of coal during the winter. This is imperilling the very foundations, not only of the coal industry, but of the industries dependent upon it. The Minister is creating a cloud of complacency in the industry. I meet it when I go about in the coalfields. It is the attitude of, "Do not let us bother, nationalisation is all we want. Let us wait until the vesting date, and everything will be all right." That is a most dangerous attitude to take up. Unfortunately, the Minister rings the changes, as my right hon. Friend pointed out. Sometimes he is quite reasonable, but then back he goes, and we have this complacency. We have to see that the miners do not get the idea that a miracle is going to take place on the vesting date.
The Minister is forcing the executives of the coal industry to go into the questions of arbitration and regulations, when they should be left unfettered to get on with the reconstruction of the industry. The Minister has not accepted with the alacrity with which he should the help of all people who could come into the mines. I thought 147 it extraordinary when he said that management and men did not want to be graded up. I can assure him that we are grading people up every day and we are glad to do it. Yorkshiremen are glad to be graded up, and they want to get to the coal face. They do not like messing about in the haulage.. The Minister is doing the greatest injustice to the industry of which he is to take control when he says that the men do not want to be graded up. We have men in the haulages who can go to the coal face if they are released by Irish or Polish labour.
Lastly, I seriously condemn his procrastination over the five-day week where it could be proved to increase coal output. On him through his restrictive administration and lack of sense of the dignity of his office, will be the responsibility, if this winter we do not get sufficient coal. He will not put first things first, and listen to the reasonable and practical views of people on his own side as well as outside the House. He looks over his shoulder to theories and procrastinations instead of to the first job of getting coal. Therefore, I sincerely hope that my right hon. Friend will see his way to move for a reduction in the Minister's salary.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power (Mr. Gaitskell)
The hon. and gallant Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield (Major Roberts) has let his imagination run riot this evening. In fact, I would never previously have credited him with such imagination. I must dispose straight away of the flattering, almost embarrassing, remarks he made about myself, and the apparent influence which I have on my right hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend has many qualities, and those who know him will agree that one of them is that he is essentially a man who knows his own mind. In my time I have tried to influence a number of people, and I find him rather a hard nut to crack. One, other thing I would say—I will deal with the other criticisms later—is that the last word that could be applied to him is complacency. He is the least complacent man I have ever met. It is ridiculous to describe his attitude to the grave problems which face us as a result of the coal situation, which he described in his statesman- 148 like and massive speech this afternoon, as complacent.
Later, in the fairly limited time available, I shall respond to the rather provocative remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Ecclesall, and deal with the major questions which he has raised. But before I do that I hope that the Committee will agree that some more attention should be paid to other important aspects of this problem, particularly the subject of the health and welfare of the miners. Many speeches have been made this evening, but relatively few, in fact rather surprisingly few, on this subject.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
The Minister deliberately left this subject to me. He spoke for a long time, and it is only reasonable to leave the Parliamentary Secretary something to say. It is a most important matter, and as has been said, we on this side of the Committee are delighted to hear the right hon. Gentleman putting it forward first, for a change. However, I do not wish for the moment to have a violent debating exchange with the right hon. Gentleman.
I want to deal with the facts of the situation. This is important, not only for its own sake, not only because of the direct losses of output we suffer in this industry as a result of accidents and ill health, but also because of the serious consequences they have on recruitment, and also because of the effects they have in wastage—the number of persons leaving the industry. May I remind the Committee that in 1942 the net wastage from sickness and disablement was 20,000 men? In 1945, the figure had risen to 40,000. It reached its peak in the second half of 1945, with a figure of 23,000. I am glad to say that in the first six months of this year the figure has fallen in a satisfactory manner, and the total net wastage from these causes was only some 11,000 to 12,000 in that period.
