§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power (Mr. Gaitskell)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
On r3th October, 1943, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) made a statement regarding the policy of the Government of the day towards the coal industry. He said that wartime was not the occasion to introduce far reaching social or political changes and, while expressing his personal prejudice against nationalisation, he gave the following assurance:That the present system of control, plus any improvements that may be made to it, will be continued after the war until Parliament shall decide upon the future structure of the industry. That means either that there will be settlement by agreement between the great parties or that there will be a General Election at which the people will be free to choose between political doctrines and political leaders."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 13th October, 1943; Vol. 392. c. 932.]There has been no settlement by agreement between the great parties on this matter, but there has been a General Election, and in that Election the people of this country chose, and chose emphatically, in favour of the nationalisation of the coal industry. Whatever issues may have been cloudy and obscure in the Election, certainly the nationalisation of the coal industry was not one of them; it was, as it has been before, in the forefront of the Labour Party programme. I am not quite sure what the Conservative Party's attitude was to the coal industry, I never really understood, but it made no difference—the people knew perfectly well when they voted the Labour Party into power, that they were voting for the nationalisation of the coal industry. In those circumstances I think it would be inappropriate if I were to move the Third reading of the Bill in a few perfunctory sentences only. That of course is frequently done on the Third reading of a Bill, but this, after all, is an important occasion, and therefore I hope the House will forgive me if I go on rather longer 45 than is usually done at this stage. But let me hasten to add that I have been so recently on the benches behind that I am acutely aware of the impatience which those who sit there frequently feel about the length of Front Bench speeches, and I shall do my best therefore to keep my remarks as short as the importance of the Measure allows.
We have spent a lot of time on this Bill; we had two days on the Second Reading, 18 days in Standing Committee, during which no less than 250 Amendments were discussed, and three days on the recommittal and Report stages, during which no fewer than 143 Amendments and new Clauses were discussed. I do not think that the Opposition can now claim that they have not had enough time to discuss this Bill. I am not saying that the time was not well spent; it is most desirable that the House should investigate with the greatest care a Bill of such importance, but I think we have done that job. We have, in the course of these discussions, made a number of important changes in the Bill. For example, as a result, I freely admit, of representations made from the other side of the House, the Minister now has specific powers to give directions to the National Coal Board it either of the Consumers' Councils should disclose a situation which merits a direction on his part to the Board. We have, again, the new Clause on patents—not a controversial matter but certainly a change of substance. We have, if not a completely new Clause, a substantially amended Clause, dealing with interim income, and we have a completely new Clause explaining the restrictions on the transfer of compensation stock. We have a new Clause—an important one this—imposing upon the Minister the obligation to make regulations regarding pensions and gratuities, and finally we have the new Clause imposing upon the Board the Obligation to enter into consultation with various appropriate organisations, so as to set up effective machinery for the settlement of disputes in the industry.
We have been accused, from time to time throughout these discussions, of bringing in the Bill too quickly, or of having drafted it too speedily. There may be something in that; it may be, indeed, that had more time been available originally, a better drafted Bill could have 46 been prepared in the first instance. But I make no apology to the House for the time that we took. Our view is that speed is necessary, and we shall not continue to adopt the leisurely, indifferent habits of prewar Conservative Governments in this matter. But we readily accept the help of the Opposition, if they wish to help us, in improving important pieces of Socialist legislation. Perhaps it may be useful training for them—who knows? One day, perhaps 15, 20, or 25 years hence, they may somehow or another scrape back into power again, and find themselves under the necessity of socialising another major industry and a few of them, the younger ones at any rate, will no doubt benefit by the training they have had on this Bill. But we must be pardoned if at times we are a trifle suspicious of their efforts to assist us. My right hon. Friend of course is not a suspicious man—he is a very open-hearted man—but he does like to make sure that the Amendments put forward are really intended to serve the purpose of improving the Bill as a social measure and not of undermining it, as we rather fancy they have sometimes been. Finally, on this point, with all the changes that have been made, I must say I do not think that many of them really mean any substantial difference to anything that may happen. What they have done has been to put into the Bill what was, in any case, in the mind of my right hon. Friend. We do not object to that at all; but, substantially, the Bill is the same as it was when first introduced.
I do not propose to go through the Bill in detail, but I should like to say a few words about some of the more essential and controversial parts of it. First, may I refer to the important question of the relationship of the National Coal Board to the Minister and, through the Minister, to Parliament? As soon as it is decided to set up a great public corporation of this kind one is faced, of course, with a number of alternatives. This is not the first corporation of the kind in existence in our country. We have, for example, the Post Office. There we have a trading organisation; but it is entirely financed by the State, and is completely controlled by a Minister of the Crown responsible to Parliament for all its details, and its employees are civil servants. That is one extreme At the other extreme we have an organisation such as the London 47 Passenger Transport Board, where the finance is not State finance. The Board has finance of its own, not backed by State credit. The Minister has not even the power of appointment to the Board, and Parliamentary control is remote in the extreme, and scarcely arises at all, except when the Board happens to have to come to Parliament for fresh powers. There are, of course, other examples between those two. The Central Electricity Board is not so far from Ministerial control as the London Passenger Transport Board; the British Overseas Airways Corporation is still nearer to what I may call the Post Office alternative.
There is one thing, however, which I think we should notice about these different methods of establishing public corporations, and it is this: the closer the Parliamentary control the less the restrictions imposed in the original Statute. In the case of the Post Office, for example, there is no question of putting anything into legislation to protect private stockholders, because there are no private stockholders, nor is there any mention of specific statutory protection for consumers. Indeed, I think the only council —if one may call it a consumers' council —is a non-statutory body set up by the Postmaster-General in 1922, an advisory council; it certainly is not endowed with anything like the functions of the Consumers' Councils under this Bill. At the opposite extreme, on the other hand, in the case of the London Passenger Transport Board, there are statutory provisions protecting the rights of stockholders, in the first place; also that Board is subject to the Railway Rates Tribunals, the Traffic Commissioners, and so on. I think that if hon. Members follow me they will see that as we tend towards greater Parliamentary control, so we dispense with the extent of statutory control.
In this matter, we follow the middle way, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. Macmillan) will think no worse of us for that. We do not go to the extreme of the Post Office. We do not think there should be a Minister in charge of the day to day business of this great organisation. On the other hand, we do not think that the National Coal Board can or should be independent, entirely remote from control. We say that the Minister must have powers of general direction.
48 Indeed, we go rather farther than that, because we specify in the Bill a number of particular points on which his authority is to be exercised; for example, expenditure on capital account. He may also give directions regarding the use of reserves—within the scope of the Bill, we have made that clear—directions regarding the use of this type of expenditure.
The reason why in this Bill the Minister is to have power over these important types of expenditure is this. It is an essential part of the employment policy of His Majesty's Government that we should exercise as much control over capital expenditure as possible. We could discuss, though not today, how that might be done in regard to private' industry; but here is a public undertaking, and it is essential, therefore, that, at any rate, in this case its capital expenditure programme should be brought into line with the Government's general policy on full employment. In addition to that, of course, the Minister has a special position in relation to training, education, safety, health and research. I need not, I think, expand that; it is generally accepted on all sides of the House. I have already mentioned the special directions which the Minister can give the Board under Clause 4, as a result of intervention by the Consumers' Councils. He has, of course, control over their borrowing, and he may direct their forms of accounts.
I do not believe, frankly, there is any real disagreement on all this. No one really wants the Minister to interfere in the day to day affairs of the National Coal Board. A possible exception was the argument of the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles). I never knew whether he was serious or not, from my reading of the reports of the Standing Committee Debates. At one time he seemed to suggest that he would like the Minister to be in the same position as the Postmaster-General, but I think he was alone in that. The hon. Member for the Hallam Division of Sheffield (Mr. Jennings), at any rate, took rather the opposite view and went farther than I should go. He wanted the Board to have the sole and absolute authority over prices. I do not think we can go as far as that. But the vast majority of us certainly say "Let the Board get on with the job, do not interfere too much." Here I can call the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough 49 (Captain Crookshank) as witness. The Minister must have powers to give general directions on policy. As I have said, there is really no disagreement on that.
May I turn, however, to one aspect of a more controversial character? The Opposition have pressed at both the Committee stage and the Report stage that the accounts of the National Coal Board should be submitted to the Comptroller and Auditor-General—not merely submitted in the sense that they will be submitted to the House and then referred to the Public Accounts Committee, where they will examine the bit of paper that is before them—but that the accounts should be examined in the way that the Comptroller and Auditor-General examines the accounts of Government Departments, the expenditure voted by Parliament. I think that is a very natural suggestion to make. Let me say that al: once I think it is really a border line case. I should like to say to the House, ex en at this late stage, one other word on why we think that on balance, it is not desirable. Reference was made during the Debate—a good deal of play was made with this —to the State Management District Accounts being examined by the Comptroller and Auditor-General. I do not think anybody would say that that was a vitally important undertaking, except to those living in the neighbourhood, who get the benefits of this State enterprise. But I should have thought a very much Letter example was the British Overseas Airways Corporation. The accounts of the B.O.A.C. are not subject to examination by the Comptroller and Auditor-General. They are just over the line.
My second argument is this. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Fylde (Colonel Lancaster) referred in an interesting Second Reading speech to the Coal Commission. He told the House that he put certain proposals to the Coal Commission concerning boring and exploratory work for a new coalfield. He, complained that the Coal Commission had refused to take part in these operations, and had told him that although they thought it a good idea, it was not the sort of thing which they could go into, because it was too risky. If that is a fact —and I am sure the hon. and gallant Member is correct in his facts—then I suggest that it is largely due to the fact 50 that the Coal Commission accounts have to be submitted to the Comptroller and Auditor-General. That is just the kind of thing which frightens civil servants off a too risky enterprise. Sometimes we think it is a good thing that civil servants should be frightened off, and that they should have in the back of their minds the fear that they have to account to the Comptroller and Auditor-General for everything they do, but in this case we think that that would be undesirable, because we do not want the National Coal Board to be unenterprising, and to have the feeling all the time, on every detail of their work, that around the corner is this representative of Parliament, who is likely to pull them up on the slightest thing and worry and restrict them. That, I suggest, is a very good reason why we should stick to what is in the Bill, namely, that the accounts should merely be presented to the House, and, presumably, go to the Public Accounts Committee for any comment they wish to make. We should not have the same situation as we have in the case of ordinary Government Departments.
The Opposition have made great play from time to time about the position of shareholders. They have said, "We are going to be shareholders of this great public undertaking. Let us go at least as far as shareholders go, and insist upon appointing an auditor."I must say I was a little amused about all this talk about shareholders' control. How much is there really in it? How many shareholders normally attend the annual meetings of these great enterprises? How many bother to attend—it may be half a dozen, a dozen or even 20?
§ Sir Peter Bennett (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
That is only when the enterprise is successful. If there is trouble, they will come.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I will come to that point in a minute. Sometimes they become interested when money is being lost, but if nothing dangerous is happening, they take no interest, What they are interested in is the price of the shares on the Stock Exchange; that is what these people want to know The fact of the matter is that they do not turn up. I cannot help recalling to the House two little stories which seem to illustrate the attitude commonly found among directors towards the shareholders. When the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) was 51 President of the Board of Trade in the Coalition Government, I remember hearing it said of him that when he first assumed Ministerial office, he was not particularly good in handling his Press conferences. He did not like the questions which the journalists put to him, and, as a friend of mine said, he handled them as if they were shareholders at a meeting.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
What was wrong about handling them as shareholders at a meeting?
§ Mr, Gaitskell
I am afraid that the hon. Member has missed the point. The right hon. Gentleman was very impatient with these journalists, and he did not like any questions. He was rather abrupt with them, and consequently he got the reputation of not being good at handling the Press, because he treated them like shareholders. My second illustration, which I give in perfectly good faith, is this. Some years ago I was discussing with an eminent industrialist, who was chairman of a large company, the question of monopolies. He was a bit of a monopolist himself, and I remember saying to him that I did not know how, if he wanted to carry out his obligations to his shareholders, he could possibly help doing things contrary to the public interest. That was where the argument was leading. "Shareholders?" he said, "who cares about the shareholders? They are nothing but a nuisance "—I will not use the adjective he used, because Mr. Speaker would pull me up if I did so. We know it is the case in these large concerns that the shareholders have virtually no control at all. As the hon. Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett) has said, if things go wrong they get interested, but that is exactly what we are providing for in this Bill. Clause 27 (3) provides that if the Board does not make the payments it is supposed to make to the Minister, then the matter is reported to the House.
We go a great deal further than ordinary shareholders in watching this great public concern. Firstly, we are not accepting profit as the sole criterion. Let hon. Members ponder this. Can they seriously say that in every case profit and efficiency are identical? It may be that within a particular industry, the more efficient the enterprise the more it is profitable, although even that is not always the case, because there are elements of luck. As between industries, it is certainly not 52 the case. For example, not long ago one of my lion. Friends made a somewhat strong attack on the motor car industry. I do not wish to go into it in detail, but I think most will agree that he certainly made out a case that the industry was not as efficient as it should be.
§ Sir P. Hannon
Has the Parliamentary Secretary read the reply of the board of manufacturers to the outrageous attack made?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I have read the reply, and I am unconvinced though I remain open to argument in the matter. I still say that the motor car industry on the one hand is fairly profitable, but on the other not very efficient, whereas in shipbuilding, for example, I would say that the industry is not very profitable, but stands comparison for efficiency with any industry here or in any other country. The point I wish to make is that profits in this case will not be the sole criterion. We are all concerned with the efficiency of this undertaking. It is not for me to say at this stage, although we might have an interesting discussion on the matter on some future occasion, the precise criteria which should be applied to measure efficiency, but it is a subject which would repay thought, and some of us are thinking about it now. My third point is that this Board is responsible for conducting its affair in the public interest. I am sorry to remind hon. Members of this, but the Board is not set up solely to make profits. It is there to cover its costs, and, subject to that, to act in the public interest. One might say that it is not there to get output which brings the largest possible profits, but rather the largest possible output, consistent with covering its costs.
As to the personnel of the Board, the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), during the Second Reading Debate, expressed—quite naturally at that stage—some scepticism. I think that most hon. Members, having heard the names of the new Board, feel considerably reassured. I see that one hon. Member shakes his head. He, no doubt, has great knowledge of the capacities of the persons concerned. But for my part, at any rate—and I know most of the people on the Board—I should say that they were a remarkably strong team. They include representatives of mining, engineering, coal marketing, 53 administration, labour relations, science and accountancy. That is not a bad start, and I do not think that one can do better than that. [An HON. MEMBER "What do you expect them to be? "] I am glad that the hon. Member shares our view that it is possible to get very efficient and able people to operate these undertakings.
May I turn to another matter, which roused considerable controversy during the Debates on the Bill? That is the question of the scope of the new undertaking's activities. I do not think that anyone objects to the division into three which is made in the First Schedule. That is to say: Assets taken over unconditionally; assets which may be taken over if either of the two parties desire it; and assets which may be taken over if either of the two parties desire it, but subject to arbitration should either party object. That is a perfectly reasonable division. Where we differ is on what should be included in each of these parts. When you really go into the details, it all "boils down"To the business of coke ovens. It has been suggested that the coke industry is a separate industry. That is part of the argument why, so it is said, they should be left out. I cannot imagine a worse argument. I cannot think of an industry, if one is to call it that, or a series of enterprises, which conform less to an integrated industry. After all what have we got? Forty per cent. of them are owned by the colliery undertakings; something like 20 per cent. are owned by the steel undertakings; and some of the others are owned by chemical works. They are bits and pieces of other industries. I suggest that whatever argument is sound on this matter, the argument that the industry is, so to speak, something on its own, is not. But the crucial point is this: It was put very clearly by the hon. Member for Chippenham during the Committee stage of the Bill. If the colliery undertakings found it technically desirable arid economically profitable to include in their business, ownership of coke ovens, why should not the National Coal Board handle them? That is the essential point. No one on the other side of the House has really given an answer. If this profitable undertaking is desirable on business grounds, why not let the National Coal Board have it?
Let me say a few words about compensation. A great deal of the compensa- 54 tion provisions are, of course, outside the Bill, and much of what is included in the Bill about compensation is not, I think, particularly controversial. The really controversial point concerns the non-transferability of the stock. I want to confine my remarks entirely to that, and make one last effort to convince hon. Members opposite that this is not "a sinister and dangerous plot," which some sections of the Press represented it to be, but a perfectly normal and sensible measure to protect the gilt-edged market.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
The hon. Member says that I am wasting my time. I am very patient, and I will only waste two or three minutes of it, anyway. I think that we are all agreed that there is a great deal to be said for paying the owners—the shareholders—in stock and not in cash. No serious objection has been raised to that. The argument for it I think is primarily that it is less likely to conduce to inflation. If you pay people in money there is a bigger chance that they will "blow it,"Than if you pay them in stock. The real argument is not about that, but about why the stock should be non-convertible. It is convertible when it ultimately reaches the owners. They have no complaint about it at all. The only people who can complain are the directors of the colliery companies. What is the purpose of this? The purpose is perfectly plain. Supposing we do not impose any restrictions, what is to prevent the colliery companies unloading this stock on the market, as they probably would wish to do, to pay off their shareholders? The only thing behind this, I assure hon. Members, is simply our desire to prevent the gilt-edged market from being suddenly flooded out.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)
Why should they pay off their shareholders? They cannot pay off the shareholders unless a three-quarters majority of them are agreed.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
That is what we expect them to do, though no doubt the right hon. Gentleman opposite has better knowledge of what the shareholders in the mining industry want to do than I have.
§ Mr. Macmillan
If the shareholders are paid off by liquidation, then the shares become transferable. The hon. Gentleman appears to be urging that they should be paid off.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I think the right hon. Gentleman has missed my point entirely. I am trying to emphasise this: The only thing that really exercises the Government in this business is the fear that, supposing no restrictions were imposed at all, there would be heavy unloading of compensation stock in the market in order to raise money to pay shareholders in cash, or, indeed, possibly, for some other purpose —to convert into equity shares, of one kind or another, if the company were going on as an investment trust. Subject to that point there is really no objection at all.
§ Commander Galbraith (Glasgow, Pollok)
Is this not placing a disability on the colliery concerns which also deal in iron and steel, and want to extend their iron and steel business?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
No; if the hon. and gallant Gentleman will study the Bill, he will see that, in that case, stock will be transferable. It is permitted, if a company wishes to use it for conducting its business, or for an extension of its business. I understand that is likely to be interpreted very widely. I think that hon. Members should take a great deal of reassurance on that point.
The case for the nationalisation of the coal industry was made out, in great detail, during the Second Reading Debate. My right hon. Friend made a most eloquent speech on the subject, as did many hon. Members on my side of the House. I do not intend to try to repeat what they said on that occasion. Surely, we are all agreed about this: There has to be in this industry a technical revolution. We have to sink new shafts, get proper drainage schemes, drive new roads, improve haulage, introduce power loading machinery and better ventilation. That is laid down in the Reid Report and we are all agreed about it. We are further agreed that this is going to cost a lot of money—may be more money than the present value of the industry. That gives some measure, of what is at stake. We are all in agreement that the present unity of management is much too small. We are all agreed that the industry has 56 to be made far more attractive to the workers than it has been in the past. Finally, we are all agreed that there has to be a wholly different relationship between workers and management than there has been in the past. All this is common ground. We say: You will never get these things without making a proper job of it and nationalising the industry.
If I am not out of Order, I should like briefly to refer to the alternatives. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) in his Second Reading speech referred to his policy for the industry and spoke of compulsory amalgamation. I will make only a passing reference to this. "Compulsory amalgamation "are words which have lulled the nation to sleep in the past—an excuse always put up for doing nothing about this industry. Take the matter back still further. In 1920 the Sankey Report unanimously—it was not the little bit signed by trade union leaders—[HON. MEMBERS: Order."] I think until I am called to Order by Mr. Speaker I am entitled to go on—the Sankey Report unanimously recommended the purchase of the royalties. Nearly 20 years later a Conservative Government finally carried out that recommendation. In the meantime, they changed the name to "unification "; they did not like the word "nationalisation. "However, let that pass. We fear that if we are to be fobbed off with compulsory amalgamation we shall have to wait another 20 years before carrying through this proposal. What is the history of compulsory amalgamation? In 1930 there was a lot of talk about amalgamations, but it came to nothing. During the war we established a system of controls. That system of controls was intended to carry through reorganisation of this kind, but nothing was done. Surely one thing is certain, it is that dual control in this industry has failed, and failed utterly.
Lastly, I want to say a word about industrial relations in this industry. This takes my mind back nearly 20 years when, fresh from the University, inexperienced but keen, I started my earning career by lecturing in a small mining town in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks). That was in 1927 just after the 57 end of the coal strike. I do not know that I taught the miners much in the way of economics, but they taught me a great deal. They taught me what economic feudalism was. They taught me what the naked exercise of arbitrary economic power meant. They taught me what it was to be victimised. Half the miners in my class had been victimised, and hon. Members on the Government Benches from that very area suffered at that time. They taught me what was the reality of economic life. When I speak at this Box on this Bill I cannot but think of that. Hon. Members opposite cannot get away from this legacy. I wish we could, but it is there—a legacy of hatred, bitterness and bloodshed. It is a legacy of the past, and we cannot overlook it in deciding what policy is or is not going to be successful.
I do not believe hon. Members opposite really oppose this Bill. I have often argued about Socialism with Tories, and usually, when we got to the question of coal and I asked them their views, nine out of ten said, "There is nothing to be done about coal except nationalise it."I believe they know in their heart of hearts that it is necessary. I would not, however, wish to end on a note of bitterness. This Bill opens up great prospects. We all want to see this industry set properly on its feet and miners offered security, better status better opportunities for promotion, better conditions, better health and so on. We want to see this industry run for the nation as a great public service, and for these reasons, I ask the House with confidence to give the Bill its Third Reading.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Colonel Lancaster (Fylde)
The House has listened with attention to the very clear exposition of the Bill by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power, and I think, in view of the particular circumstances this afternoon, he spoke with very reasonable restraint Towards the end of his speech, however, he brought in an element of bitterness, perhaps not entirely accompanied by accuracy, because I would remind him that the strike of 1926 was broken, so far as it was broken by the miners, largely by the men of the Broxtowe Division. I think the Parliamentary Secretary who is the youngest recruit to the mining industry, a sort of political Bevin boy, is to 58 be congratulated on the speed with which he has mastered his brief It is no small matter to familiarise oneself with the details of this very complicated Measure, and I take it as a compliment to the coal industry that the Labour Government have selected one of their ablest Back Benchers to occupy this position at this juncture.
