§ 4.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Brendan Bracken (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
I beg to move, to leave out from "that" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House deplores the contrast between Ministerial promises of adequate supplies and stocks of coal and the present shortages, which have inflicted great hardships in the home and threaten widespread industrial dislocation and stoppages.
§ Mrs. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder if I should be in order in asking you if you would please convey to the right hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Bracken) before he speaks that any reference he makes to absenteeism by miners will be taken as very bad taste by this side of the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I would inform the hon. Lady that any reference to what the right hon. Gentleman may say is not a point of order at all.
§ Mrs. Braddock
I was asking whether I would be in order in asking you, Mr. Speaker. I had not quite finished. We should consider it bad taste in view of his infrequent attendances in this House.
§ Mr. Bracken
I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you are delighted to have the assistance of such a charming censor of taste. My attendance here is as good as anybody else's. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I do not intend to take up much of the time of the House today. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Of course, if these constant interruptions occur I cannot avoid doing so.
The Minister is here, I am told, to make a melancholy statement on the reduction of coal supplies which are vital to our industrial production. Many of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite will wish to discuss the Minister's statement, so I shall try to be as brief as I can. Unless the weather becomes milder, we are told by the Parliamentary Secretary that the prospects of averting another fuel crisis "are all very gloomy." This is a crisis long foretold. [HON. MEMBERS: "By Old Moore?"] No, by Lord Hyndley. At the end of last April the Chairman of the National Coal Board declared:Either we get more coal or the whole basis of British life may be threatened. Things can't go on like this. I doubt if the country realises the gravity of the position.I am quoting Lord Hyndley. Disregarding this grave warning, the Minister made a speech in this House on 12th July which abounded in optimism. If the Minister was complacent in July, he was reckless in the interview which he gave to the Press on 25th September when the risk of another coal crisis was apparent to all save the Minister. Here are some of his carefully prepared answers to the questions put to him. He was asked:Are we heading for another fuel crisis?The right hon. Gentleman answered:There is no reason to think so. Of course, full employment has greatly increased the home demand and coal distribution is more difficult if the winter is hard. But we have taken every measure required to ease the distribution problem and stocks will he tip to the standards that everyone has recognised as fully adequate.In answer to another question about stocks the Minister said:We may not quite reach the 16.5 million tons by the end of October, but we shall before the winter starts.The householder received this comforting assurance from the Minister:I hope and believe that there will be more coal from the mines for the house coal market during the winter months as well; and 1094 the householder can buy as much coke as he desires.What a statement! Householders are desperately seeking coke. Where can they buy as much as they like? Perhaps the Minister will tell us when he answers. I can assure him that if he tells the public he will create the largest queue in history. The Minister must read reports from the camps in the newspapers. There are many instances of shivering soldiers and airmen. The truth is that we are very short of coke, and the Minister misled the public when he suggested that anyone could buy as much coke as he desired.
The House should remember that these promises regarding coal and coke were made by the right hon. Gentleman on 25th September. On 20th November the Minister announced that it had become necessary to buy American coal. That was two months later. The only comment I shall make on the Minister's glowing promises is that they remind me of the statement of the Minister of Defence before the fuel crisis of 1947. He was then Minister of Fuel and Power. Said the right hon. Gentleman:Everyone knows there is going to be a serious fuel crisis save the Minister of Fuel.The Minister of Defence has been right twice. Everyone does know that there is going to be a serious fuel crisis save the Ministers of Fuel and Power past and present.
Why does the Minister disregard warnings given him by the Coal Board? Let me remind him that in the September issue of the Coal Board's magazine, which contained a charming picture of the right hon. Gentleman having a good cup of tea, the first article contained these words:Has it dawned on you that the country is heading for another and more drastic coal crisis this winter?It had obviously not dawned on the Minister, but that was a statement made in the official journal of the Coal Board, and it merely reiterated what has been said by Lord Hyndley and his colleagues from time to time about the dangers of another coal crisis. While the Minister has been occupying himself in making optimistic speeches, let us hear the words of a more responsible man. Speaking at Manchester after the fuel crisis of 1947 the Prime Minister said:We have the power now to organise this great fuel industry as a national service. This shortage of stocks in winter must never happen again.1095 Alas, neither the organisation nor the service has fulfilled the urgent needs of the nation.
Let us consider the consequences so far of this national service. Many homes are very cold. Many railway services are being drastically cut. If there is any truth in the statements that appeared in the newspapers today, the cut in the railway services is likely to impose immense hardships on the public. Supplies of electricity and gas are, of course, affected and a new black-out has been ordained in peacetime. In some areas, as hon. Members know, schools are closing for lack of heating.
If we had coal to exchange for meat there would be no need for an 8d ration of gristle. The dollars we are spending in importing American coal could have purchased timber for tens of thousands of houses. How many times have hon. Members in this House heard statements made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the previous Minister of Health declaring that they could not get timber from the United States because of the dollar shortage—or Canada either. Now we know that the Government can provide dollars to hide their own muddles.
For lack of supplies the National Coal Board has failed to fulfil important export contracts. I have read in the foreign newspapers accusations that the Board has defaulted. I do not believe that Lord Hyndley and his colleagues intentionally defaulted, but they have been unable to fulfil their obligations because of the scarcity of coal here, and we must accept that fact. Nevertheless, we are jeopardising old-established export markets. The predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman now Chancellor of the Exchequer has often told us of the great desirability of creating enough stocks at home and enough production here to provide for the needs of all our people and to add greatly to Britain's export earnings by selling coal, because coal is the most readily accepted of all British exports.
Now for this reason—the failure to export coal—which is understandable, the public here must be prepared to face higher prices. The Coal Board makes a substantial profit on its exports, and, of course, if those exports have to be consumed at home then, without doubt, more 1096 must be paid for coal. There are other reasons why the price of coal must go up soon. And the cost of living will rise again.
Now this remorseless rise in the cost of living is largely due to the mismanagement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the Minister of Fuel and Power—I am referring to the former Chancellor of the Exchequer who was responsible for devaluation. How can we put a stop to this perpetual rise in the cost of living? I should have thought that the Minister would have that very much in mind but, of course, he must now accept the fact that once again the price of coal must go up. These are some of the consequences of the failure of the national service promised us by the Prime Minister in his Manchester speech.
The Minister, in his agitated explanation of the running down of coal stocks, suggested that a little error of only one-half per cent. was made in calculating supplies. The Government, through Sir Stafford Cripps, promised this House that stocks would never be allowed to run down again. Why was that promise broken? The Minister has apparently no understanding of the reasons for creating stocks. Stocks are built up to meet emergencies. Owing to the failure of the Minister to maintain stocks almost every home in the country suffers. Industrial production may be gravely diminished. Employment is imperilled. Cold indeed is the comfort of the explanation of the Minister—"We only erred by a trifling percentage." What an excuse for a long series of muddles and miscalculations.
The truth is that the Minister, though otherwise he is a virtuous man, has gambled against the weather. Even Mr. Micawber, who was fond of taking risks, did not bet against nature. Ministers have promised us "an abundance of coal"—
§ Mr. Bracken
The Minister who made that promise, the present Minister of Defence, ought to have thought that out before he made the promise. The Secretary of State for the Colonies bettered it. He assured us that the policy of the Government and theirs alone could give the nation the coal it needs. Where is it? Today, as hon. Members on both sides of the House will recognise—and if they 1097 do not they will when the Minister finishes his speech—we are desperately short of coal—
§ Mr. Bracken
—and the policy of the Government can best be described by adapting some words of Sir Stafford Cripps which are well within the memory of the House, as drifting from expedient to expedient.
In the course of many debates the Opposition have stressed that the nationalisation of coal, be it wise or unwise, is no longer an issue between parties. Britain today needs coal not dogma. [An HON. MEMBER: "Go and get some."] But the organisation of the industry is an issue, and the Opposition have constantly pressed for reforms. Our doubts are shared by the forthright Chairman of the Yorkshire Miners' Union, Mr. Hall:You cannot run the pits from London … There is no more ridiculous fallacy than to believe that any industrial or political set-up in London can handle the tremendous perplexities of coal, and it is no use London telling us what to do in Yorkshire"—
§ Mr. Bracken
—"because nine times out of ten it is too silly for words and cannot be carried out.Mr. Hall seems to have a lower respect for the Ministers opposite than even I have. I think that Mr. Hall's opinions are shared by many miners and managers. Unless there is a devolution of responsibility from London and the regional boards, there can be no real improvement in production. Each pit has it own problems. They can best be solved by a manager with authority who is in constant contact with all employed in the pit.
The National Coal Board has more than enough to do if it fulfils its responsibilities for research, development and financial control. It is obvious that the Board cannot handle the two cardinal problems of the coal industry, the first of which is, apparently, intractable absenteeism. I want to deal for a moment with the earlier preliminary interruption. Hon. Members on both sides know that I have never criticised the miners. [HON. MEMBERS: "oh."] No, never. On the contrary, I have said that those with experience of the hard and dirty life in the pit would be well qualified to express 1098 an opinion about the work done by miners. I may remind hon. Members opposite that many Ministers have strongly criticised the miners. Why did the hon. Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) not complain, for instance, about the Minister of Works, who said the other day that the trouble in this country was that people were not doing enough work and that they ought to work another 20 per cent.? Before the hon. Lady wishes to rebuke Members on this side, she should start reproving the Ministers whom she occasionally supports.
§ Mr. Bracken
The first of the two cardinal problems of the Coal Board is intractable absenteeism. May not some of this absenteeism be due to over-centralisation? One of the tests which sensible people apply to a badly managed business is the state of their relations with their workers; and if the workers do not get along with the bosses, there is, generally speaking, something wrong with the business.
The second most important task of the Coal Board—or, rather, of the country, because it is beyond the Board, and I believe that it can only be settled in the pit—is to provide recruits to take the place of unfit and ageing miners.
§ Mr. Bracken
I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not like this, but they will have to learn to take it. These problems of absenteeism and of finding recruits to replace the aged or the unfit cannot be solved in London, as any mining Member will support. I ask hon. Gentlemen who have worked in the pits and who represent the miners whether I am not right in saying that it is quite impossible to settle these problems in London, or, I say in passing, through the regional boards. I believe that a great deal of the misfortunes of the Coal Board have come from superseding the manager in the mine and the other people who could help him to get on with this task of coal production.
The men who know most about the coal industry have advised the Government that the only solution of under-production is the decentralisation of control. 1099 Without this, every cold winter will produce an inevitable coal crisis. An improvident Minister who neglects stocks must soon shamefacedly come to the Despatch Box and announce a long list of the cuts he has ordained. "Labour gets things done"! Will the right hon. Gentleman in the course of his speech tell us whether the Government have any plan for getting more coal, or do they rely simply on more and more cuts, upon merely spending money, or upon adding to the hardships of our long-suffering people?
One of the objects of the Amendment is to remind Ministers of the harm they have caused by their unfulfilled promises. I have read some of them to the House today, and I could quote many more. The Minister must think soon. Perhaps I might be allowed to remind him of a saying by his colleague the Minister of Labour:This island is almost made up of coal. Only an organising genius could produce a shortage of coal.We seem to have found one now.
§ Mr. Collick (Birkenhead)
What are the positive proposals of the right hon. Gentleman and the party opposite for getting more coal?
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)
In our last debate on coal before Christmas, the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson), who is to speak tonight, said that the coal supplies and the coal industry were no longer a party matter. He said that they were essentially a national matter, that nationalisation was accepted on every hand, and that the only question was how to make it work.
I shall not follow the right hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Bracken) in what he said about decentralising the Coal Board. We discussed it very fully in December. He has not answered a single argument that I used. I would only quote to him, on what he said about superseding the manager in the mine, the words of Mr. Drummond, whom he will remember as the very able manager under private enterprise of the Ashington Colliery, in Northumberland. Mr. Drummond said: 1100To say that managers have less freedom today than they had under the old system is simply nonsense.I shall not follow the right hon. Gentleman about absenteeism. [Interruption.] I hope that hon. Members opposite will not say things so offensive about a man who has played a great part in our coal industry and who is very highly respected.
Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braith-waite (Bristol, North-West)
Is it offensive to suggest that this gentleman should be promoted to a seat on the National Coal Board?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I leave the House to judge of that. I am not going to follow the right hon. Gentleman on absenteeism. I hope he will be good enough to read what I said in my speech in the debate in December, and he will see that since then no one has attempted to answer what I said. The general charge against the miners that less absenteeism would give a lot more coal simply breaks down. Seven per cent. of the 11.95 per cent. last year was due to sickness and illness, which was more than the pre-war rate when men went back to the pits before they were well One day a month makes 4.3 per cent. and who is going to blame the miners for one day a month? Yet we and the National Union of Mineworkers are constantly trying to get the pits and areas where absenteeism is too high to cut it down; we are engaged on that now. But the right hon. Gentleman does not help when he speaks about it as he did today.
§ Mr. Bracken
On the contrary, I went out of my way to say that I did not join in those criticisms. The most drastic criticism came from Lord Hyndley in his capacity as chairman of the Coal Board under the Minister. I have never attacked the miners for absenteeism, but I have read the speeches made by the Minister and by Lord Hyndley.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Again the House may judge of the implications of what the right hon. Gentleman said. When the right hon. Gentleman said we are not yet getting the coal we need he was only saying what I have said in every speech since last March. Of course we knew it was going to take years, many years, to reorganise the coal industry and, as the chairman of the Miners' Union said, to give the coal which the nation needs at the prices it ought to pay.
1101 Since the last debate I have tried to do what the right hon. Member for Southport suggested, to treat this as a national matter, but I must ask the House to reject the Amendment which his right hon. Friend has moved. I do not admit the charges which it implies. In September every word I said was justified. Today we are face to face with a critical situation. We have taken vigorous measures to meet it. With the co-operation of all sections of the community, which is being freely given, we have good prospects of avoiding the dislocation and the stoppages of which the Amendment speaks. Secondly, as the House will see when I have done, we are taking many measures to get more coal.
Why are we in a critical situation now? Why have we not got today the coal stocks for which we hoped? Let me give the House a brief but candid recapitulation of the facts. In the Economic Survey of 1950 we explained the main headings of the coal budget for the year. We estimated that deep-mined output would give 205 million to 210 million tons and opencast output a minimum of 13 million tons. The total supplies would be 218 million to 223 million tons. We estimated that inland consumption would be 199 million to 201 million tons, an increase of 4 to 6 million tons over the previous year. We intended to export all the coal we could when internal requirements had been met.
I shall deal with these various headings one by one. Until September there seemed every prospect that deep-mined output would reach or exceed the lower figure of 205 million tons. Manpower had been falling but the rate of increase in output per manshift was still steady, at 3.5 per cent. above the previous year, at which it had been running since 1946. The rate of increase fell from 3.5 per cent. to 2 per cent. in October and to 1 per cent. in November and when the year ended in the last three months we had lost 1 million tons.
Opencast began the year extremely well and in the first six months it looked as though we might beat the target. Then in July, August and September the rainfall was greater than in any year since 1869 when our weather authorities began to keep records. The opencast sites became a sea of mud and by October it was plain that even if the weather improved we should only get 12,500,000 tons instead of 13 million tons. In fact, the 1102 sites never recovered and by the end of the year we were between 800,000 tons and 900,000 tons down.
§ Mr. Bracken
Surely we knew all about that and the effect of the weather on opencast mining when the right hon. Gentleman made his statement to the Press on 25th September?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Yes, Sir, but I did not know that the sites were going to be almost unworkable to the end of the year, nor did the right hon. Gentleman know and nor could anyone else.
There remains consumption. Of course, in calculating consumption, bad weather and a hard winter were factors that we took into account. That is largely why we left the margin of 4 million tons to 6 million tons in the increase of home consumption for which we budgeted. I confess that I thought the upper limit of that increase was all that it was necessary to allow. After all, in 1949 we had full employment, everyone was working and the productivity of industry had increased. As late as 24th November "The Times," in a leading article, said:so far this year the increase in consumption has been 5½ million tons and it is unlikely, therefore, to rise much above 6 million tons.I do not remember any one in our debate in December suggesting that 201 million tons for inland consumption would not be enough. Indeed, I remember no criticism here or elsewhere of that upper limit which we set. When I told the House on 12th December that, while that figure might be exceeded, the excess would be very little, no hon. Member, as far as I remember, expressed dissent. But in December the consumption of coal reached a level we had never seen before, and when the final figures for the year came out it was not 201 million tons or a little over, but 202½ million tons, an unforeseen increase of 1,500,000 tons.
I think the House will see why the difficulties today are greater than they were when we discussed the situation last. The Motion urges that we ought to have made more adequate provision for our stocks. What did we do? We aimed at 16.5 million tons of winter stocks by 31st October. No one here suggested that was not enough. On 31st October we were 700,000 tons short of that target, that is, allowing for stocking by householders under the summer prices scheme. Before 1103 that date we took steps to cut our exports to ensure that at the end of December we should have stocks of 14 million tons, that is, the equivalent of 16,500,000 tons in October, allowing for the run down in between. And again, no one I can remember ever suggested that that was not enough.
As the right hon. Gentleman has said, we undertook to try to build up industrial stocks to a really adequate level of 4.5 weeks' consumption at the end of the year. In fact we reached 4.3 weeks' by mid-December and might easily have reached the target and the total end of December stock of 14 million tons if it were not for the developments in December which I have described.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Yes, there was greatly increased consumption.
Ought we to have cut exports more and sooner? It is very easy to be wise after the event, but let the House remember how compelling were the reasons for our exports earlier in the year. Coal has played a major part in international trade. As the right hon. Gentleman has said—it is his phrase—it is our most liquid currency in international trade. Certainly it is that today. It is of great long-term interest that we should be able to export coal. It has been of even more vital importance in the short term of the last two years when our greatest national effort since 1945 has been to re-build our export to close the dollar gap. If we cast our minds back to the beginning of last year, how far away we then seemed from doing that. Would anyone have then said that these exports were other than vital?
We had just carried through devaluation. To increase our exports, we had to buy raw materials and essential foodstuffs from overseas. Most of the raw materials were in short supply, and it helped us enormously in our bilateral negotiations if we could offer the foreigners some coal. Both in 1949 and again in 1950 more than 10 million tons went to Western Europe.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
That coal was a very real contribution to the economic recovery of Western Europe, which has prevented the advance of Communism to the Channel ports. If we took a risk on exports earlier in the year, we did it to serve the major purpose of British policy abroad. Of course, as the months went by and as we saw the trend of home consumption, and deep-mined and opencast production we cut the exports programme very heavily indeed. It was running in the first part of the year at more than 20 million tons. We postponed exports in July, again in October and again later. In the end our reductions totalled about three million tons. As I have said, those reductions would have given us the end-of-the-year stocks we wanted but for the developments in December, which I have referred to.
Of those developments by far the most important is the growth in home consumption. It is a thing that for most reasons all of us rejoice about. It comes from full employment, more production, and more gas and electricity in the people's homes.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
There was more gas and electricity in the people's homes. But however welcome these results may be, the increase—and I ask everybody in every party to think about it—of seven and a half million tons in a single year presents a very formidable problem not only for this present winter, but for next winter and for the coming years. We know that British industry still uses only two units of power per man-hour against six in the United States. We must increase it. We have got re-armament coming with more shifts, more overtime and new and high-powered machine tools—an incalculable extra load. The fact of our re-armament dominates all our thinking about our future needs. We know what mounting war production can mean. With that before us, can any of us feel certain that the increase in 1951 will be less than the seven and a half million tons in 1950; that the year's consumption will certainly be less than 210 million tons, and if that is so, can we hope that the figure of 16.5 million tons as the end of October stock, which we have hitherto accepted, will in future really be enough?
1105 I am sure that these figures will show the House why I am quite as anxious about the next two years as I am about the next two months. Both now and in a longer future we must get more coal and we must save more coal. We must take the measures that will give us a higher output, and enable us to make better and more efficient use of the coal we have. These are urgent tasks, in which every section of the nation has a part to play.
Let me tell the House what we have done since the last debate to get more coal and save more coal this winter, and what we plan to do for the longer future. The House remembers the meeting I held with the Coal Board and the Miners' Union on 21st November at which I asked for Saturday working, and for other measures to increase output from the mines. The response was good. In November we had been getting 80,000 tons of coal a week less than in 1949. After my meeting, in spite of the fact that there were 22,000 fewer workers on the books, and that output before Christmas in 1949 was exceptionally high, the miners made good these 80,000 tons.
Then the Prime Minister had another meeting with the miners after Christmas. They promised to make further efforts and, in spite of a much heavier incidence of influenza, the output in the past two weeks has been 60,000 and 80,000 tons above last year. The Saturday working has been good, but in the last two weeks there has been something, which, if it lasts, is even better.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport will remember that in our last debate I said that the serious fall in the rate of increase in O.M.S. in October might have been due to various causes—disappointment with a wage award, the psychological effect of Creswell and Knockshinnoch, the fall in the total manpower in the mines. My own belief was and is that the last, the fall in manpower, was mad' the most important.
Already in September and October I had discussed manpower with the Board, and they took vigorous and successful measures to check the wastage. In November the Ministry of Labour joined with the Coal Board in a new campaign to get more miners for the pits. The Government stopped recruiting for the Armed Forces in the coalfields. The 1106 results are so far very encouraging, but I will say more about it later. Not only has last year's wastage been arrested, but in the 10 weeks from mid-November the numbers increased by 6,500 men. Some of these are ex-miners, and a few of the newcomers are already trained. In any case, manpower at the face is now going up again, and that I believe is beginning to effect the O.M.S. In any case in the last two weeks O.M.S. has been 1.25 tons, the highest ever recorded in this country and 4 per cent. above the level of this time last year.
It would be rash indeed to build any long-term hopes on the experience of two weeks, but for the moment it is a favourable sign. If this two weeks' trend holds good for a longer period and manpower continues to go up, as we intend that it should, it will make a substantial difference to our prospects in the next three months. I told the House in December that we proposed also to accelerate the clearance of sites for opencast production and within these next three months we hope to get some extra coal. As a result of what we have done, we have handed over to contractors about twice as many sites as in the corresponding period of last year. We hope to get an extra quarter of a million tons of coal. Whether we shall get it depends, of course, upon the weather. In any case the contractors and their workers have made gallant efforts in recent months, and I know they will do still more in the months ahead.
Imports from the United States are now arriving; 250,000 tons up to the end of January; 90,000 a week from now onwards unless storm and fog should intervene. The measures we took about bunkers and depots overseas are estimated to have saved us 38,500 tons of coal in the first month. I must express the gratitude of the Government and the country to the shipping industry and the proprietors of the depots overseas who helped to achieve this remarkable result. I also would express my personal and Departmental gratitude to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport for the help he gave.
Our greatest immediate anxiety is about stocks for the power stations. We decided that the most serious single blow which could be struck at industry and the housewife would be the shutting down 1107 of power stations for want of coal. During the last eight weeks the power stations have used enormous quantities of coal. In one week electricity was 23 per cent. more than in the corresponding week a year ago; they sent out 23 per cent. more. Our stocks have fallen as a result; and as a result of the failure of opencast, about which I have spoken, we are about a million tons short of what we wanted.
So we gave to the power stations—and I am sure that the House will think we were right—overriding priority to get the coal they needed. But power stations use the same coal as industry and the only way we could give them more coal was by delivering less to industry than we planned. That is a matter of particular regret. The small deficiency at the end of December in the stocks for industry of which I have spoken, would not have mattered greatly, had we been able to keep up the planned deliveries from current output week by week. But to keep the power stations going we have had to deliver less to industry than we had originally planned. Unless we have prolonged harsh weather we hope that this under-delivery—this is a very conservative budget—will be roughly, varying a little with different grades, about 15 per cent. We have discussed with both sides of industry in the Emergency Committee of the National Production Advisory Council how this shortage can best be shared. We have agreed with the suggestion made by the Federation of British Industries, for whose co-operation I wish to express my gratitude, that while the cut remains about 15 per cent.—while it is not more—we should apply it equally to every section of the industry.
Of course there are arrangements for "rescue" operations for firms whose stocks are less than one week's consumption of coal, and coal will be held back from firms who have stocks for six weeks or more, and whose position, therefore, is quite safe. All these, and other details about the operation of the cut, will be set out in a statement which the Coal Board will circulate to every industrial consumer whom they supply. We agree with the F.B.I. in thinking that it is better to avoid priorities, or differential allocations, unless increased consumption or falling output make things worse.