Let me turn first to safety. The right hon. Gentleman asked for some information on that, and my right hon. Friend told him what is indeed the case, that the fatal accident rate per thousand in 1945 was the lowest ever. The actual figure was .8 per thousand in that year. If we look back over the preceding years it was 149 .9 per thousand in 1944, I per thousand in 1943, 1.2 per thousand in 1942 and 1.3 per thousand in 1941. That is a substantial reduction, on which, I think, all those concerned should be congratulated. It is not a matter for complacency, certainly not, but it is a matter for quiet satisfaction at what has been achieved. I would mention, in this connection, the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith), who had a great deal to do with this work when he was at the Ministry. I am sure that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) will agree with me that my hon. Friend did splendid work in getting these figures down. The right hon. Gentleman asked me the figures for minor injuries. I am afraid that they are not yet available. I can give him the figures for the serious injuries. I am glad to say they also show a reduction from about 2,500, in 1944, to 2,300, in 1945.
§ Mr. H. Macmillan
Can the hon. Gentleman give us the figures comparable with those shown in Table 30?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
We think the trend is satisfactory because of the figures I have just given concerning the more serious accidents. Analysis of the causes of fatal accidents shows that over half of them are due to falls of ground and something like a quarter to haulage and transport accidents. That analysis suggests where the path for further advance lies. We are not nowadays suffering the same risks from explosions as I think we once did; we are suffering primarily from these two factors. Clearly, any reform in this field starts from the great Royal Commission Report with which my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) was associated and of which Commission he was a very prominent member. The Royal Commission recommended legislation. We know that must come, but I should be out of Order if I discussed it today.
I want to tell the Committee of the progress we have been trying to make recently by administrative Orders under the 1911 Act, and to show where we are 150 going. Of course, these Orders are made in the closest consultation with both sides of the industry and we have just published three general regulations in draft. The first deals with lighting, and introduces a most important change. It is a change of consequence which I know my hon. Friends who have had much more experience than I have will appreciate. The regulation introduces compulsory mains lighting on roadways. There is behind this a long history of controversy but it suggests to my mind that here is an important step forward towards diminishing the number of haulage accidents, because clearly the lighter the roadway, the less the danger. The second deals with ventilation and provides for the systematic sampling of air so as not to exceed one per cent. of gas which is the maximum figure where electricity or shot firing are concerned. The third deals with the very important matter of ground for the support of workings and lays down certain general rules to be applied which hitherto have been specific and not general.
On the subject of safety I wish to say two other things. First, while some technical changes may intensify the danger of accidents, I feel that the changes which are to be carried out, which were recommended in the Reid Report, in the direction of bigger and better roadways, should make a very substantial improvement in the rate of haulage accidents. If we can get better lighting, firmer surfaces and above all altogether more space; then I think we shall have made a great advance. The second point is that I believe that the National Coal Board has certain other advantages in addition to those so ably presented by the hon. and gallant Member for Ecclesall. The Coal Board can take a long view. Instead of the management bothering all the time to try to keep down costs, to save here and to pinch there, it is in a position of looking at the whole picture broadly and saying, "Is not it worth while from the point of view of goodwill and in order to keep the accident rate down, to take more trouble to see the whole situation is more secure and safe than it has been?" What we can be certain of is that the National Coal Board will introduce the practices of the best employers in the industry today. To do that will mark a very great advance in this sphere.