The House is very close to the end of its labours on this Measure. The Minister, on the other hand, is on the threshold of his task. I should like to take this last opportunity, if I may, to offer some general observations prompted by my experience of this industry. The Clauses of the Bill dealing with compensation are fairly numerous, and there are other Members on this side of the House who can more suitably deal with them than can someone like myself who is affected by their passing. There arc likewise others better qualified than I to deal with the important subject of consumer protection. I should like to confine myself this afternoon to the first three Clauses of the Bill. Even within the functions, the duties and the policies of the Board it is those dealing with coal mining itself to which I want to restrict myself almost exclusively, and if I may offer my first word of advice to the Minister and the Board it is the hope that they will do likewise.
The Board's two main duties are, broadly, the integration and reorganisation of the industry and the winning of coal. However, before either of these tasks can be embarked upon there is no question but there must be a return of discipline to the pits. By discipline I mean discipline in its highest sense, not merely the hiring and firing of men but team work and the ready acceptance by the individual of instructions and orders, discipline which creates a common purpose actuating all categories of worker to a common end. By that means and that means alone shall we be able to arrest the decline in the production of coal, leave alone increase our tonnage. It is a sobering thought that at this moment precisely the same number of men are producing 20 million tons of coal a year less than in 1941 with rather more machinery with which to do it. I do not believe there is a single responsible colliery manager in the country but attributes that at this moment to other than absenteeism and the lack of discipline.
59 Before I pass to the first of the duties of the Board, I should like if I may, without being out of Order, to refer just to the experience of Australia in this matter. The Federal Board of Enquiry, as the House knows, recently brought out a very detailed report of their experiences which, in many ways, are not dissimilar to our own. There they were faced with a drop in production, and the need for physical reorganisation. They found, as I suggest we shall find, that before it was possible to embark on any large scale reconstruction they had to deal with this matter of discipline. The report closes with these words:The difficulty lies in the implementation of the plans that were suggested without the basic requirement of the preservation of discipline.For the last 15 years, their experience has been of public and privately owned mines working side by side. Neither by financial results, nor any other test, can they claim that publicly owned undertakings have shown any advancement on the privately owned undertakings, and in this matter of discipline there was no improvement to be found in the publicly owned undertakings. I suggest to the Minister that however sincerely he believes in the virtues of national ownership he will be making a mistake if he expects any prospects of improvement without tackling this important matter.
I want to turn to this question of the psychological advantage to be, obtained from nationalisation. If, indeed, there is such a thing it will be of very ephemeral value. About 15 years ago, I had the opportunity of spending some months in the Russian coalfields, studying conditions there. They had embarked on Communism, so far as coal mining was concerned, with something of the same belief. They thought that there would be an immediate psychological reaction in their favour. There could have been no greater disillusionment. They had to learn the long and painful lesson, which we all have to learn, that whether a man is a soldier or a coal miner, or any one else, he will react precisely as circumstances warrant. If a soldier belongs to a unit where morale, welfare, training, and leadership are high, he will respond accordingly. It is just the same with the miner. If the conditions of his employment are made reasonable, if he is 60 given the right tools and a chance to contribute his share at a variety of levels, if he is given an adequate wage and decent living conditions, he will give of his best. It is by those means that we must tackle the first problem which confronts us, whether it is under nationalisation or any other scheme.
I pass to the two main tasks of the Board, the first of which is that of integration. It is no good the Board embarking on any large scale schemes of physical reorganisation until they have succeeded in this very delicate matter of unifying and integrating the industry. There have been many examples of integration in private enterprise, and, indeed, in the coal mining industry, of recent years. It has been the general experience that the fusion of different elements into a comprehensive whole is a very delicate operation To bring the more progressive elements, and those who lag behind, to a common standard is a long and arduous process. There can be only one standard within an integrated whole, and that is the best. The qualifications of those who will be charged with this task of integrating the industry, I suggest, will need to be twofold. They will have to be a compound of administrative competence and human understanding.
And because of the latter requirement they must be exercised at the level of the producing units, that is to say, in the areas or sub-areas to be set up under the Board. The success or otherwise of this problem of integration will be conditioned in great measure by the men selected to take charge at the area level. I trust that in selecting these men the Board will not restrict themselves to men with technical qualifications. The quality of leadership is one without which all the technical improvement in the world will fall by the way.
I readily concede to the Government that by nationalisation it is possible to carry out concentration and integration very much more quickly than by any other methods. But, on the other side of the account, there must be balanced the loss of initiative and enterprise which springs from the emulation of private enterprise. The Board may go some way to balance up the account if they are able to pass on the greatest degree of autonomy to the areas, to give them their heads, to maintain, so far as possible, the 61 competitive element as between one area and another, and to do what lies to their hand to publish accounts of one sort or another which maintain that competitive element.
Schemes for physical reorganisation must come up from the areas. The coal mining industry is far too variegated to allow scope for centralised technical direction. If this matter of integration is intelligently carried out there will be an adequate number of planners and technicians in each area, but if there are not then the areas must be made modified to conform to the talent available. As I say, these schemes must come up from below. The part the Board should play should be by way of supervision and timing and the allocation of priorities.
We must recognise that the Reid Report did no more than point the way. It could not, in effect, lay down any standard method by which this was to be done. The other night there was some discussion on the question of research. I hope that research will be pressed on with at every level and throughout the coalfield; reorganisation cannot be universally applied. It must develop as the weeks and months pass. It is only by continuous research that we shall be able to keep abreast of the most recent technique. These then are the tasks: First, the restoration of confidence and discipline at the pit level; second, integration after the most exhaustive investigation and based on sound leadership; and lastly, reorganisation based upon the most recent technique.
Clause 2 of the Bill deals with the composition of the Coal Board, and on that I would like to say no more than this. I hope the Board will find it possible to keep themselves free for the making of policy and avoid the danger of becoming immersed in executive detail as departmental or functional heads. The part which they will be able to play most effectively will be by way of policy making. I wish very much that the Minister had not been insistent upon the Coal Board consisting of fulltime members. Clause 3 deals with the Minister's powers in relation to the Board. He has told us on a great many occasions during the passage of the Bill that he has no intention of interfering with the Coal Board other than "to give directions of a general character to matters appearing to 62 affect the national interest."I have sufficient confidence in the wisdom of the Minister to be certain that he will adhere to this, except on such occasions as his business judgment is obscured by his political enthusiasm. It is not always easy to distinguish the national interest from political expediency. We have had examples recently of perfectly proper representations on behalf of parts of the coalfield which inevitably, in the course of time, will need to be closed down. It is the duty of the Government in those circumstances to make every arrangement of a social sort in regard to the people who will be affected by such closure, but it would be fatal if in the long run social considerations were allowed to outweigh economic necessity. In the last resort the communities concerned would be the sufferers, together with the rest of the nation.
I cannot pretend that I like this Bill, and, together with my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House, I shall divide against it. It has always been surprising to me that the trade union leaders, the Miners' Federation, who had achieved a position in which 85 per cent. of the proceeds of the industry were directly under their control, should have wanted to obtain the other 15 per cent. at the price of the responsibility which will fall on their heads. I would much sooner that the Government had conceived a scheme somewhat along the lines of the one which I and some of my colleagues produced two years ago. Under those proposals, there were incentives to initiative at every level in the industry. I am afraid this Bill will not result in that. We gave a positive assurance that all schemes of physical reorganisation should come up from below. I am likewise by no means happy now on that account. But there it is.
The nation has decided, and the Government are seeking to carry out their mandate. Shortly the responsibility will become one which will be the principal preoccupation of the whole Cabinet, and not only of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Fuel and Power. I hope that at least they will make certain of their ground, in regard to this great industry, before embarking on a similar scheme for any of our other heavy industries. The 63 Minister and his colleagues will be responsible, in a short while, for the lives and the welfare of something like one million men and their families, and for nothing less than the foundation of the economic structure of this country. Men of goodwill in all parts of the House must wish them well. May they prove themselves worthy of their trust.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Holmes (Hemsworth)
As this is the first occasion on which I have had the privilege of addressing the House, I ask for the kind indulgence which is usually accorded to an hon. Member making his maiden speech. I would like to open my remarks by quoting some words of Wordsworth written on a very auspicious occasion in history:Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!I feel the same this afternoon on the occasion of the Third Reading of this Bill. While I am not yet in "the sear and yellow leaf" of life, I have nearly 50 years of mining experience behind me. I went into the collieries in 1901, and have been attached to them ever since in practical, technical and administrative direction. With regard to the comments of the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde (Colonel Lancaster), I would point out that there are two sides to the question of discipline. For 12 years I have been a member of the arbitrators' court, and 75 per cent. of the disputes I have had to settle have not originated from the men's side. Having said that, I would like to remind the House that it is only by this Bill that, at last, the nation is facing up to its responsibilities as far as the mining world is concerned. Over 100 years ago Stevenson used these words:The Lord Chancellor sits on a Woolsack, which has long since ceased to he the staple commodity of England. Rather he should sit on a coalsack.In 1865, Dr. Holmes, having in mind the need of coal, said:If ever a Government is justified in exercising its authority between the interests—we may say the security—of the nation and the individual, it must be in instances where the good of the individual, the daily trespassing upon, the moral property of the country and the social and economic welfare of the community are concerned.64 In 1865, Stanley Jevons said:Coal, in truth, stands not beside, but entirely above all other commodities. It is the natural source of energy of the country, the universal aid, the factor in everything we do. With coal almost everything is possible; without it, we are thrown back on the laborious poverty of early times.All through the years, people have tried to draw the notice of Governments to the need for special attention to be given to coal and it would seem that Too years after Stevenson's exposition a Labour Government have at last had the opportunity.
I have given some thought to this Bill. As other hon. Members have said on previous Bills, it is not perfect, but it is in the right direction. It is the one major stroke of policy which the mining industry has required for a long time, and that is why I strongly support it.
I wish to draw attention to Clause 1, Subsection (2, c), which says:Producing, manufacturing, treating, rendering saleable, supplying and selling products of coal.I have had a very close contact with the coking industry as well as with the mining industry. It is a crime against science to use coal as a raw material. There are vast potentialities in the coking plants, and I am hoping that, with the passing of this Bill, a research department will be set up to work out the possibilities in coking plants, and so forth. I do not see many hon. Members of the fairer sex present this afternoon, but I am sure it would interest them to know that the aids to beauty which ladies use are derived from by-products of coal. Hon. Members who carry those little white pellets in their pockets with which to sweeten their tea may also be interested to know that they too are by-products of coal. I hope that, after the passing of this Bill, the Government will implement it to the fullest possible extent.
We are told by statisticians that the burning of raw coal means that 200 to 500 tons of smoke dust fall annually per square mile. We are also told that the coal dust produced from factory and industrial chimneys amounts to 9,000,000 tons annually. The damage to property and crops is beyond computation. Subsection (2, d) deals with the producing or manufacturing of goods, and I would like to draw the Minister's attention to this aspect. Unfortunately, I suffered for 65 quite a while from miners' nystagmus, which is a most torturing disease. I would like the Mining Department or the Minister to set up a section to deal with miners' lamps. They are not mentioned in the Bill, but I would like the Minister to control their use. It is only by better lighting that we can get rid of this disease.
With respect to safety, welfare and the question of psychology so far as the miner is concerned, I would like to give one or two quotations. There are about ten pits within a radius of eight miles of my home where, within the living memory of people today, there have been major disasters. In my own constituency there are over 5,000 colliery accidents a year. In my capacity as branch secretary at one colliery I dealt with no fewer than 10,000 accident claims during my term of office. While such things prevail, we are not going to have a very warm psychology towards the mining industry. During recent years there has been intensification in mining mechanisation. In some directions, there have been vast developments and it has been my privilege during the last two years to visit no fewer than 75 collieries in this country. Some of them are of first-class standard, but others are very out of date. Within a few months of coming to this House I, together with a colleague in the trade union world and two members of the Colliery Owners' Association, went to inspect a colliery. We saw men naked with the exception of loin cloths who were covered in sweat, and we had to agree that it was inhuman to ask men to work under such conditions. We closed that seam.
Many collieries have built palatial offices, extended their coking and screening plants and brickyards, and spread out in other directions, but have done nothing to improve the miners' welfare. There are men in Yorkshire today who leave the pit and go home in exactly the same conditions as their fathers went home 75 years ago. We shall not get the proper psychology towards the mining industry while such conditions exist. I wish the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary every success, and I hope that the House will not divide on this Bill today in spite of what the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde said.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Sir Peter Bennett (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
It is my very pleasant duty to 66 congratulate the hon. Member for Hems-worth (Mr. Holmes) on his maiden speech. We all know what an ordeal such an occasion is, but I can assure him that he has got through it very well indeed. The House is always delighted to hear practical details from a man who knows his story, and I can assure him that when lie addresses this House in the future and gives us the benefit of his advice or of his experience, the House will be only too willing to listen to him. His predecessor, the late Mr. George Griffiths, was a very dear friend of us all and, in passing, I would like to say how much we appreciated him. We are sure that the hon. Member will follow in his footsteps and prove in every way a worthy successor.
I have not spoken before in these Debates, but before I come to the point which I wish to put forward, I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he did not improve his very interesting speech by going into what I might call the "music hall"Idea of a shareholders' meeting. I would rather he had left that to the comic journals, just as I would rather leave the criticism of the House of Commons to them. It is common to poke fun at these institutions, and while there is always a certain amount of truth in these things, it is a long way from the entire truth.
I should like to take up the cudgels with the hon. Gentleman about his remarks on the motor industry, but to do so I should have to go into a lot of detail, for which this is not the time. I reserve the right to do so at a later date, when the opportunity occurs. I was not a Member of the Standing Committee, and, as I say, I have not spoken before on this Bill. I have no personal interest whatever in the coal industry but I wish to put the point of view of the ordinary industrialist, who. is vitally concerned in the matter. I remember that when the Minister of Fuel and Power received his appointment some of us met him outside and said they could not congratulate him because he had been given the "dirty" job. After the speeches he had made in this House on Imperial matters, we thought he might have been given an Imperial Department. Now, after studying the Bill I am convinced that the power which has been given to the Minister makes this a very much bigger job than the right hon. Gentleman would have had if he had been given one of the other appointments.
67 The Bill will go through. What we industrialists think of it is neither here nor there. We are going to have it, whether we like it or not. The one thing which stands out is the great power which is being put into the hands of the Minister. He will have a position of greater power and authority than almost any other officer of State. He has resisted Amendments and has insisted upon having a free hand. The question which concerns us is how he proposes to use it. Upon him rests our industrial future to a very great extent indeed. I am certain that he knows it, and that the Government know it, but I very much doubt whether the people generally realise it, in spite of the Press. The average man in the street and woman in the home seem to think of coal largely in terms of the domestic bucket and of the gas cooker. Last winter it was touch and go, but we got through. People are saying, "The summer is coming," although it is rather a long time on the way. Many are rather like the negro with his blanket. The negro was asked to sell his blanket. He replied, "It's a cold night, but if I get through the night, come round tomorrow morning and I will consider the matter." Although we got through last winter, the problem is now far greater.
Our whole future as an industrial nation depends upon coal, until some alternative is found. The day of cheap coal has gone for ever. Some people say that that is a good thing, because it was never right for us to have obtained coal at that price. Whatever the truth of that may be, I would remind hon. Members that what happened in the Industrial Revolution remains with us. We are an industrial nation today. That was brought about by the Industrial Revolution, which was based upon a plentiful supply of cheap coal. Coal made us the workshop of the world. Our country people migrated into the towns, and our population went up, till today, crowded into these little islands are between 40,000,000 and 50,000,000 people. We cannot put the clock back, or go back to the old days when we could be self sufficient, with a population of 20,000,000. We have our large population. Work has to be found for them and they have to be fed. We have to look to industry to provide that food and that work. We hear of the export drive, and the necessity for it is preached on all 68 hands. We are told we must export 50 per cent., 60 per cent. or 70 per cent. of our production. It is easy to do so today, because the world is short of goods. When we look at what is happening at home we can see what is going to happen abroad in the future. People say to me: "It is all very well, but I shall never be able to afford another motor car at the prices you are charging. I must make the old one last a bit longer."The day will come when people who have the money will have spent it. They will have got what they want and they will not want any more. The people who will still want goods will not have the wherewithal to purchase them. Our prosperity today is temporary and fleeting. If that is so at home here, how much more so is it true abroad? The time will come when all that will count will be the competitive value of the goods we make in quality and price.
We must have an efficient industry in this country if we are to compete abroad. The one thing which has helped us in the past has been our reliance on cheap fuel and power. Apparently we are not to have that in the future. I have been making some comparisons. I find that the rise in the price of a great many of our commodities is almost exactly the same high percentage as the rise in the cost of coal. Even if we get larger quantities from improved production we cannot expect to get prices down to the prewar level, as long as existing conditions prevail. Increased costs start from coal and go through all industries. Abroad, when the present shortages are overtaken, we shall have an even harder task than we have at home. We shall have to compete with the United States of America and some of the Dominions. Some countries have industrialised themselves during the war period, and have cheaper coal than we. They have put on tariffs. All we shall have then will be the productive skill of our people to regain our competitive position, and we shall need a plentiful supply of coal at a reasonable price. A little later, we shall be discussing the question of steel, which depends upon coal. I believe that something like two tons of coal is required for every ton of steel.
§ Sir P. Bennett
Anyhow, it is a very extensive constituent in the price of steel, 69 which is, in its turn, the raw material of many industries, particularly in the city from which I come. The same is true of many other cities in this country. Coal is no longer cheap and a supply is no longer certain. During the weekend I read an article in the "Observer" which forecast very gloomily that before next winter, there would be a shortage of labour in the coal industry and that that would lead to heavy unemployment in other industries. Last winter one example was the slowing down of chemical works, as the Minister knows, quite early this year, because of the shortage of coal. The "Economist" was also among the papers which I read during the weekend. I think I cannot do better than quote it, because it puts in much better words than I could the concern which is felt about these things in the industrial world. It said:It is, indeed, necessary to accept with some reserve at this early stage the repeated assurances from the Government that the Board will be a model organisation. It will have no margin of output, no reserves of labour and no flexibility of cost to pursue an expancive policy for many years to come… cheap coal has indeed gone for ever, but only increased mechanisation and reorganisation offer any sort of guarantee against ever-dearer coal, with its frightening tide of rising coal costs flowing in inflationary waves through every sector of industry. Coal is no longer King but a pauper requiring costly public assistance.In spite of my very depressing weekend reading, I refuse to be a complete pessimist. We are a very resilient people. We lose a lot of games throughout the world in these days. Championships pass from us, but there is one championship which we still hold. We hold the world's record for making the best of a bad job. The pity is that we so often drift into a bad job before we wake up. I believe that we shall make the best of this bad job. We have got a bad job to deal with. but I am not going to apportion blame. I have listened to far too many coal Debates to plunge into apportioning blame between the parties. Whoever is to blame, the fact remains that we are faced with a bad job. Our industrial future and the standard of living in these islands depend upon our successfully solving this problem. While the public and industry can help in certain directions, the main part, once this Bill is through, lies with the Minister and his associates. If he succeeds, we shall all benefit, and no one will grudge him 70 his triumph. If he comes to this House and shows success and says "I told you so,"I shall be the very first to bow my acknowledgments to him for his success. On the other hand, failure is too dreadful a thing to contemplate, so I am not going to do so. But we shall have delays and mistakes and faulty handling of crises—that is inevitable I am afraid in an operation of this magnitude—and there will be serious trouble. Our whole industrial recovery is in the balance at the moment, and on the Minister and on the Government there rests the gravest responsibility in view of their decision to take over the management of this basic industry.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Mackay (Hull, North-West)
I am tempted to rise because of the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde (Colonel Lancaster) when in arguing against this Bill he drew comparisons from a report recently published dealing with the coal mines of Australia. Comparison can be made between a number of countries in regard to the nationalisation of coal mines, but obviously the situations must be the same. In the Second Reading Debate, reference was made to the position of Holland and the very substantial benefits which have accrued there, not only to the State but to the working people in the mines, as a result of the nationalisation of the coal mines. Some 12 mines have been nationalised in Holland. This represents some 6o per cent, of the coal of that country. Since they were nationalised some years ago, the figures show that the mines have been exceedingly profitable, well organised and greatly improved. Anyone who studies the position in Holland will see quite clearly that the example of nationalisation in that country cannot be an argument against the passing of this Measure. However, the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde drew conclusions from this report, which are quite unjustified. I suggest that if he will look at the whole report and further go and look at the mines, he will see that the position of the coal mines in Australia does not justify the conclusions which he drew.
He suggested in the first place that the nationalised mines of Australia were not a success. In the second place he suggested that the problems of the coal fields in Australia were the same as in this country, so that comparisons could be drawn.
71 I suggest that neither view is correct. Very few of the mines of Australia are nationalised. The State of New South Wales produces 80 per cent. of Australia's coal, and in that State there is one nationalised mine which produces 3 per cent. of the total output of coal in that State. These are the facts on which the argument was based. Lithgow, which is the one nationalised mine in New South Wales, was—I speak from memory—nationalised during the last war—but not brought into operation until after the war. It has had very successful results. It was taken over by the State railways--which were nationalised in Australia because private enterprise failed so badly—to provide coal for the railways of New South Wales, and has made a profit of some 20,000 since 1922; but it only produces 3 per cent. of the coal of that State. When we look at the figures and the matter in more detail, we see how inaccurate the comparison was.
Here is another reason why it is wrong. The hon. and gallant Member was arguing that we want to get rid of absenteeism in this country and said that where coal mines were nationalised, absenteeism did not improve and output went down. Only a small proportion of the coal mines of New South Wales, one mine representing 3 per cent. of the coal output, has been nationalised; the other mines are not nationalised. One other mine is, under a certain amount of State control but it is not taken over. All the mines along the South coast are still under private ownership. In 1944 the annual output per employee from the Lithgow mine was 705 tons. The annual output for the other mines of New South Wales for the same year was 100 tons less. The comparable figure for all the mines in New South Wales was 650 tons. That is, the annual output of the privately-owned mines was less than the mine State owned. In the presence of many coal miners, I do not want to say what the output was in this country, but it was probably about half as much; probably about 260 tons. Why? This brings me to the root of the argument. The output is higher in the mines of New South Wales than in this country because new machinery has been introduced and because technical improvements have been made; and that is where comparison between the two countries completely breaks down.
