§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Major Lloyd George (Pembroke)
I beg to move, in page 5, line 36, to leave out "such an expectation as aforesaid," and to insert:an expectation of accruer whether as of right or under customary practice of any particular benefits in favour of any such person or in favour of another person by reference to his employment.
§ Mr. Nigel Birch (Flint)
I wish to support the Amendment. The subsection which we seek to amend is one of great complexity. It will be found that it is 394 words long without a single full stop. It has generally been my experience in this House that where we have a long and complex Clause without a full stop there must be some reason behind it, and generally the reason is that there is something to conceal. A 394-word subsection is a fig leaf of substantial size and may conceal things which would certainly cause offence if seen. What the subsection does is to water down and partially cancel Section 37 (2) of the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act which 932 guaranteed to those displaced under that Act that they would get their customary rights under what was known as "accruer arrangements." The word "accruer" caused great difficulty to the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) but it was not a very complex business. What it meant was that if by the custom of a concern a man would over a period of years be entitled to certain rights, under that Act he would still be entitled to them. If we read the subsection we find that severely watered down.
It is impossible really to amend the subsection to make it right without cancelling it completely, and our Amendment to that effect will not be called. The Amendment which has just been moved is a much more moderate one. It seeks to make this immense mass of words slightly clearer, if that is possible. The words we propose to leave out are:Such an expectation as aforesaid.We believe that the right hon. Gentleman means what we mean when he puts those words in, and what we mean is:An expectation of accruer whether as of right or under customary practice"—933 and so on. Those words appear in the Clause but they appear about 20 lines further up than the words I am trying to leave out, and therefore it is very difficult for anyone to know whether or not the words "Such an expectation" refer to the words I want to put in. The Amendment, which can do nothing to make this Clause right, might at any rate do something to make it less obscure, and it is in that hope that we put it forward.
§ Mr. Raikes
I also wish to support the Amendment, which is a very narrow one, on one ground beyond all else, and that is that in the view of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House subsection (2) is a breach of faith with a considerable number of persons who were promised something under the original Act which they will not now get. The position was made fairly clear by the Government at an early stage in the Standing Committee, in the most unblushing fashion. Not least of those who were unblushing was the Solicitor-General with whom I propose to deal in a moment.
This is what has happened. Very late in the day, Section 37 (2, a) of the 1946 Act was considered by the Government to be unsatisfactory. That was long after the Act had become an Act. The Section created an obligation that regulations must be not less advantageous than the right or expectation in which they provided a benefit. The Government now take the view—two or three years afterwards—that the words "or expectation" were unsatisfactory, and therefore this new subsection to Clause 4 has been produced. Broadly speaking, the new subsection means that although certain persons may be better off than they would have been under the 1946 Act, nevertheless it is absolutely certain—that was made clear by the Solicitor-General—or as certain as makes no difference, that a number of persons will be worse off.
Our protest is a very simple one. We say that it is absolutely wrong that by retrospective legislation due to the error of the Government in the past in not having realised the implications of the 1946 Act, certain persons should have their benefits reduced or taken away under this subsection. We say that is a breach of faith, and we take the opportunity given to us by the Chair of speaking more broadly than the narrow Amendment would normally permit to 934 make this protest. We feel bound to divide the House as a protest against what we regard as a breach of faith by retrospective legislation and something totally unworthy of the best conduct and procedure of this House.
§ The Solicitor-General
I am sorry to hear hon. Gentlemen opposite announce their intention of dividing without even hearing the answer which I shall endeavour to give. No doubt that will be my fault, but the answer I seek to give is to both the arguments adduced in support of the Amendment. The hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Birch) was concerned principally with the form of the Clause rather than its content. It is a long subsection but that is because in an attempt to relieve the reader of having to refer to Section 37 of the 1946 Act we have reproduced in the subsection a great deal of what we are trying to change from that Section. It is because we wish to spare the reader trouble that this subsection looks so long and a great deal more cumbersome than it will be found to be by reading it through. We take certain wording out of Section 37 of the 1946 Act, and we repeat it here and say that we are changing it in a certain respect. It is our intention—and it is our belief that we have achieved our intention—that the words "such an expectation as aforesaid" relate back to the previous description of an expectation which occurs a little higher in the subsection where the wording of Section 37 is set out.
With regard to the substance of it, it really is a long way from the mark to say that we are here retrospectively taking away anything that was promised; the contrary is the case. The reason for this subsection is that we were apprehensive that the wording which we had used in Section 37 did not altogether implement what we had intended in favour of the persons who were to be its objects. I can illustrate the anxiety which we had in mind by an example which, indeed, I gave upstairs when this Clause was being discussed in Committee. Supposing one has the case of a company which ordinarily gave pension rights after 30 years' service, and supposing there is a servant who has been in the employ of that company for 10 years when the provisions of this Bill come into effect, and his service with that 935 company comes to an end. As the original Section 37 was drawn, it appeared on closer inspection and when it was actually sought to put it into operation, that there was this possible reading that might be put upon it—we did not necessarily think would be put upon it but might be put upon it in such a case—that the individual who had done his 10 years' service might have it said against him, "There is nothing to show that you would have completed the necessary term of 30 years' service in order to get the customary pension rights which are given by the company you have served."
We thought that a person in those circumstances might well feel a grievance if, as might be the case, it could be said upon reading of Section 37 that his claim after 10 years' service was too speculative and fanciful and it really assumed that there was a likelihood which it could not be predicated was the case that he would have continued for the remaining 20 years. In order, therefore, to prevent it being said against a person of that sort, "Your claim to customary pension advantages is altogether too fanciful and is not sufficiently firmly based upon that probability," we said in the Clause which is now being considered by the House that we would substitute some tangible basis of measurement, and that tangible basis of measurement appears in paragraphs (a) and (b) of Subsection (2). The basis of measurement is the period of employment and the actual emoluments that the person in the service of the company is receiving.
So we substitute for a state of uncertainty two concrete criteria of measurement by reference to which his expectation of receiving customary pension rights from that company can be measured. In other words, we give a person a right, or we ensure to him that he gets something which, upon the reading of the previous subsection it might be said—we do not say it would be said—upon one reading of the previous Section 37, it might be said he would not have got. Therefore the substance of the matter is that, far from taking away from anybody something which he ought to have, we are making sure, by providing a criterion by reference to which his claim can be measured, that he does indeed get his deserts under the terms of 936 the previous Section 37 in the spirit in which it was intended that he should receive them. Therefore I repudiate entirely the charge that there is any breach of faith; on the contrary, the reverse is the truth.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson
The example which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just given might have been regarded as persuasive but for his statements and the statements of his right hon. Friend in the course of the Committee stage. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has just given the House the impression that the net effect of the change of the Clause as it stands, is to give people whose claims might have been in doubt a certainty that they would be well treated. That is not, in fact, the impression that the right hon. and learned Gentleman gave to the Committee. What the right hon. and learned Gentleman said to the Committee was quite different, although it is quite true that he quoted the same instance. He said:The new Clause may in some cases inure to the advantage of the person who claims an expectation,"—He went on to say:and in some cases it may the reverse."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 8th February, 1949; c. 374.]In other words, in some cases the man will benefit but in some cases the man who had a reasonable expectation, relying on the pledge given by the right hon. and learned Gentleman during the passage of the Bill, will be disappointed.
§ Mr. Hudson
If the House was in any doubt about the view of the Government on this matter, I ask the House to listen to what the Minister said:It is perfectly clear that all I was saying in reply to that question was that the Regulations had to be made and had to provide the same benefits or substituted benefits not less-advantageous than those previously enjoyed either as of right or under customary practice.That is a pledge which the right hon. Gentleman gave during the discussions on the Bill in 1946. The right hon. Gentleman then went on to say:In fact regulations were made, so if any pledge was given it was carried out,Now listen to the next words which the right hon. Gentleman used: 937but there was no pledge given to refrain in all circumstances from introducing an amending Bill to clarify the position."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 10th Feb., 1949; c. 400.]
§ Mr. Hudson
In other words, the position taken up by the right hon. Gentleman is this: "I give a pledge in the House in 1946, I bring in regulations which admittedly carry out that pledge, but I subsequently find that the pledge went too far and so I feel myself at perfect liberty to bring in new legislation amending the pledge." That, in fact, is what the right hon. Gentleman did.
§ Mr. Hudson
I venture to say that if the interests of miners had been involved the right hon. Gentleman would not have been allowed by his party to get away with it. There are hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in this House who are concerned on general grounds with pledges given by the Government about the changes that will be made and the regulations that will have to be introduced when certain Measures are passed. It has been a commonplace of Bills in this House, where amalgamations are concerned—still more when nationalisation measures are brought in—that men who are affected are to have their rights preserved.
As an illustration, in the course of the last few weeks the Iron and Steel Bill has been discussed upstairs, and the Minister of Supply has given the most categorical assurances, as the Minister of Fuel and Power did in 1946, that the interests of these men will be protected by regulations. Are we now to see a new practice by the Government of bringing in the regulations and then bringing in an amending Bill? We repeat that it is a piece of gross dishonesty on the part of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman used the word "scandalous" about one of my hon. and learned Friends. He has the responsibility of the Government, his action is both scandalous and dishonest, and it is as well that that should go out from this House.
§ Mr. J. Foster
The House should understand quite clearly that under the 1946 Act the Government pledged itself to give benefits not less advantageous 938 in two cases where a man had a certain right to a certain benefit and where he had an expectation of accruer of a certain benefit. Under this amending Bill only the first of these men—the man who has a right—is still entitled to "benefits not less advantageous." The second man —the man who has only "an expectation of accruer"—is deprived of the protection which was pledged by the right hon. Gentleman. The man who has an "expectation of accruer" no longer is entitled to "benefits not less advantageous." That promise was contained in the original Act, and hon. Members opposite should be ashamed of depriving a man of the "benefits not less advantageous" promised to him by the Government. That is what this amending Bill does. I challenge the Solicitor-General to deny it. He says that all he is doing is giving more to people who would otherwise get less, but under this Measure he is not pledged to give to a man who has "an expectation of accruer" "benefits not less advantageous." I challenge the Solicitor-General to say that I am wrong.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows perfectly well that under Section 37 (2) of the principal Act two classes of people were promised "benefits not less advantageous." One of those classes has now been deprived of that protection. The right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Minister say that they are merely amending to make the position clear. What they are doing is depriving people of something to which they are entitled.
§ Mr. Foster
No, they cannot go to arbitration. If they were entitled to "benefits not less advantageous" they could say to an arbitrator, "In an Act of Parliament we have been promised 'benefits not less advantageous.' I am a man of 62 and entitled to a pension of £200 a year when I am 65." Now they cannot do that. If the regulations provide that they shall get so many eightieths, subject to Income Tax and so on, they cannot say that to an arbitrator, for he will tell them, "I am very sorry; you are not entitled to 'benefits not less advantageous.' You are entitled only to what the regulations say you can have." These people have been put in the same class as those covered by Section 37 (1), 939 about whom we shall hear when discussing the next Amendment.