§ Mr. H. Macmillan
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the question of accidents, I would like to say I am very grateful for the information he has given on the topic which I ventured to raise. It is now six months since the end of the last year. Could he tell me when it is likely that he will be able to publish the relevant figure to which I have referred? Will it be before the House goes into recess? Can he give any estimate? It is six months after the end of the year, and, surely, the statistics ought to be available?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
They are not available 'in the sense that I was not able to get them from the Department. Whether they are available if the right hon. Gentleman puts down a Question I do not know.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I raised the question because I know how good the Departments are, and I am sure that the figures could have been made available in time. If I raised the question at half-past three, they could have had them here by half-past nine. It does seem to me, that six months is a very long time to wait for statistics of this kind.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
If the right hon. Gentleman will put down a Question, we shall see what can be done. May I now turn to the question of health, which is no less important than that of safety. The hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams), in a very eloquent speech, referred to the appalling diseases of pneumoconiosis and silicosis, and I am well aware of the great concern which exists in particular among hon. Members on this side of the Committee—though, no doubt, there are some others as well—from the South Wales area about the situation there. It is grave; I make no bones about that. The figures show an increase in the number of certified cases—the hon. Member for Neath quoted some of them—from 1,126, in 1943 to 5,139 in 1945, for South Wales only. The figure for 1946 will probably not be very much lower. Of course, South Wales provides 87 per cent. of the cases in the country as a whole, and it is primarily there that the problem arises. What is the Ministry doing about it? First, we are doing what we can in the direction of research, and we have set up a clinic, where Dr. Fletcher; one of the most brilliant young medical scientists is experi- 152 menting and treating cases sent to him by the local doctors, with whom he is working in the closest contact. Part of his job is not merely to cure, so far as that is possible, and I agree that there are difficulties about this, but also to prevent, and, particularly, to try to find means of detecting the disease at the right point before it gets too bad.
That brings me to the sphere of prevention, and here, certainly, we have quite a favourable account to give, In South Wales, in 99 per cent. of the pits, dust prevention measures of some kind or other are in operation, and 800 miles of steel pipes, for the sole purpose of providing water to deal with dust, have been laid down. I need not trouble the Committee with the various ways by which we are trying to deal with this matter. I agree that the position is not entirely satisfactory. These measures are not ideal, but they are an enormous improvement, and we have a number of witnesses, some of them leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers, who have testified to the satisfactory work done. Professor Jones, of Cardiff, has stated in public that no boy entering the industry with a clean bill of health need fear contracting pneumoconiosis or silicosis. That is an important step forward, and it should be emphasised, because we do not want people to be put off entering the industry by fear of these diseases. I warn the Committee that cases certified for compensation will not diminish for some years, because it takes some years before the disease comes to the light. Even when we do get further heavy figures, as we shall do this year, we must not suppose that nothing has been done. On the contrary, we have, in this sphere of prevention, taken very active steps.
Lastly, on the question of the rehabilitation of those suffering from this disease, the Minister is very much aware of the concern which is felt in all quarters of the Committee about this situation. As the Committee probably knows, the responsibility for dealing with this is primarily that of the President of the Board of Trade. He has agreed to implement the recommendations of the report prepared by the hon. Member for Gower and his working party, and plans to build factories, specifically for the purpose of employing persons disabled in this way, are now in hand. Work has started on some of them, sites have been approved for all of them, and I am sure he will be 153 pushing on with that work as fast as possible.
Lastly, may I say a word about welfare before we come to the rather more controversial issues? I wish, particularly, to single out one feature of it because I think it is of particular importance today, and that is the canteen situation. Up to the war, canteens, in the proper sense of the word, were virtually unknown at collieries. All that existed were snack bars in connection with pithead baths. But, in 1941, as part of the policy carried out by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary when he was Minister of Labour, canteens were introduced into the industry by the Miners' Welfare Commission. So successful was this policy —and full credit is due to my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, who was very much concerned with it—that in—
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. If the right hon. Gentleman is so petulant about it, I am prepared to include the right hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke. He certainly deserves credit for this. At the moment there are only 17,000 colliery workers without canteens of any kind. That is a considerable achievement. When my right hon. Friend took office, he was not entirely satisfied with the position, and he adopted two measures. First, he appointed some canteen officers to find out why canteens were not more popular in the industry and collected suggestions for improving them. Secondly, he secured authority from the Treasury to carry out the necessary improvements. Since then, one other thing has happened about which I want to tell the Committee. We have called in some of the expert advisers from the Ministry of Food, who have had a great deal to do with the British Restaurants, and we have had a survey made. This survey, which I have just seen myself, shows that there is need for very considerable improvement, that in over 500 canteens the buildings are unsatisfactory, that equipment is unsatisfactory, that there is a great shortage of storage equipment and cloakroom accommodation for staffs, and so on. We are now going to carry out a programme of improving the canteens 154 as far as we can. We shall begin with the black spots in every region and carry out the programme systematically as materials and labour become available.