1108 The F.B.I. suggested that we could ease the industrial problem, ease the burden on power stations and save more coal, if we could provide oil for the stand-by generating plants which many firms possess, and which in many cases today they are not using, or are not using fully. We made inquiries, and concluded that the F.B.I. were right in judging that these idle standby plants might provide perhaps 5 per cent. of the power which industry is now using. We took up the matter energetically with the oil companies. They have great difficulties about diesel oil in winter, but I still hope they may obtain some, at least, of the oil required; and that in consequence some, if not all, of the firms can use their stand-by plants to full capacity in the next three months. That would help us where we need help most—on power station coal.
After the power stations my next greatest anxiety has been about the household coal. The right hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch spoke a good deal about hardship in the homes. I do not know if he used the phrase "broken promises," but he came very near to it.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
What did I promise? I promised to give an extra million tons to the house coal market to help the housewife, about whose difficulties I feel deeply. But in 1950 the housewife has had, not a million, but 1.6 million tons of coal more than she had in 1949.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
—and 600,000 tons more coke, a total addition of 2½ million tons of solid fuel—far more than she has had in any recent years. The promises have been very handsomely fulfilled.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Consumption last autumn and this winter has been higher and if the weather is hard and output falls, it may well be difficult to keep 1109 the stocks of the merchants up where we want them. We have taken measures with the co-operation of the merchants to conserve stocks. We have made arrangements to switch supplies to places where special difficulties appear. We are getting coal from imports—an average, I hope, of 20,000 tons a week. We are getting coal from the gas works programme, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has asked the railways to cut down the number of passenger trains in order that the housewife may get the coal instead. In cases of real need or hardship the local fuel overseers have authority to help, and I know—and I am glad of it—that hon. Members are very vigilant in ensuring that this power is rightly used.
What else have we done to economise in coal? We have taken urgent measures to save it in Government Departments, in local authorities, in the Armed Forces, in the Ordnance Factories and elsewhere. We have stopped shop lighting and advertisements, a saving of 50,000 tons. We have asked shopkeepers—
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
It is overall—no, for three months; I am sorry. We have asked shops, commerce and the general public to help by making every saving they can, especially in the use of electricity and gas. All sections of the Press have given us their generous and very public-spirited support.
§ Mr. Arthur Colegate (Burton)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, can he say what is being done about the sale of still further electrical apparatus of one kind and another?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Most of the electricity boards have stopped sales of fires completely, but private manufacturers and private shops are still selling. The Association of Manufacturers have joined with the boards—my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will speak of it tonight—in advising everybody in the country who belongs to their Association to use less electricity and gas. I would remind the hon. Member that by far the greater part of all the advertising of appliances which has been done, has been done by private firms—
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
Regarding that last matter to which the Minister has referred, is he aware that, at any rate until a few weeks ago, the North Thames Gas Board were advertising in London theatre programmes an incitement to purchase gas appliances?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
That has been completely reversed. As I told the House in December, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has taken charge of this economy campaign and he is doing a splendid job. I think that his energy and imagination will reap their due reward. He will speak of his work at greater length tonight.
§ Mr. Bracken
Is it a fact that the various electricity boards, and perhaps the gas boards, have been allowing far too generous hire-purchase terms—terms which are far more generous than anything offered by private manufacturers?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
My hon. Friend will give the details, but I can give a general assurance that that is not true. I would add that I believe that with reasonable care, particularly by the general public, one million tons of coal could be saved in the next three months in shops, offices and homes in the form mainly of electricity and gas. That one million tons might easily avert the difficulties which we fear.
I have not sought to minimise the dangers of the next two months. I have told the House in detail of the measures we have taken to increase production and to save our coal. What the outcome will be must depend, of course, in part, on factors over which we have no control. I have told the House that the danger is not for this winter only; it is for next winter and for later years as well. I gave the short answer in December. The right hon. Member for Bournemouth, East, and Christchurch, has given it today.
We have got to get more coal and we have got to use the coal we get to more advantage. How can that be done, and done in time? In my view, there are three ways, and three only. First, by more open- 1111 cast production. We dislike opencast working, but it gives a quick return. The coal is specially suitable for the power stations, whose need is greatest. Electricity is expanding and all the farmers want it. We get opencast coal with a quarter of the manpower per ton required in the pits. We have, therefore, felt compelled to come to the following decision, which, in view of the strong feeling which opencast mining arouses in this House and elsewhere, I will read verbatim. It is this:In view of the country's increasing coal requirements both at home and for export, the Government have decided that, during the next five years at least, the aim must he to maintain a high rate of opencast production. The country's remaining accessible coal outcrops are, however, not unlimited in extent and for the most part have yet to be prospected. Moreover, the consequent interference with food production and the amenities of the countryside, which the Government much regret, must continue to he kept to a minimum. But with more intensive prospecting it is hoped that 50 million tons of opencast coal can he produced during the next five years. It is clear that fully this quantity—and more if possible—will be needed, unless the production of deep-mined coal exceeds all present expectations.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Perhaps I had better finish reading the decision before I give way. It continues:In giving effect to this policy, the Government will continue to attach the highest importance to securing fully satisfactory standards of land restoration, so as to minimise the consequent loss of food production; everything practicable will be done still further to improve the technique of restoration and the Government hope to consult the National Farmers' Union and the Country Landowners' Association about how this can best be done. Similarly, every practicable measure will continue to he taken to prevent damage to the amenities of the countryside.
§ Miss Ward
I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman. I thought that he had come to the end of his statement, otherwise I should not have tried to interrupt. I wanted to ask if this new statement repudiates the statement made in September that, after 1953, opencast coal mining would gradually be wound down.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Yes. It means that we have had to make a new decision that opencast coal working will be carried on at a high rate up to 1955 at least. I have explained this new decision to the National Farmers' Union and the Country 1112 Landowners' Association. It is only right for me to say that they made a vigorous protest against the hardship and loss to farmers and landowners which they felt that it would cause. But for them, as for the Government and the country, good restoration is really the key factor. We are taking that very seriously indeed and we intend to discuss with them and with the interests concerned how improvements in restoration can best be made.
The second way in which more coal can be got quickly is, in my belief, by more power-loaders at the face, where conditions allow. In every other industry the kind of work done by a power-loader is now done by a machine. The Coal Board have done well with Meco-Moores. They are installing this year substantial numbers of Samson Strippers. I hope that this form of capital investment will be expanded with all reasonable speed.
But, third, and much the most important, is manpower in the pits. I have said already that our present recruiting drive has added 6,500 to the numbers in the last few weeks. The strength is now 9,000 above what was expected, if the trend of last year's wastage had gone on. That is a very considerable achievement in so short a time. The recruiting drive will be continued, though no one can prudently predict with what results. The Coal Board have made a new wage settlement with the N.U.M. in which the lower-paid workers have got a substantial additional advance. They have agreed to negotiate a supplementary pensions scheme for the underground workers—a matter to which the Board and, still more, the miners attach great importance.
But, of course, these measures add to the costs of working which the Coal Board has to bear. In fact, with the Porter award in last September they add about 1s. 5d. a ton. And the Board's costs are rising in other ways. In 1949 they paid £942 for 1,000 yards of trailing cable. Today they pay £1,210—an increase of 28 per cent. In 1949 they paid 444s. for a standard of imported timber. Today they pay 591s.—an increase of 33 per cent. In 1949 they paid 16s. per foot for conveyor belts. Today they pay 27s.—an increase of 70 per cent. In all, their materials this year will cost them £13 million more. The Board will have to carry some loss on the imported coal, though I cannot yet say how much.
§ Sir Peter Macdonald (Isle of Wight)
The right hon. Gentleman talks about loss on imported coal. He has not said anything about export coal. We are told that while imported coal is being unloaded at one part of a dock, at another part of the dock coal is being loaded for other parts of the world, such as the Argentine, at a lower rate. Is that true?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
About 100,000 tons a week. It is a very low rate. It is in fulfilment of contracts, and it is very much in the national interests that it should be done. To my great regret, the Coal Board will export less coal this year than they did last year. I cannot say how much, but it is certain that their earnings will be reduced.
For all these reasons, on representations made by the National Coal Board, the Government have approved an increase in the pithead price of coal of 4s. 2d. per ton, or 2½d. per cwt. The Government have agreed that this increase will operate from Monday next, except for house coal only, in which case the increase will begin a week later—on February 12th. This increase means a rise of 5 per cent. in the retail price, and an increase in the Interim Index of Retail Prices of one-fifth of one point.
Let the House compare this rise in price with what has happened in other things. In the last two years, the Board of Trade wholesale price index for coal has risen by less than 3 per cent., and, with this price increase, it will still be under 10 per cent. The price index for cement has risen in that period by more than 10 per cent., that for chemicals and oils by nearly 15 per cent., and that for rayon yarns by 30 per cent. The price index for other basic industrial materials has risen during these two years by 33 per cent. I am sure the House will agree that the Coal Board must be allowed to pay its way, and will approve this reasonable advance.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
There will be an increase of 6s. 3d. per ton in the price of coke.
1114 What else have the Government done about manpower? I have often spoken of the very great importance of housing for miners, especially in places where coal production must expand. The Coal Board have asked us for 10,000 houses in the next two years. These houses will be built. Most of them will be built within the normal local authority programmes, but not fewer than 3,600 will be built by special measures, if need be; that is to say, by imported labour, special contracts and so on. They will be for miners. [Interruption.] I think the hon. Member will find that the Coal Board does not evict people from their houses.
I am going on with what I was saying about increasing manpower. There has been a certain loss of miners, because men have enlisted in the Regular Forces of the Crown. The Services need these men, and, of course, they are doing a good job there, but, nevertheless, the importance of getting the coal we need for the defence programme and other things is so great that the Government have decided that ex-miners who have underground experience of at least six months, and who have joined the Forces on Regular engagements within the last two years, and who are ready to volunteer to return to coal mining in parts of the country where they are needed—that is to say, near their own homes—should be allowed to do so.
These men will be released specifically for work as coal miners, and they will be subject to recall to the Forces to complete their Regular engagement if they leave their employment in the mines. The details of the scheme are being worked out, but it will be brought into effect without delay. We hope that many of the miners in the Forces will respond to this appeal. As I have so often said before, in the Government's view, and, I am certain, in the view of Parliament as well, the most important national service they can render is in getting coal.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
We do not know how many of the miners in the Services will volunteer, but there are some thousands.
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
As a corollary to this scheme for recall from the Force to the mines, will my 1115 right hon. Friend say whether Class Z Reserve miners will be excluded from the call-up?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I was just going to speak about that, and this is what I have to say. No underground workers, and only a few surface workers, will be recalled for 15 days' training with the Army and the R.A.F. this summer. No one will be recalled unless he is required for work of particular importance to the Service for which he is qualified. The Services are willing to excuse any regular reservist from the call-up if he is certified to be a coal miner working underground.
There remains the question of foreign workers. In spite of all our other measures, we may need workers from abroad. The House knows that the Coal Board have been negotiating with the National Union of Mineworkers about this for several months. In their settlement in January, the leaders agreed that the union woulduse their best endeavours to secure the willing acceptance of foreign workers in every pit where there is at present a shortage of men.That was accepted by the national executive, and specifically endorsed, with only one dissentient vote, in a national delegate conference of the union a little later. Its execution in the villages and lodges will require great tact, but it is being vigorously followed up.
I have dealt with the measures which we are taking to get more coal, both now and for the longer future. I could say much about our measures to promote the better use of coal, and the future may well depend upon our success in that regard. In my view, we need a national plan, not only for coal production but for saving coal. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will deal with that tonight. I have told the House quite frankly how the present difficulties arose. I have explained how we mean to meet them. We need a national effort in the spirit which, in the last few weeks, everybody has shown.
In conclusion, may I say this. Whenever I can, I go to visit the miners in their pit consultative committees, in their colliery canteens and down the mines. When I talk to the men who are winning the coal at the face, I always feel that they understand the true importance to 1116 the nation of the work they do. At this moment, the nation understands, perhaps as never before, how we depend on them. In every hour of danger, in pit accidents or in world wars, it is just the same. The miner is always the first man to volunteer. Today, every man and woman in the country can help to see the nation through, but the miners can help most of all, and I am very certain that they will not let the nation down.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Bowen (Cardigan)
I am sure that everyone will join with the Minister in the very well-deserved tribute which he has paid to the miners of this country. We are all pleased to hear of the increase in output during the last few weeks, but I think that the House will agree with me when I say that the overall picture painted by the Minister must be a source of great anxiety to us all. So far as the difficulties of the next few months are concerned, the problem of coal output in relation to our national needs will remain a serious one, and this will continue for some years until the effect of the longterm programme of the National Coal Board is really felt.