Hon. Members opposite should look carefully into this question to see who is right. One can easily be wrong, but let us assume for the moment that I am right. I do not lay this down dogmatically, but put it forward as a challenge, for it is very difficult sometimes to make one's way through these Measures. Assuming that I am right, hon. Members opposite must agree that it is disgraceful to alter an Act of Parliament and to give people less; to say to people, whom they once protected by saying, "You will get 'benefits not less advantageous,'" "We
§ wipe that out. We are not going to pledge ourselves to give 'benefits not less advantageous.'" That is a disgraceful thing to do, if I am right. I feel confident that I am right as no answer is forthcoming from the Government Front Bench. That being so, a pledge has been disgracefully broken.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 211; Noes, 68.941
|Division No. 91.]||AYES||[8.27 p.m.|
|Adams, Richard (Batham)||Ganley, Mrs C. S||Medland, H. M.|
|Alien A. C. (Bosworth)||George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Middleton, Mrs. L|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Alpass, J. H||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Monslow, W|
|Attewell, H C||Grierson, E.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Moyle, A.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Gunter, R. J||Murray, J. D.|
|Barnes, Rt Hon. A. J||Hate, Leslie||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)|
|Barstow, P G.||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col R||O'Brien, T.|
|Batting, J. R.||Hardman, D. R.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Hardy, E. A.||Paget, R. T.|
|Benson, G.||Harrison, J.||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)|
|Berry, H||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Paling, W. T. (Dewsbury)|
|Bing, C. H. C||Haworth. J.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Parker, J|
|Boardman, H.||Herbison, Miss M.||Parkin, B. T.|
|Bowden, Flg. Offr. H. W.||Hewitson. Capt. M||Paton, J. (Norwich)|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Hobson, C. R.||Pearson, A.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Holman., P.||Poole, Cecil (Lichfield)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Popplewell, E.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Horabin, T. L.||Porter, E. (Warrington)|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Houghton, A. L. N. D.||Porter, G (Leeds)|
|Burden, T. W.||Hughes, EmryS (S. Ayr)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)||Pryde, D. J.|
|Cobb, F A.||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Pursey, Comdr. H.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Irving, W J. (Tottenham, N.)||Randall, H. E.|
|Collick, P.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Ranger, J.|
|Collins, V. J.||Jeger, C (Winchester)||Reeves, J.|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Jenkins. R. H.||Reid, T. (Swindon)|
|Cooper, G.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)||Rhodes, H.|
|Cove, W. G.||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Ridealgh, Mrs. M|
|Crawley, A.||Keenan, W||Robens, A.|
|Daggar, G.||Kenyon, C||Roberts, Garenwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Daines, P||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Kinley, J.||Robinson, K. (St. Pancras)|
|Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Kirby, B V||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)|
|Deer, G.||Lang, G.||Royle, C.|
|Diamond, J.||Lavers. S||Scollan, T.|
|Dobbie, W.||Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Leslie, J. R.||Sharp, Granville|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Levy, B. W.||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)|
|Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Lipson, D. L.||Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)|
|Dumpleton, C. W.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C||Lyne, A. W.||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)|
|Edelman, M.||McAdam, W.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||McEntee, V. La T.||Skinnard, F. W|
|Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||McGhee, H. G.||Smith, C. (Colchester)|
|Evans, John (Ogmore)||McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)||Solley, L. J.|
|Ewart, R.||McLeavy, F.||Soskice, Fit Hon. Sir Frank|
|Farthing, W. J.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Stamford, W|
|Follick, M.||Malialieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Steele, T.|
|Foot, M. M.||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Forman, J. C.||Marquand, Rt. Hon H. A.||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H T. N.||Mashers, Rt. Hon. George||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Wadsworth, G.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)||Wallace, G D. (Chislehurst)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Wallace, H W (Walthamstow, E.)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T (Don Valley)|
|Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)||Warbey, W. N.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S)|
|Thomas, John R. (Dover)||Watkins, T. E.||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)||Willis, E.|
|Thurtle, Ernest||Weitzman, D.||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Timmons, J.||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)||Woodburn, Rt Hon. A|
|Titterington, M. F||Wheatley, Rt. H'n. John (Edino'gh, E)||Yates, V. F.|
|Tolley, L.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon W||Zilliacus, K|
|Turner-Samuels, M.||Wigg, George|
|Ungoed-Thomas, L.||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B||TELLERS Wit THE AYES:|
|Viant, S. P.||Willey, F T. (Sunderland)||Mr. Collindridge and Mr. Hannan|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||George, Maj. Rt G. Lloyd (P'ke)||Nield, B. (Chester)|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Gridley, Sir A||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R||Hogg, Hon Q||Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Hudson, RI Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Raikes, H. V.|
|Birch, Nigel||Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Jeffreys, General Sir G||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G||Jennings, R.||Savory, Prof. D. L.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G T.||Keeling, E. H.||Shepherd, W S. (Bucklow)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Lancaster, Col. C. G||Spearman, A C M|
|Carson, E.||Langford-Holt, J||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Channon, H.||Legge-Bourke, Maj E. A. H||Stuart, Rt. Hon J (Moray)|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Touche, G. C.|
|Conant, Maj R. J, E||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Turton, R. H.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H F. C.||McCarquodala, Rt. Hon. M. S||Walker-Smith, D|
|Cuthbert, W N.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J. Dorset, E.)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Donner, P. W.||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Dower, Col. A. V. G (Penrith)||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Drewe, C.||Manningham-Buller, R. E||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)|
|Eccles, D. M.||Mellor, Sir J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Mr. Studholme and|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P M||Nicholson, G.||Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport|
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson
I beg to move, in page 6, line 9, at the end, to insert:(3) Any person who is aggrieved by a determination as to whether any or what benefits shall be provided in his favour or in favour of another person by reference to his employment under any regulations made for the purposes of subsection (1) of the said Section thirty-seven may require the matter to be referred to the arbitration of a referee or board of referees appointed for the purpose by the Minister of Labour and National Service after consultation with the Lord Chancellor or where the proceedings are to be held in Scotland after consultation with the Secretary of State and the Lord President of the Court of Session and the Board shall give effect to the determination of the referee or board of referees.
§ Mr. J. Foster
This Amendment, which I support, is connected with the subject of the previous discussion. Its object is to allow certain classes of people to go to arbitration, and the way in which this matter arises is as follows. Under Section 37 of the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act, 1946, persons covered by subsection (2), to which we have just alluded, who had a right or expectation of accruer of particular benefits, also had the right to benefits not less advantageous. Under the 1946 Act, the persons who have been made redundant and who have no right 942 or expectation of accruer, but had an expectation, generally, of being compensated, had the right of going to arbitration. This Amendment is intended to undo what I said was a particularly dirty trick on the part of the Government.
I should say here that I have an interest in this matter. I have a client who is affected by it, so I have a professional interest in putting this forward. The particularly dirty trick by the Government was that, under the original regulations of the 1946 Act, the persons whom I have described had a right to go to arbitration, but, in the particular case which I have in mind, the persons concerned were pressed not to allow the matter to go to arbitration. What happened? When, apparently, the Government became aware that these persons could go to an impartial arbitrator and say, "We have not been properly treated; we are not going to get the compensation from the Coal Board which the Minister promised us during the Debate on the Coal Bill," regulations were passed in November, 1948, depriving these persons of such compensation. In effect the Government said, "No longer can these persons go 943 to arbitration and complain that they are not going to get proper compensation with regard to the money they were earning and the length of time they were employed by the colliery undertakings. Henceforward they can only go to arbitration if they feel that they are aggrieved by the scheme issued by the Coal Board." The Coal Board issued a scheme which gave them only a fraction of the compensation to which they were entitled.
Compensation, in ordinary language, means what it says; it means giving a man the equivalent of what he had before. If a man is given only a fraction of what he had before, that is not proper compensation; that is a form of robbery, confiscation, and injustice, whichever way one looks at it. By their regulations of 1948, the Government have deprived the man who is entitled to compensation from going to arbitration, and having restricted him to the complaint that he has not been properly treated under the scheme, if his complaint is that the scheme treats him badly. His only redress is when some arithmetical computation under the scheme is not satisfactory, and when, say, he ought to get £220 a year whereas he is only getting £210. If that is the case, he can say that the scheme provides that he shall get £220 a year, but that, actually, he is only getting £210.
If, on the other hand, his complaint is that he feels he ought to get £250, but that the scheme only provides for £220, he cannot go to arbitration on that matter. As I say, before the November, 1948, regulations were made he had the right to go to arbitration. One would have thought that, in fairness, both classes should have had benefits not less advantageous. I accept the apparent view of the Government, but that is not in the Act. Under the original Act some classes of persons were entitled to benefits not so advantageous, but this injustice has been made worse because people who feel that they have been unfairly treated have been deprived of the right of appeal. If that is not a dirty trick, what is?
§ Mr. Robens
In this matter of the provisions for rights, and so on, the main Act says thatregulations shall be made for all or any of the following benefitsand they fall into certain categories as 944 the hon. Member has indicated. We have got, of course, those who are continuing to be employed by the National Coal Board and who go into the Board's scheme. There is no real need for arbitration in those circumstances because the fund itself provides for reference to a board of management which is usually composed of members of the fund and of the management. There is also the group of persons who have service under the old undertakings and who have certain rights and expectations. I do not think that we have really any objection to arbitration in relation to those people. We will look at that point, and if we can do something in any way for those people we will do it.
§ Mr. Scollan
I assume that this matter has been brought forward on the basis that it was equally fair to these people to put down the amount of compensation that they could claim under the Bill in the same way as it is put down for the miner himself. Let me take the case of a miner, probably 62 or 63 years of age, whose pit is closed under the new reorganisation plan. All his family and his ties are in that particular neighbourhood, and he cannot very well begin a new life in another place. The Bill definitely states what should be paid to him in compensation. He will get a definite sum for 26 weeks. These other people to which reference has been made are in that category, but with a very much higher rate of compensation. I cannot understand how anybody can suggest that a person should plead, "Now that the industry has been reorganised, I shall lose my job, and I assess the compensation which I ought to be paid at £500," or some other sum. Obviously, if we are to clutter up all the arbitration courts with fanciful figures which many people can claim by way of com-compensation, we shall be apt to get far greater compensation paid than is justified, and we shall be creating a privileged class in dealing with the whole of the reorganisation of the mines. That is what I object to.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson
I am much obliged to the Parliamentary Secretary for his undertaking that he will have this point dealt with in another place. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
During the Debate on the Second Reading of this Bill we spent most of our time discussing the structure of the National Coal Board. That was as a result of agreement between the two sides of the House, and I make no complaint whatever about it. I think it was an interesting and useful Debate. But, of course, the fact is that the Bill itself has really very little to do with the structure of the National Coal Board. As hon. Members no doubt realise, it makes a number of small amendments to the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act, 1946, and one important amendment to the Act of 1911.
I think I can say that there is really no dispute as to the last point. Part II of this Bill, which deals with the amendment to the 1911 Act, is in substance a matter on which we are all agreed —the desirability of giving the Minister power to make regulations to amend or vary or alter Part I of the 1911 Act. The only point in dispute this afternoon was as to whether the regulations should be subject to annulment here or not. I will not go over that ground again.
Perhaps I may say a few words on one or two of the other Clauses, and then say a little more on Clause 1 on which I think all are agreed we should concentrate.
First, as regards Clauses 3 and 4, I do not myself consider that they are enormously important. They have been dealt with very thoroughly by my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General, and there is not much that I need say. The right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) launched a severe attack against us on this matter of superannuation, but seriously I do not think anybody would say that it was unreasonable to lay down that the decision in this matter of how an expectation of accruer should be valued should depend upon the period for which a man was employed and the salary he got while he was employed. That is all that we are doing in that Clause. As to Clause 3, regarding contracts, I think my right hon. and learned Friend has covered the ground adequately.
I should like to say a word or two more about Clause 2, although, if I may say so, the admirable speech of my hon. 946 Friend the Parliamentary Secretary dealt with most of the points made by hon. Members opposite up to the time that he spoke. I want to emphasise this: the reason for the Clause is simply that a mistake was made in the drafting of Section 63 of the original Act. It was intended in that Section to prevent the Coal Board from getting involved in taking over assets which belonged to colliery companies in foreign countries. We did not want to have any question that they were to be able to exercise options in respect of properties belonging to colliery companies abroad, but the way the Clause was actually drafted meant that they were debarred from undertaking activities abroad generally and the result has been that they have not been able, for example, themselves to conduct negotiations abroad. They can do so here, but they cannot do so in Paris or in any other foreign country, at least with any certainty that they will not be challenged in the courts.
At the moment they cannot themselves ship coal, which means that all sales must be f.o.b. Normally, that may be perfectly satisfactory, but obviously there may be cases where they should have the right to sell c.i.f. Some customers may prefer that that transaction should be arranged direct with them instead of through an exporter who takes the risk with the shipping. Finally, they have no power to set up any kind of sales agency here or in any other country. The primary purpose of the Clause was to put that matter right. When we looked at it, however, we came to the conclusion that there was really no reason why we should not, in effect, allow them to undertake activities abroad, always providing there was no question of their taking over assets held abroad. That is exactly how we have amended the original Act; that is the result produced by this Clause.