Having told the Committee a little of what I believe is a very important part of the Ministry's work, I now come back to what are, perhaps, the major issues which have been raised in the Debate. My right hon. Friend disclosed to the Committee, with complete frankness, exactly what the position was. Complaint has been made by several hon. Members that they did not hear of it sooner. The Opposition could have chosen a Supply Day earlier had they wanted to and the speech could have been made earlier, but it is usual for statements of this kind to be made to the House of Commons, and rightly so. There are a number of points in connection with the figures given by my right hon. Friend which I must try and clear up because, seriously, I could not follow what the hon. and gallant Member for Eccleshall was getting at, and I am afraid there must have been some confusion. Therefore, may I once more try and make the position completely clear? First, the actual figures for the coal year beginning 1st May, 1945, were.: deep mined coal, 173,000,000; opencast, 8 million; resulting in a total of 181 million. Inland consumption was 178 million, and exports, including foreign bunkers, was 8.8 million. The total, therefore, was 186.8 million. It is, therefore, clear that there was during that year an excess of consumption over production to the extent of 5 million. Part of that 5 million was due to a reduction in the stocks at pit banks and opencast dumps, which, perhaps, is not so important. It was said that we should not have brought it in. I do not mind, but it happens to be in the Statistical Digest, and, therefore, I think it was right to include it; part of it was due to a reduction of about 3½ million in distributed stocks. That is the position for last year.
What is the position for this year? It is an estimate of what we think the future will yield. We estimate deep mine production for the current coal year, 1946– 47, at 177 million. We estimate opencast production at 8.5 million, and we also estimate a slight increase in briquettes of .4 million, so that with opencast production we can say 9 million, totalling 186 million. This is a point that I want again to make very clear. We have 155 to estimate inland consumption at 188 million, which is 10 million more than last year. For export we estimate 8.2 million —very much the same as last year— making in all 196 million and showing, therefore, to start with, a deficit of 10 million. Following the normal procedure in a budget statement, my right hon. Friend then proceeded to consider how the deficit could be closed, and he made the following proposals which will be operated. First, there is the proposal to save coal by conversion to fuel oil—a saving which he estimates at 3 million tons of coal. I think it was the hon. Member for Bucklow (Mr. W. Shepherd) who asked how far we were going in that direction. Here is the answer; it was given by my right hon. Friend. Further, by going deeper in opencast mining and by getting additional machinery, which we certainly need badly for the purpose, we think that within this year we can get another 1½ million. Finally, we think that we can get some further economies in the use of coal for gas purposes amounting in all to something like another 1 million. That still leaves us with a deficit of 5 million tons; that is what my right hon. Friend said, and that is the position today.
But I must remind the Committee that this is on the assumption that there will be a continuous fall in manpower in the industry. We have taken a reasonably gloomy view of that, as I think we were right to do. I hope that we can get additional labour in the industry and, although I do not think we can ask domestic consumers to make any further economies, I think we can and should ask industrial consumers to make further economies in their own interest. They have made very substantial economies in the past—my right hon. Friend referred to them—but our experts tell us that there is still room for a great deal of improvement in this way. I would like to ask all firms who use coal for industrial purposes to make quite certain, in their own interest, that they cannot effect any further economies. It reduces their costs and it helps the country. I hope that I have made sufficiently clear precisely what the figures are.