I think there is general agreement on both sides of the House in regard to the "tail" of the Amendment which was moved by the right hon. Member for Bournemouth, East, and Christchurch (Mr. Bracken), that is to say, the reference to the present shortages and to the fact that those shortages have inflicted great hardships on the nation as a whole, and that there may well be widespread industrial dislocations and stoppages. The rest of the Amendment, the basis of it, appears to direct attention not so much to the gravity of the situation as to the contrast—that is the word used—between the promises of Ministers and the actual performance. The whole emphasis of the Amendment is not so much on the gravity of the situation and the need for taking measures to meet it, as on pointing out the discrepancy between promise and performance.
The gravamen of the Amendment is, therefore, an attack upon the Minister. It is shooting at the Ministry in respect of their promises and their failure to fulfil them. In normal circumstances the Minister could not complain about that but, bearing in mind the relationship of the fuel problem to the problem of re- 1117 armament and the considerable economic and social difficulties associated with it, I should have thought that we would be better employed not in recriminations, whether deserved or undeserved, about whether Ministers' promises have been fulfilled, but rather in seeing whether we can put forward constructive and helpful suggestions as to how the difficulties can be overcome.
In saying that, I would respectfully remind the House that this subject matter was before the House in substance only some six weeks ago, namely, on 12th December. I hope that it will not seem presumptuous of me to suggest that the contributions made to that debate by persons intimately connected with the industry on both sides were extremely helpful. I think that the approach made to the problem on that occasion was much more healthy and helpful than the approach today, to judge by present indications.
Since 12th December, the position has, in one sense, become very much more grave. In another sense it has improved. It is very much more grave because of the continued bad weather. The position bears a sinister resemblance to that of 1947. If I am correctly informed, we commenced the year 1951 with some 4 million tons more in stocks than we had in January, 1947, but the demands made upon those stocks are very considerably greater than in 1947. The reserves held for industry and domestic users are substantially the same as then, namely, enough for a fortnight or three weeks. Added to that, we have to reckon the continued increase in consumption and again added to it we have the inevitable increase in demand due to the rearmament drive.
The position today therefore is certainly as serious as it was in 1947. We all know what followed on that occasion: a crisis of the first order, two million unemployed and a great deal of real harm to the industrial development of the country. While that is true of the position in 1947, it is equally true that our consumption throughout the calendar year 1950 more than kept pace with our production. We ended the year one million tons down over the previous year. I only mention that because in a moment I want to ask the question whether the measures which we are now taking and which have been taken during the last few weeks, might not have been taken earlier and 1118 have resulted in the present position being somewhat alleviated.
On the credit side, a wages agreement has been concluded. That fact was announced, if I remember rightly, on 12th January, and was brought about after the direct intervention of the Prime Minister. It should result in an improved spirit among the miners and should be reflected in greater production and a drop in the loss of manpower. The question which arises is whether that agreement could not have been concluded far sooner. It may well be that the gravity of the situation and the intervention of the Prime Minister helped to bring about the agreement.
§ Mr. Murray (Durham, North-West)
I do not want to disagree with the hon. Member. In fact, I agree with what he has been saying, but is he not aware that the miners immediately had to make the decision that they would agree to go all out for increased production and to leave the question of wages and better conditions to a later stage?
§ Mr. Bowen
I agree with those observations, but I would respectfully point out that they tend to strengthen my point. What would be the position now if a greater effort had been made to produce the wages agreement in October? The fact remains that no wages agreement was concluded in October.
Another feature of the agreement is increased Saturday working. I join with the Minister in paying tribute to the miners for their great effort in that respect, but again the question arises whether the increased Saturday working could not have been brought about two or three months earlier. Take the supplementary pension schemes. If there had been an agreement or an announcement on that subject some months ago, might it not be reflected in an easier situation now, and particularly in the winter months which still lie ahead of us?
The Minister said that he felt fully justified in regard to what he said in September, that is to say, that we had no reason in September to expect that we would be in difficulties similar to those which we experienced in 1947. Whether he can be blamed or not for failure to anticipate those difficulties, one thing is quite clear. It is that the view which he and his Ministry took of the minimum stocks required for safety purposes was quite wrong. Whether he 1119 should be blamed is quite a different question. At that time, quite clearly we did not have sufficient stocks to provide a margin of safety, and I should have thought, with great respect to the Minister, that it would have been far better if he had made that perfectly clear.
There is not a shadow of doubt that there was a miscalculation. Whether it was something for which anybody can be blamed is a question with which I shall deal in a moment, but there was a miscalculation of the needs of the situation. It is true that up to the end of September production had shown, not a very high increase, but some increase compared with comparable months last year, and it might be said that up to September there was nothing to cause undue apprehension.
At the same time, during the summer months, we should have built up far greater stocks than we did, unless we were prepared to take a gamble on the weather. Increased domestic consumption is not a new feature. It may be that the increase has been more rapid than was anticipated, but bad weather and the increase in domestic and industrial consumption are all matters—particularly after the fuel crisis of 1947—which should have been very much in the mind of the Minister in deciding the safety level to build up to during the summer months.
By the end of September it was obvious that we were likely to be in great difficulty. The Parliamentary Secretary, in his speech on 12th December, indicated that the Ministry had realised by the end of September that they might well be in great difficulties. I respectfully suggest that those indications were present long before that, and that they were taking, to say the least of it, a very substantial chance that the weather would not be severe and on domestic and industrial consumption being kept down. The Parliamentary Secretary agreed that as from September it was clear that there was a real danger of another fuel crisis. What I feel unhappy about is whether during those months from October to December everything was done to avoid our present difficulties.
I feel that there should have been a greater sense of urgency. The country should have been warned of the dangers, 1120 and we should have got the response we are now getting at least a month, and probably two months, earlier. In the 1947 fuel crisis, once the miners realised the seriousness of the situation at the end of January there was a magnificent response. Their response during the last fortnight has been most praiseworthy, and I believe a legitimate point to put to the Minister is: Could not the wages agreement have been brought about two or three months earlier? Could not there have been an agreement on a supplementary pensions scheme months earlier?
§ Mr. Murray
The hon Member must remember that when the award came it was very disappointing and created more animosity in the industry than has ever been known.
§ Mr. Bowen
My recollection is that the award was earlier, but I shall not stake my recollection of the facts against that of the hon. Member in that respect. Assuming it was October, we have had to wait until 12th January. Almost immediately after the Prime Minister intervened an agreement was concluded. If the situation was so serious, why was there not intervention much earlier? The same applies to the supplementary pensions scheme.
Reference has been made to absenteeism—something which has caused heated exchanges between the two sides of the House. The Minister has given us figures for absenteeism in the industry as a whole, but I should have liked the figure for absenteeism among coal-face workers. In raising the question of absenteeism, I must make it clear that I am not for one moment making any attack upon the persons involved, but the problem remains. I do not think anyone in the industry would suggest that those figures could not be reduced, and reduced substantially.
§ Mr. Bowen
That is a perfectly fair question, but first of all let us face the significance of absenteeism, because we do an injustice to our own judgment if we ignore the significance of voluntary 1121 absenteeism. I am informed—and I speak subject to correction—that the total absenteeism among coal-face workers is as high as 30 per cent. in many areas, of which something under half, but still a very high figure, is voluntary absenteeism. That is to say, voluntary absenteeism among coal-face workers amounts to some 10 to 15 per cent. If that is so—and again I speak subject to correction—it is suggested to me that that represents some 10 million tons of coal a year. Therefore, if a real reduction could be made in voluntary absenteeism it would go a long way towards solving our difficulties.
§ Mr. Moody (Gateshead, East)
Could the hon. Gentleman give us an analysis of the reasons for voluntary absenteeism?
§ Mr. Bowen
I think that there are many reasons, but, as I say, I am not so much concerned with the reasons as with the possibility of reducing those figures. I think the reasons are partly Pay-As-You-Earn. That is one of the problems. Another reason is mid-week sport. Another reason is the fact that the average age of workers at the coal-face is continually increasing.
§ Mr. Peart (Workington)
The hon. Gentleman is basing his case on the figure of 30 per cent. I think that is rather an exaggeration. Does he mean 30 per cent. over a period, or 30 per cent. covering only a day? The general figure is probably in the region of 10 or 12 per cent.
§ Mr. Bowen
I am not now dealing with absenteeism in the industry as a whole. I am dealing with absenteeism among workers at the coal-face—the workers who really matter in coal production. I am not suggesting that other workers in the industry do not matter, but the efforts of those who work at the coal-face obviously have the most direct reflection upon output.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I know that the hon. Gentleman wants to get the thing right, and I am most anxious to help him. For 1122 the first 12 weeks of this winter absenteeism at the coal-face, voluntary and involuntary together, has been 14.85 per cent. That is over-all. It is true that in some areas, in some pits, it goes up to 16, 17 and 18 per cent., which is much too high, and I have very strongly urged that they should try to get the figure down. That is the national average at the coal-face.
§ Mr. Bowen
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for correcting my figures, and I am particularly glad that the correction is in the right direction. The right hon. Gentleman has conceded the point in my argument in his last observation; that is to say, that voluntary absenteeism at the coal-face is much higher in many areas than it ought to be.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I gave the hon. Member the total figure. The figure for voluntary absenteeism is about 7 per cent.
§ Mr. Bowen
The Minister concedes that voluntary absenteeism, whatever the figure, is certainly too high in many areas. If voluntary absenteeism could by some means by substantially reduced it would make a very valuable contribution to a solution of our difficulties. I do not think anyone can suggest that that is not a perfectly legitimate point to make.
With regard to manpower as a whole, I have attempted to study the recruitment figures during the last few months and the sources of recruitment to the mines. The significant feature of it is that the overwhelming majority of new recruits to the mines come from the mining areas themselves. That is to say, if we are to maintain manpower in the mines it looks as if we have got to pin our hopes in the main on being able to recruit from the mining areas.
§ Mr. Bowen
That is true. Wages play a part in attracting men and keeping them in the mines, but I believe that the main factor is the improvement of social conditions in the mining areas.
I welcome what the Minister said on 12th December concerning housing. He supplemented those observations today, but I ask myself whether something far more drastic could not have been done 1123 long ago with respect to providing priority for miners in relation to housing. If something had been done on those lines it would have stopped a lot of the wastage and we should have been able to attract into the pits what we need most of all—large numbers of young men.
There are several other matters on which I should like to comment. The Minister referred to the danger point with respect to the maintenance of coal supplies at power stations in order to avoid power cuts. I must remind the House that on 12th December the Parliamentary Secretary made this statement, interrupting the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville):The hon. Gentleman may say anything he likes, but the fact is that it is not shortage of coal that causes power cuts."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th December, 1950; Vol. 482, c. 1051.]I do not know what the hon. Gentleman meant by that, but it seems quite clear to me that there is a very distinct relationship between the danger of substantial cuts in electricity and the possibility or otherwise of continuing a high level supply of coal to the power stations. I fail to see the strength of his observation on that occasion. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."] Perhaps I may repeat myself, because I may not have made myself clear. If it is suggested that there is no relationship between the ability of the power stations to maintain electricity supplies and the supply of coal to those power stations, it is certainly nonsense.
Let me concede this for a moment. I am not suggesting that power cuts may not be produced by many things other than shortage of coal. Of course they may, but one of the surest ways of producing a permanent power cut would be to cut off all supplies of coal to the power stations.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power (Mr. Robens)
What the hon. Gentleman is saying is that if he does not put petrol into the tank of his car it will not go. What I said then was absolutely correct—that there had been no power cuts for lack of fuel. Because we do not want power cuts for lack of fuel, measures are being taken, as my right hon. Friend has explained. Power cuts to date have been due to generating incapacity.