I would only add one or two remarks in reply to comments by the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles). All we ask is that the Coal Board should be allowed themselves to compete as traders in the world market, and I cannot see why hon. Members opposite are so terrified of the competition of the National Coal Board. If the Board are as inefficient as some hon. Members like to make out, there need not be any anxiety about it whatever. Let me say that the National Coal Board themselves have the 947 greatest possible interest in obtaining the largest volume of exports. Some figures about present prices have been given by the hon. Member for Chippenham. I do not dispute them. I have repeatedly said that at the moment we are getting exceptionally favourable terms. In those circumstances, it is quite certain that the Board will not take any action which, in their opinion, is likely to reduce the amount of coal exported from this country but they are entitled to that freedom which is not denied to private enterprise in this sphere and to opportunitites of trading. This may inspire a little healthy competition, but I am quite certain that the result will be thoroughly beneficial to the British export trade.
Finally, I turn to Clause 1. Clause 1, in fact, does only two things. It enables the Minister to appoint a limited number of part-time members by increasing the total numbers permitted on the Board—the maximum number permitted in the Act—from 9, including the chairman, to 12, including the chairman, and at the same time provides that of that total at least three must be part-time members. The second change is to enable the Minister to appoint a second vice-chairman. Of course, both these changes were recommended by the Burrows Commitee, although I think my hon. Friend said on Second Reading that at any rate the first change was one which we had had in mind for some considerable time. I should not have thought it necessary for me to argue, at any rate with hon. Members opposite, about the desirability of having some part-time members on the National Coal Board. I freely admit that they themselves expressed the view during the passage of the original Act in 1946 that this was probably desirable. I have come to the conclusion that in this case, at any rate, it is a desirable thing.
I do not say that in every case we should have part-time members. One thing I have learned from my experience in this field is not to be dogmatic about what sort of Board we should have. That really is, I think, fully borne in upon one. It depends upon what people are available; it depends on what stage we have reached in the development of the undertaking. It is a great mistake to tie ourselves down too rigidly in advance. I do urge that most strongly 948 upon hon. Members opposite, because they on occasion have suggested that we should reduce the number of full-time members still further, and I have resisted that. I have resisted it not because I thought it might not be desirable to have a smaller number of full-time members, but because I do not think any Minister of Fuel and Power should be tied down for ever to such a low maximum.
I am prepared to tell the House now that I do not disagree, for instance, with the fact that we shall probably maintain the number of full-time members at not more than the present eight full-time members, though it may be—I have not decided this—that if we wish to appoint an additional vice-chairman from outside the present membership of the Board I may have to go back on that. On the whole, however, I think it was an advantage to appoint—as I did —one part-time member not long ago, and it may be that we can proceed further in that direction. But do not let us tie ourselves down rigidly in the statute any further.
There has been, I think, an agreement with Mr. Speaker that we should be able to refer in this Debate to the problem of decentralisation. There was an Amendment down about that matter, but it was not called. In Clause 1, page 2, line 4, at end, insert:Provided that in connection with the alteration of the composition of the Board authorised by this section and with a view to the more effective carrying on of the undertaking of the Board the Board shall adopt measures to secure the largest degree of executive decentralisation consistent with the retention by them of control of general policy.It was understood that we should be able to say a word about the subject on Third Reading. For my part, I welcome the opportunity, because the Conservative Party, in this matter, at any rate, has been slightly more specific regarding its election policy than in many other spheres. Several hon. Gentlemen on the other side have come out into the open with a challenge as to what they are going to do about the nationalised industries. They say they will not denationalise but decentralise them. It will be useful, therefore, to have a discussion on that subject. I have always wanted to know exactly what they would do in this matter, and I am going to put to right hon. Gentlemen opposite a series of ques- 949 tions which. I hope, they will be able to answer, because, after all, the country as well as the House is entitled to know exactly what their policy is.
In the first place, are we to understand that it is the intention of the Opposition further to alter the original Statute so as to bring about this decentralisation? Do they think it desirable, for instance, not to place on the Statute Book some vague phrase like that in the Amendment which was not called, but to set up statutory bodies below the national level, as we have set up in the case of the gas and electricity industries? I know that the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde (Colonel Lancaster) has ideas of that kind. He was bold enough to come out into print on them. On the other hand, I gather from his remarks in Committee that the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) does not hold that view. They are both back benchers and are entitled to their views, but what we want to know is what the Front Bench say about this.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us in turn if the General Election is to be this year?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I am surprised at the right hon. Gentleman. If he really wants to know the date of the Election before deciding his policy, that is too much. However, let us continue. Assuming that they are not going to alter the statute —I think they would be very well advised not to—how exactly are they to bring about this famous decentralisation? Is it to be as the result of general directions issued by the Minister after consultation with the National Coal Board? Suppose by chance the National Coal Board, on being consulted about these general directions on decentralisation, happened to take the view that they were not necessary, that they were even undesirable. What then would the Opposition say? It might be rather awkward, might it not?
Suppose, on the other hand, they are not going to use general directions at all. They might not be able to do so. It is doubtful whether they would cover such a change which, I presume, is intended. How else is it to be achieved? The Minister, assuming that he is a Conservative, has to go along to the National Coal Board and say, "I wish you to decentralise." That really will not be 950 enough. He will have to be a great deal more precise. Or is it already decided that when the Opposition come into power, if they come into power, they are going to sack all the existing members of the National Coal Board, so that they have a completely free hand? I cannot believe that that will be so, because the right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) said, during the Second Reading Debate, that he did not agree with Sir Charles Reid that anybody on the National Coal Board should be sacked. So we do not know where we stand on this matter. We are looking forward on this side of the House, with the greatest interest, to the replies to be given by right hon. Gentlemen to these questions.
While they are making up their minds, perhaps I may say a few words myself on this subject of decentralisation. [Laughter.] I can well understand the relief with which hon. Gentlemen opposite received the end of those particular remarks and pertinent questions. Of course, everybody agrees that decentralisation has great advantages. It has the great advantage that we get speedier decisions. It has an even greater advantage, in my view, in that we get a greater sense of responsibility at the lower levels, which is extremely important. We get also, undoubtedly, a stronger feeling of participation in the organisation. All that is perfectly true; but we must also appreciate that decentralisation does have certain dangers. We are bound to get more frequent mistakes. If we are going in for a policy of extreme decentralisation, the House must face up to it that more mistakes are likely to be made.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I am being more serious than the right hon. Gentleman. If we have control at the centre, it is much easier to prevent mistakes. That is what is argued all the time against the running of an industry by a Government Department, because a Government Department is always afraid of making mistakes upon which the Minister will be challenged in the House. That is perfectly true, and the right hon. Gentleman knows it. We do, in that way, avoid a great many mistakes. It has its disadvantages, but we think that on balance 951 it is better not to put nationalised industries directly under Government Departments, but to set up these public corporations.
Secondly, there will be some divergence between practices in different districts, and that will be held against the National Coal Board. They will be asked, "How is it that in a particular division or area such and such a mansion has been bought at an extravagant cost?" They will say, "I am sorry but that is the result of leaving this to the divisional chairman, or the divisional board, or even to the area general manager."
§ Mr. Gaitskell
We have already helped the market for large houses, and I think that some hon. Gentlemen opposite may welcome this assistance.
There are other difficulties, and we must not forget them. It would be completely impossible—I can assure the House of this because it comes directly under me under the Defence Regulations—to decentralise the marketing of coal at the moment. We have to plan our coal distribution with such a narrow margin to get the maximum amount of exports that if we were to give up close control over marketing that would be completely impossible. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me, because he was as responsible as anybody for developing that system during the war.
Again, we cannot decentralise the plans for capital development. There may be a particular area where they want to go in for a particular type of development, where they want to have new sinkings or some underground development, and so they think to themselves, "This is splendid." But they cannot be left to do that. There must be a proper national plan for the areas in which the coal is to be developed in the most efficient manner. That is something which must be decided at the centre. At times it may seem extremely irksome and irritating to those in the areas and at the collieries that the plans they want to make for their particular pit and area have to be approved, first of all at the divisional and then at 952 the national level. But it is obviously quite wrong to give up this attempt at a national plan. If we allowed every area and every pit to proceed as it wanted, we should never achieve the best results or the most efficient industry.
One could go on. There are of course other matters, such as wages and conditions. Not only the Coal Board are concerned with that; the Mineworkers' Union, and the managers' and other associations are also concerned. On many occasions they must have these matters settled at the national level; they themselves wish to have them settled at the national level. Nor must we overlook the fact that the coal industry, contrasted for example with electricity, is an industry in which wages are two-thirds of the total costs, so that anything to do with wages and conditions is bound to be an enormously important aspect. Just as in electricity the dominating feature is bound to be the capital development plan, so in coal it is bound to be wages and conditions. Well, there it is. It is really a matter of balance between these two things—the advantages of decentralisation, which are certainly very real, and, on the other side, the dangers of decentralisation. I do not myself think that there is any very serious disagreement.
On the whole, we want to move in the direction of decentralisation; the National Coal Board have said repeatedly that that is what they are intending to do, and what they are doing; and I can assure the House from my own personal knowledge that it is the case. To start with, a great many policy decisions had to be made, and inevitably in a new organisation policy decisions had to be made at the centre; but more and more, as policy decisions are made, their implementation can be and is being left to the divisions and areas themselves. There were problems of organisation to start with, most of which have, I think, been solved—subject to any changes which the Opposition might suggest we should make. To begin with, these matters were not altogether clear; it was not exactly clear, for example, what a particular man's role was to be, and direction from the top was necessary. But all this is gradually changing, and we can be sure that the industry is moving more and more towards a decentralised structure, always subject to the major point that I 953 mentioned earlier, which I think must be settled by the National Coal Board themselves.
This Bill has been treated as controversial. For my part I rather regret that. I think it is perhaps natural for the Opposition to try to squeeze every ounce of disagreement they can out of it, and on this occasion they have certainly taken the view that it was the duty of the Opposition to oppose. There has been a great deal of misunderstanding about the purpose of the various Clauses which for my part I regret, because, when all is said and done, the Opposition have said that they are not going to denationalise the coal industry. I do not think that any of their leaders, at any rate, is likely to go back on that statement. If that is so, it really is in their interests, as it is of course in the interests of the country as a whole, that this nationalised industry should be a great success; and I should like to hear from them tonight an honestly expressed view, because at times the criticisms they have made of the National Coal Board during the passage of this Bill have made some of us question their sincerity. I should like to hear them say to the House, to the country, and to the Coal Board, "We wish you well. We want you to be successful. We have opposed various things in the Bill, but the Government at any rate recognise that it is for your benefit and for the benefit of the country as a whole." Let them, therefore, stop their rather hostile attitude; let them join with us in welcoming the Bill and saying to the National Coal Board: "God speed. The country needs the coal, and we wish you the best of luck."
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Major Lloyd George
The right hon. Gentleman was extremely persuasive in his last few sentences, but I should have been the more easily persuaded if he had not said just before that some of us in opposing this Bill did things that made him doubt our sincerity. I can certainly say that so far as I am concerned I do not recollect, either on the original Measure or on this Bill, putting forward anything other than what I thought to be a defect which ought to be remedied. The right hon. Gentleman regretted that this Bill had become rather controversial, but surely there are one or two things in it which the right hon. Gentleman could not expect to be other than controversial. For 954 instance, there is the way some of the people who have been displaced have been treated. Surely that is a matter of some controversy, or ought to be. Then there is the vast extension of the activities of the Coal Board. I should have thought that that was a matter about which we might have had some discussion. The fact that the Minister says he has no intention to put into effect the powers given to him under this Bill does not alter the fact that it enables the Coal Board to extend their activities very greatly. There are other matters, such as contracts, which must surely be discussed, and if that is being controversial then I suppose we must have been controversial.