72 If comparisons are to be made, the situations to be compared should be similar. It is argued that because of nationalisation we shall not remove absenteeism and the Australian coal fields are cited as an example in support. Then it is shown that in the Australian coal fields the annual output per employee is larger than in this country. One asks why. Is it because there is more absenteeism in Great Britain? The answer is "No."In point of fact, the Australian absenteeism is much greater than the absenteeism in this country. Why is the output higher? The reason is that the mines are more efficient because of the machinery and modern equipment which have been introduced.
I ask hon. Members of this House to take these things seriously into account. I could go on giving illustrations about the mines in Victoria and other parts where the same sort of thing applies. A serious argument has been addressed to us this afternoon that what is wrong with the mines in Great Britain is absenteeism, and that nationalisation will prove no cure. The illustration cited in support of that argument is the coal mines of Australia. The illustration does not support that argument in any way at all, because the coal mines there generally are not nationalised. Where the output has increased, it has been increased as the result of modernisation, and that is borne out by a comparison between the returns for the nationalised mines and from the non-nationalised mines. How does the question of absenteeism apply? Absenteeism in Australia is higher than in Great Britain, and yet output is higher in Australia. The obvious conclusion, which the facts support, is that in Australia in the State-owned mine efficiency comes from the introduction of machinery and modern equipment. That is the basic argument in favour of this Bill today. A large amount of money, as the Reid Report has shown, requires to be spent in order to bring our mines up to date. Obviously the State will not spend £200,000,000 to £300,000,000 in order to re-equip a lot of privately-owned mines without a real measure of control. By nationalisation this control is secured.
I have one other point to make, and I will be brief. We must face the question of absenteeism in a way hon. Members on the other side of the House do 73 not always face it. I know it is a real problem in industry today. I speak as the managing director of a business which employs some 3,000 people, so I do not speak without knowledge or merely to make a point. I have not the slightest doubt in my own mind, as a result of experience, that until the working people really own the business in which they work, we will never get the fullest return from their work. The nationalisation of the coal mines will be a real step towards making the people who work in the mines —the coal miners—feel that they have a share in this industry. Until we get that sort of ownership feeling, until people realise that the industry is being run, not for the benefit of a few but for the benefit of the people who work in it, I do not think we shall get rid of absenteeism.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Major Lloyd George (Pembroke)
I would like first to add my congratulations to those which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Fylde (Colonel Lancaster) extended to the Parliamentary Secretary. With some knowledge of the Ministry in which he is now working, I know what an achievement it was to have mastered the details of this Bill in the time at his disposal and, whilst I do not think he is entirely without experience in matters of coal, I wish to congratulate him most heartily on the way he has mastered this Bill.
I do not think I could quarrel with the description he gave of the events that led up to this Bill. He was quite correct in saying that the control instituted by the White Paper, which was responsible for the Ministry, would continue until Parliament decided otherwise. Well, Parliament has decided otherwise as a result of the Election, and we have the present Bill. He referred to the length of time taken in Committee, to the number of Amendments moved, and so forth, but I do not think anybody can grudge that time. Once I had the privilege of being chairman of a Committee, and Bills far less far-reaching in their effects than this one spent a great deal longer in Committee, Therefore. I do not think we need grudge the time spent; indeed, I think we can say that the Bill is better in one or two important respects for having been upstairs. Although I agree with much said by the hon. Gentleman about the history of the industry, I cannot altogether agree with him, 74 especially over the period just after the last war. I do not think blame can be attached wholly to one side for the rejection of some of the proposals made in Toro, for instance, with regard to amalgamation, and at least out of that came miners' welfare, which has done a tremendous amount of work for the benefit of miners in this country; also pit production committees, which people are rather inclined to forget—although they did not function very well. If we had had a better spirit of conciliation, then we would have Thad a great deal better result; unfortunately, we did not, and I do not think it is fair to put the blame all on one side. There were very shortsighted people on both sides of the industry at that time.
As I have said before, I have always approached this problem without any prejudice whatsoever. I have never had any prejudice about whether the mines should be nationalised, or not. Indeed, I am proud to have had a part for some time in the Ministry which deals with this industry. If I may say so without immodesty, I am particularly proud that, with the valued help of my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith), some things have been done for this industry with regard to welfare, health, and, indeed, security, which hope and believe will remain for many a long day. Now I agree that it is unfair to ask any Minister to put into a Bill everything he proposes to do. But I still feel that the right hon. Gentleman could have told us more of what he has in mind for this organisation. We heard a great deal in Committee, and we are hearing it again today, about how the old system of ownership is responsible for most of the ills from which this industry suffers. I shall not argue at the moment whether it be true or not, but I think all hon. Members are entitled to know in what way this Bill will be an improvement as far as those ills are concerned. We have often been told that we do not know what nationalisation means. If I may be forgiven for saying so, I have wondered sometimes, from some of the remarks made, whether every hon. Member opposite has any idea, and I have wondered sometimes, too, whether the Government had any really clear idea. too often have I had the feeling that 75 what many hon. Gentlemen feel about nationalisation is not so much to carry out what the Prime Minister said some time ago—to give the best possible service at the lowest possible cost—but just to substitute national for private ownership. Indeed, the Minister himself once said so; he said that nationalisation might have a detrimental effect on private enterprise; that it was possible, indeed, that it was the purpose. My experience of this Bill being brought before the House has confirmed the view that in many hon. Members' minds that is what is uppermost, because all that is really stated in this Bill, as far as the change of ownership is concerned, is that the Board shall, in effect, run the industry.
The Board is charged in Clause 1 with certain functions and those functions, in turn, mean the carrying out of certain duties, but never have we had any real indication of how that is to be done. We are told that they have to dig coal, we are told that they have to treat it and sell it, and so forth, but surely it is of importance, when a step of this character is taken, that there shall be no doubt in anybody's mind as to how it is to be done. The Minister on many occasions has stressed the fact that this Board is to be run on business lines, that it is to be an autonomous body, and many times we have been warned that we must not do anything to hamstring the Board. I suggest that the Minister can give directions to the Board if he thinks that certain things should be done; in other words, I still feel that it is not autonomous. When it comes to the next point, the Minister will not be a free agent either, because the man who is to run this—and all other industries so far as I can see—is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If industries are to be nationalised at the rate of which we are told—electricity, gas, steel, transport—there will be a large sum of public money involved, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, quite rightly, will have to play a very important part in the allocation of moneys. I regard that capital expenditure as very important in the development and reorganisation of this industry today. I wonder whether the Minister, who has power here to the extent of £250 million, is entirely free to allocate that without consultation with his right hon. Friend. The Board 76 will set aside moneys decided by the Minister with the approval of the Treasury for the reserve fund, but whatever that is, it is not autonomy.
The Parliamentary Secretary said today it was vital that capital expenditure should be controlled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in order to fulfil a policy of full employment. As far as I understand the policy of full employment, and I have always supported it in this House, my idea is that when things are not going so well, the State should come in, but when things are going well, the State should keep out. In other words, it is a policy determined by the state of trade in the country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer must be in a position to control capital expenditure. But what becomes of the concluding words of the Reid Report:…there is no time to be lost "?At present, judging by the definition of full employment which I have given, this would not be the time for the State to embark on large expenditure, but a time to start on the reorganisation of this industry which, all the technicians have stated, is long overdue. I am a little worried that the Parliamentary Secretary should have stated that the Chancellor will control the capital expenditure of this industry. I have always rather suspected that the party opposite never really had a plan for putting the nationalisation of coal into operation. I still say that what they had in mind, was simply a change of ownership. We have never been told what they had in mind. The Minister himself said that the nature of the organisation had still to be worked out. The Parliamentary Secretary said this afternoon that they have no intention of copying the leisurely pace of previous Governments. All I have to say is, that it is 10 months since the Reid Report came out, and six months since the Government came into office, and we do not know now what organisation is going to achieve this amazing, and certainly revolutionary, change in this great industry.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Fylde, speaking with far greater knowledge than I have of this industry,.made an important point when he asked whether if there were to be regional organisations, the schemes would not come from the regions to the central Board. I regard this as 77 extremely important. I have always visualised a central Board as a body charged with a general supervision over the whole country, of this national asset, to see that it is developed in the national interest. But the technical reorganisation which is so essential, is a local matter in this of all industries. Schemes for reorganisation should come from the districts, where the men have superior knowledge of the difficulties and location of various undertakings. I am anxious to know whether the Minister has that in mind. My own experience, in different circumstances, showed the great value of regional organisations, because of local knowledge as regards labour, and technical knowledge.
The importance of having regions goes far beyond the technical aspect. The Minister has spoken of the importance of human relations in the industry and I entirely agree with him. Everyone in the industry knows when great national disputes occur. But very few people know that daily disputes take place in every pit in the country, on matters which may be of comparatively small moment, but have a very serious effect on the output of the industry and on relations between management and men. In my experience I have found, as the right hon. Gentleman has found, a list of disputes before the Minister every day. Some of the causes of the disputes are almost unbelieveable. In many cases not only were the management not aware of the cause of the dispute, but the union officials were not aware, either. Great losses were incurred, and bad feeling was increased.
One cause of complaint amongst the men which I discovered, and which I think entirely justifiable, was the delay in settling such questions as those of I "wet" money, dusty places, and so on. The manager has to consult higher authority. Sometimes there seems to be delay on the other side as well, holding matters up a very long time The manager, in many cases in certain of the bigger combines, hay to consult a higher authority. That was a very real grievance amongst the men. I do not know whether anything is to be done to remove that. If the manager has to consult higher authority, it means that the actual authority is remote from the men. How remote is this organisation going to be, unless there is a really good regional 78 organisation? Questions arise in the districts which cannot be settled—because there are repercussions in other districts —without central consultation. But there are scores of things which can be settled locally, if authority is given to do so. If that is not done, it means that the central authority has to be consulted and that will lead to far greater delay and greater irritation than is suffered even at present. I hope the Minister will give some assurance on that.
I would like to raise the question of conciliation machinery. The Parliamentary Secretary said that we had made hardly any changes in the Bill. One of the things which staggered me was that conciliation was not mentioned from the beginning to the end of the Bill. If ever there was an industry which required to have good conciliation machinery, this is the one. I am glad to see that I hat is now remedied under Clause 43. One of the great achievements of the miners just before I came into office was the Report of the Greene Committee, which eventually set up conciliation machinery. This has been acclaimed by the miners as one of their greatest triumphs. It was establishedTo submit recommendations for the establishment of… permanent machinery for dealing with questions of wages and conditions of employment in the industry.This is the most extraordinary thing about it—both sides agreed to it. It is almost a landmark in the history of the industry. The committee made it perfectly plain that the recommendations were, in no sense, in the nature of an emergency provision arising out of the war, but that this was to be a permanent institution in the industry. It is important to recognise what that committee did. The machinery of a national character left questions of district conciliation to be dealt with by district machinery to preserve the autonomy of the districts. They placed the national and district conciliation organisations under an obligation to introduce, as soon as possible, improved methods to deal with pit disputes. Everyone will agree that that is a very important thing and, as I say, it was approved by both sides.
Originally there was no mention of conciliation in this Bill, and I could not help feeling that it was another example of the lack of thought given to this very impor- 79 tant Measure. I have always felt that no scheme had been worked out, and that all this had been done very hurriedly. I always felt that hon. Members opposite felt that a change of ownership was sufficient in itself. I think that hon. Gentlemen felt that there would be an immediate response once that change had been promised. They thought that once the principle had been accepted, as it was on Second Reading, it would be a stimulus which would encourage the production of coal in this country. I am bound to say that I see no signs of it up to date. Indeed, we were told by an official of the Ministry the other day that it was the worst situation we had faced since the war. It has confirmed what I have always felt, that too much stress was laid by hon. Gentlemen opposite on ownership, and too little on reorganisation. Whoever owns this industry, its prosperity and that of all the people engaged in it must depend, ultimately, on the amount of coal that is. got at the coal face and the cost at which it can be transported to the surface. The right hon. Gentleman believes, quite sincerely, that private ownership has been the greatest stumbling block to the efficiency of this industry. He will shortly be in a position to prove whether he is right in his belief. I hope and trust that for the sake of the great industries which create the wealth of this country, and the millions of our people who, directly or indirectly. are dependent upon coal. he will not prove to have been mistaken in his belief.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Smith (Normanton)
; The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) was quite right when he said that for three years he and I worked very closely together. If there was one thing upon which we differed, it was on the ownership of this vital mining industry. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that I never took up the ideological argument in favour of public ownership, but rather the argument that the necessity of the case would drive any Government to bring the industry under public ownership. It is rather remarkable that in all the discussions we have had on Second Reading and in Committee, there have been very few speeches from the other side of the House which, 80 while condemning the Bill, have praised private ownership, or advocated the industry reverting to private ownership as it was known before the Ministry of Fuel and Power came into existence in 1942.
If one looks at the various suggestions which have been made since the last war with regard to the mining industry, it must be admitted that they have varied in accordance with the way in which Governments wished to sidestep the Miners' Federation. When coal and power proposals were put forward by the Liberal Party, a series of amalgamations was suggested When we had the Samuel Commission, a series of amalgamations was suggested. When, in 1929–30, we passed the Coal Mines Act of that period, the Liberal Tarty of that time insisted upon a closer organisation in the mining industry. When the Mining Association, themselves almost bankrupt in ideas with regard to the future of the industry, brought in Mr. Robert Foot, they then suggested another method of reorganising the mining industry. We on this side of the House have advocated public ownership of the mining industry, because we believe it to be absolutely necessary in the interests of the nation and the well-being of those who work in the industry.
Whatever differences we may have about this Bill, all of us will agree that coal has played a most important part in building up this nation. Most hon. Members will agree with me that if we do not get a sufficient quantity of coal in this country, this nation cannot maintain its present industrial position, unless other forms of energy are developed or discovered in the future. We have been twitted once or twice about where we on this side of the House stand in regard to this Bill. Looking through some of the Bills put forward by the Labour Party when in Opposition, we find that they were in greater detail than this Bill, but in practice they aimed at the same thing. This Bill is nothing more or less than terms of reference to a Board, on the instructions of the Minister, to get on with the job. One has to leave a little to the imagination. It is perfectly true that in Committee we got assurances in regard to the way displaced persons would be treated and also in regard to the way in which disputes would be handled. We are satisfied that this Bill, when it be- 81 comes an Act, can, given the right spirit inside the mining industry, accomplish what it sets out to do.
The Board has been described this afternoon by the Parliamentary Secretary as a team of very competent people. With that, I would not disagree. We must work on the assumption that the Minister of Fuel and Power, acting on the instructions in the Bill, has appointed the people who can in his views best do the job. We all hope so, although there is a feeling outside, among the mineworkers in some districts, that some of the men on the Board are not ideal choices. But time will show. What does this Bill aim at doing? It sets up a Coal Board and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman surely knows that when it begins to operate, there must be not only regional machinery, but area machinery and pit machinery. Let it not be forgotten—if it is forgotten those who forget it will get the biggest shock of their lives—that coal is got inside the coal mines, and it is there that concentration is required. That is where the real reorganisation has to take place.
The right hon and gallant Gentleman talked about disputes. It is true that there are everyday disputes which ought not to take place, but which do happen nevertheless. Delay in settling disputes has not always been the fault of the mineworker or the trade union representative. As one who was asked a few years ago to handle a dispute in Yorkshire which had been outstanding for seven years, because the colliery management had not the good sense to see what was needed, I predict that under this machinery something will be set up in which day-to-day disputes can be dealt with expeditiously. But it must be kept in mind that all pits are not alike, and all prices inside pits are not alike. There will be certain price list fixing to take place, which may have to be done on an area basis. There are certain broad disputes or claims which occur from time to time, and can be dealt with regionally or nationally, and I presume that that is what is in my right hon. Friend's mind in considering the practical working of the scheme.
The question of the output of coal at present is, in my opinion, actually more serious than the country realises. I have never hesitated, either on the platform or 82 in this House, to describe the position quite frankly. We are producing coal today at the rate of less than two-thirds of our production before the war. Hon. Members must remember that certain factors which brought about that reduction were beyond the control of the mine-owners and the mineworkers. For example, at one time we were producing about 287 million tons of coal annually and exporting about 74 million tons commercially with 16 million tons as bunker coal. We were the chief coal producing country in Europe. But we have had two wars in the lifetime of one generation. One of the effects of war is to cause other countries to industrialise faster than would normally be the case. After the war we had the mad policy of reparations, and the return to the gold standard. With production at 180 million tons a year and with increased requirements on the part of industry, I do not need to tell hon. Members what we are going to be faced with. I am not expecting any spectacular increase straight away following the passing of this Bill. The man who says he has that expectation either is cynical or does not understand the position. There is a difficult manpower problem to face in heavy industry and particularly in the mining industry.
We have today fewer than 700,000 effective mineworkers. Less than 20 years ago we had over 500,000 more than we have today. There is a reluctance to go into industries like mining which to some extent is understandable, apart from the fact that mining has always been looked upon as an industry "outside the pale," where wages were below the average, conditions hard, and where nobody in days gone by seemed big enough to do the things needed. We have the idea today of trying to get a living without working hard. That idea is not limited to miners. One of the problems to be faced by the Board will be how to attract into the industry a sufficient number of men to get the coal. It must not be forgotten that we cannot mechanise mining with one type of machine and we cannot get the coal without adequate manpower. When the Essential Work Order is removed, some men will go out of the industry and when the new pensions scales are introduced some of the older men will leave the pits to look after their gardens. If any word of praise is due in the mining industry for work done during the war, it 83 is due to those middle-aged and elderly people, who stuck to their jobs through thick and thin. We must face the fact that we shall have to make up for this manpower shortage by more intense organisation and increased mechanisation.
An hon. Member opposite talked about cheap coal. The day of cheap coal, in the sense that we have known it, has gone. Coal has always been sold at the pithead at far too low a price. It should have been sold at a price which would have given a fair crack of the whip to those working in the pits, and given a fair return on capital. As the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Holmes) said in his excellent maiden speech, what we have to do is to extract from coal its intrinsic value. There is some value in it. A commodity which is won under such hard and dangerous conditions should not be wasted. Strict fuel economy must be enforced and attention must be paid—as it has been paid for two or three years—to the problem of extraction from coal for industrial purposes of all that is in it, so as to get maximum power for the minimum expenditure of coal. We are compelled to pay attention to the scientific side of the industry.
In the early and middle parts of the 19th century miners advocated, decade after decade, that their men should come to the House of Commons. In those days they did not want representatives here for the purpose of nationalisation but because, while coal has been ruined in this country for at least seven centuries, there is no trace of any legislative action dealing with the health and safety of mineworkers before the year 1801. From the year 1800 to 1840 or 1850, Members of this House were appalled at the number of explosions in which young men and old, boys and girls were the victims. Then there was the Sunderland Committee, and Sir Humphry Davy. People were compelled to pay some attention to the position. The early representatives of the miners came here to get legislation for safety and shorter hours. As time went on, with the crack of the whip, with poverty, unemployment, strikes and lockouts, it became clear that something more would have to be done. I hope never to see another strike or lockout for as long as I live. I might almost say I was born in one, and I have been in 84 every one since 1893. I have seen the poverty which has resulted, when good men were broken in heart as well as in pocket through private enterprise.
What we have to do under this new dispensation is to learn to think out our problems and not to thump them out. I wish some of our pioneers were here to see the passing of this Bill today. They were men who fought because they believed in the cause. They wanted to see the pits brought from private ownership to public ownership. One could speak for a long time on a Bill of this character because coal is so vital to the welfare of this nation. There must be the Closest cooperation between the managerial side, the technicians and all who work in the industry, in order to give this country all that is required. I say without the slightest hesitation that given that proper cooperation I believe the passage of this Bill will be a good thing for the nation and for the mining industry generally.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Major Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
I always find it extremely difficult when I have to speak after the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith), who commands such respect from all sides of the House. What he has said today in a very large measure is common to all hon. Members. There is no doubt that we have come to a point where some complete reorganisation was necessary. Whatever Government came into power it was realised that reorganisation would have to take place. Many of us on this side of the House do not feel that the reorganisation which is in this Bill is the only, or indeed the right, one. The Minister said in the course of the Committee stage:The nature of the organisation to be established in the industry is a matter which has yet to be worked out."— [OFFICIAL REPORT Standing Committee C, 13th February, 1946, c. 90.]The Parliamentary Secretary said at the beginning of his speech that the issues were perfectly clear at the election. It is true that the issues were clear because the large body of the electors clearly thought that some one had a plan for nationalisation.
Time and again, in my own election speeches, I pointed out that, to the best of everybody's knowledge, no such plan 85 existed That is the state of affairs. As coal is so very vital to the prosperity of the nation, surely it would have been better, in the first place, to have set up some kind of planning committee or corn-mission, or a series of regional commissions, so that it could be planned, first on a regional basis and then coordinated. The Minister has set up a board, and, although it is possible to quarrel with his choice, as, apparently, the hon. Member for Normanton is prepared to do, as are certain other hon. Members, on the whole, we are prepared to agree that he has chosen well. But this Board has to submit plans, not to Parliament, but to the Minister. Surely, it would have been far better for the plans, in the first place, to be worked out and submitted to Parliament. Throughout the Committee stage of the Bill, and during Report stage, we have waited to see whether the Minister was able to disclose complete plans. The situation is that there are no plans. If they have to be worked out and then submitted to the Minister—
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)
Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman make clear exactly what he means by these plans? Does he mean a regional plan, a plan for management of a particular pit, or even of a particular seam? What kind of plan is he talking about?
§ Major Macpherson
To the best of my knowledge and belief, there are no plans even for regions. I mean the planning of the organisation of the industry. The nature of the organisation which is to be established in the industry has still to be settled. What is going to happen? If this scheme, when it comes into operation, works well, the party opposite will demand that the Minister shall take the credit. But, if it does not, who gets the blame? The Board will get the blame, and the nation will suffer.
Whatever party had won the last election, some measure of reorganisation would have been necessary, but this Bill does not answer what is required at the moment, and I give three reasons why it does not. The first reason is the urgency for getting more coal and cheaper coal. What does the Bill do? It sets up an enormous, cumbersome machinery for the taking over of the industry, for a change of ownership, instead of getting on with the job of getting coal. The Bill, 86 undoubtedly, despite Clause 18, which provides for capital expenditure, cannot but discourage present owners from making immediate improvements, because they may not be what the future owners require. The second reason is that, in the long run, it is bound to hamper initiative through over-centralisation. It cannot but lead to all the disadvantages of bureaucracy in the long run. The third reason is that it leaves responsibility divided in a most unsatisfactory manner between the Minister and the Board.