§ Mr. Bowen
I do not think there is any conflict here between us. [Laughter.] With great respect, there is not. What the Parliamentary Secretary is saying is that power cuts in the past have not been due to shortage of coal. But he is certainly not maintaining that we may well have power cuts in the future because of shortage of coal, unless there is a proper allocation of supplies to the power stations.
While I am discussing the allocation of coal supplies, I should like to say that I was rather disappointed that the Minister did not deal with the possibility of cuts being made in supplies to industry. It appears to me that there is a great danger that substantial cuts may have to be made in supplies to certain industries in this country. If there is such a danger, as indeed I think there is, I hope the Parliamentary Secretary at a later stage will indicate the basis on which those cuts will be made, how a selection is to be made of particular industries, and how an attempt is to be made to alleviate the difficulties arising from that problem, should it arise.
The Minister referred to opencast coal, and his statement must be a source of disappointment to many of us who hold strong views on opencast mining. He then referred to the installation of more power loaders in the mines. One point on which I have never been able to satisfy myself is why the continued and increased mechanisation of the mines has not been reflected to a greater degree in the production figures in the mines. I can only express my own surprise in that matter without being able to provide any explanation, but one would have thought that with the very desirable and much overdue processes of mechanisation in the mines, there would have been a more significant and marked reflection in the figures of increased production. In that respect I welcome the steps which the Minister indicates are being taken to provide increased power loading.
As to manpower in the mines, I believe that one of the main problems is that of recognising the need to improve not only wages and the supplementary pensions scheme, but the whole amenities of those who live in mining communities, and indicating quite clearly that the miner is entitled to priority in those areas.
1125 There is another matter with which I wish to deal and that relates to the structure of the machinery controlling the industry. It has been said repeatedly in this House that if we are to get greater production, if we are to get a better and more co-operative spirit in the mines, we must have a far greater measure of decentralisation in the structure of the Coal Board itself. I believe that decentralisation would not only have an effect on the machine, from a purely administrative point of view, but that it would improve substantially the general atmosphere in the mines. The introduction of nationalisation undoubtedly produced for the time being, a far better spirit than we had had in the mines for many years.
There is a general belief that the National Coal Board is a remote and isolated body and that those on the spot are subject to far too much control and supervision from elsewhere. Whether that is right or not I do not know. I believe it is right, and it is certainly accepted by the miners. One is continually met with that comment from miners and I believe it is doing much to undermine the spirit which was engendered by nationalisation.
I apologise for keeping the House so long. It is partly due to interruptions from the other side. In conclusion, I welcome the steps which the Minister now proposes to take. I am disturbed that they were not taken very much earlier. I hope that we shall be able to overcome our difficulties during the next few months and that the steps taken will make the level of manpower and output in the industry such as will help to remove anxiety during the coming years.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Reverend Llywelyn Williams (Abertillery)
I must ask for the indulgence and sympathy of the House as I seek, for the first time and with very much diffidence, to address it. That diffidence is increased and heightened very much by the realisation that on this side of the House there sit many hon. Members who, both by their practical experience in coal getting and their active leadership in mining communities, are entitled to be regarded as experts.
Though I have the privilege of representing a predominantly mining con- 1126 stituency, so faithfully represented in this House for over 21 years by the late Mr. George Daggar, a miners' leader of the highest integrity and character, yet I myself have not been actively engaged in this industry. But I am proud to acknowledge the fact that I am of mining stock. I am the son of a former miner and my grandfather and great-grandfather commenced working underground at the fantastic ages of nine and eight years old respectively. Such a heritage makes it impossible for me ever to approach mining problems or mining difficulties except with the profoundest sympathy.
The right hon. Gentlemen whose names are attached to this Amendment would normally have had the effect of heightening and intensifying my diffidence still further, were it not for the fact that their claim is not especially associated with coal production, although I have been told—and indeed I did see some evidence of it this afternoon—that the right hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Bracken), who proposed the Amendment, has the undoubted faculty of producing heat without coal.
The Amendment seems to concern itself with the disappointing disparity between the prophecies and expectations and the results as that disparity is revealed in the coal shortage in its domestic and industrial aspects and prospects. The acuteness of the situation is one of which we are all aware. I, for one, every day this week have been scraping and raking for a few lumps of coal amongst the agglomeration of slack and coal dust in order to light the morning fire. But in view of all the circumstances—and I think it is fair to say that we have had a very general picture of all the circumstances from the Minister this afternoon—I cannot see that this situation could in any way have been warded off.
It is suggested that we exported too much of this valuable commodity and that, as we must still continue to export in order to honour our contracts, we have been compelled to import coal from the United States of America. Surely there should be no need to emphasise the paramount importance of the export drive, particularly where coal is concerned. Risks have to be taken. The weather, always an unpredictable element in the 1127 British climate, has worked against us. This consideration should not be minimised, but I suggest that even this type of risk, dealing with the weather, was, in view of the urgency of our export trade, one that was justifiably taken.
More important than this, of course, was the unfortunate drop in manpower towards the middle of 1950. That drift away from the mines had to be stopped or the whole economy of our nation would have been jeopardised. Thanks to the appeals made, to the recruiting campaign and to the consultations between the National Union of Mineworkers and the National Coal Board, which resulted in an increase of wages and the promise of pensions, that drift has been checked and, indeed, the tide is now slowly running the other way. Since November last we have 21,000 more face workers, and there has been a large increase in juvenile recruitment.
Of one thing let there be no doubt—there is a different spirit in the mining industry today. Last Saturday to quote from "The Times" of yesterday, 769 pits were working and over 306,000 tons of coal were mined. I suggest that this response deserves the very highest praise. I often think that the miners are more conscious of the nation's difficulties and problems than some sections of the nation are of the miners' problems and the miners' difficulties. For miners to tackle another shift on a Saturday is a magnificent example of responsible citizenship which should be more loudly acclaimed than it has been.
There may well be a very real danger in expecting too much from the miners. We may be spot-lighting their imperfections too much. We may be over-publicising their inability to come up to expectations. This is, I venture to suggest, bad psychology. This is, I respectfully suggest, what the Opposition are doing by bringing forward the Amendment. After all, it is only 14 or so Parliamentary days since we were debating coal before. Oft-recurring debates like this create a sense of resentment in the minds of those who are working in the most arduous and dangerous of occupations.
The Opposition may have brought forward this Amendment with the best intentions in the world, but let them remember 1128 that the most unswervingly loyal and staunch friends of this Government are in the mining areas. The Conservative Party will look in vain for support in those areas. The miners have bitter memories. I would sincerely wish for that bitterness to be assuaged and finally to be removed, for this is one nation, and we rise or fall together; but the repetitiveness of these debates, this tacit implication of dissatisfaction with the miners and with their contribution, is not likely to have the effect which is desired.
Only a fool would expect a complete transformation in a major industry in a period of four years. Will Lawther, on 29th December, 1946—and there is no one on the other side (and I am sure they would allow me to be controversial at least to this extent) who could possibly pit his experience and knowledge against Will Lawther's—a few days before the change-over on 1st January, 1947, used these words in the "Observer":It is, we all hope, the beginning of an era. It does not mean and cannot mean that we have solved all our problems. For 50 years we have been heading for the present crisis, and it may he as much as a decade"—that means 10 years!before the coal industry has been transformed into a flourishing and prosperous one, with happy and well paid workers producing all the coal we need for the home and export markets. I would put the immediate outlook as critical, and the long-term outlook as hopeful.That a transformation is slowly but surely taking place in the mining industry I am absolutely convinced. Mining is dirty, nerve-racking, dangerous and unhealthy. Mining towns suffer more from lack of amenities than most other populous areas. In the past, personal relationships were poisoned by hatred and suspicion, and bitterness pervaded the atmosphere. I believe that the atmossphere is now distinctly better. Management and workmen meet together in a different spirit; wages are more consonant with the type of work that involves mining coal; the Coal Board has undertaken a great 15-years scheme for the future which will remove many of the bogies of the past and anxieties of the present. Mining is, at last, coming into its own.
The coal shortage is acute, and its inconvenience and dangers are not to he minimised in any way, but, surely, such 1129 a state of affairs is not something to be used for party purposes. Let not the Opposition either openly or tacitly blame the miners. They are doing a grand job. Let it be remembered that they are proud and sensitive men. To defame the National Coal Board is not likely to help matters. In four years the National Coal Board has a record of which it need not be ashamed in view of the miserable past it inherited. Above all, let the Opposition not seek to fasten the blame on the shoulders of the Government—a Government which has done more to bring order out of chaos in the mining industry than any previous Government, and a Government which commands the respect, and has won the trust and affection, of the people in the mining areas.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. W. G. Bennett (Glasgow, Woodside)
I wish first of all to compliment the hon. Member for Abertillery (Reverend L. Williams) on a most successful maiden speech and it gives me great pleasure to do so. On all sides of the House we feel that he, like every Welshman who comes here, has settled down without any difficulty, and in the days to come his eloquence will, I am quite sure, he welcomed by his fellow Members.
I could never bring myself to enter into a coal debate without fear and trepidation and I intervene now only because there are many people concerned with the coal mining industry for whom one ought to have the courage to say a few words, namely, the people who have to use coal and who are, therefore, very much interested in the industry's problems. We hear on all sides that there is a lack of manpower in the industry. I want to be constructive today and show where there were weaknesses in the case put forward by the Minister. They can be quite clearly pointed out.
Why is it that at this time in Lanarkshire, when there was an application through the employment exchanges for 250 or 300 miners, there were as many as five miners applying for every post? Why is it that there are well over 1,000 or 2,000 miners in Lanarkshire at this moment unemployed and looking for work in the mines—and only too anxious to get work? What is wrong? Hon. 1130 Members can check these facts, and they will find that they are absolutely correct. Why is it that there are so many miners looking for work—as many as five for every possible job? There is going to be employment for roughly 250 men in a new mine at Chapelhall, Lanarkshire, and for those 250 jobs we have five times that number of men applying for them. There is no doubt that the men have the houses and they are the best type of miners in the country, men of the Clyde-side between 40 and 50 years of age who are looking for work.
What has happened is that the Government have decided to open new pits and have assumed that the human question will be solved without any difficulty. What has not been done is to ask the miners in the area whether they are prepared to transfer to Fife or Ayrshire or somewhere else. These men are out of work, but perhaps a son or daughter is working in a local factory. And let hon. Members remember that the Government have built special factories in these mining areas to give the women and other members of the family a job. The only men who will go to Fife or Ayrshire are young miners who want a house and wish to get married. The men who are already married, with children at school or with members of the family working in the district, are very often not keen to move elsewhere.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Does not the hon. Member for Woodside (Mr. Bennett) realise that there has been a very big influx of miners into Ayrshire and that this thing has been very successful?
§ Mr. Bennett
Of course it has, but there are still five men looking for every one of 500 jobs and 1,500 men in Lanarkshire refusing them. Let us look at the facts which stare us in the face. The coal that could be produced in Lanarkshire would keep the railways running full time. Coal supplies to the railways have been cut by 3,500 tons a week, and they are to be cut by 6,500 tons. Yet the miner, who are unemployed in Lanarkshire could produce more than that quantity of coal week by week. That is the firs fact that I want the House to consider.
1131 In the same county there are scores of small pits which are allowed to employ the maximum number of between 25 and 30 men. These small pits have been most successful, and they could double the number of their employees tomorrow without any difficulty. Just imagine what an astonishing amount of coal would be produced by the end of the month with 50 small pits multiplying their production. Reference is sometimes made to the pits that the National Coal Board have closed down. It is proposed to move men to other pits from these closed mines, but the miners refuse to go and are producing nothing. It is said that no one else will handle this proposition. I challenge the Minister and say that if he is prepared to allow these pits in Lanarkshire, which have been written off and closed, to go over to free enterprise, they will be opened in a very short time and will be producing coal.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I think the hon. Member for Woodside (Mr. Bennett) is talking a lot of nonsense about the declining coalfield in Lanarkshire and the development of coalfields in Fife. The pits now closed down in Lanarkshire were pits working at a loss, and they would never be opened under private enterprise because they were running at a loss.
§ Mr. Bennett
Whenever one asks the House to face facts, some hon. Member opposite gets up and says one is talking nonsense. These pits have been written off. We know that they were not productive, in the financial sense, when run by the Coal Board, but that is not to say that they would not be financially sound today. Hon. Members opposite are always talking about the old days and the bad old times. I will give them something to think about. The Co-operative Society only operated a coal pit once in their history, but they were better off selling goods than digging coal, and they closed it down very quickly. People will not mine coal unless they get something out of it. There are men in Scotland today who are quite prepared to put money in the pits and risk it. They would not do that unless they thought they could get the men. We know that they will get the men, who are anxious to work in the area. These are facts.