The Parliamentary Secretary, when he introduced this Bill, referred to it as being a simple little Bill. It probably is the simplest Bill we have had if that relates to its size, but I should not like to say it is not a controversial one. Among other things, Clause 4 is almost incomprehensible. Yet that Clause deals with some very important aspects of the coal industry. The Bill amends two Acts, the 1911 Act and the 1946 Act. The principal alteration brought about by the 1946 Act was the change of ownership. But as the Parliamentary Secretary said at the time, nothing was laid down as to the structure of the National Coal Board. All it did was to say that from a certain date, the National Coal Board would take over and run the coal industry. Nothing was said about how they were to run the industry. That was left entirely to the Board. The Minister said tonight that they must be careful not to be too rigid in any plans that were made, but we can be certain that there was no rigidity about the first Measure because there was no plan at all. During the passage of the 1946 Act, we constantly asked the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor what instructions were to be given to the National Coal Board and we got no answer at all. The fact is that this wretched Board was handed this enormous baby on a plate and told to get on with it. It is not surprising, therefore, that within two years of the passing of that Act we have to have another Bill to try and put one or two things right which should have been put right before.
During the Committee stage of the principal Measure, many Members supporting the Government were a little impatient with the Opposition for raising 955 questions which we thought of importance. They seemed to think that once the principle of nationalisation had been agreed, there was nothing more to be said. The answer to that is the Bill we are now discussing. This Bill has been brought forward in order to try to remedy some of the defects which the Minister admits were to be found in the principal Act. The two Acts have to be amended, the 1946 Act because it is not working satisfactorily, and the 1911 Act because the technical improvements in mining operations have been so great, not since 1947, but, as the Parliamentary Secretary said during the Committee stage, during the last 37 years. In other words, let the House remember that the mining industry has been advancing during this long period, and not only during the last two or three years as Members opposite like to think.
The first thing I want to deal with is Clause 1, which I understand we shall be allowed to discuss in this Debate. It deals with the alteration of the composition of the National Coal Board. I do not think that anyone is satisfied with the results so far achieved. The Parliamentary Secretary got a little excited during part of our Debates today, and said that the Coal Board had done a better job in two years than was ever done before. It all depends on what is meant by "a job." Does he mean the production of coal, because it would be very difficult to persuade the House that the Board have done a better job in coal production than was ever done before? Lots of hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House have to say that they are satisfied, but I should like to know their private thoughts on the matter. I should be very surprised if they were satisfied with the operations of the Board.
The right hon. Gentleman himself is not satisfied. In answer to a question which I put to him some time ago he said he was satisfied, but in a speech in this House he said he was most disappointed with last year's results. How can the Parliamentary Secretary be satisfied when he said in the course of a speech last summer that if we failed to reach our target this year, the damage to our export trade would be serious? The chairman of the Coal Board said that if we failed to reach the target we would have to 956 answer to the country and to our conscience. Was the target reached last year or the year before? The target both last year and the year before was the bare minimum for our requirements, and yet in both these years the target was not reached.
It is quite obvious that neither the Government nor the Coal Board are satisfied, because we had the Burrows Report. It is true that not one of us was given the evidence on which the Committee's conclusions were arrived at. We do not know on what evidence it was decided to increase the size of the Board. In other words, if eight people were not doing well, 11 people might do better. What evidence had the Committee before them by which they could conclude that it was the smallness of the Coal Board that was responsible for the unsatisfactory working? Certainly people in the coalfield do not think that the Coal Board is too small. There was a meeting of 5,000 miners in the Rhondda recently. They did not pass a resolution that the Coal Board was too small. On the contrary they said there were too many officials. They wanted an investigation because there was certainly a duplication of jobs.
In the Yorkshire coalfield, the biggest in Britain, there was a meeting the other day and the men demanded an inquiry into the administration of the Coal Board. Does that appear as if they were satisfied? The fact of the matter is, there is ample evidence both inside and outside the industry that there is dissatisfaction with the way the Board is working. I come back to the right hon. Gentleman's observation as to centralisation. He asked us what we would do. Speaking entirely for myself, I will tell him what I would do. He asked us whether we wanted to deal with the coal industry as we dealt with gas and electricity?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
What I said was I should like to know whether the Opposition wanted us to make a statutory alteration to provide for some subordinate bodies to be set up.
§ Major Lloyd George
I will come in a minute or two to the subject of how that should be done. There is one thing to be said in favour of gas—most of the work devolves upon the regions and the central body is a very small one. 957 Again, with regard to electricity, I personally was in favour of almost complete autonomy for the regions. Let the Board run the regions as regions, with the Minister, of course, having a general direction.
In regard to difficulties as between coalfield and coalfield the Minister would be in the same difficulties in electricity. Suppose he wanted to develop North Wales, or possibly the Highlands of Scotland. It might be for the particular board an uneconomic proposition. Some of the vast rural areas would be uneconomic. Although I am a Welshman I should hardly have thought that the whole area of Wales would be a good gas region. I do not know how one could run gas from North to South Wales. There was autonomy in electricity, and certainly in gas. The Government could help when it was a question of developing an uneconomic area; when, say, a sparsely populated area like North Wales had to be developed.
In regard to coal I would have as much decentralisation as possible. I would go back to the idea that the Minister should have the power of general direction to see that the coal resources of the country were properly developed in the national interest. The Minister would have to come in, if, for example, the Lanarkshire coalfield was dying and if the future development in Scotland was in the Fife area. It is obvious that the Board could not deal with the housing problem, for example, in switching miners over from one part of the country to another. That is an instance where the overriding power of the Minister would come in. The right hon. Gentleman asked us what we would do with the Coal Board if they refused to do what we wanted. Does not the Minister come into it at all? Are we not the representatives of the proprietors of this industry? Is not the right hon. Gentleman responsible to us?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
What I asked the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, and I am still waiting for an answer, is: What form would the decentralisation take that the party opposite are always advocating? Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman tell us precisely?
§ Major Lloyd George
The last time I addressed a Parliament from this Box the colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman were sitting around me. I never belonged to the right hon. Gentleman's party. My purpose is to advocate decentralisation. What I mean by that is that the planning of the industry and the development of the coal must rest primarily with the Minister. He is the representative of the present proprietors of the coal. Surely the proprietors of the coal industry are entitled to see how it works. We are the representatives here of the people of this country and we are entitled to see that the coal industry is worked in the national interest. The Minister has appointed the National Coal Board, and he can issue directions through them. The policy of how the development of coal shall take place must be decided from the centre, but the operations of cutting coal should be decentralised much more than they are today.
The right hon. Gentleman smiles. Why are all these miners passing resolutions up and down Britain? They are the people who get the coal. Why should they meet for the purpose of condemning their own Government unless they feel that they are being frustrated in their operation of getting coal? It is no good the right hon. Gentleman saying that that is not the prevalent opinion; it is. When I say that the operation of coal-getting should be decentralised I mean something which is not happening today. If it were happening, far more progress would have been achieved than there has been in reorganisation. It is two years since the vesting date, and it is well known by many mining engineers that a great deal could have been done in two years. Yet we are struggling this year, and we were struggling last year, to attain a target which Ministers have stated is a bare minimum for the country, and in neither year have we achieved it. It is no use the Minister asking us what we should do. He should look and see how much decentralisation there is in the actual operation of getting coal and he would then not be surprised that people generally in the coal fields are not satisfied with what is going on. There is ample evidence that the organisation is not working, and to a large 959 extent that is due to too much centralisation in the actual coal-getting operations alone.
As to the increased activities of the Coal Board, I do not understand why provision should have been put into a Bill, at this time when nobody is satisfied with the running of the Coal Board, to extend its powers to every part of the world, so far as I can make it out, and to every sort of activity. There was a meeting at St. Andrew's some time ago at which the deputy chairman of the Coal Board was present. A discussion took place about the nationalisation of distribution and the deputy chairman of the Coal Board said, "Our hands are full enough as it is; we cannot take over the whole of the distributive system." If their hands are full enough as it is—there is no question that they are—why should the Minister produce a Bill greatly and unnecessarily adding to their activities. Their job is to bring the production of coal in this country to a proper level and not to worry about what goes on outside. The Minister asked why the Opposition were so worried about the possibility of the National Coal Board entering into the export market? He said that if, as the Opposition said, the Coal Board was so inefficient, why should the Opposition worry. The reason why the Opposition worry is that that inefficiency is paid for by the taxpayer and inefficiency in private industry is not. That makes a very great difference.
I want to say a word about the 1911 Act. The Minister makes his regulations today, as other Ministers have done, under the 1911 Act. I am not complaining about that because some of them are essential at present. However, many think that there should be a new mines safety Act. I have said this before and I do not apologise for referring to it again. The Minister recognises the necessity for such an Act—he has said so—but he cannot give a date when it will be brought forward. Why cannot he give a date? Has he discussed this possibility? It is high time because it was regarded as one of the first tasks to be done after the war finished. The reason is this. There was an Act of 1887.
§ Major Lloyd George
A Commission was appointed in 1906. My father was in that Government. After a prolonged investigation, that Commission produced its Report, and in 1911 the Act was produced. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have made one or two observations today asking why hon. Gentlemen who sit on this side of the House did not do something or other with regard to regulations and safety generally. I would only say that the 1911 Act was produced by a Liberal Government, it was introduced by the present Leader of the Opposition, and the Debate on the Second Reading took only two hours, there being really no opposition to it. I believe that everybody connected with the mining industry regards it as a very great Act.
However, that is 38 years ago and another Commission was appointed in 1936 by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) which reported in 1938. The war came and it was impossible to put that into legislative form in wartime, but it was regarded in the Ministry in my time as one of the first priorities when the war finished. Indeed, I will tell the right hon. Gentleman that I had permission to begin the drafting, and I would like to know from him why he is unable to give a date now as to when we may expect the Bill.
After all, we have had a Factories Bill which took a long time to go through Committee. Industry is not nearly as dangerous as mining, but there was a Bill covering all the regulations for safety in factories, contributed to by Members on all sides of the House, and a valuable Bill emerged. The trouble is that some hon. Gentlemen opposite feel that nobody but experts should have anything to do with the drafting of regulations or anything to do with safety. I hope that will not be the prevalent view of this House because others have contributions to make which are just as important. One hon. Gentleman said that the thing to do was to rely upon the practical men in the pit. I would not say that was always the best method of getting safety regulations. I have known cases where I had to go against the advice of practical men in the pits, and I was right, for they were prepared to take risks which in my judgment they should not be allowed to take. I am not now speak- 961 ing of theoretical things, I am talking of an actual case with which I had to deal.
If only experts are to be allowed to deal with legislation in this House, we cease to be a House of Commons and become, in effect, a delegate conference. We are representatives of the British people, and while it is true that we welcome on committees those who talk with expert knowledge, I should hate to see a committee upstairs composed of nothing but men of expert knowledge on the subject under discussion. We all have contributions to make and that is why, because we cannot attack a regulation on the Floor of the House, we can, if a Bill is introduced, make a contribution to what can be called a charter for the safety of miners in this country as great as the Act of 1911 which is 38 years old, and surely we are agreed that it is time we had another, in view of the tremendous advances since those days?
I did not mean to keep the House so long but I will say this in conclusion. This Bill can be described as a monument to hasty and ill-prepared legislation, and because in one of its main Clauses it tries to deal with what is admittedly an unsatisfactory state of affairs—the composition and functions of the Coal Board—and because in trying to deal with that, it obviously ignores the real reason for the unsatisfactory position today, I hope very much that the House will not give this Bill the Third Reading.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Timmons (Bothwell)
I welcome this Bill as far as it goes, and I regret very much that the Minister in preparing it did not go much further. It is only now, after we have had time to see the implications of the principal Act, that we have now discovered many weaknesses in it, and I myself only found this to be the case a few weeks ago.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) mentioned the Lanarkshire coalfield, on which I shall have something to say later. At this stage, I would point out that there are 40 pits scheduled for closure in the next two years. After vesting date, the respective companies had to submit a statement of their interests on behalf of all the collieries. I should like to find out the contents of that statement of interests in respect of a number 962 of concerns, but I find that, under Clause 56 of the principal Act, we cannot obtain that information. That is a serious state of affairs.
I want to say a further word or two about Lanarkshire. Much has been said about compensation for loss of office, and it is my view that there has been far too much public money frittered away on compensation. In the Lanarkshire coalfield some 5,000 miners are to be put out of work in the next two years, and those 5,000 miners with their families will represent a fairly large population—between 10,000 and 15,000 people—whom it is intended to remove. Representations have been made to the Minister for a discussion of the matter, and I want to warn him now that that transfer is not going to take place as easily as the regional board think. I want to advise my right hon. Friend on that point, because I know Lanarkshire and the Lanarkshire miners.