Let us consider the three sides interested in this matter—the miners, the direction and management, and the consumer. It has been urged with great cogency that something, ought to be done to restore goodwill between the miners and management, and it is said that nationalisation is the only manner in which this can be done. That is something which, I submit, can only be decided in the light of future events. Will it do so or not? We do not know. Regarding the immediate advantages to the miner, it is very difficult indeed to see where they come in. It would be unreasonable to claim that improvements in health and working conditions demand nationalisation. As the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) has said, great strides have already been made, and, even in the past, they were getting under way. So that claim cannot be made. Then, instead of a miner being an employee of some firm and being able to have direct contact, if necessary, with his employer, he now becomes an employee in a vast organisation. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense "] He is not, as so many miners wanted to be, the employee of the State, but of some enormous concern. The hon. Member for North-West Hull (Mr. R. Mackay) very rightly brought in the necessity of the miners having some real interest, some financial interest, but there is none whatever in this case, apart from their ordinary interest as citizens. The miner might very well ask what is to be the position in regard to the Essential Work Order. The Order is supposed to be taken off whenever circumstances permit. Under this Bill, when will circumstances permit?
May I now touch upon the question of over centralisation? Regional Boards are 87 to be set up, but they will, no doubt, be strictly under the control of the Board. That cannot but mean rigidity and uniformity, without sufficient regard to differences in the physical characteristics of the regions, of the mines themselves, of the character of the miners in different areas, and of local requirements. There is a danger of more delay in the settling of disputes, and, in the long run, there is no doubt that there will be a fatal tendency within this organisation to shift responsibility rather than accept it. With regard to the question of divided responsibility, I only wish to say that the Board is to carry out the general directions of the Minister. In the case of disagreement, however, what happens? The Minister's will must, of course, prevail. Human nature being what it is, the Board is likely to acquiesce rather than resign, and I suggest that the independence of the Board is wholly illusory.
The Parliamentary Secretary has said that the essential thing at present is to conduct the industry solely in the public interest, and that is what he claimed the Board would do. Instead of being run for profit, the industry is to be run"In the public interest."It is self-evident that it is in the public interest that the miners should get fair wages. Present relations definitely show that one of the great disadvantages of the past has been cheap coal. The Minister said on the Committee stage:There is no reason why it "—meaning the Board—should sell coal at one price to one consumer and at a lower price to another."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee C, 20th February, 1946, c. 185.]This raises the whole question of discrimination. If that is so, why will not the Minister put it in the Bill? Industry wants to have confidence in the Bill and the assurance of a fair deal. Surely, the Minister can realise that it will give people confidence if that goes into the Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary, apparently, thinks that it may be in the public interest to discriminate from time to time. I submit that it should definitely be in the Bill that there should be no discrimination, and that Parliament should decide when and where discrimination is desirable, if at all. In support of that, I would like to quote an article which 88 appeared in "The Times" of 8th January on the calculation of economic efficiency. It said:The data must, as tar as possible, be undistorted. They must represent economic realities "—not, I would add, the momentary caprice of the Board or the Minister. It is essential that it should be possible to see how industries are really working. Isolated discrimination, even in cases which appear most desirable, such as in the depressed industries, cannot be justified. We may be told that there are the industrial coal consumers' council and the domestic coal consumers' council to deal with complaints. But those councils are appointed —I quote from Clause 4 (2) of the Bill "to represent the Board" and the Board undoubtedly becomes judge in its own cause. They may have the very best intentions, but I have seen how these things can work out in the Army, and this type of organisation which is being set up is not so very different from that in the Services. I remember a legal officer who was attached to the Army Welfare actually receiving an order not to defend an accused soldier—which shows, even with the very best intentions, what things can happen. I fear that, if effect were given to some of the ideas put forward from hon. Members opposite, the day would come when it would be considered in the public interest to deny justice to the individual if the Board or the Minister said so. That is exactly what we have been fighting against. It all depends what the interpretation is of the "public interest."If it is what Parliament says, well and good, but if it is what the Board says, that is not so good.
We are told that this Bill sets up a great experiment in public ownership. Perhaps it would have been better to have restricted that experience and to have tried it out in one part of the country first. However, we are embarking on a great experiment; it is proposed to nationalise all the mines and many of the ancillary undertakings as well. Surely, the public should receive the very fullest account of the stewardship. I submit that accounts should be presented to Parliament showing how regional organisations compare one with another, possibly right down to districts—I would not go so far as to say mine by mine—so that the public can see how the ex- 89 periment is working out. Where nationalised undertakings are competing with privately owned undertakings, there should be a comparison, undertaking by undertaking, so that this House can see whether it is really in the interest of the country or not that the ancillary undertakings should be nationalised. Why should the Government refuse to do that? Are they afraid of a comparison? Are they ashamed of the Bill? I submit that the Board should show an example of open dealing. It should not only be a model employer; it should be a model industry from the point of view of accountancy also. Much has been said about the necessity for good will—and I believe that the whole House will agree with the Prime Minister's desire that there should be a change of heart—but it is only by cooperation on all sides that this can be obtained, and not by this Bill.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Hubbard (Kirkcaldy)
I shall not attempt to follow the arguments of the hon. and gallant Member for Dumfries (Major Macpherson). If I did so, I should be standing on my head before I had uttered many sentences. Most of the hon. Members who have so far spoken in this Debate have emphasised the great and immediate need for more coal. The hon. and gallant Member for Dumfries suggested that some vague committees should have been set up all over the country to consider a plan before such a Measure as this was introduced in this House. If it is true—and I believe it is—that there is a great need for coal fairly quickly, then I cannot agree that any delay should be permitted as regards this Measure.
§ Major Macpherson
If I may interrupt the hon. Member, I would point out that I was complaining of the delay. I said that there should have been, first of all, a planning committee, so as to avoid delay.
§ Mr. Hubbard
But the time for these planning committees was 25 or 30 years ago. I welcome this Bill because I believe it may well be the foundation of the economic recovery, not only of the mining industry, but of all the other industries of the country. There should be no privileges or preferences for any one section of the community. It is perfectly clear that the intention of the Bill is to benefit the country as a whole. It is bound to do that.
90 The Bill has been well debated and great regard has been had to the changeover of the industry from private to public ownership. Great regard has also been had to the question of how it is to be managed. Much evidence has been laid before this House on Second Reading, upstairs in Committee and again this afternoon on Third Reading. The greatest evidence before the House has been the steady decline in the industry for the last 25 years and no stronger argument could be put by anybody. Indeed, no other argument should be necessary. For at least a quarter of a century the mining industry has been so badly managed that it has been undermining every other industry in the country. Hon. Members opposite have spoken about the shortage of coal last year and the year before. Their minds do not seem to carry them beyond the war years. This is a problem of long standing and nobody expects that, during the very early stages of this Bill, there will suddenly be sufficient coal.
The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) spoke about the number of men at present engaged in mining as compared with the number engaged in the bad old days. Obviously, there is bound to be a big fall in the production of coal in this country. The whole future not merely of the mining industry but of all industries depends on the success of this Bill. Many committees have been set up to deal with this problem and much evidence has been given. Every committee has arrived at the same conclusion, namely, that something must be done to reorganise this industry. Almost every speaker in the Debate this afternoon has spoken on similar lines, saying that reorganisation is necessary. I say to hon. Members opposite that it has been known for years that reorganisation is necessary, because every time a committee produced a report the necessity for reorganisation has been emphasised. Here, for the first time, is an opportunity for putting into operation the recommendations of all those committees, including the Reid Committee, which I think was a good committee. This Bill provides for reorganisation on a national scale, without having regard merely to one section of the community. We cannot reorganise a national industry on a regional basis. The National Coal Board will be able to deal with the complete picture, and not merely various fragments of a picture. 91 Many of the fragments are imperfect and many are missing. Therefore, the Coal Board will look at the whole picture.
The Bill provides for the setting up of the Coal Board. Their job will not be enviable; they have a big task in front of them. The sooner they get on with the job, and the sooner this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, the better it will be for the country as a whole. I have confidence in those who have been selected as members of the Coal Board. They have been chosen because of their great knowledge. Collectively they will be able to guide this industry to prosperity, equipped as they are with knowledge and experience of the industry from all its angles. It is true that in this House we speak from different aspects. Today I have listened to Members who have a great knowledge of company law and who know all about the administrative side of coal. On this side of the House many of us have a vast knowledge of the actual working of the coal mines. We have gathered on a single board men connected with many things, including the production and processing of coal, the selling of coal and research work. They are all gathered together, and, without a shadow of a doubt, they will all lead this industry to prosperity.
Complaint has been made from time to time that nothing has been said in the Bill about the miners themselves. Miners are a most intelligent part of the community. They did not expect to find any mention of miners in a Bill which merely provides facilities for the transfer of the coal mines from private to public ownership. But the miners welcome this Bill because they realise that with this Bill the industry in which they earn their livelihood can be re-organised, and they have waited for over a quarter of a century for that reorganisation. If previous Governments had had regard to the industry and to the human interests of those employed in the coal mines, we would not have had to wait so long for the industry to be reorganised. The Bill will be an impetus to the recruitment to the mines. My hon. Friend the Member for Norman-ton (Mr. T. Smith) referred to the subject of recruitment. It is obvious that this Bill will stand or fall by whether or not it attracts men into the industry. No matter what academic arguments may be put forward, in the final analysis it will 92 not be a success unless we get the men into the industry. In spite of academic arguments, we require the miners to produce the coal, and we require the coal so that all the industries can move forward to something better than what they were before the war. This is the intention of the Bill and the desire of those who wish it well.
I look upon this as a great and historic occasion. I, as an ex-miner, feel privileged to speak in this House on this occasion, when the mines are in the process of being handed over to public ownership. Remembering all the evils of the mines during my long term of years in them, I esteem it a great privilege to take part in this Debate, fully realising, of course, that we are not at the end of the task—indeed, we are only at the beginning—and fully realising that this Bill only provides facilities to reorganise and make the coal mines a success in the future. The Bill also provides facilities for ensuring that the coal which is produced will be put to proper use, that the by-products and ancillary industries will be taken care of and that we shall not see in the future, as we have seen in the past, a high percentage of the value of the coal going up the chimney in smoke, serving no other purpose than to pollute the countryside, damaging crops and health. I have no desire to speak at any length. I think it is fitting that this great mining industry, which-is the key to many other industries, should be the first to be dealt with by this Labour Government. Therefore, I congratulate the Minister and all those who have assisted him in the preparation of this Bill. It is a Bill which has been awaited for many years, to which we miners pledged ourselves in the General Election, and which I am satisfied will, in the final analysis, put this country back where it deserves to be, leading the industries of the world.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Sir Arnold Gridley (Stockport)
May I first say that I am very glad to see that the Parliamentary Secretary has returned to his seat, because I would like to give him a pat on the back for what I consider was a good Parliamentary performance in opening the Debate today? He would not expect me, by any means, to agree with everything he said, but I could not help admiring the way in which he discharged his task. We are nearing the end of the stages through which this Bill must pass 93 before it goes to another place and later receives, as, of course, it will, the Royal Assent.
This is the first of the basic industries to be nationalised and, therefore, its importance cannot be over stressed. But, interested as those who own or work in mines may be, the nationalisation and the future success or failure of this industry are not the concern only of those engaged in it. A cheap and abundant supply of coal is vital to our railways, gas and electricity undertakings and, indeed, to all industries and every domestic user. I said "cheap and abundant."Those words are very familiar to me because when it was considered necessary a few years ago to introduce a measure of reorganisation of the electric supply industry, the words used over and over again were, "This organisation is necessary in order to bring about a cheap and abundant supply." What was necessary in that great industry is just as necessary, and, indeed, even more so in the great coal industry. I would like to remind the House of paragraph 766 of the Reid Report, which says:We cannot close this report without emphasising the deep consciousness we feel of the great issues which hang upon the successful completion of the formidable tasks before the industry. Britain is one of the main workshops of the world, and depends for continued prosperity upon her ability to produce manufactured goods in the factories, mills and works throughout the land, all, or nearly all of which are ultimately dependent upon coal for their operations.Those are grave and impressive words. Hon. Members may have heard speakers in recent broadcasts who were at pains to warn the nation that unless the output of coal is considerably increased, its price reduced, and its export trade restored, Britain will sink to a fifth-rate Power. Whatever our views may be, whether we like nationalisation or whether we do not, we must, if we love our country, hope that this great experiment will be a successful one, and that the nationalisation of this industry will ultimately succeed. What is the alternative? Nothing but national disaster.
I ask: Is this as good a Bill as we could make it? I do not think there would be a confident "Yes" from any quarter in answer to that question. The Bill admittedly contains but the merest framework for the future structure of the industry, and a vast number of matters directly 94 concerned with its future are left to regulations to be imposed hereafter by the Minister Holding the views I do, I find it difficult to have any other opinion than that so much control by regulations is the very negation of true democratic government. Those of us who served on the Committee upstairs during its 18 sittings did our best to secure Amendments to improve the Bill. Although the Minister did meet us on one or two occasions, he stubbornly refused to concede other Amendments which would have improved it without in any way impairing the Socialist principles upon which the Bill has been founded. I will not comment upon the attitude of the Minister, who is not in his place at the moment, but I would like to remind the House of what a "Times" leading article said, and "The Times" Is by no means friendly to the Conservative Opposition. It said this:The continued unwillingness of the Minister to make concessions that would define or delimit his powers more clearly, or protect consumers more effectively, or afford reasonable publicity to the affairs of the National Coal Board, inevitably frustrated the whole purpose of the discussion. The handling of both Health Service Bill and National Insurance Bill has provided a welcome contrast.Evidently the view of "The Times "Is that this Bill could have been moulded into a better Bill. I would direct the attention of hon. Members to Clause 3 (1) of the Bill:The Minister may, after consultation with the Board, give to the Board directions of a general character as to the exercise and performance by the Board of their functions in relation to matters appearing to the Minister to affect the national interest, and the Board shall give effect to any such directions.For good or ill I ask whether any Minister could be given more dictatorial powers over a Board of first-class men. I put this question to the House: Can the Government, or any hon. Members supporting them, claim that those who, at the last General Election, supported the nationalisation of the mines, had any conception whatever that the Government also contemplated taking over all the ancillary businesses?
§ Sir A. Gridley
I beg to doubt it. I do not think one in ten hon. Members have any idea what a wide range these ancillary undertakings cover. What do 95 they include? Coke ovens, coal tar, benzols and ammonia, from which many diversified industries originate—
§ Sir A. Gridley
—dyes and dyestuffs, plastics, drugs and medicine. I believe I am right in saying that there are some 50 products of which coal tar is a raw material. It is a great and complicated business that the Government are to take over. No one can conceive what the consequences may be, for good or ill, from such a wide incursion into activities so numerous and so important.
§ Mr. John McKay (Wallsend)
May I put this question to the hon. Member? The hon. Member said one of the chief things required was cheap coal, and an abundance of it. Would he not have that in conjunction with a high standard of living for the miners who produced it, and does the hon. Member think their present standard is sufficient?
§ Sir A. Gridley
I have always held that view. In the early days I bought coal at 6s. 3d. a ton, and then wages were too low. Today we are paying 43s. 6d. a ton for the same class of coal. I gather that during the war wages were not unsatisfactory to the miners. No one wishes to go back to the old days.
§ Sir A. Gridley
I do not think I must be led into an argument on that point on this occasion. I want the House to follow me on one other point to which I have been bound to attach very great importance. It is the duty of all hon. Members to look after the interests of the consumer of coal. In due course the Coal Board will be the only supplier of coal in bulk. Presumably the Board must enter into contracts with large industrial- users of coal, merchants and others. We on this side sought to impose upon the Board conditions which would prevent any preferential treatment between one class of consumer and another. Such safeguards are inherent in all industries established under Acts of Parliament, railways, har- 96 bours, docks, gas and electricity and so on. In the Electric Lighting Acts provision is made that—… every company or person would be entitled to a supply on the same terms on which any other company or person in such part of the area is entitled under similar circumstances to a corresponding supply.There is another provision which provides that "The undertakers,"That is the suppliers—… shall not, in making any agreement for supplies, show any undue preference to any local authority, company or person.It seemed to us, quite rightly in my view, that similar obligations should be imposed upon the Coal Board. The Minister, rebutting our Amendment, said it was necessary for him to retain the right to discriminate. That has caused the greatest disquietude throughout the industrial consumers of coal. Doubts exist even today as to the contractual relationship between the Coal Board and its customers. It is quite true that the Attorney-General, in Committee upstairs when I raised this point, made a statement that the consumers in contractual relationship with the Coal Board would be in precisely the same position as two privately controlled concerns in contractual relationship with one another. That statement does not seem to have allayed the anxiety felt in certain quarters, and I understand that in response to a question, the Attorney-General some days ago promised that that position would bé looked into and a statement made in due course.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
He did, in fact, repeat what he said in Committee upstairs, that the position would be precisely the same as between two private concerns.
§ Sir A. Gridley
I have dealt with the consumers; what of the miners employed in the mines? Is their position likely to be improved? [HON. MEMBERS: "We hope so."] The hon. Member for Clack-mannan (Mr. Woodburn) said only in March last year—it is rather striking:The war has brought many doubts about the working of the bureaucratic administration of the mines. Even some of the miners say that they can get decisions from the mine-owners but it becomes more difficult if it has to go through layers of officials to a political head who has to weigh up all the political reactions before he can say anything.On the same day, he is reported to have said: 97I consider it quite unconvincing for any one to argue that the miners will work harder because the State owns the mines.I leave those sentences to speak eloquently for themselves. What will be the future of the National Union of Mineworkers, or other trade unions, under nationalisation? The miners will become servants of the Minister, through the Coal Board, and if and when wages disputes arise, negotiations will in fact, either directly or indirectly, be with the State. If they fail, what is the miners' remedy? Have they thought this out? [HON. MEMBERS: "We know it."] Well, we shall see. From past experience in the nationalisation of this industry in other countries there really is little encouragement for us to hope that it will be any more successful here. It may be said, of course, that we know how to do these things here very much better than they do in other countries; all I say is that if we do look abroad and see what has happened elsewhere, there is very little that encourages us to hope for greater success.
On this fundamental issue those responsible for the Reid Report say this, in paragraph 676, and I think it is as well to read it. Many of us have read this Report but we sometimes forget some of the most important things in it:We do not presume, therefore, to state that any particular course of action will assuredly lead to the establishment of a satisfactory basis of full cooperation within the Industry, especially as there has been so long and unhappy a history of disputes, grievances and misunderstanding. All we set out to do is to say what, in our view are the essential preliminaries to the establishment of such a basis, and to rely upon common sense and character to see that they are carried through. If they can be carried through, and if each side will trust in the sincerity of the other, we believe that there will be such a change in behaviour as to provide a sure foundation for the future. If this does not occur the value of our technical re-commendations will be greatly reduced.What do those same writers say about the duties of the mine workers?Conversely, the mineworker has certain equally fundamental duties, and failure to carry them out destroys, to the extent of his failure, his claim to the rights we have enumerated. His duties may be summarised as follows: (i) To give a full and fair day's work. (ii) To accept proper discipline in the mineAn Hon. Member: Claim a fair day's pay, more likely.
§ Sir A. Gridley
(iii) To abandon lightning strikes. (iv) To be ready to reconsider, and where necessary to renounce, coalfield customs detrimental to the efficient working of the Industry. (v) Full cooperation with the management to raise productivity.I am not lecturing the miners, I am merely repeating what the Reid Committee in their Report thought it was essential to remind them of. So, in conclusion, I would say to the Minister that he may think he has hammered out a sufficiently good Bill, he may have appointed the best men procurable to make an absolutely first-class Coal Board, but neither a good Coal Board nor a good Act of Parliament can make this scheme a success unless the miners are prepared to do their duty and discharge their responsibilities, as the Reid Report itself points out. This Bill will presently become an Act of Parliament. From that moment, no matter what troubles the Minister may have had in the past, his real difficulties will begin.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I will not argue the merit of nationalisation, because the case for nationalisation has been fully made out, as fully as it is possible to make it, and no more need be said about that. I just want to pay a tribute to the Minister and to touch on two Clauses in the Bill. My tribute to the Minister is for the way in which he has carried this Bill through its various stages. He has shown great skill, still greater patience and, in my opinion, highly commendable toleration, Clause 10 is the one that I do not like. It allows of compensation to the coal-owners. They should not have received any compensation; the most that they should have received was a life annuity. I said so on the Second Reading. That is where it should have finished—no compensation: the condition of the industry should have settled that.
The most important Clause in the Bill is Clause 43, which deals with the relations of the Board with the representatives of the miners. As has been pointed out time and time again, there will be no coal without the miners, and the better the miners are pleased, the more coal you will get. Therefore, I hope that one of the first actions on the part of the Board will be to come to an understanding with the representatives of the National Union 99 of Mineworkers, and that the miners will get the five day week, without a drop in pay, and the miners' charter. It is to be noticed that no part of this Bill has received less discussion than that particular Clause. In the Bill it will be found that provision is made for everybody connected with the industry except the miners. So I hope that in the future discussions on this matter the miners' charter will be granted at the earliest possible moment, and the miners thereby won over for this great new development of the mining industry, which is now to be run for the public good. We shall then get a situation in which the people of the country get the coal, and the miners get the conditions they desire. That will mean that we shall have done a great job and the Minister of Fuel and Power and those associated with him will have done something of which they can he really proud.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Jennings (Sheffield, Hallam)
We had a long Debate on the Second Reading and, as the Parliamentary Secretary told us, during the 18 days we spent upstairs we dealt with 250 Amendments and during the three days Report stage we had 143 Amendments. During these Debates almost all sides of the industry have been dealt with by various Members on all sides of the House, but there is one thing which I think should be stressed by hon. Members on whatever side they may be. Is this Bill going to be in the best interests, not only of the miners, not only of the consumers, but of the country as a whole? That, in my opinion, is the guiding factor. I think the Minister will agree with me that the position in the minefields today is very grave. I do not think I can blame him for having in a speech the other day given full weight to the seriousness of the coal position today. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) make one point which I thought was a very good one. He said there was a manpower problem in this industry. I should like to add, that there is an economic problem in the country. Hence I suggest that this is entirely the wrong time, when the country is fighting for its life, to bring in a Bill of this nature. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because I think it will seriously increase the cost of coal to the steel 100 works in the constituency which I represent; I think it will increase the cost of coal to the consumer, both industrial and domestic; and I think that, for those reasons, in order to get this industry on a proper footing, the country as a whole is going to suffer.