§ Major Roberts
As I see it, therefore, the assumption is we will get 5 million tons more from the deep mines during the next year. All I was saying was, assuming that does not happen, we shall be down a 156 further 5 million, which will bring the stocks down to the 4 million about which I was talking in the first place, giving a danger signal in March.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Nobody denies that the position is serious and grave. The Minister made that perfectly clear. We have not heard any very constructive suggestions from the Opposition on this matter. They have asked, as they are entitled to, a lot of questions, but no serious constructive ideas have come forward. I presume they have not got any. Nobody doubts that there is a perfectly satisfactory longterm solution to this problem. We, on this side of the Committee at any rate, know that nationalisation will achieve the results we want; it will achieve them quicker and more certainly than any conceivable scheme which may have been put forward from the other side of the Committee. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pembroke said —and I was astonished to hear him say it—that the Minister should not have bothered with nationalisation, but should have hurried on with the Reid Report. What did the Reid Report state? It said that these reforms cannot be carried out with the present organisation of the industry. If the present organisation of the industry has to be changed an Act of Parliament is necessary. We would never have got compulsory amalgamation without an Act of Parliament, and that Act of Parliament would have raised precisely the same valuation problems, which would have had to be settled before amalgamation could be carried through; whereas, in the case of nationalisation, compensation can go on, but the Coal Board will take over, That is the essential difference. Do hon. Members opposite really suppose that if they had been in office, and if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pembroke had been in charge—or perhaps he would have been promoted to another place—or somebody else, maybe the right hon, and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crooksbank)—
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Everybody knows the staying capacity of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. Do hon. Members opposite really suppose that if they had 157 been in office, and had decided on some curious half-way-house scheme, of dual control plus compulsory amalgamation in the sky, the miners of this country would have produced more coal for them? When hon. Members opposite stand up and say that we have wasted time with nationalisation they seem to forget that if nationalisation were not now on the Statute Book we would have far more trouble in the coalfields. The short-run difficulties are great. However, it has been said before from this side of the Committee, and it must be said again: they are legacies from the past. There can be no question of that. Why is it that people will not go into this industry? What did the Forster Committee say on this? I am not inventing this out of my own mind. The first thing the Forster Committee, an impartial body, mentioned was, that the black record of the industry—black not merely for industrial distress, but for insecurity and low wages; a story that is so sickeningly familiar in its history between the two wars—tended to keep back recruitment. If the changes we are now making had been made in 1926, when the Samuel Commission was appointed, or earlier when the Sankey Commission reported in favour of them, we would have a very different story to tell today. There it is. Unfortunately we were not in power in those days, and hon. Members did not then think in the same way as some of them do now.
Let us look for a moment at the question of production.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
Would the hon. Gentleman be good enough to answer the question which I put earlier, namely, what is really the structure of the different committees and advisory bodies on the final distribution of fuel, because there is the problem of fixing the priorities?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I cannot do that in the short time available. I know the answer, and I will tell the hon. Member himself. There is nothing very peculiar about it; there are these area committees, as he suggested.
In the few minutes that remain I want to refer to various suggestions which have been made as to how we could reduce absenteeism. Of one thing I am quite 158 certain, and that is that we shall not reduce absenteeism by treating the miners like delinquent children, that is far too common even now—and making a moral issue of it. Somebody said that they were buying leisure. Why should they not buy leisure? Does anybody think the worse of a journalist who, because he happens to be rather well paid for his articles, writes fewer articles? Does anybody think the worse of a barrister who takes fewer cases because he happens to be getting more pay for each? Of course not. There is nothing immoral about it. It is a preference, and they are perfectly entitled to make their choice. The hon. Member for Ecclesall spoke admirably in favour of the five-day week, in principle, but we cannot bring that into operation in one pit or colliery without raising the whole of the wages issue, unless he proposes that their earnings shall be reduced. As soon as it is agreed that earnings must be maintained, the whole of the wages question is raised. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pembroke implied that, and he is perfectly right. There is no getting away from that difficulty.
We have had a Debate sometimes highly coloured, sometimes calm, sometimes very sober and sometimes more excited. I do not want to end on a particularly controversial note, because the situation is grave and I prefer to follow the line adopted by a number of hon. Members in the earlier stages of the Debate. We need now, from all in the industry, a particular effort. We need from managements a drive to increase output; we ask them to spend a little time, at least, away from those considerations of valuation that we have heard about and pay a little attention to their pits until they are handed over to the National Coal Board. We ask them to be prepared to accept untrained labour and train it. There are no more trained miners available, and we must use untrained labour. There must be better training facilities. We ask them to take every possible step to have good relations in the pits. Finally, we ask the men, faced with an infinitely brighter future than that to which they have previously been able to look forward, to attend regularly at their work, to put their backs into it, and to give us. the coal we need this winter.