On the question of compensation, let us look at what they will get. Those men, who have spent their lives in the industry and are the backbone of the industry, are between 35 and 55, and they have their families in Lanarkshire who understood that they would remain there. It is not going to be easy to uproot such people and transfer them to Fife, the Lothians, Ayrshire or any other coalfield. The handsome compensation which these displaced miners will get is £2 3s. 8d. per week for six months only. At the end of the six months, the compensation stops and they draw unemployment benefit. But there is a more serious factor than that. There are vast reserves of coal in Lanark. I have been in touch with the regional board and the consultative council. Decisions were taken to close these pits without any consultation whatever with the people who know the local circumstances. Moreover, it appears to me from the various conversations and discussions which I have had that, rightly or wrongly, the Coal Board had made up their minds to close these pits.
Today, we have a problem in the mining industry with regard to recruiting and securing additional manpower but here we are going to drive out of the industry some of the finest men who were ever in it. We cannot uproot these families and get them to go to other 963 coalfields. That just cannot be done, and, when I hear Members talking about compensation to people for loss of office, I would remind them that £1 13s. 8d. and £2 3s. 6d. are the amounts of the miserable compensation offered to these men. I only wish that the Minister would give more consideration to getting down properly to the principal Act and the introduction of further Amendments. I was shocked at the weekend—
§ Mr. Speaker
This question of individual compensation hardly comes into the Bill, which I think deals only with contracts.
§ Mr. Timmons
I am trying to indicate that I support the Bill as far as it goes, but I appeal to the Minister at some future time to extend—
§ Mr. Speaker
We are now on the Third Reading of the Bill, on which we are confined to what is in the Bill, not to what one would like to see in it.
§ Mr. Timmons
There is just one other fact I wish to mention with regard to safety regulations in the mines. I would impress upon my right hon. Friend that things are changing very rapidly in the industry, and I appeal to him to lose no time, after consultation with all the people who have been working with him and helping him, in coming to this House with a new Bill which, together with all the previous Acts, will ensure safety for the miners.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ Colonel Lancaster
Towards the end of his speech, the Minister regretted that we on this side had introduced some controversy into the discussion on what had been described as "this simple little Bill." But the fact was that this little Bill afforded us an opportunity of reintroducing into our discussions certain viewpoints which we tried to express when the 1946 Bill was being discussed. On that occasion we failed to get the then Minister to accept our point of view about the general organisation and administration of this industry. As I say, we felt that this Bill afforded us another opportunity of putting our point of view and of attempting to get the Government to make the alterations which we think necessary.
The Minister taunted us by asking whether we were sincere in our desire to 964 see the National Coal Board successful and whether we wanted to see this industry get on to its feet. In reply, I think it is fair to say that the Opposition have tried conscientiously during the last three years to put forward a number of proposals designed to improve the present situation and to make such alterations as will bring about some improvement. The discouraging thing is that, so far, we have been quite incapable of moving the Government in this matter, and we were unable during the Committee stage of the Bill to get a single Amendment accepted. I should say that that was a somewhat unusual experience. This cannot be described as an unimportant little Bill, and I cannot remember when a Bill of this size and importance has ever passed through the Committee stage without an Amendment of any sort being accepted by the Government.
The Minister said that this occasion afforded him the opportunity of going slightly wider than the terms of the Bill and of discussing the organisation of the Coal Board, in particular with reference to the matter of decentralisation. He posed a number of questions to which he said he would like to have a reply. I should like to attempt to give him a reply, and if I do so as a back bencher it is with the intention of trying to get my own Front Bench to agree with what I have to say. I believe that, in general, there is a very real sense of agreement on a number of proposals which I and other hon. Members have, from time to time, put forward, but on this occasion I want to be fairly specific. The Minister asked how we proposed that this decentralisation should be brought about, and, in parenthesis, he asked what we proposed to do with the composition of the Coal Board. He claimed that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) had said that we should leave the Coal Board as it is. I do not think we should do anything of the sort.
I think we should apply two tests to the Coal Board, and if they fail in either one of those tests we should make the necessary alterations. The first and most important is: have they produced a sense of leadership? If they have not, they should go. Secondly, are they capable of decentralising? Decentralisation is not necessarily a very simple thing for certain people. It is one of the great tests to which men who occupy important posi- 965 tions are put from time to time, and if we find that individual members of the Coal Board are incapable of decentralising I hope we shall make the necessary changes.
The Minister has asked what we mean by decentralisation. I shall try quite shortly to state what I mean by decentralisation, and what I think most industrialists mean by it. Decentralisation in itself is very nearly impossible if the Board is a board consisting of functionaries, and we have all along said that we do not consider that that is the appropriate board for the running of an industry of this type. Therefore, our first means of bringing about decentralisation would be to create a non-functionary board—that is to say a Board occupied with policy rather than in the control of a series of departments. That would be our first approach to the problem. Our second approach to the problem would be to do away with the present divisional structure. Whether or no it has been desirable to have had a divisional structure, we are quite certain that the time has now arrived when the divisional structure should disappear.
Our most important approach to decentralisation would be the setting up of a number of practically autonomous producing entities. We need not quarrel with the actual number of those producing units. On the Second Reading of this Bill the Minister attempted to drive a wedge between the proposals which had been put forward by Sir Charles Reid and myself. In fact, there was very little divergence in those proposals, and subsequent to that Debate I had the opportunity of discussing the situation very fully with Sir Charles Reid who agreed with me that our views on this matter are very nearly similar. As I say, we will not quarrel about the number—certainly a much lesser number than the existing number. What we do propose is to set up a number of practically autonomous producing units.
§ Colonel Lancaster
No, I shall not tell the hon. Gentleman what the entities are. This is not the appropriate moment to go into details of that sort. [Laughter.] Surely, hon. Members must be aware that previously there was something of the 966 order of 23 producing areas in this country, and it may not require a great deal of thought on the part of hon. Members to reduce the present number of producing entities something approaching what, for a great many years, has been looked on as the suitable number of production areas. As I say, it is not necessary at this moment to go into the details of the number. What we do say is that we shall set up a number of autonomous producing entities. The control of those entities, so far as policy is concerned, will, as at present, emanate from the National Coal Board. The difference in our views in this matter, however, is that it will be the function of the National Coal Board to lay down the general policy as distinct from being a functionary board attempting to deal with the day-to-day administration of these units.
The Minister said that anything in the nature of considerable decentralisation carried with it a considerable element of risk. We recognise that. No industry can hope to succeed unless it is prepared for risks and, quite naturally, if we give autonomy to these various producing units there will be a measure of risk in the matter, but it is a risk which other countries who have tried this experiment of nationalisation have themselves embarked upon. If hon. Members opposite like to investigate the experience of Holland they will find that the Dutch Government have passed a very considerable degree of autonomy to their various producing units and, on the whole, have found it to be a satisfactory experience. No doubt we should make mistakes, no doubt various units would not come up to the level we should expect of them, but that would not mean that the principle as such, the principle of passing autonomy to the producing area, is one which we consider to be wrong.
The Minister quite rightly said that the central body, the National Coal Board, must retain control of development on a large scale, of research and of matters of that sort, and with that we thoroughly agree, but the difference between our approaches to this problem is that we should not expect the National Coal Board to lay down the general scheme of development. We should expect that to emanate from the various producing areas and merely to be subject to the over-riding control of the National Coal Board. That is a very different thing. We should not 967 look to the National Coal Board to lay down that general programme. We should expect them to give their agreement, or otherwise, to what emanated from below, and I believe that is a principle which in this very divergent industry is one of cardinal importance.
The Minister said there were certain matters which must remain under the control of the National Coal Board and no doubt in certain respects that is a fair point to make. We are concerned now, however, with what is primarily a producing industry and we recognise very clearly that we shall not achieve success in this industry unless the onus of production is thrust upon those responsible for production and does not remain the primary function of the central organisation. That may all sound rather an involved reply to the Minister's query, but what I have attempted to show is that there is a very real diversion in our approach to this problem from that of the right hon. Gentleman. When the Minister asks us how we propose to bring this about our short answer is that we shall delegate to the central authority policy, in the first instance, and shall delegate production to the areas of production; and we shall scrap the divisional structure.
There were other aspects of this little Bill which were discussed at some length in Committee. During this discussion both sides of the Committee were equally sincere in their desire to see the regulations affecting the Coal Mines Act improved and the Minister given every reasonable power to bring in regulations. No side can claim a monopoly of humanitarian views on matters of safety and I think it does no one any credit to claim that their side, and their side alone, are interested in matters of that sort. Nothing could be further from the truth. We concede that the Minister should have all the powers that he requires, but we should see that those powers are put ultimately under the control of Parliament.
§ Mr. Speaker
An Amendment on this matter was rejected on Report stage by the House, and is not, therefore, in the Bill, and so it is not in Order to discuss it on Third Reading.
§ Colonel Lancaster
Beyond that, I do not think I have a great deal to say. We feel that this Bill has not gone any 968 distance to meet our general objections to those things which we consider to be wrong in the 1946 Act. We are in no way satisfied with such of the Report of the Burrows Committee as we have been allowed to see. It was very difficult at the time of the Second Reading of this Bill for Members on this side to bring to bear on that matter any very considered views, for we had only just had an opportunity of seeing that very attenuated Report. We have had opportunities since then of investigating the matter farther, and I for my part must say that what I have been able to discover within the industry in regard to the activities of that Committee is, to say the least of it, somewhat disturbing. What we have been allowed to see of the Report shows, I think, very little on which we can pin anything of any importance. I think it must have been decided at some stage so to edit the original Report that what was to appear before Parliament and public was of little or no value.
Such recommendations originating from that Report as are included in this Bill do little or nothing to improve a situation which, as my right hon. Friend has shown, is a very serious one. This is not the appropriate moment to go into the general condition of the industry, but I am quite certain that neither the Minister nor the Parliamentary Secretary can express any satisfaction with the present output figures or, indeed, with the prospects for this year. We do not feel that this Bill has accomplished anything substantial in the way of so altering the organisation as to bring about any improvement, and so we shall vote against its Third Reading.
§ 9.53 p.m.
§ Mr. D. J. Williams
Unlike the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Fylde (Colonel Lancaster) I want to support the Third Reading of this Bill and to say a word or two about the principal contents of the Bill. I regard the Bill as a most useful and, indeed, an essential Measure in the interests of the industry. It has been said that it is a small Bill. However, it is a Bill of great importance to the mining industry, especially to those concerned with the administration of the industry and those employed in the productive side. The aims and purposes of the Bill are limited, and are quite clearly defined. The Bill, obviously, does not 969 cover the same wide range as the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act, 1946, did, but it is, I think, a useful and valuable pendant to that major Measure.
The Bill contains a number of controversial features. Some of these were argued at great length during the Second Reading Debate. The coal industry has been traditionally a controversial industry. Indeed, it has always aroused very strong feelings, both inside the industry and particularly inside this House. Fortunately, the old bad feelings inside the industry are gradually disappearing. Some of them are still alive, but they are largely a hang-over of the old regime. It seems to me, after hearing some of the speeches on the other side of the House, that the feelings of the Opposition about the coal industry are as strong as ever, and as bitter as ever, towards the miners and towards the people who speak for the miners.
§ Mr. Williams
I think this Bill will help to improve relations inside the mining industry, and for that reason the Bill will get the support of every Member on this side of the House. Certainly it will be welcomed by everybody in the industry, especially by those who have to deal with the vast and complex problems of the industry in this transitional period. The Bill is divided into two Parts, and each deals with separate aspects of the mining problem. Each Part is a supplement to two Measures which are already on the Statute Book.
The first Part deals with the structure and powers of the Coal Board; the second Part brings up to date the Coal Mines Act, 1911. I think that the House must agree that, if we want to improve the industry, the Coal Board must have two essential things. First of all, it must have an efficient and flexible organisation, and, secondly, it must have adequate powers to perform its tasks. In the Second Reading Debate, and in the Press controversy which was raised about that time, a great deal of stress was laid on the structure of the National Coal Board. We have had echoes of that controversy here tonight. We have had arguments for and against a functional or policy-making body for the mining industry. For my part, I do not hold very strong views on either.