I should like to establish the export market. Very little has been said about that from the other side. I cannot see in what way this Bill is going to develop the most essential export trade we enjoyed before the war. It is a very serious matter, that.
§ Mr. Nally (Bilston)
I am trying to follow the hon. Gentleman's line of reasoning.. Does he suggest that if, after the election of a Labour Government pledged to nationalise the coal mines, we had accepted on second thoughts his thesis—that, in view of the national situation and the international situation, we ought to abandon nationalisation—we should, as a result, be in a better condition, having dropped our pledge and refused to nationalise the industry? Does he suggest that more coal would have been produced, or that it would be cheaper?
§ Mr. Jennings
If there arises an economic situation in which our livelihood is at stake, I say without hesitation that we must not put a party platform before the country's good. I maintain that that is exactly what is being done, without any definite safeguard that production of coal is going to increase.
§ Mr. Nally
That is not my point. Does the hon. Gentleman argue that, if the Labour Government, upon the grounds that he suggests, had decided not to proceed with nationalisation of the coal industry, coal production would have been maintained? Would the miners' output have been as great as it is today?
§ Mr. Jennings
I think, frankly, that if the Government had tackled the position in a different way—I am being brought on to a rather controversial point and I hope I shall be forgiven for answering it —and if there had been collaboration in the coalfields by all concerned, the leaders of all sections of the industry, the miners, the owners and the Government, since the Labour Government came into office, coal production would have been up today. I hope that satisfies the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Jennings
It is a case of "none so blind as those that will not see."There are one or two aspects of the Bill which, in my opinion, are very unsatisfactory. Consider Clause 29, which deals with the accounts. There are other Clauses which mention the revenue accounts, but the fundamental part of the Bill dealing with accounts is in Clause 29, I want to make a request to the Minister. He has got all power in this Clause. These are the accounts which he has to direct, the Coal Board to provide. Those accounts that the Minister prescribes will be the means by which this House and the country will see exactly the fruits of this Measure, to see whether it is a good or a bad Measure. I beg him to see that the fullest possible information is contained in those accounts, which the Board is to keep. It is not merely a question of one comprehensive account that will tell us what we want. We need a detailed statement showing the fullest possible information in the clearest possible way, so that not only hon. Members in the House, but people in the country, also, may see whether this great venture is a success or not.
I am anxiously waiting, and I think every other hon. Member is anxiously waiting, to see whether our side is proved wrong and whether this great venture is a success. If it proves a success, then the Minister and the party opposite will go up by leaps and bounds in the country's estimation. I have got to be fair on that. We all have the same thing at heart: we want to try to get the best possible conditions in the industry. It is the question of the methods to be employed on which there is disagreement. I shall be very happy if the miners get a good standard of living through this Bill. I shall also be very happy if the consumer, the householder, gets a goodly supply of coal at a reasonable price. I shall also be happy if, through the medium of this Bill, the industrial consumer gets sufficient coal to keep the electricity works going, or the gas company's working going; so that people at the lowest end of the scale are not charged unduly for the gas or electricity supplied. It is not only one section of the community we must consider. We must consider all sections. If we do, we view the Bill from the right standpoint.
102 I appeal to the Minister on the question of those accounts, because I do believe that is the only measurement that will show us the nationalised industry's progress or decline. It is the only means to show that to us, the non-technical people, who cannot examine the technical matters as other hon. Members can, who have been brought up in coalmining from the beginning. We non-technical people must rely on the financial aspect of the matter to show whether the Bill proves to be in the interests of the country or not. So I request the Minister to give us full accounts. He has been good enough not only in this House but in Committee, to tell us what was in his mind. He says he has nothing to hide. Well, let us see the accounts to prove he has nothing to hide, so that we can know the full position with regard to the working of the industry.
There is another side of these revenue accounts mentioned in Clause 1 and Clause 18. There are many sorts of revenue accounts. Revenue accounts may not include the whole of the items which can properly be chargeable to revenue. They may be capitalised. I want the Minister to ensure that under Clause 18 no large sum is charged to capital in respect of revenue, in order to alleviate the yearly position. That is a very important matter, although it is not so important as the major issue under Clause 29. With regard to Consumers' Councils, we are now bound by what is in the Bill. It has been stated that the Minister cannot possibly know of every complaint, and that some of the complaints heard by Consumers' Councils will not reach him. What the Minister can do, and ought to do in the interests of the industry, the industrial consumer and the domestic consumer, is to see that there is no unfair discrimination. I ask him to pay special attention to that, because there is the possibility that the domestic consumer might be discriminated against, for the benefit of the industrial consumer. I ask him to keep his eye on this very important matter. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) will not agree with me when I say that I do not agree with the method of valuation of colliery companies.
§ Mr. Jennings
I consider that the method of valuation will operate very un- 103 fairly. We shall have values in different districts on a very unfair basis, and that is another complaint which I have against the Bill. I entirely disagree with the method of the allocation of compensation. A very important issue is the payment of compensation with restrictions. I would add my voice to those of hon. Members who have wished the Parliamentary Secretary well. He gave a first-class performance in opening the Debate. During the many years I have been in the House, I have never listened to so many explanations as to why this or that is taking place. We have had discussions on Second Reading and in Committee on the liquidation of assets, but now we have had an entirely new point raised by the Parliamentary Secretary. He says that the Board will realise their assets in order to pay off their shareholders. I think he must have got frightfully mixed up on that. No Board can pay off shareholders unless a company goes into liquidation. The Government are going against company law to pay off shareholders like this. It cannot be done, and if a director tried it, he might find himself in the Old Bailey. The Parliamentary Secretary must have misunderstood the position, and his brief must have been a little wrong.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Perhaps I should have emphasised "debenture holders" as being rather more important. With regard to shareholders, is it presumed that these companies will all remain in existence?
§ Mr. Jennings
The Parliamentary Secretary is now bringing in debenture holders. The debenture holders will be in a position to call for the money, or the company may call them off, according to what is in the debenture. The Parliamentary Secretary's statement was that a director might collar the compensation and sell it, or liquidate it, with a view to paying off the shareholders. Surely that is a remarkable statement?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I will make one more effort to clear up this point. Surely it will not be denied that circumstances may arise in which the owner of the business, or the debenture holder, or the preference shareholder—group them all together if you like —are going to be paid off? If that has to be done, there is a problem if no restrict- 104 tions are imposed. The companies would want to pay them cash, but to pay them cash the stock would have to be unloaded on the market.
§ Mr. H. Macmillan
Yes, if the stock is given to the shareholders and they are paid for it in that way. But they can only be paid in that way if the companies go into liquidation. Under the Bill, immediately the shareholders receive the stock, the stock becomes saleable in any case.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
There is a real danger that at the same moment we should have a large amount of stock on the market. It is true that the individual shareholders might each sell their own stock, but we do not think it will be likely that they will sell it all at once.
§ Mr. Jennings
After a great show this afternoon, although the Parliamentary Secretary is unruffled on this, he apparently does not understand the position. "For liquidation"Is provided in the Bill, and so there is only that method which can be adopted whereby the stock becomes saleable. During all these Debates, when there have been sharp exchanges and tempers have been a little ruffled, most of us have had in mind the main object, to pass through this House something which will give the greatest benefit to all sections, and not simply to one section. I know that the miners have had a bad time. I know there have been difficulties, and we have heard some sad stories during the Second Reading Debate. But all that does not make this Bill a good Bill. What will make this a good Bill will be if it gives consumers a fair deal, and the trade of our country the impetus it needs from the export of coal, and if it provides fair conditions in the coal mines.
I want to see peaceful prosperity in the coalfield, and all consumers supplied with a good supply of coal at a reasonable price. I want to see the development of our export market, so that we shall have the export trade which is so badly needed at the present time. This Bill, in my opinion, does not do any of those things. Therefore, I shall be obliged to go into the Lobby tonight, to vote against it.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Mr. James Glanville (Consett)
I do not intend to speak on the technicalities of this Bill. We have already had 18 days upon it upstairs, and, during that time, 105 I did not once raise my voice. I think that hon. Gentlemen opposite tried deliberately to provoke us during the Committee stage in order to delay the passage of this Bill; but we did not fall for it. The result is that we are here tonight on the Third Reading. The hon. Member for Hallam (Mr. Jennings) talked about valuation. Although I am not committed to confiscation, I am sorely tempted to agree with the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). Let me say at once that these coal mines should be bought, not in order to provide an everlasting heritage for the owners, but for, as my hon. Friend says, "a decent price to get rid of them."They ought to be ought, not merely at their value over the past to years, but at their potential value during the ensuing to years. In my own district, I know of many coal mines, which have been "gold mines "In the past, and which are now outworn. The life of them will be no more than five or six years.
I would like to say a few kind words to hon. Gentlemen opposite. Their concern for the members of the mining community is pathetic—it is tragic. They ask: "How are the miners going to fare under this nationalisation scheme? "How are the National Union of Mineworkers and the Labour Government going to administer nationalisation? Will they kindly leave that to the N.U.M. and the Labour Government? We will manage it, without their help. Are hon. Gentlemen opposite aware that no organisation in this country played a greater part in bringing this Labour Government to power than the National Union of Mineworkers? There is no reason now why, having achieved our objective, we should attempt to divide our forces. We do not need to provide Clauses in this Bill to say that the conditions of the mineworkers will be improved. We are ready to increase production, as we surely shall, so that the miners themselves will feel the benefit, not by promises, but by direct legislative action.
§ Mr. Glanville
Not so slow as it has been in the past. I speak as a man who has probably worked longer in the coal mines than any other man in this House. I had 40 years down in that "dark hole."I know what I am talking about. Fourteen or 15 years ago in County Dur 106 ham, as my friends there know well, we established what was known as a subsistence wage for miners—6s. 8½d per day for men over 21. As soon as our young men reached the age of 21, they were sacked by the coal-owners, and their juniors were promoted to save a paltry sum of about 4d. per shift. They chased the young men out of the mining industry for a few paltry coppers a day. The owners did not care where they went. Today, they are scattered in factories all over the country, and when hon. Members opposite are short of coal they cry "Where are the young miners? "It was the damnable policy pursued by the coal-owners which chased those young men out of the coal industry. That is undeniable. That is the record of private enterprise in the coal mines.
Hon. Members opposite ask: "What is to be the relationship between the management and the men? "All the managers of the collieries whom I know in my area are prepared to cooperate under this Bill. Our struggle in the past has not been against the manager of a colliery. Instead of having full play for his technical skill, he has been answerable to a board of directors who worked the industry for £ s. d., regardless of the technical side of it. If a seam showed a profit it was worked; if it showed a temporary loss it was closed and men were thrown on to the street, when a few hundred pounds spent on "faults "In a seam would have amply repaid the expenditure. Those are the sort of things we are up against. I could talk from now, Mr. Speaker, until you stopped me on this subject. I was one of the men who was victimised following 1926, as were many of my friends. There is a certain pleasure in being victimised; it proves that you have been faithful and true to the class to which you belong, and it proves that you did not curry favour with the "bosses." We know what struggles and hardships are, and what is the lot in wages and bad conditions of the miners. Our fellows are today working in two foot seams, for low wages, lying on their sides in water and with water dripping on them. It is quite true that hon. Gentlemen opposite know something of technical mining—but there is not a damned man among you who could hew a ton of coal.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
In the new regime of the House of Commons is the expression "not a damned one of you opposite" permissible? Is that the new procedure of this House, Mr. Speaker?
§ Earl Winterton
Yes, he did. He said it most distinctly—" Not a damned one of you opposite."Is that modern procedure by hon. Gentlemen opposite to he allowed in this House?
§ Mr. Glanville
I do not think that you heard me say it, Mr. Speaker, but I did. I withdraw the expression at once, knowing full well that damnation is something that is waiting for them later on.
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not think that is a proper withdrawal. The hon. Member should withdraw it unreservedly.
§ Mr. Glanville
I withdraw it altogether. I have kind feelings towards the Noble Lord, and I think he and I would make good friends. There is one word I want to say in conclusion. As a boy of 12 years of age I worked 10 hours a day in a coal mine for 1s. 2d. a shift. We have improved beyond that now, but that was not through any kindness displayed by the coal-owners. The story of this industry is the story of the most brutal industry on earth, because it reaches back to the days when women dragged the coal in baskets from the coal pit. Hon. Members opposite do not believe that but none the less it is true. It reaches back to the days when little boys were carried on their fathers' backs into the pit and left to sit at trap doors. That is the story of this industry, which is the most bloodstained of all our industries, and the most tyrannical, too.
§ Earl Winterton
On a point of Order. I have always understood from the Rulings given by your predecessors and by yourself, Mr. Speaker, that the Third Reading of a Bill is concerned only with what is in the Bill and that it is on the Second Reading that Members can go back in the long history of an industry such as this, back almost to antediluvian times. The hon. Gentleman is not making one reference to the Bill as it now stands.
§ Mr. Speaker
On the Third Reading of a Bill like this it is very difficult not to 108 avoid the background of the industry, but I hope hon. Members will not transgress too much.
§ Mr. Glanville
If I use an antediluvian argument it is only because the coal-owners are antediluvian in their outlook and in this Bill we are modernising the industry. We come here with a new outlook on life. The men in the coalfields of this country will be highly pleased when they know that this Bill has gone on to the Statute Book. [An HON. MEMBER: "Wait and see."] A parrot could say that because it was said long years before the hon. Member thought of it. It is not a question of wait and see."The men in the coalfields will know that this Bill comes from this Labour Government as carrying out one of the promises to which they are committed. The Labour Government will then cooperate with the men in the coalfields, knowing full well that whatever dividends accrue, and whatever success this new scheme attains, will be theirs instead of going into the pockets of the greedy, grabbing coal-owners. That is all I have to say.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
I hardly wish to make a speech and I certainly will not attempt to explain the probable effect of this Bill upon coal getting, a matter on which I do not feel very competent to comment, but I think it is equally in order to try to explain what in the view of one may seem to be the effects of this Bill upon Parliament. I hope that I may be forgiven for spending a few minutes upon that point. When this Parliament first met we were adjured to find ways for doing our business more quickly than had been done before. We had a Debate in this House and a Select Committee was appointed. It was agreed at the beginning even by those most anxious for expedition that the thing would not work unless measures of anything like first-class constitutional importance were kept upon the Floor of the House and not sent upstairs. Upon earlier occasions when we debated this matter we could debate it only hypothetically, because we had not seen the whole process of such a Bill. We are at the last stage of such a Bill and I suggest that there are at least three specific reasons and one more than general reason to be got out of the relationship between this Bill and the Parliamentary process.—
§ Mr. Gallacher
Oil a point of Order. In view of the fact that the "Father" of the House can raise a point of Order perhaps one of the family will be allowed to follow suit. I want to ask if what the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) is saying has anything whatever to do with the Bill, or indeed, has anything to do with the background of the industry which we are now discussing.
§ Mr. Speaker
It certainly has something to do with the Bill and I am listening to the hon. Member very carefully. My impression is that he is in Order.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I did not think I was out of Order, and I know that there are other Members with a direct knowledge of coal and coalmining who desire to speak on this occasion. Therefore, I will not detain the House to any great extent. However, it seems to me that there are three points in this Bill which it may be argued are points of first-class constitutional importance. One of them where that proposition seems to he beyond argument is the point of the accounts. I do not want to go back over the Debate we had on Report stage, but it seems to be quite clearly a matter of first-class constitutional importance that an enterprise of this sort, involving this amount of capital—it is a matter of first-class constitutional importance that the accounting of that, the relationship between those accounts and the House—whether there should be any and if so what relationship between the Comptroller and Auditor-General and the accounts—that seems to be clearly a matter of first-class constitutional importance. Secondly, I come to the question of discrimination. I do not assert that I am right here. I think a counter-argument can be put up on the point of discrimination, but there seems to me a very strong argument for that view that the Bill leaves—and we could get very little advice from the Front Bench or the Attorney-General on this point—to a single authority, controlling the most important of all raw materials, power to discriminate in regard to price, time and quality about the provision of that raw material, as between one ship and another, and between one works and another. That is my submission, although admitting the possibility that there is a counter-argument on this matter, is a question of first-class constitutional importance, and a Bill 110 which contains a matter of that constitutional importance should not, in my submission, be passed by this House unless the Committee stage is taken upon the Floor of the House.
Thirdly, the question that seems to me to be the strongest of these incidents is the question of eligibility for public office. Here is a Bill which for the first time in history allows one single employer, who is going to employ all the persons engaged in a particular way of earning a livelihood so that no alternative may be left to them but to serve that employer, so to frame its contracts if it thought fit that not one of the men engaged by it can stand for election to any public office. There are something like one million such men I understand, and with their families they may represent one-thirteenth or one-fourteenth of the population of this country. Here we did with some difficulty get definite guidance from the Front Bench and from His Majesty's principal legal adviser and it was to the effect I have indicated. I submit that that is clearly a matter of first-class constitutional importance as much as would be a change in the franchise, say a change from giving the vote to women of 30 and over to giving it to women of 21. These are three specific instances, and if I cared to spend time I think I could make a very elaborate and fairly convincing general argument in reinforcement, but in deference to those Members—and I fully understand there are many here—who have an interest in this matter far more intimate so far as actual coalmining is concerned than mine could be, I will not pursue the point too far and I will not stand between those Members and their opportunity to speak.
I wish to make one more general observation, and that is on the accounts side, Indeed, on the whole question of the administration of the Bill, without putting any blame on the draftsmen, the Bill is so loosely drafted, I might say badly drafted and it should be redrafted. On the point of the accounts it has been continually said by hon. Members opposite that we need not worry because the House is always here to keep the Minister up to the mark: if the accounts were not in order, or if the Minister were not financially impeccable, or whatever happened, the House would be able to keep the 111 Minister up to the mark. But how can that happen in a state of the, world where you are nationalising this, that, and the other? We are told that in order to legislate very much faster than our ancestors did it is absolutely necessary that Parliamentary time should be saved by sending these Bills upstairs. How, then, is Parliamentary time to be found for this continuous supervision of finance and administration, which has been all that has been offered us by way of guarantee that this Bill will be either honest and efficient in administration, or successful in policy?
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Grey (Durham)
I was privileged to make my maiden speech on the Second Reading of this Bill, and I little dreamed, 12 months ago, while toiling in the bowels of the earth, that I would be here one day to speak in support of a Measure of which thousands of miners, along with myself, have dreamt, but which we scarcely hoped would ever come true because of the paralysing influence of a Parliament that was dominated by vested interests and big business. Today, there is general rejoicing, and I certainly feel like throwing my cap in the air. Everything comes to him who waits. Well, the miners have waited patiently and long, but not in vain.
This Bill closes a miserable chapter in mining history, a chapter of oppression, starvation and tyranny, and opens up a new chapter of hope, promise and satisfaction. I want to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister upon his outstanding presentation of the Bill, upon his skill in handling its passage through this House and, most of all, for his determined resistance to the reactionary "blimps" on the opposite benches. Members opposite have told many lies about the menace of nationalisation. My right hon. Friend promises, through this Bill, to give miners a new deal, and he also frees colliery officials from the necessity of bullying and browbeating in an effort to secure a greater output of coal from the miners, for owners' profits. My right hon. Friend also safeguards the public interest. I could have wished that his generous impulses had stopped there, but unfortunately they did not. He has made the mine-owners very happy indeed. They certainly did not expect the handsome compensation which they are to receive.
112 This aspect of the Bill is the only one on which I feel tempted to criticise my right hon. Friend. I would not have paid the owners one farthing; they have robbed and plundered long enough. Compensation always savours of buying the stolen goods back from the burglar, which is an intolerable and farcical procedure.
However, disagreement on this issue does not preclude us from praising my right hon. Friend for the good points there are in the Bill. Now that the mines are to be taken over, what do we intend to do with them? A Member opposite said that within a few years the Government would be prepared to sell them back to those who were prepared to buy them. That Member is misguided in politics and all at sea in his economics. The miners themselves know on which side their bread is buttered, and will not be stampeded by the Tory Jeremiahs who are loudly proclaiming impending doom. It is the Jeremiahs who are doomed, and, we can truly say that it is a case of good riddance to bad rubbish. I know the men at the coal face, and I know what they are thinking today. I know they have never let the country down when it is threatened, and they will not do so now. They will not throw the generosity of a people's Government back in its teeth. Therefore, let us go forward with confidence and joy towards what will be an outstandingly successful venture in political Socialism.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Major Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Practically every day since Christmas I have watched the passage of this Bill through this House in order to see how its plans will develop and what the future will be. I must say that in the Bill I find very little evidence of really constructive thinking. First, the members of the Coal Board have been designated but not one of them must belong to the mining fraternity. Second, with regard to finance, all we know is that arbitration is going on between the Minister and the Mining Association. This arbitration, at which the people's money is being discussed, is clouded by secrecy. With regard to vesting, all we know is that the widest powers have been taken, because the argument is that whatever the colliery owners could do so the Board must do.
113 Further, so far as I understand it, the present management is being asked to carry on, pending anything further being told to the industry and the country. That, honestly, is as much as I can get from the picture of the Third Reading of this Bill as it is before the House today.
We are creating a monopoly. That is admitted. We are to pour £150 million into the industry. These two things, in the short run, must produce an increased quantity of coal. I think it is most unlikely that if we create a powerful monopoly, and put in a great deal of money, we shall not see some results. But the question is whether the coal can be obtained efficiently, and in such a way as will enable us to compete, when competition becomes a vital necessity, not only with other industries, but other countries. The answer really lies in the manpower problem. Despite what has been said today by Members opposite, I think the Bill, as it has been drawn, boggles at that problem. I have looked carefully at Clause 43, which says only that mining members should be consulted as to safety and other matters. In Clause 35, which deals with benefits and annuities, there is no question of arbitration, of being able to say whether those benefits or annuities are reasonable or proper. It is left entirely to the regulations.