§ Mr. H. Macmillan
I beg to move, "That Item Class VI, Vote 6, be reduced by £5 in respect of the salary of the Minister of Fuel and Power."
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 122; Noes, 292.161
|Division No. 270.||AYES.||10.0 p.m.|
|Agnew Cmdr. P. G.||Harmon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Nicholson, G.|
|Aitken, Hon. Max||Hare, Hn. J. H. (Woodb'ge)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Harris, H. Wilson||Osborne, C.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V.||Peake, Rt. Hon. 0.|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Headlam, Lieul.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Pickthorn, K.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Beechman. N. A.||Hope, Lord J.||Ponsonby, Col C. E.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Howard, Hon. A.||Prescott, Stanley|
|Birch, Nigel||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Boles' Lt -Col D. C. (Wells)||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.||Read, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Bessom A. C.||Hurd, A.||Reid, Rt. Hon. j. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'brgh W.)||Roberts, H. (Handsworth)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow. C.)||Roberts, Mai. P. G (Ecclesall)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Jarvis, Sir J.||Scott, Lord W.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Jennings, R.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n Wtd'n)||Joynson-Hicks, Lt-odr. Hon. L. W.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Carson, E.||Keeling, E. H.||Snadden, W. M.|
|Challen, C.||Kerr, Sir J. Graham||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Channon, H.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Cot. G.||Low, Brig. A. R. W.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Lucas, Major Sir J.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P dd'fn, S.)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Teeling, William|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. 0. E.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. 0.||Thomson, Sir D. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Crowder, Capt. John E.||Macdonald, Capt. Sir P. (I. of Wight)||Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Turton, R. H.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||MacKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Dodds-Parker, A D.||Maclay, Hon. J. S.||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G. (Penrlth)||MacLeod, Oapt. J.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Drayson, Capt. G. B.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. H. (Bromley)||Watt, Sir G. S- Harvie|
|Eccles, D. M.||Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)||Whetley, Colonel M. J.|
|Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.||Maitland, Comdr J. W.||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Fletcher W. (Bury)||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Marples, A. E.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Fox, Sqn.-Ldr. Sir G.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Fraser, Maj H. C. P. (Stone)||Medlicott, F.||York, C.|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.||Mellor, Sir J.||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Patrick)|
|Gammans, L. D.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.|
|George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke)||Morrison, Rt Hn. w. S (Cirencoster)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.||Mr. Studholme and|
|Grimston, R. V.||Neven-Spsnce, Sir B.||Major Conant|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Brown, George (Belper)||Davies, Harold (Leek)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Buchanan, G.||Davies, S 0 (Merthyr)|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Burden, T. W.||Deer, G.|
|Anderson, F. (Whilehaven)||Burke, W. A.||de Freitas, Geoffrey|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Delargy, Captain H J|
|Austin, H. L.||Callaghan, James||Diamond, J.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Chamberlain, R. A||Dobbie, W|
|Ayles, W. H.||Champion. A. J.||Dodds, N. N.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs B.||Chater, D.||Donovan, T.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Chetwynd, Capt. G. R.||Driberg, T. E. N.|
|Balfour, A.||Clitherow, Dr. R.||Dugdale, J (W Bromwich)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J||Cluse, W. S.||Dumpleton, C W|
|Barstow, P. G.||Cobb, F. A.||Durbin, E. F. M|
|Barton, C.||Cooks, F. S.||Dye, S.|
|Battley, J. R.||Coilick, P.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Collindridge, F.||Edelman, M.|
|Belcher, J. W.||Collins, V. J.||Edwards, John (Blackburn)|
|Berry, H.||Colman, Miss G M.||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A (Ebbw Vale)||Cook, T. F.||Evans, John (Ogmore)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'wall, N W.)||Evans. S. N. (Wednesbury)|
|Binns, J.||Corlett, Dr. J.||Fairhurst, F.|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Corvedale, Viscount||Farthing, W. J.|
|Blylon, W. R.||Cove, W. G.||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)|