970 I suppose that theoretically one could put a strong case for a functional body, and an equally strong case for a policy-making body; but in practice I doubt very much if there is any real fundamental distinction between the two. It is rather amusing that the Opposition, who always accuse this side of being doctrinaire, are particularly doctrinaire and dogmatic on the question of the structure of the Coal Board. It seems to me—and I congratulate my right hon. Friend's decision—that the proper course is to allow the Coal Board sufficient flexibility to perform its tasks. It is a mistake, I think, to insist on a fixed and rigid pattern. Our aim should be to allow the Coal Board sufficient flexibility to adapt its organisation to meet the changing problems of this industry.
May I say a word about Clause 2? This gives new powers to the Coal Board to engage in certain activities in connection with the export trade. It will have powers when this Bill becomes law to set up overseas agencies, to charter ships and to establish bunker depots. There has been quite a lot of opposition to this Clause, but there is nothing new or revolutionary in it. For many years private companies engaged very profitably in these kinds of activities, and I think it wrong to deprive the Coal Board of powers enjoyed by the private companies for a long time.
Let me now say a word about Part II. This is the part of the Bill which interests me more than anything else as a Member for a mining constituency. To the miners by far the most important part of the Bill, for it deals with the lives of the men engaged in the industry, their health, safety, their welfare, and the general conditions under which they work. It is very significant to note that so far hardly anything has been said upon this very important matter by the Opposition, who have taken full advantage of this Debate, as they have done throughout the passage of this Bill, to emphasise the importance of compensating the people who almost ruined this great industry. Part II extends the power of the Minister to make regulations under the 1911 Act, and gives a list of additional matters for which regulations may be made. I welcome this as far as it goes, but I do not think that it goes far enough.
971 On one thing at least I agreed with the right hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George), and that was when he said that we need a new Coal Mines Act. It is indeed long overdue. The 1911 Act was a landmark in the history of coalmining in Britain. But that was 38 years ago. Since when there have been vast changes in the industry—technical, physical, psychological, and social. The Act of 1911 is today completely out of date; its provisions are totally inadequate, and indeed largely irrelevant to the new problems of the industry. That Act, good as it might have been in its time, no longer corresponds with mining realities. That has been recognised for a long time. In 1938 the report of the Royal Commission stressed the need for its complete overhaul.
For years the miners have stressed the importance of a new Coal Mines Act, that was one of the recommendations of the Mineworkers' Union to the Royal Commission. Indeed, so rapidly have changes taken place in this industry in the last few years that many of the recommendations of the Royal Commission itself are out of date. The coal-mining industry is today going through a vast process of transformation, and I believe that we need a new Act to meet with these changes. It is long overdue, and I urge upon my right hon. Friend the importance of introducing such an Act at the earliest possible opportunity.
§ 10.9 p.m.
§ Colonel Clarke
I hope the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. Williams) will forgive me if I do not follow him, more than to say that I admire his open-minded approach to the problem of whether the Board should be functional or policy-making. I think he is one to whom the achievement of nationalisation is its own reward.
This is a short Bill of only eight pages, but its contents, in interest and importance, greatly transcend its rather slim proportions. It is the first amending Bill to any of the nationalisation Measures—the first but not the last. I am certain that as time goes on each of these nationalisation Measures will produce its own amending Bill. I believe in most Ministries that have initiated 972 nationalisation Measures they have files bursting with matters requiring amendment.
This Bill is a very mixed grill. Clause 1 is designed to alter to a certain extent —rather minor alterations—the composition of the National Coal Board. Clauses 2 to 4 amend the 1946 Act in other particulars, and do it with doubtful fairness, and in the case of Clause 2 with doubtful wisdom as well. Clauses 7 and 8 are something quite different. They are amendments to an even older Act, the 1911 Act, designed to promote the welfare and safety of the men in the pits. No one would wish to delay or interfere in any way with their content. There may be some room for improvement, and we believe that if that could be done before the House it would be a good thing. It is unfortunate that they are combined with the other Clauses which we shall have to resist.
As I said, this Bill is divided into three parts. The first Clause implements the recommendations of the Burrows Committee. It shows that the Ministry are not altogether satisfied with the present working of the National Coal Board. The Minister has declared his acceptance of the principle of part-time directors, which is coming more into vogue as nationalisation proceeds. I understand the Steel Board are to have equal part-time and whole-time directors, and we believe that would also be suitable in the case of the National Coal Board.
The Minister asked two questions of the Opposition. He asked whether we thought that the Statute should be altered by further legislation in order to reform the structure of the National Coal Board rather more to our ideas, or whether we should do it without legislation at all. I still adhere to the view I expressed in Committee, that the National Coal Board should be like any other board in industry. Just as in the case of an ordinary industry shareholders can bring pressure to bear on the board at the general meeting, so with the National Coal Board the voters of this country should be able to do the same through their Members of Parliament and the Government.
I was rather surprised to hear the Minister ask the question: What would the Minister—presumably a Minister on this side of the House—do if 973 the Coal Board refused to accept the suggestions? It seemed to me that that was putting the Coal Board into a position no private business would assume or ever be allowed to assume, the position of being practically dictators. My answer would be that in the first place he would try to influence them by putting the position before them, and if they did not respond to that they would have to be changed, which it is in the power of the House to effect.
Clauses 2, 3 and 4 seem to indicate a weakness in the Coal Board to a certain extent. Every one of these Clauses is designed to make small economies, such as economies on contracts, and under Clause 2 the Board intend to go in for the export business in the hope of making a profit. It appears to be the case that the financial position of the Board is not very strong. Everyone knows from experience what happens when anyone is hard up. Small economies are made, many of which are very petty and very often are prejudicial to other people.
On Clause 1 I wanted to refer to the alteration of the Coal Board. I do not feel that the Board altogether are to blame because they have what we think is the wrong structure. They were quite rightly allowed to choose their own structure, which was a wise thing and almost the best thing done by the Bill presented by the present Secretary of State for War. However, he did give them a certain amount of flexibility, and they made the mistake, for which they should not be altogether blamed, of not unnaturally following the Civil Service. They built their organisation on the Civil Service basis, which was really unsuitable, because the Board are essentially a business and not a Government Department.
By and large, I feel that this Bill has two main faults. First of all, it does not go far enough, for it tinkers about with things. For example, in Part II it strives by a mass of regulations to improve the 1911 Act. Everyone realises that a new Act is overdue. Secondly, it is petty in the sense that it tries to make small economies in certain directions, and also it withholds rights that were expected by some of those who were declared redundant in the industry. I shall have no hesitation in going into the Lobby against it.
§ 10.14 p.m.
§ Miss Herbison (Lanark, North)
It is difficult for those of us who sit on this side of the House to follow the reasoning of the Opposition on this Bill and why they have come to the decision to vote against it. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) says that they are opposed in the main to the first part of the Bill, and he seemed to suggest that because they were opposed to that part of the Bill it was too bad that the second part dealt with safety for the miners, because they must oppose that, too. To those of us who represent mining areas and who have lived in mining areas all our lives, it seems almost despicable that any hon. Member in this House could take the line that the Opposition are going to take tonight on this Bill.
What do hon. Members opposite oppose? Judging from what I heard during the Committee stage, at which I was present as a Member of the Committee, and from part of the Debate that I heard today, I would say that one of the main points of their opposition is the composition of the Coal Board. We have heard today, as we heard on the Committee stage, criticisms against the Coal Board and how, in many instances, it had not achieved success. It seems to me that because hon. Members opposite are so divorced from the realities of this industry, they do not realise just what the achievements of the National Coal Board have been in the past two years. Those who represent mining areas are not surprised or disappointed that the National Coal Board has not achieved a great deal. We are surprised that, in so short a time, the National Coal Board has been able to achieve as much as it has achieved. That does not mean that we do not at times criticise it. We do so as our right, but at the same time we are ready to give the Coal Board the greatest credit for what it has achieved.
I was also interested during the Committee stage to note that hon. Members opposite are quite convinced that compensation under the Bill is inadequate. We have heard a great deal about that. I agree with an hon. Member who spoke before me from this side of the House on this matter. We sat day after day in the Committee listening to pleas being put up to give greater compensation to 975 certain people in this industry. During that period there was almost a full attendance on the opposite side of the Committee. I watched carefully when we came to the second part of the Bill dealing, not with compensation for a few, but with the safety of thousands of men in the industry. Then there was not the same crowded side on the Opposition Benches. There was not the same time given to the Debate on that part of the Bill as was given to the Debate on the first part. Even in the Amendments that were put down today for the Report stage, not one came to Clause 7, which begins the part dealing with safety measures.
When I listened to the plea for compensation I thought not just of what had happened to miners between the wars when pits were closed down, but of what is being done now by the National Coal Board. I thought of our men in Lanarkshire and in my constituency, where there is a threat that quite a number of pits will be closed. The older men over 50 years of age will, in all probability, stay in our mining villages and be lost to the industry. I would believe a little in the sincerity of hon. Members opposite if I had ever heard them once making a plea on behalf of those ordinary miners who win the coal for us. I would begin to believe then, that they are justified perhaps a little in the attitude that they are taking to the Bill.
Then there has been quite a lot of discussion about the territory of the National Coal Board in wishing to take over part of the export side of the industry. I hope that the Minister will see to it that the National Coal Board, in time, has the whole of the export side of the industry in its own hands. We have been told by a Member of the Opposition today that this is not a very remunerative side of the industry. If it is not so very remunerative, why is the great plea made to keep it in the hands of private enterprise? Our miners do not take that kind of attitude. There are men who make huge profits from the export of coal, but who never saw coal except the coal in their fires at home or in the office. We on this side of the House feel that if the National Coal Board has had to take over an almost bankrupt industry, as it did, it would be 976 very foolish if it allowed this part to go completely out of its hands.
We were also told of the very great fears that the Ruhr and Poland would be great competitors of ours in the very near future. Again, great credit can go to the National Coal Board and to the miners in this respect. About a fortnight ago one of the publications of the United Nations showed by figures that of all the coalfields in Europe, Britain had got nearest to her pre-war production. Britain had beaten the Ruhr, Poland and France and had attained 98 per cent. The figures also clearly proved that, in spite of all that we hear about absenteeism—I deprecate it very much indeed—absenteeism in the British coal industry was smaller than in any other country in Europe. I make those points clearly tonight, because the rise in production, and the smaller figure of absenteeism, are greatly due to the measures taken by the Government in nationalisation and to the very great harmony between the Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers.
One or two hon. Members opposite uttered criticism about the leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers. We were told that they were working hand-in-hand with the Government and that because of that, they were forgetting the men whom they represent. Nothing is further from the truth. For the first time the National Union of Mineworkers and its leaders realise that they have a Government who are in accord with their ideals and with what they want for their own men. That is the reason, and I expect that it is a very difficult reason for hon. Members opposite to understand. I welcome this Bill. We have just been told that in 1911 we had an Act dealing with safety and that what we need today is not a little bit in a Bill like this, but a new Bill dealing with safety. Surely, if hon. Members opposite are convinced that that is what is necessary, they should be the last people to vote against something which will give at least a little measure of greater security and safety to our mineworkers?
§ Colonel Clarke
I should like to point out that I said that I thought it was a great pity that instead of tinkering with the 1911 Act, we did not have a completely new Act. I think it is a great pity that in the three and a half years the 977 Government have been in power, they have nationalised fuel industry after fuel industry, to their detriment, instead of spending the time in recasting the 1911 Act.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Brown
We have heard some very keen criticism of the administration of the Coal Board. I do not want to deal with that, but I would just say that if hon. Members opposite visited the coalfields occasionally they would discover that something of a miraculous character is taking place. In relation to that criticism, I want to quote a statement which appeared in a local newspaper a few weeks ago. It is not a newspaper which is sympathetic towards the miners. It said:Coal-face workers in the 3,000 feet deep No. 2 pit at Parsonage Collieries, Leeds, deepest in the country, have broken a new kind of record. All last week they maintained their 100 per cent. attendance figures, and Coal Board officials believe that this is the first time in the history of the coalmining industry that 100 per cent attendance has been maintained. They helped to beat the collieries' new target of 5,500 tons on a five-day week.That is conclusive evidence that there is a better spirit prevailing in the coalfields of this country since the vesting date in 1947. I do not want to deal with the evidence which one could submit of the changed attitude and atmosphere in the pits. I welcome this Bill because Part II gives some hope for greater safety and health regulations being brought forward for our men. I cannot understand right hon. and hon. Members opposite saying that they are compelled to vote against the Bill, yet they believe in one part of it.