With regard to conciliation machinery, all that is provided is that consultations shall take place in order to build up some conciliation machinery. The unions which are to be asked into consultation are left to the discretionary power of the Minister and the Board. They are to call into consultation bodies which they consider represent a substantial portion of the workers engaged in the industry. To my mind, that is a most dangerous position. There will, I think, be rivalry between various sections of employees to get into the good graces of the Minister in order that they may be consulted. Above all, the management will remain virtually the same. I feel that when the miners begin to press their charter and their ideas, they will come up against an all-powerful State. They have now not one representative within the Ministry of Fuel and Power. I think the miners' leaders will get a shock in the near future. I want to quote the case of Mr. Joe Hall, who has done a great deal of good work in South Yorkshire in the interests of the 114 industry. The other day, in order to try to stop the workings at Wentworth Wood House, he said he would call a strike. That was rather like using a peashooter against a tank. The Minister went straight on with the work, and the result is that the bulldozers are in the park. If it had been a private concern trying to do that, I have no doubt that the wishes of Mr. Joe Hall and the miners behind him would have had a very great influence, and would have stopped the workings. That sort of thing is the beginning; it will go on.
I want now to pass to a point on which I have pressed the Minister from the beginning to the end of this Bill, and on which I shall continue to press him. I refer to the inclusion in the First Schedule of the great coke oven industry. The reasons for its inclusion have been stated, and they have been contradicted one after the other. There was efficiency, there was inefficiency, and then, on the Report stage, I think we again got something in the nature of an admission of efficiency. It has been stated that there were hidden profits, and then, when it was demon-stated that the hidden profits must be very small, that talk seemed to die down. We have now got back to the argument about integration, the old argument that was used in the early days. It is said that the coke ovens are so integrated that they cannot be separated. That was proved not to be so, because the industry produced a plan showing it could be disintegrated. We are left with no reasonable argument from the Government for bringing the coke oven industry into this Bill.
I see one ray of light in Clause 1 of the Bill. I shall vote against the Third Reading of the Bill, because I believe it is not the right way to deal with the industry. I hope that, in the interests of the country, we shall get the coal. What I fear is that the Minister, when he sees his great political experiment failing, will not have the courage to recognise that it is a failure, and that he must try an alternative method. But I see a ray of light, because when things become difficult, I think it will be possible for the Board to lease back the mines—not to sell them back, as one hon. Member said —to individuals, possibly to the management, or the men, or a group of people who will get together, and on some basis of that kind to produce coal in an efficient 115 manner. Until that happens, we must watch carefully to see that the interests of all sides are safeguarded.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Pryde (Midlothian and Peebles, Southern)
This discussion has attained a very high standard. I think one of the most notable discourses I have heard for many years was that delivered by my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith). He warned the House and the nation, as I have warned people in Scotland for a quarter of a century, of the great danger this country would be in because of the condition of the great coal industry. It was 736 years ago that there was drafted in Scotland what is alleged to have been the first miners' charter. In 1210, there was drafted in favour of the monks of New Battle Abbey a charter to dig coals on the banks of the Whyterig River in East Lothian. The old abbey still stands close to Dalkeith, right on the border of South Midlothian. The good fathers have gone their way, but I suggest that the good fathers never contemplated inflicting on humanity the ills which coal mining has since inflicted on it. It has been a story, first, of chattel slavery, and then, of wages slavery.
I have heard today references to history going as far back as the end of the last war. Since then, we have seen this great key industry dying before our eyes. We have been told today that at the end of the last war some people were shortsighted. I agree. Those people were in very high places. The Prime Minister at that time undertook to implement the recommendations of the Sankey Commission. When the Sankey Commission delivered their recommendations, the Prime Minister of the day failed to implement them. Then came 1921, the next great disaster in the industry. At that time the industry was being governed by an agreement between the coal-owners, the mineworkers and the Government, and a promise had been given that control would not be relinquished, except with six months' notice on the part of the Government. The Government failed to implement their promise, and inflicted upon the industry-and the country 1921. That was the first mortal blow at the great coal industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Normanton mentioned 116 1926. I only regret that the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) is not here tonight, because I say, without fear of contradiction, that he, and he alone, by bringing this country back on to the gold standard, for ever assassinated the coal industry of the country. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary mentioned victimisation. I suggest that this Bill will do something to eliminate that in the mining industry. No longer will we have to send a Keir Hardie from Legbrannock, by way of London, to Merthyr Tydfil; no longer will we have to send Duncan Grahams to sleep on pit heads in Lanarkshire; no longer will it be necessary to divorce from the industry men like my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. Glanville).
We will promote industry because, as the Parliamentary Secretary has indicated, a new revolutionary technique must be employed in the mining industry. To hon. Members of this present House who shout for a plan, I say, "Do not press the present Minister of Fuel and Power. Twenty-two years ago, when he first took a grip on the mining industry, he conveyed to the people who operated therein that he was a man who knew the economics of coal."The reason there is no cut and dried plan today is explained simply by the fact that the condition of the coalmining industry today will allow of no coherent plan. The policy of the proposed Coal Board must be one adapted to suit the different and varying conditions.
It has been said that there has been absenteeism in the mines, and I suggest that anyone who knows anything of coal-mining can see that there is a simple explanation of this. Often we are told that in 1913 1,250,000 of us were employed in the mines in Britain and that we produced something in the region of 287,000,000 tons of coal, including 74,000,000 tons for export, 17,000,000 tons—18,000,000 tons on one occasion— as bunkers, and people point today to the small output of the mining industry and say that the miner is to blame. I say that the miner has never on any occasion been to blame because, contrary to the argument of the hon. Member opposite, who said that the miners always controlled 75 per cent. of the potential in mining, the miner controlled nothing, not even himself. He was a mere automaton. The real reason for the decadence of the 117 coal industry is the failure of private enterprise. Look at the condition of the industry today. There are over 1,000 separate pits, varying methods of coal extraction, and a different technique in almost every county. Much reference has been made to the Reid Report, but the Reid Report is not the Alpha and the Omega of coalmining technique. Hon. Members opposite know perfectly well that the Reid Report is simply the last dying, desperate attempt of private enterprise to continue. The test of any industry must be, "What service does it render to the community? "Not only has private enterprise failed miserably to satisfy the demands of the community, but conditions dictate, out of necessity, that the nation must bring this great key industry under public ownership and control in its own interest.
The real reason for the tall in output in the mines has been that year by year the coal faces became farther and farther away from the shafts, year by year more and more men were employed on transport, and year by year the men at the coal face were mechanised while the method of transport was not. As has been said by the hon. Member for Consett, transport remains antediluvian, so that a new, revolutionary technique must he employed in mining. I suggest to the two Ministers, neither of whom is a miner, that they should advise the Board to think not in terms of shafts, or of holes in the ground, where the output of a pit is circumscribed by the number of times that the cage can ascend and descend the shaft, but in terms of the American and Colonial method of extraction. Although this may take a little more money in order to drive the different gradients, let them think in terms of long continued output and not of dear coal at all. I believe that it is a misapprehension to believe that we cannot deliver cheap coal today. Up till now the miner has always thought of cheap coal as being the story of small wages, and that is explained in history. Through seven centuries of mining we mined coal on the banks of the Whyterig River—when it did not require a great deal of expenditure in overhead costs. The unfortunate thing is that since that time coal bas been exchanging on the markets of the world at under its economic value and on the same basis as if it had been obtained on the hillside.
118 By the new revolutionary methods, which only the nation can finance, I believe it is still possible to produce coal cheaper, comparatively speaking, than private enterprise can do. By this means we shall pour new lifeblood into industry and hon. Gentlemen opposite who are to lose something from the coal industry may find free play in financing and promoting other great trading interests on behalf of the British Empire. I suggest to hon. Members that they do not divide on this Bill but rather that they should do the opposite—take it to their bosoms and say, "Yes, we will come in behind the Government and will give to the country this great new coal charter after 736 years." After all, hon Members opposite and their ancestors have had ample opportunity for making profit. I want them, then, to give to the Minister that great stimulation to which he is entitled, and to allow him to attract to the mining industry again the youth of the country, because it must be remembered that although we fought them in 1895, in 1912, in 1920, in 1921, and in 1926, the organised mine workers of this country did not produce the conditions of today. Rather did the miner's wife conduce to those conditions, because she said, "My son is not going to do what his father had to do."If young men are to be attracted once more to the coalfields they will have to be given better conditions and better houses than their fathers had, and they will have to be given a better standard of living. This can be done, and I suggest to the House that there is no man better equipped to do it than the right hon. Member for Seaham Harbour (Mr. Shinwell).
§ 8.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)
If I could agree with the hon. Member for South Midlothian (Mr. Pryde) that this Bill was indeed a great charter and the first great measure of progress in the last 700 years, I would indeed be sorely tempted to clasp the Bill to my bosom and march with him into the Lobby in which he intends to go. Naturally, we on this side of the House have regarded this Measure with very great interest— though so few of us have been able to take an active part in it owing to its having gone to a Standing Committee upstairs—because we regard it as the 119 first of the Government's nationalisation Measures. We are therefore watching it with the closest of interest to see to what extent it is a prototype for further Measures of a similar kind. I must confess that I regard it as a most disappointing Measure, first because it is a very poor prototype for subsequent Measures. I can well understand the Minister's difficulty. He does not want the Bill to be too rigid. He wants as much flexibility as possible for the Board, and for his own changes of mind which will naturally come as experience is gained. On the other hand, there are certain serious loopholes, which have already been amply discussed by earlier speakers. The most serious difficulty is in the trouble we shall have in assessing the results of this great experiment. There will be great temptation on both sides of the House to judge the results of this Measure far too soon. I do not think that we shall be able to say for the next two or three years that nationalisation of the mines has been a success or a failure. In fact, it will be very difficult indeed, even at the time of the next General Election for either party to be able, without being unfair, when it goes to the hustings, to say much about the results of nationalisation of the mines. That will be partly because we shall not have full information, but principally because we shall be tempted to use such small information as is available in order to bolster up our own case. The fault must lie with the Minister, who has not undertaken to present us with full and adequate accounts and for his failure to provide adequate protection for the consumer.
We have heard a great deal about the improvement which is to be brought about in the pits, and particularly the benefits which mechanisation is to provide. We must realise that an unpleasant factor has arisen in the last few years in this connection, and that is the very high cost of mechanisation plant. It may well be that we shall find that the high cost in many cases will offset completely any economies of working which one might expect We have had a very striking instance in the last few days in the report on the iron and steel industry where it is made clear that, although the need for modernisation is abundantly evident, the fact is that there will be but a very small reduction in the price of the product from 120 the most modern plants. We must expect a very similar situation in the coal mining industry.
There is, of course, the possibility of conserving the labour force. That is a factor which will outweigh purely economic considerations. We have naturally to bear in mind all the time the predominant interest. We must be more careful than we have hitherto been to define exactly what we mean by "public interest."It certainly does not mean the interest of those working in the industry. I am not against that interest—far from it—but we shall not be able to disentangle the subsequent problems that will arise unless we are quite clear about defining the public, that is to say the consumers', interest and distinguishing it from the interest of those who are engaged in the industry. The interest of miners and managers may very well, at times, conflict completely with the interest of the public. In the future there will be difficult and hard compromises to be reached between the miners' interests on the one hand and the consumers' interests on the other
I conclude with a word about the miners. The hon. Member for Consett (Mr. Glanville) taunted us with the fact that very few, and probably none, of us on this side of the House have hewed a ton of coal at the coal face. I, for one, am very sorry that I have not done so; but I have started at the bottom in my own profession. I know how important it is to be able to speak from personal experience. But I think that mining Members opposite at times overstate their case. Now that they have their Bill and their Labour Government they might try to broaden out and think a little less of the so-called bad years of the past. It may be that they were bad. [HON. MEMBERS: "They were."] Indeed they were, but now is the time, surely, for a greater measure of vision even from mining Members. I am glad that miners are remaining at work for about four days a week at the present time. That shows how much they welcome this Measure and how much they are behind the Labour Government's effort to produce coal which the country requires. I should like a little more attention paid by mining Members opposite to the problem of absenteeism. It seems to go up, which is perhaps due to the day of rejoicing 121 which the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Grey) told us takes place every week in the mines in the North.
§ Mr. Attewell (Harborough)
Would the hon. Gentleman who talks about absenteeism look at his own Benches where he will see only four Members of his Party in the Chamber?
§ Mr. Erroll
I hope that hon. Members opposite appreciate that that is because of the dull reiteration of their own speeches. That was why I was appealing to them for greater breadth of vision. I conclude with the hope that the Bill will produce greater work and activity, and a spirit of enthusiasm in the industry, from the only people who can make the Bill a success, namely, the miners.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I think this is the 55th Act of Parliament that has dealt with the mining industry since 1775. Three years later, the Scots were intelligent enough to abolish slavery in the coal mines, in the shadow of the very abbey that has been spoken of in this Debate. I wish to deal with some aspects of the matter that have not so far been touched upon. I do not want to go into the romantic story of the mining industry, although, being bred and born in one of these districts myself, I know the problems that our people have had to face. Some of us were wise enough to turn our backs on the pitshaft and to try to make our way in some other kind of occupation. That is why many of our miners try to send their sons and daughters to universities, at terrific expense to themselves.
It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to make sarcastic remarks and innuendoes about absenteeism in the mines. When the Coalition Government were in power some of us wrote articles in the Press and talked about the fact that it was essential to keep as many men in the mines as possible, because of the exigencies of the military situation. For the first time in the history of the world, we now have a Minister who has taken on the nationalisation of Industry No. 1. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite are asking for a correct and mathematical plan of the progress and the layout of nationalisation in the mining industry. That is like asking George Stephenson for a plan of the modern steam engine. We 122 have tried to put forward practical suggestions, and we have given elasticity to the Bill so that it will enable hon. Members, and scientists, practical miners and advisers, to improve this Measure as we go along. It is ridiculous for hon. Members to pretend to the public that it is possible to give a mathematical formula for nationalisation of the mines at the present moment.
Instead of this mass romanticism about absenteeism, I would like hon. Members opposite to remember that absenteeism was 10 per cent, of the industry's hewers and putters in 1926 when the wages were abysmally low, and they were staying away from the mines not because they did not want the money, but because of the physical difficulties of the job in hand. Much of the absenteeism at the present moment is due to the ageing population in the mines and the lack of recruitment to the industry. That brings me to my third point. I am delighted, after looking at statistics, to find that the health of the miner is improving, and I give credit to hon. Members on the other side of the House and on this side of the House who for the past 20 years have been legislating for improved conditions in the mines. I found, to my amazement, that the mortality rate among the miners was less than for potters, glaziers, polishers and bargemen. I do not know if any of those bargemen are the bargemen who pass the House of Commons occasionally; that is a new one on me. But it is rather interesting that better conditions are coming into the mines, and it is worth while to let the public know from this House that conditions in the mines have improved, because it is of paramount importance to get coal, whatever differences of political opinion we may have at the moment, if this country is to regain its place in the export markets and in the struggle for trade in the future.
Fourthly, there is this issue of recruitment. There are also points on health, housing and welfare, but I promised I would not be long. But I am concerned with attracting new labour to the mines. We must break down the idea that there is any indignity about a miner cutting coal. He is proud of his skill, proud to pit his muscles against Mother Nature and proud even that he is able to do a type of job that very few other men can do, and we must he proud to pay him worthwhile wages. But if we want the 123 miner's son to go into the mines, then he must have prospects that hon. Members opposite and the coal-owners in the past were not prepared to give. To the grammar school to which I had the fortune to go, went boys up to the fifth and sixth forms with me. Afterwards they went into the coal pits. I came back to my area four or five years later and saw these boys, who had higher school certificates, walking the street. They were the flotsam and jetsam of the system of mine ownership in this country before this Bill.
In the matter of attracting labour to the mines, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Fir and Power and the technical side will have to cooperate to bring young men in on the same lines as those employed in the Dutch educational and technical system, under which training is given to the young people to make them fully qualified coal hewers by the time they are 18. They work a half period in the mine and a half period in the technical school, and when the boy goes into the mine, he knows that if he possesses initiative and capability, he has the power of climbing in the industry, and the power of earning a wage according to his ability and skill and the knowledge which he has gained in the past.
I welcome this Bill, and I only hope that the Minister of Fuel and Power will be forthright about the destiny of all mining areas like North Staffordshire which I represent. Here we have 80 coal pits in a sea of agriculture. There are old mines going back 100 years. I want the people to know whether those pits are economic or uneconomic, and what the movement of population is likely to be. That is a question which will have to be explored, and it is a thing over which we shall have to spend a lot of time to ensure that, in our older areas, at least a fair deal is given to the pits where they are to be closed down and that the men and women will know that the movement of labour will be facilitiated by the Government.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth (Hendon, South)
I shall have to curtail my remarks somewhat because of the small amount of time that is left. The Parliamentary Secretary this afternoon drew attention to the way in which this Bill had been amended. There is hardly a Clause in the Bill which has not been amended in some respects, 124 and many of the most important Clauses, have been totally recast. In its detailed application, the Bill is certainly a great improvement, as a result of the Amendments, compared with what it was when it came before the House on Second Reading. It is clearer and more precise, and a great deal fairer to those most directly affected by it. I feel glad that the Government have been willing to see the force of so many of the criticisms which have been levelled against the Bill by the Opposition, but I see no reason to thank them. When Mr. Asquith invited the late Mr. John Burns to join his Cabinet, it is reported that Mr. Burns, instead of saying "Thank you," replied, "It is the wisest thing you have ever done in your life, Mr. Asquith."That is our attitude to the Government.
There is a matter on which I wish to take the Government to task. During the discussions on this Bill, some of us who have raised matters of small but technical importance felt a sense of frustration. We felt that there were occasions when the Government had arrived at a decision which was already cut and dried, and we could not help concluding that that decision had been reached as a result of negotiations outside this House with outside interested parties. That certainly was the case in the question of the major issue of the ascertainment of compensation. But I believe that it has also been the case with regard to minor issues That, I submit, is not a very satisfactory way for the business of this House to be conducted. It is not fair on the House that the Government should negotiate with interested parties and come to agreement with them, so that we cannot really argue questions on their merits but have to accept the views already arrived at outside.
Having said that, I welcome the Amendments which the Government have seen their way to accept, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not expect me to say that this is a good Bill. It is no more a good Bill than a dose of poison is good nourishment simply because it is wrapped up in an attractive fashion. The Amendments to this Measure have not altered its fundamental character. It is still what it was when it began—a Measure to remove the actual control of the coal industry from the hands of a relatively few independent directors, and to put that control into the hands of nine men.
125 Under the present dispensation, many of the members of the boards of colliery concerns have been men with local connections, men with local knowledge and usually men with strong local sympathies. At present, it is by no means impossible for the humblest worker in the coalmining industries to have some personal knowledge of and, on occasion, access to his employer, and by "employer"I mean not a senior official but the man with the ultimate control.
When this Bill becomes law the actual control of the whole industry will be vested in a body of nine men. However sympathetic and energetic those men may be, they must be incredibly remote from the day to day life of those whom they employ. It will be virtually impossible from the time this Bill becomes law, for the individual collier to have any access to his employer. Much has been said about the miner's psychology. We have been told that the psychological effect of knowing that he is working for the benefit of the community, instead of for the private profit of a section of it, will bring wonders in the way of increased output. I personally do not believe it.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I have only five minutes. On the contrary, it seems to me that the appalling remoteness between the employer and the employed, which is the effect of this Bill, will soon be found to have a depressing effect upon the mines and the mining community. If there have been bad employers among coalowners—and they have not all been bad—they, at least, have been men known to the employees. They could be criticised, they were amenable to personal feelings and to personal pressure. From now on the control will be so remote that all personal relations between the two extremes in this industry will vanish. There will be no one left for the miner to look to as his employer—
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
It will be a statutory corporation. Each of its members, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman, will be engaged in functional duties. There is another way in which I think this Bill will operate to depress morale. In Clause 45 there is provision for the trans- 126 fer of liability for mining subsidence, from colliery concerns, to the Board. The House will see from the Clause that it is strictly limited to the transfer of existing liabilities, no new rights or liabilities are created by the Clause. Much damage has been done in the past by subsidence for which no compensation or damages could be legally recovered. Small owner-occupied houses, bought in ignorance by poor people, were principally affected.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
There has been a good deal of agitation to amend the law or to provide some means of compensation, and the agitation has had the support of a Royal Commission. It was to be expected that with that support, the law would be amended, or that some means of providing compensation would be found. Under the present dispensation it is possible for a colliery company to pay compensation ex gratia in an extremely hard case. I am not saying that it was done frequently, but it was legally possible. What I am quite certain of is that once this Bill becomes an Act, we can give up all hope of amending the law and it will now be impossible for ex gratia payments to be made
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
Even if not impossible, I am certain that before any such payment could be made, it would be considered as a matter of policy by a remote Board, and a Board which is under the ultimate control of the Treasury. If any one has had any experience of trying to get fair treatment in hard cases for serving men when Treasury sanction has to be obtained—
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
Time is going and I must curtail my argument. I am satisfied that this Bill will not be to the benefit of the coalmining industry. I believe that it will not be the encouragement which it has been held out to Le to the mining community. I shall have no hesitation, therefore, in going into the Lobby to vote against it.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I shall have no greater pleasure in supporting any Bill that comes before this Parliament than I have in supporting this Bill for the nationalisation of the mines. This is the end of a very long agitation, and a great political controversy. The first Bill to nationalise the mines was introduced by Keir Hardie in 1893, 53 years ago, and a great journalist said of Keir Hardie:Every gesture he made in politics was to a generation yet unbornThat generation is now born. Its representatives sit on the Front Bench, and tonight we shall go into the Division Lobby convinced that this is one of the greatest services we have ever performed to the miners and the people of this country. Twenty years after that Bill of 1893, we had another Bill and, in refreshing my memory of Debates in 1913, I find we had then the same old arguments as have been trotted out by the Opposition this evening.
Now they accept the Bill with very grave misgivings about the future. It may be true that nationalisation is not going to solve all the problems of the mining industry, but looking back on the mistakes of capitalism during the last 50 years, can we say that under the most depressing picture of nationalisation, anything could be worse than the history of the mining industry under private capitalism? I have lived in mining areas all my life. Thank God I have not worked in the mines for 40 years. Like an hon. Member who spoke earlier, I escaped from it. But I have lived in South Wales, and went through the great Cambrian strike, when the power of the State was used to crush the miners. I have lived through strikes and lock-outs in Scotland. I saw the strike of 1921, and the great lock-out of 1926. Looking back on those years, through the terrible struggles of the mining population and the hardship endured by the men and women of the industry, we say that whatever may happen under nationalisation, nothing can be worse than the old era of exploitation in the interests of profits and dividends which, thank God, we are going to bring to an end in this House tonight.