|Botlomley, A, G.||Crawley, A.||Follick, M.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Crossman, R. H. S.||Foot, M. M.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge)||Daggar, G.||Foster, W. (Wigan)|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Daines, P.||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)|
|Brook D. (Halifax)||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)|
|Brooks, T J. (Rothwell)||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Freeman, Peter (Newport)|
|Gaitskell, H. T. N.||McAllister, G.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||McEntee, V. La T.||Rogers, G. H. R.|
|Gibbins, J.||McGhee, H. G.||Scott-Elliot, W.|
|Gibson, C. W.||McGovern, J.||Shaekleton, Wing-Cdr. E. A. A.|
|Gilzean, A.||Mack, J. D.||Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M.|
|Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)|
|Gooch, E. G.||Maclean, N. (Govan)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Goodrich, H. E.||McLeavy, F.||Shurmer, P.|
|Gordon-Walker, P. C.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)|
|Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Macpherson T. (Romford)||Simmons, C. J.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Skinnard, F. W.|
|Grey, C F.||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Smith, C. (Colchester)|
|Grierson, E.||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)|
|Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Marquand, H. A.||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Marshall F. (Brightside)||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)||Mathers, G.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Medland, H. M.||Snow, Capt. J. W.|
|Gunter, Capt. R, J.||Middleton, Mrs. L.||Sore risen, R. W.|
|Guy, W. H.||Mitchison, Maj. G. R.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.|
|Haire, Flt.-Lieut. J. (Wycombe)||Monslow, W.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Stamford, W.|
|Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Morley, R.||Steele, T.|
|Hardy, E. A.||Morriss P. (Swansea, W.)||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Harrison, J.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Mort, D. L.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Haworth, J.||Moyle A.||Swingler, S.|
|Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Murray, J. D.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Nally, W.||Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Naylo'r, T. E.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Neal, H. (Claycross)||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Hobson, C. R.||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Thorneycrolt, Harry (Clayton)|
|Holman, p.||Nicholls H. R. (Stratford)||Thurtle, E.|
|Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)||Titterington, M. F.|
|Horabin, T. L.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)||Tolley, L.|
|Hubbard, T.||Noel-Buxton, Lady||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||O'Brien, T.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Oldfield, W. H.||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Oliver, G. H.||Usborne, Henry|
|Hughes, H. D. (W'lverhpton, W.)||Orbach, M.||Viant, S. P.|
|Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)||Paget, R. T.||Wadsworth, G.|
|Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Walker, G. H.|
|Irving, W. J.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Palmers, A. M. F.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Janner, B.||Pargiter, G. A.||Wamey, W. N.|
|Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Parker, J.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)||Parkin, B. T.||Watson, W. M.|
|John, W.||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Jones, J. H. (Bolton)||Pearson, A.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Peart, Capt. T. F.||Wigg, Colonel G. E.|
|Keenan, W.||Perrins, W.||Wilkes, L.|
|Kenyon, C.||Platts-Mills, J. F. F.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Kinshorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.||Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield)||Willey, F. T, (Sunderland)|
|Kinley, J.||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Kirby, B. V.||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Kirkwood, D.||Prill, D. N.||Willis, E.|
|Lang, G.||Proctor, W. T.||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Lavers, S.||Pryde, D. J.||Wilson, J. H.|
|Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Lee, F. (Hulme)||Randall, H. E.||Woodburn, A.|
|Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Ranger, J.||Woods, G. S.|
|Leslie, J. R.||Rees-Williams, D. R.||Wyatt, Maj. W.|
|Levy, B. W.||Reeves, J.||Young, Sir R (Newton)|
|Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Zilliaous, K.|
|Lewis, J. (Bolton)||Rhodes, H.|
|Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Richards, R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Captain Michael Stewart and|
|Lagan, D. G.||Rabens, A.||Mr. Popplewell.|
|McAdam, W.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ It being after Ten o'Clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.