I want to deal with Clause 8, which is related to Clause 86 of the principal Act. Here may I pay my sincere tribute to the right hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) for what he did for the establishment of the clinic in South Wales when he was at the Ministry? I want to plead with the present Minister of Fuel and Power to extend speedily the setting up of clinics throughout the whole of our coalfields. It is of paramount importance because, whatever other right hon. and hon. Members think, I am gravely concerned about the inroads which are being made on the personnel in our mines through wastage. The reservoir of labour is not unlimited. I can see the day coming when the prophecy I made some time ago will be 978 fulfilled, namely, that unless we can arrest the wastage brought about by industrial diseases and accidents there will come a time when we shall not have the men to hew the coal which this nation requires.
I want to quote instances from my own experience which prove conclusively to me as an ex-miner that it is important that our men should be examined at a much earlier stage when they have contracted the awful disease known as silicosis or pneumoconiosis. They should be brought out of the pit and helped to recover so that they may become useful citizens, if not in the pit in some other vocation. What does it mean when a coalfield employing approximately 750,000 men and boys has only one medical clinic to meet their needs? It is a standing disgrace to those people who in the past have been charged with the responsibility of looking after the health and safety of the men in the pits. Let me quote four cases out of 12 to illustrate what I have in mind. Case number one is that of a man aged 60 certified to be suffering from silicosis on 29th May, 1937. He died on 5th January, 1939, having lived 84 weeks. The next case lived 27 weeks. The next case lived 69 weeks. The next case lived 11 weeks. Taking these four cases, we find the average time a man lives after he is certified to be suffering from silicosis or pneumoconiosis is approximately 48 weeks.
What I am concerned about is that clinics should he set up, under the powers given to the Minister in this Bill, in order that men may be medically examined at a much earlier stage before it is too late. Every week I go home to my little mining town I find, as I found last week, notices in the top right hand corner of the local paper. There were four notices last week, indicating that a Bryn miner had died from pneumoconiosis, an Upholland miner had died from pneumoconiosis, an Orrell miner had died from pneumoconiosis, and a Wigan miner had died from pneumoconiosis. I would say from my experience of the industry that the time is long overdue when we ought to take more interest in the protection of the health and safety of the workers in the mines. I wish the Minister "God speed" with the powers conceded to him under this Bill. May he 979 go forward speedily on the lines introduced by the right hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke and set up these clinics, at which our men can be examined before it is too late.
§ 10.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Raikes
In making the last speech from this side, I am bound to return in part to the realms of controversy. First let me deal with the point—I think the unfair point—made by both the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) and the hon. Member for North Lanark (Miss Herbison). They said, "Is it not wicked of the Opposition to vote against the Bill in view of the fact that part of the Bill contains non-controversial safety measures?" I ask hon. Members opposite what their reactions would be if we had a Conservative Government in office which produced a Bill one part of which was controversial and to which they objected and the other part non-controversial. If the Conservative Government said that because Part II was non-controversial, members of the Labour Party must vote with us, the answer would be an immediate one, and a perfectly fair one. It would be: "Drop the Part we do not like. If you want a non-controversial measure, give us a non-controversial measure and we shall not vote against it." That is our answer.
§ Miss Herbison
The hon. Member will not deny that in voting against this Bill tonight he is going to try to hinder the speeding up of safety measures? That is the real point at issue.
§ Mr. Raikes
The answer is a very simple one. If the Government thought they were in danger of being defeated in the House tonight, they would very quickly drop Part I.
I want to deal with another point the hon. Lady made. Her speech was an attack on the sincerity of hon. Members on this side. We have a right to speak out for ourselves, and I propose to do so. She said in regard to Part II that no interest was shown in it because it concerned safety for the men, and that hardly any Amendments were moved to it by the Opposition, who had moved so many on the question of compensation. What the hon. Lady failed to appreciate first and foremost was that Part II, dealing with the extension of various matters for which 980 regulations could be made, was in fact extraordinarily difficult to amend; and secondly, that on this side of the House we are not opposed to Part II except in so far as we believed, and still believe, that the Government were ill-advised not to tackle the whole question of a comprehensive safety Bill in an early stage of this Parliament.
§ Miss Herbison
When I was dealing with the point about the Committee stage I was not referring to what happened to the Amendments today. During the first part of the Committee stage proceedings there was a full house on the Opposition benches, but when it came to the second Part of the Bill—and hon. Gentleman can say whether it is true or not—there were not nearly so many members present as there had been on the first Part which dealt with the set-up of the Coal Board and compensation.
§ Mr. Raikes
The hon. Lady was saying that no Amendments had been put down on the Report Stage in relation to safety. Obviously if there were any need for further Amendments dealing with the welfare of miners she would have sponsored them herself. In regard to the other point, it is true that during the later stages of the Committee upstairs attendances were smaller, but they were to some extent smaller on the Government benches as well. It was for this simple reason: we were not then dealing with matters of any large controversy and votes were not being taken. Heavier attendances were made on matters of controversy. The suggestion cast across the Floor of the House that the smaller attendances were due to a lack of interest in safety measures is an insult to the intelligence of the House.
I cannot help being surprised that hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they are keen on safety, have not shown more vigour in urging the Government, who after all have been in power now for nearly four years, to produce a comprehensive Act. It has been admitted by the Government that such an Act is necessary. We have heard from the late Minister of Fuel and Power that the results of the Royal Commission would have been one of the first Measures introduced if we on this side had been on the other side of the House.
I must now pass to a few observations on the controversial side of this Bill—that is to say Clause 1. The Minister made a 981 certain appeal for unity in the speech which he made earlier this evening. But it does not tend towards unity when we find that during the Committee stage of this Bill, a Committee stage of some magnitude—for this is a Bill of far more importance than the Government have admitted—not one Amendment of any substance was accepted by the Government after being moved by the Opposition. There may have been small drafting Amendments accepted but none of substance. Therefore, one could hardly be surprised if, having considered this Bill a bad Bill on Second Reading, we are not likely to consider it to be a better Bill in view of the attitude of the Government during the Committee stage. We are entitled to oppose it now as we did earlier.
By Clause 1 the object of the Government is to create conditions under which the National Coal Board could work more effectively than in the past. Even the right hon. Gentleman, who is often complacent, is not complacent enough to believe that the National Coal Board is perfect. This decision by the Government arose from the Burrows Report, and it was, as I said, to make the National Coal Board work more efficiently but it merely increases the number of the members of the Coal Board, including the chairman, to 12, three of whom must be part-time. I suggest that the mere alteration in numbers has no effect whatever on policy, and cannot have. The attitude of the Opposition with regard to the Coal Board at the centre has been made crystal clear both from the Front Bench and the back benches; we believe in a small Board at the centre and a policy-making Board. We believe that the Board should deal with policy rather than administrative detail, and that there should be a substantial number of part-time men upon it to keep it closely in touch with industry outside. That has been our line throughout, both on Second reading and in Committee.
Sir Charles Reid, who, I think I may say without controversy, was probably the most outstanding of the original National Coal Board, said when he resigned that the Coal Board would never succeed without the most vital changes on the lines of decentralisation. Those were his words. No one can imagine that this Bill endeavours to proceed with vital changes on the lines of decentralisation. Where do we stand? The result of the 982 Burrows Report has been a compromise in Clause 1, which makes no effort to introduce anything which makes for decentralisation.
The Minister gives no lead. He stands here and tries to find out what the Conservative long-term policy for coal will be at the next election, totally forgetting that at the moment his job is to explain what is the value of his own Bill and not to try to discover for the future those things which will explode this Government. The right hon. Gentleman challenges me. If I accepted the challenge and he liked my views he would say that I was merely a back bencher and did not count; and if he did not like them he would also say that I was only a back bencher. The Minister in trying to draw a red herring across the trail by asking for the long-term Conservative policy was trying to hide the fact that he was making no effort to give a lead on decentralisation, or on the functional as against non-functional character in Clause 1. That Clause really makes no useful addition to the powers and structure of the Coal Board, but in my view is an insult to the intelligence of the House.
I pass to Clause 2, which has been dealt with by many hon. Members. This Clause, I suppose, is from the point of view of the Government the most important Clause, because it expands largely the power of the National Coal Board. The Minister in his artless way has asked us if we can object to competition by the National Coal Board; would it not be natural on this side of the House for us to welcome the Coal Board's accepting activities outside? Unfortunately, on this side of the House we have not exactly the complacency regarding the home working of the Board which hon. Members opposite have. We take the view that the fact that the Coal Board is producing 30 million tons less than was being produced in 1939, and doing so at an increased cost of 145 per cent., is hardly an argument for launching them into the field of foreign competition.
We feel that if they enter into competition abroad, if the venerable gentlemen of Hobart House try to deal in coal abroad, they will even beat the groundnuts scheme. It is not our desire to see the taxpayer pay for the mistakes of a Board which, until it has shown it can work effectively, should, in our view, be 983 kept a very long way from competition with free, vigorous people outside, people in places where one cannot bleed the taxpayer as one is able to do with a monopoly of this sort at home. We do not feel that the National Coal Board, going into the bunkering business and selling agencies abroad, will help to create that international friendship which we on this side of the House so devoutly wish to see in our foreign commitments. Once we get the Government trading abroad, we get a degree of international friction to which we are much opposed.
Clause 3 made our flesh creep when we heard it explained that these peculiar long-term agreements are to be frustrated under this Bill. We waited through the Committee stage, and we waited on the Report stage and had no satisfaction until we were told that, although peculiar, they were legitimate and honourable. All we asked for under Clause 3 was that if there is to be the power of frustration, there should also be the power of arbitration; that is not asking much. The Government are anxious about these long-term contracts. They were very popular in the coal industry years ago because they made it clear that one could get a specific grade or type of coal over a long period. But today, one cannot get a specific grade even from week to week, let alone from month to month, and certainly not from year to year; but the effect of this Clause in regard to those contracts made at uneconomic rates—entered into at uneconomic rates for good reasons—will be that recipients will be forced to pay high rates.
Finally, there is Clause 4, which deals with superannuation rights. We saw in the House this afternoon something which shocked even some of the more hard-boiled Members on these benches; we found that certain persons who had received expectations under the parent Act of 1946, even although those expectations were not good, were to be worse off as a result of this amending Measure. That is to say, the explicit pledge of 1946 was torn up in this House, and when challenged, the Solicitor-General gave no answer whether that was so or not. It was admitted in the Solicitor-General's own words in Standing Committee that persons likely to be worse off because of an amending Act actually got their ex- 984 pectation made worse because of this present Bill.
To sum up, we feel that this Bill, so far as Part I is concerned, makes no contribution, as it is supposed to do through Clause 1, towards a more effective construction of the Coal Board at the centre, and there is no contribution towards decentralisation. Clause 2 is unnecessary, and dangerous in its application for foreign trading; Clauses 3 and 4 contain minor injustices. For these reasons we are prepared to vote against this Bill because we believe we are as right in our view of it now, as we were on Second Reading.
§ 10.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Robens
I thought for one moment when the hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Raikes) was speaking that we were to get something of Tory policy, but apparently that was a red herring too, and we have to wait and see. The hon. Member complained, for example, that the Government had not taken up any of the Amendments offered by the Opposition. That is perfectly true—because this is a very well-drafted and practical Bill. They may have different opinions about that, but that is our view. I had the good fortune to introduce this Bill, when I said it was a simple little Bill. It is a simple little Bill and it says in quite simple and understandable language what its object is.
Not the least important part of this Bill is Part II. I did say on Second Reading that it would be most interesting to see how much Debate there would be on Part II as compared with Part I, and I think I was right when I indicated that there would be much more time spent on Part I than on Part II. The hon. Member for North Lanark (Miss Herbison) gave some evidence of that in her speech.