I have heard a great deal of talk about compensation. In the constituency I re- 128 present there is a big colliery company which dominates the whole of the mining area and which has paid 16 per cent. every year for the last 10 years. It has had all its capital back. I agree with the remarks of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). I do not share the view that the present Minister is a sort of Jekyll and Hyde, some sinister conspirator, trying to confiscate the hard-earned income of widows and orphans. He has been very generous to the coal-owners in this Bill. The coal-owners are very lucky Indeed that they are going to be treated in this way, instead of having their compensation assessed by a board of miners and people who know the conditions in the industry. I shall be very glad indeed to go into the Division Lobby in support of the Bill, realising that it is in the interests of the miners, in the interests of the nation, and gives us an opportunity of reconstructing the industry on sound and humane lines.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)
We have now reached the concluding stages of this Bill. On the Second Reading my friends arid I explained in some detail, by the traditional device of a reasoned Amendment, why we felt unable to accept this Measure as an adequate solution of a great problem. Our reasons were based as much if not more, upon what was omitted from the Bill as upon what was contained in it. In this Third Reading Debate I should, of course, incur your displeasure, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I referred to matters extraneous to the Bill. I can only observe that nothing that has taken place in Committee or on the Report stage overcomes our objections or allays our fears. This Bill sets up, through the proposed Coal Board, a monopoly in the production of coal. It empowers the same authority to undertake the sale and distribution of coal. In addition, it gives wide powers to the Coal Board to enter many other industrial and commercial fields without restriction or safeguard, and without imposing any conditions of fair competition with other interests.
But it does not even now deal effectively with those vital questions to which we called attention on Second Reading. Some of them have been most admirably dealt with by the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith), in a speech of characteristic good temper and good 129 sense. They are, the decline in output, the increase in cost, the virtual disappearance of the export trade in coal, the recruitment of labour, the publication of adequate reports and accounts and their submission to effective Parliamentary scrutiny, and the protection of the public, both domestic and industrial, both as consumers and as taxpayers.
There are, indeed, certain important points Which we raised upon Second Reading upon which we have received—and we are grateful for it—some satisfaction, either in part or in whole. In spite of the most recent explanations of the Parliamentary Secretary, the inalienable character of the compensation stock is, in our view, unjustified either by any sound principle of equity, or by any overwhelming national interest. But I will agree that the Clause, as it now stands, especially as regards the conditions upon which some degree of liquidity is to be allowed, is an improvement, and is at least clearer. The Parliamentary Secretary said today that the Treasury would look with a benevolent eye upon borrowing for productive purposes. That again is a concession, but with this new interpretation the Treasury interest in preserving the principle of inalienability seems to me to be so restricted as to be hardly worth while, certainly not important enough to justify a breach, both of precedent and of justice. I still hope that the Government may decide to abandon a proposal calculated to injure rather than to sustain our national credit.
Again, on the question of the statutory safeguards for the employees of the industry against being adversely affected by a change of ownership—a really unaccountable omission from the Bill as it was introduced—the Government have made some concession. I do not think that they have yet been as generous as they might have been or ought to have been. Nevertheless, we on this side of the House are grateful for the measure of protection which we have been able to secure for all these men at all levels throughout the industry.
Lastly, while the Bill as originally introduced contained—incredible as it may appear—no reference whatever to the industrial relations between managers and workmen, on the one hand, and the Coal Board and the Minister, upon the other, the Minister has wisely yielded to our plea. Clause 43, which was called 130 by hon. Members opposite the most important Clause in the Bill, and which did not even exist on Second Reading, now places upon the Board the duty of consultation with all appropriate organisations with a view to preserving and, we hope, strengthening the machinery for conciliation, consultation, and arbitration. After all, this is a most vital point. This is the very heart, the core, of the whole problem. These successes of the Opposition are, therefore, not inconsiderable. In addition, the careless drafting an I the hasty preparation of the Bill naturally have required a very large number of Amendments, arising sometimes with the Government's second thoughts and sometimes from the points raised by the Opposition in Committee. The Parliamentary Secretary in his admirable speech mentioned 250 Amendments. If he will look at them, I think he will see that more than half of them are Government Amendments. In certain cases, whole Clauses had to be withdrawn and recommitted after being recast.
When all this is said and done, we, of course, do not disguise from ourselves that in all major features the Government have had their way. The Minister, no doubt with great Parliamentary skill and resource, has also enjoyed, if I may be allowed to say so, the advantage of a very large, docile, and well disciplined majority. There have been occasional sporadic outbreaks in Committee—I have not seen them in the House—to which I gave instinctive and sympathetic encouragement. But they have all been quickly suppressed, not to say liquidated. The Minister throughout has been firm and unyielding. I thought the case was admirably summed up in a leading article in "The Times" last week, from which I would venture to quote; this is a very friendly journal:The continued unwillingness of the Minister to make concessions that would define or delimit his powers more clearly, or protect consumers more 'effectively, or afford reasonable publicity to the affairs of the National Coal Board, inevitably frustrated the whole purpose of the discussion.This is rather a sad sentence:The handling of both the Health Service Bill and the National Insurance Bill has provided a welcome contrast.The Minister might well say to the editor of "The Times," " Et tu, Brute."
The purposes which the nation has to fulfil and secure fall into two main groups.
131 The industry itself must be reorganised on a basis which is both psychologically satisfying to the men employed in it—that is the human problem—and which is functionally adapted to fulfil its heavy task—that is the organisational problem. Secondly, we must protect the general public whether as consumers, domestic or industrial, or as taxpayers, and we must command their confidence. To reach an unbiased decision tonight, we should examine how far the provisions of this Bill are calculated to secure those objectives, and, to make this examination, perhaps, like the Parliamentary Secretary, I might be allowed a short digression.
In order to face the future, it is sometimes just worth while glancing at the past. Whatever may be said about the bad old days, the fact is that the coal industry, prior to the 1914–18 war, was by no means a black spot in the economy of the country. [Interruption.] I said in the economy of the country. Technically, and I will come to the human side in a moment, it held its own with foreign coal industries, it provided adequately for the home consumer, ample quantities of coal at a cheap price, and contributed to the export trade a huge quota in tonnage and value. Nor were these things accompanied, in all respects, by bad conditions for the employees. Employment was at least full. Earnings, if low, in comparison with nominal earnings today, carried with them a command over goods which, in some respects, would excite the envy of the miner today. The Victorian era was a difficult one, and the men of those days made mistakes, as we do in ours, but I would remind the House of that passage in the Reid Report which concludes its review of that period:When we come, therefore, as we must, to point out the mistakes which were made in the early days of the coal mining industry let us beware of merely being wise after the event or of withholding the meed of praise due to the great race of men—employers, mining engineers, workmen and machinery makers alike. For, whatever their faults, they were fit to rank with the greatest of Britain's industrial pioneers.At any rate, if, at times, the battle of organised labour to improve wages and working conditions led to a bitter struggle, I think some of the senior hon. Members on the benches opposite would bear me out when I say that there was found much kindliness and good personal friendship 132 between managers, masters and men. When the first world war came, the conditions of the industry underwent a vital change. In the struggle for output for the war effort, development work was abandoned and the industry emerged with great technical arrears, and, after the short postwar boom, as we were reminded today by the hon. Member for Normanton, markets were made more difficult by the dislocation of international trade, by mistaken reparations and a mistaken currency policy. I wish I were quite certain that we are not making these two mistakes again today. Employment in the coal industry became inadequate and irregular, and earnings were lamentably low. Be it noted that all these circumstances were beyond the control of those engaged in the industry—beyond the control of managers—and, as a result, there were many who felt, as I did, even before the second world war, that the coal industry could not restore its fortunes by its own unaided efforts.
After nearly 20 years of much patient work on both sides, some progress was made, but, during those 20 years, managements were discouraged by obstacles not of their making, and the workers had become embittered by the constant hardship and disappointment. The second world war has greatly aggravated that situation and inflicted fresh wounds upon the industry. It is for the nation as a whole to put the industry back on its feet. So far, I think all of us in this House are on common ground, and, for my part, I have long recognised the need for an instrument, either under direct national control or upon a public utility basis, to guide, and, if necessary, compel, such reorganisation. It was for this very object that my right hon. Friend the late Minister initiated the inquiry by the technical committee which resulted in the Reid Report. Where we differ from the Government and hon. Members opposite is not in the purpose, but in the suitability and practicability and machinery contained in the Bill to attain this national end.
First, let me take the human aspect, the psychological and emotional problem, which is the result of the chequered history of the industry. Will change of ownership of itself solve that? This Bill vests the ownership of all the colliery undertakings in a board of nine men—nine 133 men not elected by, not even containing a Ingle elected representative of, the mining community. It is not nationalisation in the old sense of the word. I heard an echo from the old days from the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) who has just spoken. This is not Socialism; it is State capitalism. There is not too much participation by the mineworkers in the affairs of the industry; there is far too little. There is not too much syndicalism; there is none at all. In the new ownership, the miners have no share except that of belonging to the general body of citizens—a kind of "pay as you earn" share. To the men, the new owners will mean the Board. However gifted or eminent they may be, they will be more remote and more soulless than the old owners.
Under the old system, especially in the smaller or medium sized undertaking, there was often a real personal relationship between owners, managers and workers. [HON. MEMBERS: Oh."] At any rate, the old owners were human beings; they were occasionally to be seen and could be argued with or abused. At best, the new owners will be trustees, at worst bureaucrats in the making. The Chairman, Lord Hyndley, is a very distinguished and highly qualified industrialist. He has been managing director and chairman, I understand, of Powell, Duffryn and Co for many years and then chief adviser to the Minister of Fuel. He is now the Chairman of the Coal Board. He has been, in turn, capitalist, civil servant, and commissar. All this is a very respectable and praiseworthy record, but from the human and dramatic point of view, after these long years of agitation, oratory and emotion, it is not very inspiring. As a climax it is a bit flat.
§ Mr. Macmillan
May not the miner, remembering Keir Hardie, Bob Smillie and Herbert Smith, and all those great figures of the old great days, and contemplating Lord Hyndley, echo Milton's words and say:New Presbyter is but old Priest writ large.The problem of the 20th century is how to create an economic democracy parallel with the political democracy which has come to its full estate. There is nothing in this Bill which will do that. We must 134 seek it in the wide distribution of capital and not in its further aggregation into all embracing monopolies. State capitalism will not solve it.
The Parliamentary Secretary spoke today of the economic feudalism of the past. It is the economic tyranny of the future that I fear. Indeed, it is already quite clear that the Miners' Federation are not too sure about the Board, because already in May they are negotiating with the Minister about the National Charter. The vesting date, I suppose, will be in a few months' time. The Minister might reasonably insist that questions of wages, hours and conditions shall be dealt with by the Board when it gets into the saddle. After all, it is their primary duty. They have the responsibility for all this under Clause 1 of the Bill but, of course, the miners are not impressed, and it is becoming a kind of race between the Minister's power of procrastination and the Miners' Federation's power of acceleration. The one clear feature is the anxiety of the Miners' Federation to get well ahead of the Board and to present the Board, through their political pressure on the Minister, with an accomplished fact. I do not blame them at all. From their point of view, they arc quite right, but it is an interesting sidelight on the position of the new owners, the Board. It looks as if the Board will not even be like the old owners—a convenient buffer, nor even a whipping boy. They will be silently ignored. So much for the human problem.
I would now like to say something upon the technical and organisational questions. How far does the scheme laid down in this Bill, placing on the Coal Board a number of duties, functions and policies in Clause 1, only distinguishable from each other by metaphysical analysis, appear workable? First, there is the composition of the Board itself. I will not repeat the admirable analysis which was given by the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde (Colonel Lancaster), whose opening speech was received with general respect throughout the House, but in my view we could have only two kinds of board or governing body of any organisation. We could either have a board which consists of the executive heads of various departments who sit occasionally together to discuss general over-all' policy. In that case the members should be full-time and there should be added to their number several members without depart- 135 ments to act as chairman and so forth, and advisory members. That is the practice in certain modern industrial and commercial companies. It is the system in the Admiralty, or the Army or the Air Council. Alternatively—and this is the traditional method—we could have a board of which none of the members are full-time except the chairman and chief executive officer, whether he is called general manager or managing director. The function of the rank and file of the Board is then advisory and consultative. On such a board the executive heads of departments attend when required, but they are not members of the board.
Either of these methods has a great deal to commend it, but the fatal thing is to have a combination of the two, because if we do, if the position of the executive and technical officers is confused—I have had that experience—and, above all, if we have a director with technical knowledge sitting above a man who is trying to run that particular technical department, we risk great uncertainty and frustration. Judging from what we have been told during the Debates of the appointments to the Board, I fear that we are likely to fall into just this kind of hybrid and equivocal situation. Next, what are the precise relations between the Board and the Minister under this scheme? On this I want to say something particular. We have never quite been able to discover throughout all these long Debates the answer to that question. Of course, I know that in modern legislation the Minister has great reserve power. The Minister may direct; the Minister may make regulations. All that is common form nowadays. Indeed, if only Moses could have known this technique, he would never have committed himself to anything so precise and, occasionally, inconvenient as the Ten Commandments. When he came down from Mount Sinai he would have taken powers to make regulations.
Again, much depends on how this Bill is administered. I fear lest this dualism between the Minister and the Board becomes a danger and a snare. We had a very interesting lecture on the history of public utility companies from the Parliamentary Secretary today, which will be very useful to us. However, I put this point forward in all earnestness. The Board will have neither the authority 136 and independence of a statutory company or public utility organisation, nor the proper position of a Minister in a ministerial Department. It will fall somewhere between the two. This hybrid may prove a strong and productive stock. Let us hope so. I fear it will be unproductive, and will show a continual tendency to revert to either one or the other of those two grafted stocks.
Is the House really satisfied with the scope of the Board's activities under this Bill? The Minister has repeatedly told us that he wished the Board to be allowed to do anything that a colliery undertaking had power to do. That is not a really sound argument. What a company may lawfully do depends, not upon what it may be wise for it to do—very many companies do foolish things, go into liquidation and get into trouble—but upon what the articles of association allow it to do Those articles of association can be drawn so as to allow of almost any activity. It is a specious and a fallacious argument, which the Parliamentary Secretary repeated today, to say that that means that Parliament should confer similar powers upon a State monopoly set up primarily to reorganise the colliery industry. Quite apart from the equity of its embarking on all kinds of enterprise, in competition with other people who have not the hacking of a vast monopoly and the whole resources of the State, quite apart from considerations of fair play— though this may not appeal to hon. Gentleman opposite who do not agree with private enterprise—quite apart from common prudence, the Board will have quite enough to do for a long time with the coal industry alone, without having to embark upon other kinds of industries. Therefore, whatever may be the authority eventually conferred upon the Minister by this Bill, I beg of him, when it comes to dealing with the so-called ancillary undertakings, to be as flexible in the use of his wide powers as he has been rigid in his insistence that they should be granted to him by Parliament.
Finally, I come to the interests of the general public. Mr. Disraeli once observed, with great truth, that in England, the seat of power is always unpopular. This jealousy of power has fastened in turn upon the Church, the King, the great aristocracy, the landed gentry and the middle classes. In this generation it may well be that it will be concentrated 137 upon the bureaucracy, and particularly upon the great new State monopolies. It is of the highest importance, therefore, that if this new experiment is to have any fair chance of success it should command general confidence. Every single family in this country is a consumer of coal, whether directly or indirectly, and every taxpayer is vitally interested in view of the huge sums required, both as purchase money and as working capital. It was for this reason that we tried so hard in Committee to strengthen the Bill in all these respects. Even "The Times "says:The Minister will make no concession. The plan for Consumers' Councils, domestic and industrial, has in its present form grave defects. All efforts to strengthen them as to the method of their appointment, as to the method of their making inquiries into complaints, as to the method of their making public their activities, all these efforts have been frustrated by the Minister's obstinacy.I deeply regret this, and I believe that he and his successors will live to regret it also. Nor are the arrangements for publicity regarding the Board's doings and accounts at all satisfactory. Here again the Minister has everything to gain and nothing to lose by complete and absolute frankness. It is common knowledge that, without the association of the offices of the Comptroller and Auditor-General with the Board's own accounts as well as with the payments between the Minister and the Board, the control of Parliament through the Public Accounts Committee is really nugatory. The Minister resolutely repeated, through the Parliamentary Secretary today, his refusal of the essential facilities. On all these matters full publicity is needed. Unless it is given, the suspicion and unpopularity that surround power will be concentrated upon this new monopoly and its servants, and upon similar monopolies. The public is tolerant of much, but it will not tolerate being kept in the dark. I have tried to summarise, as I think it is my duty— though I regret necessarily at some length —the main divisions of our objections to this Bill. For all these reasons, therefore, my hon. Friends and I cannot accept it as providing the best, or even a workable, plan to deal with the grave and complex situation. If I might adopt Lord Keynes' well known words:The reconciliation of the purposive direction of our economic strategy with dispersion of decision in the daily conduct of our affairs138 is the central problem of economic democracy.
This Bill leaves that great problem unresolved. Nevertheless, of course, I recognise how great must be the emotion, even the jubilance, of hon. Members opposite, especially those who have sat for long years for mining constituencies and who are among the oldest and most respected Members of this House. This must be for them a great day. The achievement of their great objective seems at hand; their triumph is complete, and we cannot withhold from them, if we have any feelings of magnanimity, a tribute of respect and of admiration. They have toiled hard, sacrificed much in this long struggle for nationalisation.
It has been said that to travel hopefully is better than to arrive. Alas, how true that is. In the moment of victory this dear country of ours is faced with shortage at home, starvation abroad, the frustration of our foreign policy, great commitments overseas, grave threats to our Imperial communications, and the immense problem inherent in the readjustment of our whole Commonwealth to modern conditions, involving the danger of its partial dissolution. Those are the fruits of victory. And so, at the end of this long phase in a long internal struggle, hon. Members opposite, if they are honest with themselves, will reflect upon the present and the future with many heart searchings. The greatest struggles, the most formidable obstacles, and, perhaps, the most intractable difficulties of the mining industry may lie before it. If theirs is the triumph, theirs, also, is the responsibility. Therefore, while we cannot commend, and we must, in our conscience, oppose this Bill, as we shall do in the Lobby tonight, we cannot, at the same time, do anything but wish to all who are to live and work and have their being in and about the mines, under whatever system, good luck and God speed.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Shinwell)
The right hon Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. Macmillan) has made a characteristic and lively speech to the House, following the many interesting and thoughtful discourses we have heard during the Debate. It has been my fortune—it might be regarded as a misfortune—to have heard innumerable Debates on the coal problem in this 139 House over a period of rather more than 20 years; and seldom have I listened to a Debate which more accurately reflected the prevailing mood of the House in relation to the future of this great industry. We are now at the final stage of the Debate. Shortly, the Bill, with the consent of the House, will proceed to another place, where, no doubt, it will be received with the utmost kindness. At any rate, we can despatch it, not only in the full knowledge that the mandate derived from the last Election has been fulfilled, and with the consent of hon. Members in this House, but, equally with the considered opinions of the right hon. Gentleman himself in the past. Almost every utterance of the right hon. Gentleman in the course of that witty speech was in direct contradiction to his declaration on this precise subject he ventured to write some years ago. It is true, as he observed, that we travel hopefully. But we occasionally arrive, and the right hon. Gentleman, whom I have known in this House for many years, travelled hopefully, although associated with a Tory Government, when he argued eloquently and lucidly the middle way policy for which he became famous. The focal point of that policy was the dire necessity that had come upon this shattered nation in the years between the two wars, and which rendered nationalisation of the coalmining industry inevitable. The right hon. Gentleman described the matter in this language, and I beg of hon. Members opposite, who have been loudly applauding him, to take note. The right hon. Gentleman wrote:The State, it seems to me, should sweep away every obstacle to the reconstruction of the mining industry, and itself take over the power and responsibility of a rational exploitation of our coal resources. Through the efficient business management of a public utility concern, it could secure to the new industries a reliable and cheap supply of the raw materials they require, and gain for the workers in the mining industry the higher standard of life to which they are so justly entitled. This is an industry that has long passed out of the phase in which social purposes can best be served by private profit incentive.It is doubtful whether that is the path which leads to the leadership of the Tory Party, but "other times, other manners."There we must leave it. The right hon. Gentleman uttered complaints against the Bill, and in particular against the Minister. He declared that I had made no concessions. That appeared 140 strange to me, because the right hon. Gentleman at the outset of his speech, and other Members opposite, prided themselves on the alleged fact that they have forced the Minister to concede items which had been embodied in Opposition Amendments. They cannot have it both ways If, on the one hand, I had to make concessions to hon. Members as a result of pressure they had exerted, it demonstrates my friendliness, my benevolence, my generosity and my willingness to coin-promise. If, on the other hand, I have made no concessions whatever—and that was the gravamen of the charge which the right hon. Gentleman levelled against me —it is clear that the Opposition have no call to pride themselves upon any achievement. The fact is, as was said by the Parliamentary Secretary in his able speech at the beginning of this Debate, the fundamental principles embodied in the Measure in its Third Reading stage are precisely similar to the principles which were contained in the Bill on its Second Reading.
This Bill has been described in picturesque language by hon. Members opposite. It was described by the Acting Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), as a "frivolous piece of publicity."It was described by another hon. Member as "very flimsy."It is regarded as "objectionable," as "authoritarian," as "Inadequate," as "vague and ill-defined," as a "clumsy bludgeon;" as a "Socialist dream," said the hon. Member for Hallam (Mr. Jennings).
§ Mr. Shinwell
It was described as a "buckpassing" Bill by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George), as a piece of "eyewash" and a "kind of swindle," as a "smash and grab raid "—and, as for the unassuming and characteristically modest Minister, he was described by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley as "a witness who has had something to conceal from the court," and by other hon. Members as a "complete totalitarian. dictator," convicted of "stubbornness" and "obstinacy."That denotes the extensive vocabulary of hon. Members opposite—accompanied by a 141 somewhat limited courtesy. But happily,.s we have heard in the course of this Debate, the reservoir has been completely exhausted. The right hon. Gentleman was correct in one particular. We take the same stand as regards the objective which we seek to pursue. Of course that is so.