Another point is that it seems to me useless for the Minister to wonder why 1132 consumption is going up regularly month after month in houses, on the railways and elsewhere. Why do not the Government face the undoubted fact that it is costing more to produce one unit of electricity and one therm of gas and costing more to run trains from London to Glasgow simply because suitable coal is not available?
§ Mr. Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
On a point of order. May I draw attention to the fact that there is no responsible person on the Opposition Front Bench?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)
That is not a point of order.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
My hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) drew attention to the absence of any responsible speaker on the Front Bench opposite. There never is one there.
§ Mr. Bennett
I want to put these facts before the House. The man-power is there and the men want to work. If they were allowed to work, there is no question that we could get more coal. We might not get all the coal we want, but we could certainly increase production in Scotland without any difficulty if only manpower were handled in a more humane and thoughtful manner than that in which it has been handled up to now.
Again, we are now selling coal abroad for £4 a ton and importing it at £7 a ton, and surely there is something very wrong when we are going to charter 100 ships to bring coal from America and then send the same coal or its equivalent tonnage to South America, South Africa and elsewhere. I suggest that what the Board requires is a complete overhaul from top to bottom. If that is done, I do not think that there will be any difficulty then in solving our problems.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
I shall not follow on the lines of the hon. Member for Woodside (Mr. W. G. Bennett), some of whose arguments I frankly did not understand. May I say with reference to the point of order which 1133 I raised earlier, that I should not like to be thought discourteous to the hon. Gentleman the Opposition Whip, of whose union I was once a member, nor to the other elderly gentleman of great charm, the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Lieut.-Colonel Sir C. Headlam), whose function on the Opposition Front Bench I have never quite understood.
I do not think that anyone can be under the impression that this debate was secured by the Opposition other than for the purpose of attacking the Government and not in any way to help tackle the coal problem constructively. If one wants proof of that, one had only to listen to the speech of the right hon. Member for Bournemouth, East, and Christchurch (Mr. Bracken), whose speech appeared to be a series of gibes at the Government. He reached an intellectual nadir this afternoon which must have surprised even his own back benchers. The ingenuous attitude of the Opposition in trying to differentiate between the Coal Board's responsibility and the miners' responsibility is not, I think, going to fool many people in the country. Those of us who go to our constituencies and address public meetings have all had the experience of the sort of backhanded attack made against the miners by supporters of hon. Members opposite, and the lip service paid to them when more responsible speakers of the party opposite address the public.
We know that what the Conservative Party really fear is the increase of the political influence of the miners through their union. Indeed, the Opposition Press comment, when the National Union of Mineworkers had an interview with the Prime Minister the other day, reminded me of the comment for which the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) was responsible, when he described the greatest philosopher in the East of his day as a "naked Fakir, daring to talk on terms of equality with a representative of the King Emperor." The whole essence of the hostility displayed towards the miner is that the miner has political influence, quite rightly, in this country.
There was a letter written to "The Times" some weeks ago by the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde, South (Colonel Lancaster), who is not in his 1134 seat. As I am not going to make any controversial remarks about that letter, I do not think that I need apologise for referring to it in his absence. He claimed that the lack of decentralisation at pit level was a serious factor militating against the efficiency of the industry. I have in my constituency a small number of pits and quite a large number of miners.
I have tried to get to the bottom of this matter, and to find out if there is any justification in that statement that there is not sufficient local autonomy, because I think that is a matter which we ought carefuly to consider. I hope that the House will consider this whole problem constructively, and not just as a subject for the hustings. I have asked the various managers whether or not they consider that they have sufficient local authority. I cannot get an answer which embodies any general measure of agreement; on the contrary, it appears to differ very substantially from district to district.
I have come to the conclusion that there are some old pit managers, taken over from the private enterprise days, who find it very difficult to adjust themselves to modern conditions of full employment. They have been brought up in a hard school, and they find themselves in these days of full employment somewhat bewildered. Indeed, some of them—I emphasise the word "some"—I think resent joint consultation. Show me an allegedly frustrated pit manager and almost certainly you will be showing me a man who senses his own inability to lead his workers. They have been trained to drive them under the lash of mass unemployment, and one can understand that. I believe that many of them definitely sigh for the good old days of Tory rule, and that the reason they do so is because they are just not attuned to modern conditions of full employment.
The Minister, I know, will not resent some criticism which I shall make. There is some evidence that there is not sufficient local autonomy in settling wage contracts. If these can be "nailed," I think that we shall get to the bottom of the allegations on this question of autonomy. Pit managers must, in fact, be tree from a restrictive administration. I had a case brought to my attention recently of a new machine being introduced into a pit, 1135 which lay idle for weeks, because no settlement could be reached as between the miners and the Coal Board.
I do not want to stress this point, but I should like to ask my right hon. Friend to consider if there is any means by which he can have his attention drawn to the state of affairs which I have described, where a new machine is introduced and lies idle for several weeks because no reconciliation between the competing claims of the Board and the miners has been reached. That is a state of affairs which we cannot afford to allow to go on. I am not imputing blame to either side, but I think that at some point the Ministry must intervene and prevent these long delays.
There are other pin pricks which take place. For instance, after the recent appeal to work on Saturday mornings, I received many complaints that supplementary disability pay for little amounts of 4s. 6d. and 5s. a week had been deducted because the men had worked overtime. That may be actuarily in order but it is psychologically pathetic and should never have arisen.
I want to say a word about the development of the coal pits. Again, in my constituency, it is known that part of the Cannock field is producing less and a survey has been undertaken for new pits and new seams. In the Armitage area bore holes had been sunk and a new pit will be established in that area. When I heard of that a year ago I went and asked for a timetable which would reconcile the running down of local pits with the building up of employment resulting from the new pits. A year later, I am informed that, whereas it was estimated that in five years time the new shaft would have been sunk and employment built up, this estimated new shaft cannot now be sunk under eight years. I do not understand what new factors have arisen since I obtained that technical advice through the Ministry.
This brings me to the question of winning more coal by developing better seams and sinking new shafts. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to answer this particular technical point, and if he is not able to do so now, perhaps he will do so by correspondence. According to the last Coal Board report for the year concerned, a total of 297 bore holes were 1136 sunk, of which no fewer than 263 were bore holes of less than 1,000 feet. The significance of that is that 1,000 feet is less than the average pit depth for the industry. I should also like to know, since the report does not give the information, what percentage of cores were recovered from the borings. I am given to understand that it may well be as little as only 50 per cent.
If that is so, is the Minister satisfied that his technical advisers are securing the introduction into the industry of the most up-to-date sub-surface equipment? I am no technician in this matter. I merely have to go on what I read and as I am advised, but I am told that in other countries, and not just for the coal-mining industry, the Schlumberger electrical technique is regarded as the most successful.
§ Mr. Snow
I am very glad to hear it. But why do we have the situation that, of the 297 bore holes sunk, 263 are completed at less than a depth of 1,000 feet? If I might apply this question to the proposed Armitage pit—I know that it was by direct boring—it took a very long time, and there must be some reason why the whole timetable has been upset in a space of 12 months.
What are the difficulties? Is it the difficulty of capital investment? I am told that there is no technical collaboration between the Royal School of Mining and the industry. It seems curious that that should be so. It may be that the more conservative-minded technicians want a shot in the arm by the introduction of people from abroad with new ideas who may bring some light to bear on the technical problems with which we are confronted.
Reference has been made in a very able maiden speech to the bitter feelings and recollections in the industry. That is applicable both to pit managers and to the miners. The bitter recollections of the pit managers might be equated to their recollections of the easiness with which they secured their armies of workers in the past. My final point is this. I went down to a township in my division, Chase Town, to see an old gentleman who is suffering badly from pneumoconiosis, and I was horrified to find that 1137 this old gentleman was out of benefit for the disease. I cannot see any moral justification for any miner suffering from that disease, which he could only have got working in the pits, being out of benefit and subjected to the economic difficulties that follow such a deprivation.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
With much that the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) said on the technical aspects of the matter, so far as I understand them, I am not inclined to disagree, but I should like, before I pass to the main theme of what I wish to say, to tell him how much I, at any rate, resented his quite uncalled for sneer at the beginning of his speech against a right hon., senior and much respected Member of this House. I can assure him that, as far as many Members are concerned, that sneer did far more harm to the hon. Member than to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Sir C. Headlam).
All Members can start, I think, on the basis, that things have not gone as was expected four years ago, when literally, with flags flying and midnight celebrations on vesting day, right hon. Gentlemen opposite and their nominees took over the mining industry. I think we can start on the basis that the way in which things have worked out has been wholly different from the way that was expected by those who put forward this prototype of nationalisation.
If there be evidence needed, I should like to quote the words spoken by the Foreign Secretary, whose amazing recovery from his illness is a source of gratification to every Member. This is what he said in June, 1945, with all the weight of his authority in the party opposite behind him?
With the commonsense organisation I would put into the mining industry—and with State ownership it could he done quickly—output would be improved and the price of coal to the consumer would he lowered.That expectation has received a further blow by the tragic announcement of the right hon. Gentleman of a further increase in the price of coal, with all its infinite repercussions both on the cost of living and costs of production of British industry, and its competitive power in the markets of the world.
1138 We must start on the basis that something unexpected to hon. Members opposite has happened to this industry. I confess that I failed to find in the right hon. Gentleman's speech any real appreciation of the situation, or any real proposals to put it right. There were a certain number of excuses. There was that perennial excuse for Socialist mismanagement—the weather. There was no apparent appreciation of the fact that for four years right hon. Gentlemen opposite and their nominees have had control of the industry. There was no appreciation that its structure and appointments have been their work, and that if it has fallen down, as obviously it has from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, it is a responsibility for which they must answer to the House—and in a special degree, because not only is this their creation, the hope, pride and darling of Socialist planning, but it is also an industry in respect of which the House of Commons has been denied an opportunity of proper supervision.
We have been told by the right hon. Gentleman that, as he leaves the National Coal Board to run the industry without any interference, it would be quite intolerable for him to tell the House how it is doing it. But the Prime Minister, apparently not knowing that rule, was able recently to discuss with the miners' leaders, in the absence of the National Coal Board, the very matters that the House has been denied an opportunity of discussing on the grounds that it was the affair of the National Coal Board. I should have expected from the Minister something that went far deeper into what has gone wrong in the industry.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
It is completely untrue to say that information has not been placed at the disposal of the House and that the House is not able to interfere. Members are having more information now about the mining industry than ever before. Lord Hyndley is taking very great care to see that Members get satisfactory explanations of local difficulties in the mining industry.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I will not endeavour to compete with the hon. Member in his apparently greater success in getting questions past the Table.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
But if the hon. Member is satisfied by Lord Hyndley's explanations, then he is very easily satisfied indeed.
There is one aspect of the state of affairs into which we have got as a result of the conduct of this industry upon which the House is entitled to a good deal further information, and that is the purchase of American coal. The right hon. Gentleman referred to certain quantities, but he did not tell us the price at which this coal has been purchased, nor the price at which it will be purchased; nor did he tell us the freight charges or how many precious dollars have had to be expended.
As this is a matter on which the right hon. Gentleman has accepted responsibility—I think his words were that he "instructed" the National Coal Board to proceed with the purchases—the least the House is entitled to demand is a statement of the price being paid for this coal and the amount of dollars that have been expended. It is impossible for us to estimate accurately the degree of disaster which this coal crisis has brought on this country unless we can be told what we have had to pay and in particular the amount of our immensely valuable dollar resources which we have been forced by the failure of the coal industry to divert to the purchase of coal. It is a very curious thing that after four years of nationalisation, the old tag about bringing coals to Newcastle has been demonstrated as the latest triumph of Socialist planning.