§ Major Lloyd George
I am sure the hon. Gentleman would not like to mislead anyone in this. He will agree, surely, that the only Opposition Amendment the Government accepted was on Part II—
§ Mr. Robens
I remember there was an Amendment. I think it was to alter the word "may" to "shall," which we accepted. But as to Part II being an important part of the Bill, there could be no question about it.
985 We do agree that there is need for a new Act to replace the 1911 Act, but it is not so serious a matter as hon. Members make out. In point of fact, with this Bill and the powers already vested in the Minister under the 1911 Act, it is possible to carry out almost the whole of the Royal Commission's recommendations; and bit by bit as regulations are put forward these recommendations are being carried into effect. The main function of a new Bill, indeed, would be to be a tidying-up Measure. The Royal Commission stated that it would not be wise to bring these regulations into a new Bill, but that there should be a sort of skeleton laying down general principles; it should be left to the Minister by regulation to carry out delegated health and safety legislation as mining techniques develop and that the matter should be dealt with in the way in which the regulations are at present drafted, with a committee consisting of management, men and the N.C.B. dealing very carefully with these requirements and all that they imply.
Safety and health in the mines are not being neglected at the present time, and the fact that there is not a new Act upon the Statute Book has made no difference whatever to the efficacy with which they are being looked after by the present Government. I know my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) is greatly interested in the problem of pneumoconiosis, but I should make it clear that the mere setting-up of clinics throughout the country would not of itself meet the situation as I see it. When the right hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) founded the research clinic at Llandough he did a first-class piece of work and I congratulate him; but he will understand that research is necessary to find out the causes, and we have already done a great deal—based on investigation—to discover how to cut down pneumoconiosis and the danger of it to the men in the pits.
May I turn for a moment to some of the other points that have been made? The hon. Member for Pembroke said in his opening words that displaced persons had been badly treated.
§ Major Lloyd George
I never mentioned the words "displaced persons" or that anybody had been badly treated.
§ Mr. Robens
Well, we shall let the record show tomorrow, but I carefully took a note in relation to the compensation of persons who were declared redundant, and I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will recollect that he did say that displaced persons had been badly treated in this Bill. I thought it came a little hard from hon. Members opposite who have been associated with the coal industry to talk about displaced persons being badly treated.
No body of industrial workers has been so badly treated as the miners under private ownership. This Bill, which has made clear the main Act in relation to compensation and things of that character, has at least been fair and honest to those persons who have been displaced as a result of nationalisation—much fairer and much more honest than ordinary miners were treated under private enterprise, when pits were closed down and they were thrown on the scrapheap without regard for how they or their wives and children would fare. It comes hard from them to appear to be so concerned about these persons who themselves have done so well out of the industry and have had so little regard for those who have worked in it—those who created the wealth which has enabled many people to live comfortably.
I said in response to an interjection that the Coal Board had done more in two years than had been done under private ownership. I repeat that. I say that from 1913 to 1945 the record of the coal industry was one of a continually declining industry, with its output per man shift steadily going down, the total production and manpower in the pits steadily going down, and that if it had not been for the Labour Government and nationalisation, these three factors would have ruined the industry and brought down the economy of the country.
§ Colonel Clarke
Can the hon. Gentleman say whether there was ever a shortage of coal? What was the good of increasing production if the coal was not wanted?
§ Mr. Robens
In that period we had 3,000,000 unemployed. Production was never as high as it is today. It still does not alter the fact that from 1913 the history of the mining industry was one 987 of total production steadily going down until 1945. Manpower in the pits steadily went down and the output per man shift also went down until 1945, when the Labour Government was returned. Which shows that had private enterprise continued and had those conditions carried on, there would have been a shortage not of 5 million tons, but of 10 million, 20 million or even more. Therefore I repeat that the Coal Board has done more in two years than had previously been done in the coal industry. I do not place the credit for that upon the members of the Coal Board, but I place the credit jointly on the members of the Board and the men in the industry because of the new spirit which permeates the industry, with the two sides working not as two sides in the old sense, but as partners working in the interests of the nation.
§ Captain Crookshank
I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman to correct some of the wild statements he has been making, such as that production went down steadily from 1913 until the beginning of the war, and indeed until 1945. Is he not aware that between 1935 and 1937, so far from going down, production went up from 222,000,000 to 240,000,000 tons? It was going steadily up in those years, and 240,000,000 in 1937 is a very different figure from that in 1947.
§ Mr. Robens
If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will look at the graph of coal production, whilst there are rises and falls throughout the period—[Interruption]. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will look at the graph showing the rises and falls from 1913 to 1945 he will find a steady fall, broken I agree by a year or years of ups and downs. It is a steady fall from 287,000,000 tons in 1913 to 185,000,000 tons in 1945.
§ Mr. Robens
If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman does not like to see the facts the way I have put them, that is his fault. The facts are clear to me at all events, and clear to all those connected with the industry. It was not until 1945 and nationalisation that we had an upwards tendency in all the factors I have mentioned. [Laughter.] Hon. Members 988 can laugh and sneer as long as they like, but it will not alter the facts of the situation.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke talked about decentralisation, but my right hon. Friend asked him a specific question which was, "What do you mean by decentralization; how can you define it? Do you intend to do it by statute, by altering the law as it is?" There has been no reply. If it is not going to be done by altering the law it will be done by leaving the National Coal Board to do it. If it is to be left to the National Coal Board, that is precisely what my right hon. Friend has done. The hon. and gallant Member for Fylde (Colonel Lancaster) immediately began to knock down the argument put up by my right hon. Friend in Committee and in the House, and then proceeded to build it up again. The only difference was on the pace and speed with which it should be done. The hon. and gallant Member for Fylde said that he would abolish the present functional structure overnight, immediately, by a wave of the wand.
§ Colonel Lancaster indicated assent
§ Mr. Robens
I see the hon. and gallant Gentleman agrees. No wonder the industry went down under such leadership. But if one must have a change there must be a change of a gradual character. One cannot immediately wipe out the present structure and immediately put up another.
The same applies to the question of a functional board. Over half of the Board are non-functional. My right hon. Friend spent some time—[Laughter]—I never know whether the laughter of hon. Members opposite is ignorance or some private joke—in Committee dealing with this matter. Over half the members of the Board are non-functional in character. Only four have functional duties to perform. I thought he made it clear that there were some aspects of management where it is very advisable to have a functional member. Labour relations is a case in point. It is important that there should be one member responsible in the main for labour relations. My right hon. Friend indicated that this is a matter of flexiblity. Changes will take place; there can be no hard and fast rule. As there are changes and developments so it should be left for a number of 989 functional and non-functional directors to be nominated.
So the only difference between us is the speed at which one should deal with decentralisation. There is no quarrel about getting the administration as near to the pit as possible—of course not—but on many matters it is highly important that there should be centralisation. It is a matter of doing the job to the very best advantage and in the interests of the industry, and who are better qualified than those people appointed by the Minister as members of the National Coal Board to work out the correct and best way for decentralisation to take place? They are doing that, and they are doing it with some success, but hon. Gentlemen opposite and their friends have never lost a single opportunity of running down the National Coal Board. They have been most unpatriotic in this respect. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, because the industry belongs to the State, much against the grain though that may be to hon. Members opposite. The sheer vilification of the members of the National Coal Board does not aid their cause and it does great harm to the industry itself.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
That is a most extraordinary statement to make, that to try to get a nationally-owned industry to run efficiently is unpatriotic.
§ Mr. Robens
That is not the fact. We do not have constructive criticism of the National Coal Board from the Opposition. I sat for hours in Committee with the right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken), and if the Opposition will take the trouble to read his speeches, not just about coal but on the Gas Bill, they will see that no opportunity is lost to vilify and smear the National Coal Board. I say that is unpatriotic. It does no good to the industry. Good, sound, constructive criticism is all to the good and is welcome, but not the type of attitude taken by the Opposition and many of their friends outside.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker (Banbury)
Does the hon. Gentleman therefore regard it as unpatriotic to attack private enterprise on which the export trade of this country depends at the moment?
§ Mr. Robens
Private enterprise has been aided more by this Government than by any Tory Government, and the result of the General Election will show that the people like it. The Opposition have used the National Coal Board merely as a stick with which to beat the Government. They have never given the individual members of the Board a fair opportunity of doing their job. We had a quotation today showing that the miners in two areas had passed resolutions wanting a inquiry into administration. That seemed to be regarded as something fearful. What is wrong with it? That in itself shows the new and broader spirit in the industry. In the old days the miners never had the opportunity to criticise those who held control. At least they now have the perfect machinery to do that kind of thing if they so desire.
§ Mr. Robens
If the miners feel that there are matters in administration which are wrong, they are entitled to raise them, just as hon. Gentlemen here are. However, they do not do it in the way the Opposition do it but in a constructive way. I see nothing wrong with that. This is a good, simple little Bill. It gives greater powers to the Coal Board. It gives them wider scope and enables them to deal with the commodity which they produce in equity, with other exporters of coal. The Bill provides for the health and safety of the miners. It is a good little Bill and I hope the House will now endorse it.
§ Question put "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 163: Noes, 77.991
|Division No. 92.]||AYES||[11.11 p.m.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Bing, G. H. C.||Cobb, F. A.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Boardman, H.||Collindridge, F|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W||Collins, V. J.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Brook, D. (Halifax)||Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N W.)|
|Attewelt, H. C.||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D||Crawley, A.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Daggar, G.|
|Bechervaise, A. E||Burden, T. W||Daines, P.|
|Benson, G.||Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)|
|Berry, H.||Chamberlain, R. A.||Deer, G.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Diamond, J.||Keenan, W.||Sharp, Granville|
|Dobbie, W.||Kenyon, C.||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (St. Helens)|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Lang, G.||Shurmer, P.|
|Dumpleton, C. W.||Levy, B. W.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Lipson, D. L.||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)|
|Evans, John (Ogmore)||Lyne, A. W.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||McAdam, W.||Skinnand, F. W|
|Ewart, R.||McEntee, V. La T.||Smith, C. (Colchester)|
|Field, Captain W. J.||McGhee, H. G.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Follick, M.||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Forman, J. C.||McLeavy. F||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||MacPherson, M. (Stirling)||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Gonley, Mrs. C. S.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Taylor, R J. (Morpeth)|
|Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Mathers, Rt. Hon. G.||Thomas, D E. (Aberdare)|
|Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Medland, H. M.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Grierson, E.||Middleton, Mrs. L.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Griffiths, D (Rather Valley)||Monslow, W.||Timmons, J.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Morley, R.||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Gunter, R. J.||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Viant, S. P.|
|Guy, W. H.||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Hale, Leslie||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||O'Brien, T.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Harvey, Air-Comdre, A. V.||Oliver, G H.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Pargiter, G. A.||Webb, M. (Bradford, C)|
|Haworth, J.||Parker, J.||Weitzman, D.|
|Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Pearson, A.||Wheatley, Rt. Hn. J. T. (Edinb'gh, E.)|
|Hobson, C. R.||Porter, E. (Warrington)||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E)|
|Holman, P.||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Proctor, W. T.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Horabin, T. L.||Pryde, D. J.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Houghton, A. L. N. D.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Randall, H. E.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Rankin, J.||Willis, E.|
|Hughes, H. D. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Rhodes, H.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Robens, A.||Yates, V. F.|
|Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Robinson, K. (St. Pancras)|
|Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Hoyle, C.||Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Wilkins.|
|Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)||Scollan, T.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Gridley, Sir A.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Raikes, H. V.|
|Baldwin, A. E||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Birch, Nigel||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Keeling, E. H.||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J A||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Langford-Holt, J.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Channon, H.||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Low, A. R. W.||Studholme. H G.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.||Teuche, G C.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Turton, R. H.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Donner, P. W.||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Wheatley, Col. M. J. (Dorset, E.)|
|Dower, Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||Martningham-Buller, R. E.||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Drewe, C.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Eccles, D. M.||Morrison, Rt Hon. W. S. (C'ne'ster)||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Pertrick)|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Nicholson, G.|
|Gage, C.||Nield, B. (Chester)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gates, Maj. E. E.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Major Conant and|
|George, Maj. Rt. Het. G. Lloyd (P'ke)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Brigadier Mackeson.|
Question put, and agreed to.