The hon. Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett), in a most interesting speech on the future of British trade—perhaps slightly irrelevant to the issue before us, but, nevertheless, of interest—indicated apprehension about the future of the industry in the event of a shortage of fuel. It is the objective of every hon. Member, without exception, in whatever quarter of the House he may sit, to secure, at the earliest possible moment, an abundance of coal of the right quality—if I may use the words in the Bill—and of the right sizes and at the right prices.That is our objective, but we have another objective, and that is the utilization of the coal in the most modern and scientific fashion, not in the bad old ways of the past—the raw burning of coal and the utilisation of our coal resources in a wasteful manner—but conserving them as far as practicable, and gaining from them all possible yields of the valuable by products, thus laying foundations of new and much needed industries. There is another objective upon which I think we are all agreed, and that is to produce an atmosphere of contentment and happiness in this great national industry.
These are our objectives. What divides us from hon. Members opposite? It is not in the objects but it is in the method of approach As regards that method of approach—it can truly be said that there is no hon. Member on the opposite benches who can dispute it—we have tried every possible device, voluntarily and by means of legislation, to improve the position of this great industry, to put the coal industry, as was said, "on its feet," and to produce an atmosphere of good will. Look back over the last 20 odd years as I am entitled to do—since I became Secretary for Mines in 1924—and consider the stream of legislation flowing through this Assembly year after year concurrently, with needless disputes and acrimony in the industry, and consider the high hopes of right hon. Gentlemen who have stood at this Box arguing eloquently it support of various proposals. Those hopes have 142 been blasted because they were founded on the private enterprise system, which was unable to fortify this great national industry and' provide the requisite reorganisation which is a vital condition, upon which to base contentment and production. That is the consideration and hon. Members must address themselves to it. Attention has been directed by the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde (Colonel Lancaster), in a very able and knowledgeable speech, and by other Members, to what they regard as a paramount need in this industry—to introduce discipline into the industry so that men will work. On that paramount need, I agree with them to some extent. Reference has been made to absenteeism. I deplore absenteeism as much as any hon. Member, though I understand the reason for it. We can indulge in exhortations and appeals until we are black in the face, but not until we produce conditions that will enable the men to work will it be possible for them to do so. These are facts which we must face.
I will address myself as I must to the arguments that have been adduced by hon. Members opposite. First as to the Coal Board. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley found it necessary to comment on Lord Hyndley. He regards Lord Hyndley as a person not in high favour with hon. Members on this side of the House. What would the right hon. Gentleman and his friends who sit on the other side of the House say if we had appointed Mr. Will Lawther as Chairman of the Board? What would the right hon. Gentleman and his friends have said if I had allowed the National Union of Mineworkers to nominate all the persons who are to serve on the Board?
§ Mr. H. Macmillan
I would not have interrupted the right hon. Gentleman if it were not a matter of personalities. I made no attack of any sort or kind upon Lord Hyndley, for whom I have the greatest regard. My sole argument was that if there was supposed to be a psychological advantage in his appointment I did not think his appearance at the head of the industry would create that advantage.
§ Mr. Shinwell
On the subject of psychology I may say something later, but I understood the right hon. Gentleman to make a criticism of Lord Hyndley.
143 However, I will accept what he says. But I repeat, Suppose we had said to the National Union of Mineworkers, "For more than 40 years you have agitated for nationalisation, you have postulated democratic control and the like, and now that we contemplate nationalisation we shall leave it to you to appoint the Board."I wonder what the right hon. Gentleman would have said.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Gentleman cannot argue in that fashion. He will require to consider the matter a little more carefully. That is a dialectical method which will not take the trick. I have the highest respect for Lord Hyndley's integrity, and for his knowledge of the industry, an industry which he knows from A to Z. I have the highest respect, also, for every other member of the Board, and I defy contradiction on this score. If any Member of this House had been confronted with the task of creating a National Coal Board under existing circumstances he might have found it very difficult indeed, and would probably have arrived at the same result. Finally, there has not been one protest from the National Union of Mineworkers about the composition of the Board either verbally or in writing. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman opposite that there is no discontent, so far as we are aware, about the composition of the Board. In any event, certain of these gentlemen have accepted our invitation to serve. They are now engaged on the task of ascertaining the facts in relation to regional organisation, about which I shall say something in a few moments. They have been formed into an organising committee, and they are as enthusiastic as one might expect them to be in the circumstances, in pursuit of that task [Laughter]. Well, what are those circumstances? They are circumstances not of their making, but of the making of right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Members opposite, who failed to do what was necessary in days gone by.
Perhaps too much emphasis is placed on discipline. This is not an army, a military force. Men work underground, in the most difficult conditions, sometimes in unnatural conditions, as has been described by my hon. Friends on this side of the House. You cannot impose discipline on these men as you would on a 144 battalion, or as you would on board a ship. If we are to secure the necessary measure of discipline in order to have the work in the pits organised successfully then, clearly, we must give the men the tools with which to work. So far, in large measure, with the exception of some pits in the country, the tools have been either lacking or have proved to be totally inadequate.
I come now to the question of the administration of the Board. I have been asked by the right hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George), and by many other hon. Members, about the future of the organisation. There was an excellent reason why we could not embody in the Bill every detail about the future organisation. First of all, power must be left to the Board to decide. The Board have to ascertain the facts, and, more particularly, they have to select the right personnel. One cannot decide upon the nature of the organisation until one is certain about the personnel. The Board have to be assured that the right technical personnel are available, and no one knows better than the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde that there is a dearth of the right technical personnel in this country, and, over and above that, that many of the technicians, particularly the highly competent mining engineers, may not be available because they may be in the service of their own companies in relation to valuation proceedings. But broadly speaking, as regards technical reorganisation, the future will be determined by how far it will be possible for the Board—and those responsible in the regions—to implement the recommendations in the Reid Report. That is, as the Parliamentary Secretary pointed out, the blueprint of the future. There must be vast technical reorganisation at considerable expenditure. We were twitted by hon. 'Members opposite with the last sentence in the Reid Report, which runs:But there is no time to be lost.That is true. I quoted that sentence in the Second Reading Debate. There is 1:0 time to be lost, but unfortunately the machinery, the equipment, the plant that are necessary for largescale technical reorganisation are not available. Much of it has to be produced as the colliery undertakings well know. So much for technical reorganisation.
145 What about the administrative reorganisation of the industry? I confess frankly that it will in the main follow the pattern of the existing organisation in the industry. What does that mean? It will be based, as my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. Glanville) rightly said, on the pit, where the coal is procured. That is the beginning, that is the foundation. That is the basic element in the reorganisation of the industry. We must get the pit right, and one means of doing that is to get the right atmosphere in the pit through the medium of efficient and humane pit committees, where the management, the officials and the work-people all gather and consider not merely questions relating to health and welfare, but all matters pertaining to reorganisation, which, by the way, does not mean there will be any infringement of the rights of the manager to run his pit in his own way, for he is, in the long run, responsible. But a wise manager is ready to learn, and there are hundreds and thousands of miners in this country who are well qualified in a technical capacity to offer guidance to the management. But there will be something lacking: there will be no director, no owner to interfere between the manager and his comrades, the workers in the pits.
The workers stand to gain by collaboration with the management, and the managers stand to gain by being on the best possible terms with the workers. That is the basis of the new organisation. There will be group organisation. My reply to many hon. Members opposite on the subject of centralisation and decentralisation is that it is physically impossible to administer the whole of the pits in this country—even if they are highly concentrated—from London, or from any other single centre. Group organisation is necessary. What we have in contemplation, which is a matter to be finally determined by the Board, is a series of groups in the various regions of the coal fields of the country, those groups being under the supervision of a highly competent administrator who may, or may not be, a technician; it depends on the circumstances. Some technicians are competent administrators, some are not. The groups of pits will be responsible to the regional organisation which in turn will be responsible—in terms of policy but not as regards day to day administration—to the National Coal Board itself.
146 I can see no difficulty likely to present itself as regards the reorganisation of the industry in respect of administration. I agree wholeheartedly with hon. Members who have argued that it is impossible for the National Coal Board to keep an eye on all that is going on in the industry. That is very true. I do not suppose the National Coal Board will make any attempt to do so, but as regards the Board being responsible solely for determining policy, and not operating in a functional capacity, I beg to disagree entirely. There is no advantage in having a part-time Coal Board as the right hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke suggested—
§ Mr. Shinwell
I beg the right hon. and gallant Member's pardon, but it was suggested by one of the hon. Members opposite—probably the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde. My reply to that is that a part-time National Coal Board, would be quite incapable, either of determining policy, or administering the State industry. So much for that.
I come now to the question of accounts. I could not agree with hon. Members more as regards the closest scrutiny of accounts in connection with this industry. We have to prove that the industry can pay its way. I do not approach this subject of the nationalisation of the coal industry in a doctrinaire spirit. I am not concerned about the term "nationalisation."If some other machinery can be devised to "deliver the goods ", I am ready to consider the alternative to nationalisation. It is a question of whether or not nationalisation, in existing circumstances and having regard to our future industrial needs and the desirability of promoting contentment in the industry, can "deliver the goods."In my judgment it can, but it must be able to pay its way. By that I do not mean that it need account every year for every penny piece, but over a period of good and bad years, as is stated in the Bill, it would be expected to account to the Minister, in the first place, and subsequently to both Houses of Parliament, for its financial intromissions. That was stated over and over again in Committee and repeated with emphasis on the Report stage. I can assure hon. Members opposite that so far as I am concerned personally—and I am certain I 147 can speak for all the Members of the National Coal Board—we shall exercise the greatest possible circumspection as regards the accounting and costing system necessary to put this industry on its feet.
Now I turn to the future of the industry. Something has been said about the need for research. I am in full agreement. Without research it is very doubtful whether the industry can pay its way and can prosper, and whether it can promote the right kind of reorganisation. Research is required not merely for the purpose of resuscitating the coalmining industry but because we have in contemplation the coordination of all forms of fuel and power. Nationalisation of the coal industry must be considered in relation to nationalisation of the gas and electricity industries, and to the promotion of full-scale carbonisation. For that reason it is necessary to promote research to the highest possible degree. It was for that reason that we invited Sir Charles Ellis to take a seat on the Board. It.is for that reason that there will be a research Department entrusted with the task of promoting research. We will gather up all possible means of research and of existing research schemes, and will seek to promote research on an even more extended scale.
As for the rest, I speak with some feeling about this industry. I know that there are difficulties confronting us. I will not argue that because we propose the nationalisation of the mining industry that will mean the end of all our difficulties The hon. Member for Edgbaston was right; we are in a period of more or less full employment. There is an inadequate labour force at our disposal in all industries. How long that will last no one can tell. The time may come when, as a result of the speeding up of production and inability to relate production with consumption, and because other countries will have speeded up production and will enter into competition with ourselves, we may find it necessary to embark upon other Measures even more drastic than those in contemplation now, for the good of the State and so that we may hold up our heads in the comity of nations. That may be necessary; but one thing we must not do is to return to the bad old days. No one knows that more 148 than the right hon. Member for Bromley. We have to appreciate the fact that the past is dead.
Other nations are as modern and as scientific and as up-to-date as we are, and some of them go far beyond anything yet achieved in this country. I am not speaking of Russia or of any country in particular, but we cannot take a back seat. We cannot play second fiddle. It may be necessary for us to embark upon even more drastic schemes of reorganisation and rationalisation in every field, if not nationalisation, in order that we may retain our place in the industrial race. It may be necessary for us to embark upon schemes which will relate the industrial activities of other nations with our own. It may be necessary to promote economic integration not only in the national sphere but in the international sphere. We must be prepared to adopt devices of that kind. It is a very fascinating subject, and I mention it only because it has been suggested by the hon Member for Egbaston. I am sure that in what he said he was pushing at an open door.
We must recall the inter-war years. Never mind about what happened in 1266, as was mentioned by one hon. Member. I think it was the 12th century. Maybe it was the 13th century—I am not quite sure. I would not go so far back even as my hon. Friend the Member for Consett, who enlivened the House with an example of that vigorous, forceful and thrusting effort, so true to life as known in the minefields of this country. I am not concerned about the remote past. But I can recall with hon. Members in all quarters of the House the desolation, the devastation, of the interwar years, the misery and anguish in the homes of mineworkers and their wives and families. We must never repeat that. I recognise that we must produce coal, and produce it in vast quantities because of an ever-increasing industrial demand. We must produce coal, and produce it in a right and beneficial atmosphere, with amenities and welfare conducive to the wellbeing of the mineworkers. I go beyond that and say we must extend welfare and bring it into the lives of miners' wives and families.
We must do all that, but I am proud to be able to stand at this Box in the final stage of our Debates before this Bill proceeds to another place, because of my affection for the mineworkers of this 149 country. I have been associated—and am proud of the fact—in the last 30 years with two categories of workers in this country—the seamen and the miners, the seamen, some of the finest fellows in the world, and the miners, equally so, engaged in the most arduous of occupations and, unfortunately, in the past, paid the lowest wages. I can recall how before the first great world war seamen received £3 10s. a month for sailing to the River Plate and £3 a month for crossing the Atlantic. Equally I can recall when the average wage of the mineworkers in the inter-war years was no more than 50s. a week—
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am speaking of average wages. We must never return to that condition of things. This Bill at any rate provides some hope for the mineworkers. I have been told that there is not sufficient in the Bill about consultation. My reply to that is this, at any time the mineworkers could have pressed consultation on the National Coal Board but we have provided in the Bill for con-
§ sultation—not permissive consultation but compulsory consultation—and consultation not only in relation to wages, conditions, health and welfare but as regards the 'whole organisation in the industry. In other words, we have provided for an effective partnership. It is because of these facts that I have the profound hope that we can not only put this industry on its feet but we can make it, not in the language of capitalism, but in the understanding of hon. Members on this side, profitable in the sense that it will pay the nation. We can afford to give the mineworkers the best conditions and the highest standard of wages, and we can minister to the needs of our national industry and afford to coal consumers coal regularly and at the cheapest possible price. I am aware of the difficulties that beset the Ministry of Fuel and Power—I am under no illusion about the future—but I am proud to have had the distinction conferred on me, along with my colleagues at the Ministry and elsewhere, of being allowed to promote this great Bill in this House.
§ Question put, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 324; Noes, 143.153
|Division No. 176.]||AYES.||10.0 p.m.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Brook, O. (Halifax)||Davies, Harold (Leek)|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancrat, S.W.)|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Brown, George (Belpar)||Davies, R. J. (Wethoughton)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Deer, G.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Delargy, Captain H. J.|
|Anderson, F (Whitehaven)||Burden, T. W.||Diamond, J.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Burke, W. A.||Dobbie, W.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Butler, H. W. (Hacknay, S)||Dodds, N. N|
|Awbery, S. S.||Byers, Lt.-Col. F.||Donevan, T.|
|Ayles, W H.||Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Douglas, F. C. H.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Chamberlain, R. A.||Driberg, T. E. N.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Champion A J.||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)|
|Baird, Capt. J.||Chater D.||Dumpleton, C. W.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Chetwynd, Capt. G. R||Durbin, E. F M.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Clitherew, Dr. R||Dye, S.|
|Bartlett, V.||Cluss, W. S.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Barton, C.||Cob, F.A.||Edelman, M.|
|Battley, J. R.||Cobb, F. A.||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Cooks, F. S.||Edwards, John (Blackburn)|
|Belcher, J. W.||Collick, P.||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Collindridge, F.||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)|
|Benson, G.||Colman, Miss G. M.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)|
|Berry, H.||Comyns, Dr. L.||Fairhurst, F.|
|Beswick, F.||Cook, T. F.||Farthing, W. J.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.||Fletcher, E. G. M (Islington, E.)|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsw'th, C.)||Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W)||Follick, M.|
|Bing, Capt. G. H. C.||Corlett, Dr. J.||Foster, W. (Wigan)|
|Binns, J.||Corvedale, Viscount||Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Cove, W. G.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)|
|Blenkinsop, Capt. A||Crawley, Flt.-Lieut. A||Gaitskell, H. T. N|
|Blyton, W. R.||Crossman, R. H. S.||Gallacher, W.|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Daggar, G.||Ganley, Mrs. C. S|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Daines, P.||Gibbins, J.|
|Bowen, R.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Gibson, C. W.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Gilzean, A.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge)||Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)|
|Braddock, T (Mitcham)||Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Gooch, E. G.|
|Goodrich, H. E.||Manning, Mrs L. (Epping)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Gordon-Walter, P. C.||Marquand, H. A.||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)||Marshall, F. (Brightside)||Skinnard, F. W.|
|Greenwood, A. W J. (Heywood)||Martin, J. H.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)|
|Grey, C. F,||Medland, H. M.||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Grierson, E.||Messer, F.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Middleton, Mrs. L.||Smith, T. (Normanlon)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Mikardo, Ian||Snow, Capt. J. W|
|Griffiths, Capt. W. D. (Moss Side)||Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R.||Solley, L. J.|
|Gruffyd, Prof. W. J.||Mitchison, Maj. G. R.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Monslow, W.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F|
|Guy, W. H.||Montague, F||Sparks, J. A.|
|Haire, Flt.-Lieut. J. (Wycombe)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Stamford, W.|
|Hale, Leslie||Morley, R.||Steele, T.|
|Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)||Stephen, C.|
|Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Mort, D. L.||Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Hardy, E. A.||Moyle, A.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Harrison, J.||Murray, J D||Strachey, J.|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Nally, W||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Naylor, T. E.||Stubbs, A. E.|
|Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Neal, H. (Claycross)||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Herbison, Miss M||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Swingler, S.|
|Holman, P||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Symonds, Maj. A. L|
|Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Hoy, J.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Hubbard, T.||Noel-Buxton, Lady||Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)|
|Hudson, J. H (Ealing, W.)||Oldfield, W. H.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Oliver, G. H.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Orbach, M.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Hughes, Lt. H. D (W'lverh'pton, W.)||Paget, R. T.||Thorneycroft, H. (Clayton)|
|Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Thurtle, E.|
|Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Palmer, A. M. F||Tiffany, S.|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Pargiter, G A||Titterington, M. F|
|Irving, W. J||Parker, J.||Tolley, L.|
|Janner, B.||Parkin, Flt.-Lieut. B. T.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G|
|Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Jones, A. C (Shipley)||Pearson, A.||Usborne, Henry|
|Jones, D. T (Hartlepools)||Peart, Capt. T. F.||Vernon, Maj. W. F|
|Jones, J. H (Bolton)||Plaits-Mills, J F. F.||Viant, S. P|
|Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield)||Walkden, E.|
|Keenan, W.||Popplewell, E.||Walker, G. H.|
|King, E. M.||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Wallace, H. W (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Kinley, J.||Pritt, D N.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Kirby, B V||Proctor, W. T||Weitzman, D.|
|Kirkwood, D||Pryde, D. J.||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Lang, G.||Pursey, Cmdr H||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.||Ranger, J.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Lee, F. (Hulme)||Rankin, J.||Wigg, Col. G E.|
|Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B|
|Leslie, J. R.||Rhodes, H.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Lever, Ft. Off. N. H||Richards, R.||Wilkinson, Rt. Hon. Ellen|
|Levy, B. W||Ridealgh, Mrs. M||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Lewis, J. (Bolton)||Robens, A.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Williams, D. J. (Noath)|
|Lindsay, K. M. (Comb'd Eng. Univ.)||Roberts, Goranwy (Caernarvonshire)||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Lipson, D. L.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Williams, Fit. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M||Royle, C||Williams, W R. (Heston)|
|McAllister, G.||Sargood, R||Willis, E.|
|McEntee, V. La T||Scollan, T.||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|McGhee, H G||Scott-Elliot, W.||Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J|
|Mack, J. D.||Segal, Dr. S.||Wilson, J. H.|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Shackleton, Wing-Cdr. E. A. A.||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Mackay, R. W G. (Hull, N.W.)||Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M.||Woods, G. S.|
|McLeavy, F.||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)||Vates, V. F.|
|McNeil, H.||Shawcross, Sir H. (SI. Helens)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Shurmer, P.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W||Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.|
|Silverman, J. (Erdington)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Mann, Mrs. J,||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Mr. Whitley and Mr R. J. Taylor|
|Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Simmons, C J.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P G.||Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Conant, Maj. R. J. E|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R||Braithwaite, Lt. Comdr. J, G.||Cooper-Key, E. M.|
|Astor, Hon, M.||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W||Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Bullock, Capt. M.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.|
|Beamish, Maj T. V. H.||Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Crawder, Capt. J. F. E|
|Beechman, N. A.||Carson, E.||Cuthbert, W. N.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Challen, C.||Davidson, Viscountess|
|Birch, Nigel||Channon, H.||Digby, Maj. S. W.|
|Bossom, A, C.||Clarke, Col. R. S.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.|
|Bower, N.||Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G||Drayson, G. R.|
|Drewa, C.||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T (Richmond)||Linstead, H. N.||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Duthie, W. S.||Low, Brig. A. R. W.||Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)|
|Eccles, D. M.||Lucas, Major Sir J.||Robertson, Sir D.(Streatham)|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Ropner, Col. L|
|Erroll, F. J.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Ross, Sir R.|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Fox, Sqn.-Ldr. Sir G||Mackeson, Lt. Col. H. R.||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Fraser, Maj. H. C. P. (Stone)||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Maclay, Hon. J. S.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Gage, Lt.-Col. C.||Maclean, Brig. F H. R. (Lancaster)||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon, Harold (Bromley)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.|
|George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G Lloyd (P'ke)||Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)||Stewart, J. Henderson (File, E.)|
|Glossop, C. W. H||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Glyn, Sir R.||Manningham-Buller, R E||Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)|
|Gridley, Sir A.||Marples, A. E.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Marsden, Capt. A.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Hare, Lt.-Col. Hn. J. H. (W'db'g.)||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n. S.)|
|Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V.||Mauda, J C.||Teeling, William|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Mellor, Sir J.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Visoount||Molson, A. H. E.||Thornton-Kemsley, C N|
|Hogg, Hon. Q.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.||Touche, G. C.|
|Hollis, M, C.||Morris-Jones, Sir H.||Turton, R. H.|
|Holmas, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Vane, W. M. T.|
|Howard, Hon. A.||Morrison, Rt Hn. W. S. (Cirencester)||Wakefield, Sir W. W|
|Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Neven-Spence, Sir B.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.||Nield, B. (Chester)||Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie|
|Hurd, A.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Cm Clark (E'b'rfh W.)||O'Neill, Rt. Han. Sir H.||Wheatlay, Colonel M. J.|
|Jarvis, Sir J.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Jeffreys, General Sir G||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Jennings, R.||Pickthorn, K.||Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.|
|Kerr, Sir J. Graham||Pitman, I. J.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Poole, O. B. S, (Oswestry)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Prescott, Stanley|
|Langford-Holt, J.||Price-White, Lt.-Col. D||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H||Raikes, H. V.||Sir Arthur Young.|
Question put, and agreed to
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.