I desire to follow up a little of the right hon. Gentleman's statement in the concluding part of his speech, because there were several things that he said which interested me a great deal. I am glad to see him in his place, and he will correct me if I misunderstood what he had to say. He said that the sales of gas and electrical appliances were being reduced so far as the nationalised industries were concerned, and I think he went on to suggest that sales were now mainly on private account. I do not know how long that state of affairs has been in effect, because I am sure the right hon. Gentleman has studied with proper attention the second Report and Statement of Accounts of the British Electricity Authority for the year ending 31st March, 1950. It is stated on page 99 that in the year 1948–49 1140 the percentage of equipment sold on hire purchase was 10.2 per cent., with cash sales 89.8, the two items being in round figures £14 million and £1½ million. In 1949–50 the position had entirely changed, with 24.8 per cent. hire purchase sales against 75.2 per cent. of direct cash sales. The tendency by this nationalised industry has been to stimulate hire purchase, which it has done with remarkable success in the course of one year.
One of my hon. Friends, the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Redmayne), on 29th January asked the right hon. Gentleman what he was doing about it. I quote the question and the reply. My hon. Friend asked the Ministerif he will make a statement as to the directions he has given to the British Electricity Authority to cause them to observe the Government policy of limiting hire-purchase facilities in the same way as the banks have been directed.The right hon. Gentleman replied:I have given no direction to the British Electricity Authority regarding the limitation of hire-purchase facilities."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January, 1951; Vol. 483, c. 70.]We know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has sought the co-operation of the banks to discourage hire purchase generally. Here, where it is much more important to discourage hire purchase of these appliances which consume fuel, the right hon. Gentleman, although it is within his power to give a direction under the Electricity Act, has, in fact, not bothered to exercise his powers. It is a little hard when the right hon. Gentleman comes to that Box and says that the hire-purchase arrangements are mainly by private firms, the implication being to put the blame against them when he has not exercised the power vested in him by Parliament in respect of the great nationalised monopolies.
Then the right hon. Gentleman says that advertising is to be used to discourage consumption. That is a very welcome change. The right hon. Gentleman will recollect an answer to a Parliamentary Question by one of my hon. Friends below the Gangway some time ago. He was asked whether he thought the display of pictures of power stations was designed or calculated to increase or diminish the consumption of electricity. The right hon. Gentleman will recollect that he said that he did not think it would have either effect. In other words, 1141 advertising on a highly expensive stale—how expensive he has never dared to tell the House of Commons—he has refused to do so—is being used to have no effect at all upon the consumption of electricity.
So far as the gas monopoly are concerned, they are not guilty of any such impartiality. I have in my hands programmes from two London theatres sent to me by a constituent who attended them in the last few weeks. As I pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman when he was good enough to give way to me during his speech, they contain advertisements by the North Thames Gas Board. One entire page includes two tramcars originally designated "Triumph" and "Desire." With no apparent relevance to the tramcars, there appear these words underneath:Wherever they go the new gas cookers are a triumph. White, spotless, easy to use and clean, neat as a new pin—they transform the kitchen. Why not see them at the gas showrooms? A few pence a day buys one.[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not."] Hon. Members should really direct their question to the Minister. If they had paid to the Minister's speech the attention which, because of his official capacity, it deserves, they would have appreciated that he indicated that he is now taking steps to use advertising on behalf of these monopolies to diminish the use of these appliances. It is a very material point to put to him that up to a few weeks ago, when, indeed, this fuel crisis was obvious to everyone except the right hon. Gentleman, these monopolies, which he controls, were acting in precisely a contrary sense.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I do not think the hon. Gentleman's intervention on the last occasion really justifies me in trying the patience of the. House in giving way to him again.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
When I finish this paragraph. Apart from this being contrary to the policy expounded by the 1142 Government, it is a perfect example of a lavish waste of money.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Then there is a second advertisement in the other programme headed "Herr Papageno Therm." Underneath there are several lines in a language which I believe to be German, with an appended translation which reads:Oh, I'm a merry, happy Therm Known by all in every land…If the right hon. Gentleman can tell me that that is designed to discourage the consumption of gas, then he is a merry, happy Minister.
§ Mr. R. Adams
I wanted to ask whether the hon. Gentleman was implying that the effect of these advertisements would be to persuade the people to buy two cookers in the place of one?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman, who has the ultimate responsibility, imagines that in the present phase of Socialist society, anybody is in a position to afford such an expense. But the hon. Gentleman—and I shall be happy to show him the advertisements if he so desires—must concede that if these advertisements had any purpose—and I am quite prepared to accept the argument from hon. Members opposite that these advertisements are inserted with no other purpose at all than the expenditure of public money—they are quite clearly intended to stimulate the sale of these appliances.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
And, of course, in many cases they stimulate the sale by hire purchase. Therefore, I will say to the right hon. Gentleman what I sought to say to him on other occasions, as he knows so well, that if he is now converted—as I am glad to gather from his speech that he is—to the desirability of using the publicity forces of the monopolies to discourage consumption, it is about time that he paid close attention to see that his subordinates are not taking precisely the opposite action.
There is one further point about the consumption of electricity being deliber- 1143 ately and unnecessarily stimulated by the British Electricity Authority. The right hon. Gentleman knows that there are contracts in existence for the installation of electrical equipment, under which the consumer guarantees to consume not less than a certain quantity of electricity, and whether he consumes it or not he has to pay for it. What use is it the right hon. Gentleman going to the microphone, as he did the other night, to make an appeal to people to use less electricity, when his surbordinates, the British Electricity Authority, are denying these people the slightest incentive to economise in electricity?
The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that there is more electricity and gas in the homes of the people. There were sympathetic cheers from his supporters behind him. He did not think fit to point out that if coal is denied, alternative heating methods are needed. Nor did he point out that, according to the figures issued by his Own Department, the amount of house coal issued to the people of this country was 14 million tons less last year than it was in 1938. Before the right hon. Gentleman comforts himself too much over the increased gas and electricity in the homes of the people—only, so far as electricity is concerned, in the home of the people if somebody has not switched it off—before the right hon. Gentleman warms himself at that particular fire, he should recall the immense diminution of fuel when he has cut off something in the neighbourhood of 33½ per cent. of the consumption of coal in the homes of the people.
We all recognise that the two main features of the fall in coal output, which was 25 million tons less last year than it was in 1938, are the fact that there are fewer men in the pits and the fact that while the output per man-hour has gratifyingly risen the output per man-year is down, compared with what it was in 1939. It is the output per man-year which determines the total output of coal. After all the capital which has been put into the mines and sunk in new machinery, that fact is alarming. As regards the number of men, the right hon. Gentleman has been holding out to us for years the prospect of reinforcing the manpower in the mines with foreign labour. He made the statement today that he had received the consent of the National Union 1144 of Mineworkers for that purpose, and the House was glad to hear it. Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell us what is now being done about it? Two years ago, I know from my direct experience, Italian miners were available and willing to come to this country. Are they available now, and are they willing to come?
§ Mr. Robens indicated assent.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Perhaps he could tell us what we are doing in this matter, and what the difficulties are in connection with it. Surely to goodness it is better to pay the foreigner to hack our coal than to pay him more to hack his own. I hope that we shall hear, now that the consent of the National Union of Mineworkers has at last been received, as a result, I understand, of the personal intervention of the Prime Minister, what steps are being taken. The right hon. Gentleman was a little less than fair with the House when he expressed his gratification at a small increase in the manpower in the mines in the last few weeks, because the total is still below what it was this time last year, when it was lower than it had been at the same time in the previous year.
Year after year, in the Economic Surveys which the Government present to this House, manpower targets for the mining industry have been proudly stated, but every time they have failed to be achieved. The Minister of Labour said at that Box that he had a scheme to secure the numbers required by direction, of labour, but it broke down, as direction of labour always breaks down on the job. Direction of labour and the ring fence failed. What has been done now to secure that these men are brought here quickly?
Finally, I ask the House to accept it from me that in anything I have said I do not direct my blame at anybody, but at the structure and high administration of this industry, which hon. Members will admit I have criticised for the last five and a half years. I am one of those people who believe, with the Duke of Wellington, that there are no bad troops but only bad officers. It is a question of morale that we have to face. The hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Murray), who I regret to say is not in his place at the moment but who interjected during an earlier speech, said 1145 that there was more ill feeling in the industry over the award last October than there had ever been in its history. I think many hon. Members recognise that there is much wrong with the moral atmosphere in the industry. I am not concerned to determine whose fault that was, but with the fact.
I came across a few lines from G. K. Chesterton which I think set out this feeling, which is somewhat incoherent, with considerable clarity and force. They are:
Until the structure and the higher personnel of the industry are replaced by a more efficient structure and a new direction, I do not believe that the tinkerings of the right hon. Gentleman can give this country the coal that it needs and must have.
- "They have given us into the hands of new unhappy lords,
- Lords without anger and honour, who dare not carry their swords.
- They fight by shuffling papers; they have bright, dead, alien eyes;
- They look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies.
- And the load of their loveless pity Is worse than the ancient wrongs."
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Mr. James Glanville (Consett)
It is only on rare occasions that I intervene in the proceedings of this House. I have sat and listened patiently to the whole of this debate. My only right to enter into the discussion is that for nearly 40 years I was an underground worker and that I am the only one of the kind who has spoken in the debate so far. I am astonished at the vast knowledge that is possessed by hon. Members opposite. I am astonished at the right hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Bracken), I remember that when I first came to the House he was Minister of Information, and that in the Caretaker Government he was First Lord of the Admiralty. I remember seeing a cartoon in a national newspaper which represented Nelson getting off his column and inviting the right hon. Gentleman to get on it. I am not in the least surprised that he was given the job of opening the debate on coal, having in mind the terrible mess that his right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson), made on the last occasion.
There is not an industry in this country or in any other great country that has 1146 been so completely "commissioned," inquired into and investigated as the coal industry. I agree with the hon. Gentleman who said that it is not this industry which we are analysing. What this debate is about is not coal; it is iron and steel and the whole of nationalisation. The Opposition could not get a day to discuss iron and steel, the Act on which is now on the Statute Book, and will be put into operation. I have between five and six thousand steelworkers in my constituency, and they sent me a telegram saying that the Act will be implemented. The telegram was read in this House.
What are we going to do about the coal industry? Everybody knows the plight it is in. Everybody knows the limitation in raising manpower for the industry and everybody knows that the mines are like the miners, getting old and decrepit. Let us go back a little. If anybody in the House can speak with authority about the mines, I can. I started in the "good old days" of Tory ownership and Tory domination at the "ripe old age" of 12, doing 10 hours a day underground for 1s. 3½d. a day. A representative of the Liberal Party said that miners should breed miners. That was what was believed in those days, and the economic conditions were such then that as soon as a lad was able to get his school leaving certificate at the age of 12, he was forced willy-nilly into the pit because of the economic state of the household.
The coal owners where I was born sank the pit shafts and built a few wooden huts around them and called them colliery houses. When the miners left the pit they had to leave their colliery houses. Houses? —dirty hovels they were. Since the Labour Party came into power, the miner gets a squarer deal than ever he did. But under the policy of full employment which the Government have pursued, miners are not so easily or cheaply obtained as they were 50 years ago. Since the ring-fence was lifted from the industry, the men have had the right to choose their own jobs. I know what hon and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would have. They would have someone at the colliery with a whip in his hand to drive the men into the pits. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] They did it before and they would do it tomorrow if they had the chance. I sincerely hope that the people of this coun- 1147 try will never allow a Tory Government to get back into power again.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
The hon Member opposite has never done anything dangerous in his life.
§ Mr. Glanville
Today we are short of manpower in the mines, and I want the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to take notice of a suggestion which I have. It is obvious that there is not sufficient manpower in the country to man the whole of industry when full employment is the order of the day. That is why when they were in power the Tories kept a pool of a couple of million unemployed in order to exploit the man on the job. [Interruption.] That is true. I suggest to the Minister that, in the absence of sufficient manpower, we must mechanise to the fullest possible extent. Mechanisation means capital expenditure. I suggest to the Minister and the Government that, until the pits are permanently and properly mechanised, all payments of compensation to the late coal owners should be suspended.
§ Mr. Glanville
My suggestion is a practical, commonsense one, and I thought that it would bring the Tories to their feet. I have another practical suggestion to make to hon. Gentlemen opposite in order to improve the manpower position in the industry and in order to prove their loyalty to the country in time of emergency. Nobody need doubt that there is an emergency; full employment in this country will always create an emergency, because we are a small island, and when everybody is at work, the racketeers cannot get the better of anybody. When I say "racketeers" I mean the Tory employers and plunderers. I suggest that as honest patriotic citizens hon. Gentlemen opposite should make a united cooperative effort. Can we get any volunteers from them?
§ Mr. Glanville
The hon. Gentleman will make a splendid coal-getter. The boys of hon. Gentlemen opposite, instead 1148 of going to college, should come and be trained in the mining industry. Hon. Members must agree that in doing so they would be doing a job of national importance and would contribute to the national well-being, but they simply send their boys to the college up the road in order to educate them to be young snobs and they expect miners to breed miners to get the coal for them. I guarantee that if hon. Gentlemen opposite sent their boys into our districts, we would treat them kindly. We would open our workmen's clubs and hostels to them. We would give them all the help and accommodation they could possibly need. If in the last analysis they were failures, we would behave as gentlemen and not kick them in the posteriors.
The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), quoted a lot of figures and statistics. A. J. Cook, of the National Union of Mineworkers, who was a great friend of mine, once said "Figures cannot lie but liars can figure." I am not impressed by this mass of statistics. I am not impressed by any briefs prepared by the Tory Central Office for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch, who tonight has once again proved his versatility. What I am concerned about is the well-being of this country. We on these benches are patriots. We want the country to survive, and we are prepared to pay our contribution to its survival. The men in the coal-fields are making their contribution by working an extra shift a day and an extra half day a week. Will anybody from the ranks of the Tories volunteer to do one shift a week?
In conclusion, let me say that the problems of the mining industry will not be solved in this House of Commons. The industry is far from dead, and the men working in it are amongst the finest on earth. I ought to know. They have to endure reading in the Press the carping criticisms and aspersions continually cast on them by hon. Members opposite who never did a day's work in their lives. I hope that hon. Members will offer some more constructive suggestions. In the meantime, the ranks are open. I dare say the Whips will take the names of any volunteers who come forward.
Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity and I hope it 1149 will be a long, long time before any more inquests are held on this industry. They are not necessary. The good feeling between the Board and the men in the coalfields was never better than it is now. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Does anybody on the benches opposite know anything about the coalfields? Will they go into the pits and experience it? Only then can they speak with authority. Feeling was never better between the management, the Coal Board and the men. If they are allowed to get together around a table, as they are with the various committees available, consulting together, co-operating in the conduct of the industry, they will carry on and will justify their own existence. This criticising by a lot of people who have nothing else to do, is doing no good either to the country or to the mining industry. I sincerely hope that if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have the wellbeing of the country at heart, they will try to make a more constructive contribution than continually decrying and vilifying a body of men who are second to none in the world.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Carr (Mitcham)
It is rather difficult to follow such an entertaining and tempting predecessor, but there are one or two points I must draw to the attention of the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. Glanville). For example, he said there was nobody on these benches who had done a day's work in his life. I have not been down a mine, but if the hon. Gentleman likes to take his coat off with me tomorrow morning, go into a foundry and rake the dross and pour castings I shall be doing it long after he has put his coat on again.
§ Mr. Carr
I am not a little bit afraid of him. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the challenge?"] The hon. Member said something about forcing people into the pits. I really must remind him 1150 who was the last person who forced people to work in the pits. Let him ask his right hon. Friend the present Minister of Pensions about the direction of labour. Then the hon. Member said something to the effect that figures cannot lie, but liars can figure. Having heard the speech of his right hon. Friend earlier this afternoon, I think he might just as well have addressed that remark to him as to my hon. Friends on this side of the House.
Then the hon. Member said that this debate should never have taken place, that the mining industry has been investigated over and over again, and that the miners were being attacked. I believe his hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Rev. L. Williams), who made such an able maiden speech shortly before, also said something about the miners being attacked. But really it is the hon. Members for Consett and Abertillery who are suffering under a misconception. We are not investigating the mining industry today, we are not attacking the miners; it is hon. Gentlemen opposite who are spending their time investigating the mining industry and boxing shadows about attacking miners. My right hon. Friend in opening this debate did not attack the miners. We are not doing so. What we are attacking and what we are investigating today is the Minister of Fuel and Power and his maladministration and his failure to plan. That is what we are attacking and investigating.
I want to devote my attention mainly to the long-term question of economy and efficiency in the use of our coal. It seems to me obvious that whatever we do now, whatever improvements we can make over a period, we have to plan for a stringency of supplies over the next few years. I was glad to hear the Minister agree about this. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman lay great stress on fuel economy. But where, I would ask him, is the overall plan, where is this fuel policy?
All we have had so far from this Government, and from its predecessor since 1945, are last-minute panic appeals. My hon. Friends have mentioned electricity, hire-purchase encouragement, and so forth. We have had one more last-minute panic appeal. Again today we have heard that the price of coal is to be increased. We are told that it is in order that the mines will not run at a loss. I hope there 1151 was no intention in addition to restrict demand by rationing by the purse.
However, we are told that this evening the Parliamentary Secretary in winding up this debate will give us the overall fuel policy. If so we must all, on whatever side of the House we sit, welcome it. But why so late? Nationalisation, whatever else it was supposed to do or not to do, was supposed to give us one great advantage. It was supposed to provide the means for an overall policy. It was supposed to provide the means for better co-ordination between one branch and another branch.
The fact is that there is no overall plan for fuel economy and efficiency. There is no co-ordination, as we were led to believe there would be. We are getting the worst of both worlds. There has been no lead, for example, to industry as to how to divide its developments between the use of coal, gas, electricity and oil. A few years ago we had panic instructions to change over to oil but no sooner had many of us in industry got busy on that, than we had equally panic instructions to reverse and to go back to coal.
I want to concentrate on one particular aspect of coal economy, namely, the efficiency of steam raising in industry. There have been a number of investigations into this problem, and the results have been astonishing and alarming. Looked at in terms of the cost per 1,000 lb. of steam raised, it is not an exaggeration to say that the results vary from one firm to another by as much as something of the order of 3s. per 1,000 lb. of steam in the most efficient units to as much as 11s. in the least efficient.
If we could get some raising of the level of efficiency in this direction, there could be a saving in the use of coal of, perhaps, 20 million tons per year. That makes the 50,000 tons' saving by the last-minute cut in shop lighting look rather silly. I admit that that is not a short-term policy. It is a long-term policy, and because of that it is all the more important to get about it quickly. How can we go about it? There are, of course, minor measures such as better lagging, better maintenance of existing plant to keep it in better running order, and so forth. All those things could, and 1152 should, play their part. I admit quite freely that something has been done in these directions by the Fuel Efficiency Service run by the Ministry—much credit to what it has done; but it does not go far enough.
The urgent need is for new plant; for example, to get more firms, and not only the very large firms, to use the back pressure turbine method of raising steam. This has the double saving, not only of raising steam for heating and processing purposes more cheaply, but also of raising electricity for the firm in its own works and so relieving the pressure on the public undertakings.
These and other similar methods, however, mean capital expenditure. How are we to get that plan of capital expenditure underway? I ask that an appeal be made to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider this problem. If we are to get firms to implement proposals of that kind, they must be given incentives; they must be given some special initial allowance or other relief to encourage them to spend capital on these fuel-saving types of plant and processes. I ask the Minister of Fuel and Power to approach his right hon. Friend on this point. If that is a policy which we ought to consider for the industrial user, it is similarly one which we ought to apply to the domestic user. We all know that there are many modern types of boiler, and even ordinary open fire grates, which are much more economical than the older types.
If I buy a car for use in my business, I am entitled to claim depreciation for that car against Income Tax as expenses. If I can do that for my car, is it too much to ask that if I spend money in the national interest in installing a modern boiler or firegrate, I should also be able to claim depreciation of that equipment against my Income Tax? I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider these points before his next Budget.
§ Mr. Carr
Or a modern gas stove. But the hon. Member entirely misconceives the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). The point my hon. Friend was making was that these advertisements must be for a purpose. Was that purpose to encourage the use of more gas—
§ Mr. Carr
—more electricity, or less? There are all the advertisements for hire-purchase and for the use of equipment for space heating by electricity, which is one of the most inefficient ways imaginable of using coal; yet those things can be obtained on hire-purchase agreements. They are encouraged, and that is wrong. That does not tie up with what the Minister said earlier.
§ Mr. Davies
The only point I wanted to make regarding the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) was this: The advertising of efficient appliances is of much more value to the country than is the use of old and inefficient appliances. One firm—I.C.I.—have already spent over £5,000 on new appliances, which have given them a much more efficient use of fuel. People can cook more efficiently in a gas stove than with an open fire with an oven. The hon. Member might try that.
§ Mr. Carr
I make a serious appeal to right hon. Gentlemen opposite to develop, and to put all the power at their command behind, a long-term fuel policy to bring about more economic use of a commodity which, however much it may exist under the earth in this country, will be scarce above the earth for a number of years to come at least. I maintain as a charge against the Government that this long-term policy has not been put into effect as soon as it should have been. If it is true that our long-term difficulties are aggravated by these reasons, it is equally true that the cause of this immediate crisis and the debate today is, as I said earlier, the failure of short-term planning and administration by the Government in general and by the Minister of Fuel and Power in particular.
We have heard what the right hon. Gentleman has said today. Well, the country will judge whether it is just another hard-luck story or whether it has a basis of fact. He has now come 1154 forward with plans for the future. We must welcome those plans if they will produce some result, but the time for this planning was long ago, and my charge against the right hon. Gentleman is that if those plans are good today, they were equally good and equally possible 12 months ago and even longer.
§ Mr. Carr
If this is planning, then it is using planning as a drunken man uses a lamp post, for support rather than for illumination.
Should we censure the Government today? Should we have this debate? I was interested in the point of view put forward, presumably on behalf of the Liberal Party by the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen). It seems to me that the Liberal Party is rather like a political hermaphrodite. It is difficult to know—I do not think it even knows itself—what is its political sex from day to day. It agreed with our criticisms, but said that we should not censure the Government.
This House has a duty to the people. We cannot come here and ask that all past mistakes should be forgiven by saying, "We are very sorry this has happened, but we are making all these plans for the future and all will be well now." Past mistakes cannot be glossed over and condoned in that way. This House has a duty to call those mistakes to order.
§ Mr. Carr
Some time ago a merchant ship, a great new liner, left these shores on her maiden voyage and on her return trip, off the coast of South America, ran on to the rocks and was lost. There was a court of inquiry and as a result the captain and some of the officers of that ship were made to shoulder the responsibility and suffer a severe penalty. They suffered that penalty and shouldered that responsibility because the ship went on the rocks. No plan which they could have put forward to get the ship off the rocks would have taken that responsibility and penalty off their shoulders.
The Minister of Fuel and Power has run the coal ship of State on to the rocks, and the moral of the story is obvious. It is the duty—[Interruption.] Opinions may differ, but if—I am addressing these remarks mainly to the Liberal benches 1155 although at the moment, I fear, they are empty—if we believe that there is blame in the past, the House has a duty to bring this Vote of Censure on the Government. I am quite content to leave anybody who does not support that Vote of Censure to the judgment of their constituents and to the later judgment of the electorate at a General Election.
§ Mr. Murray
Before the hon. Member sits down, I should like him to answer this question. He threw out a challenge to my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. Glanville) and my hon. Friend has already accepted that challenge. Will the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) tell the House when it is to be put into operation?
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Miss Burton (Coventry, South)
The brief time I have at my disposal I wish to devote in part to the Amendment put down by the Opposition and the major part to what I hope will be a constructive suggestion for the National Coal Board. The hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr), whether we agree with him or not, has tried to make constructive suggestions in this coal situation. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Bracken) is not in his place—he cannot sit there all the time and that is no criticism—but I 1156 think that from his speech it is obvious that Bournemouth is not conducive to a knowledge of the mining industry.
I think it a great mistake of some hon. Members of the Opposition to try to prey on what are very natural feelings of people who may be disappointed in this country. If one is a householder, short of coal or coke, it is quite obvious that one is very annoyed about it. Everyone is annoyed and looks for someone to belabour because of that disappointment. That is also very natural. If one can get coke or coal but it has gone up in price, that also is a very legitimate source of grievance.
Where I think the Opposition have gone wrong, as so frequently in the past, is that they state these facts and the newspapers which support them state the facts but give no reasons. What runs through many Opposition speeches and articles of newspapers which support them is, "Nationalisation has failed, look at the high price of coal." I am sorry, but that is dishonest and it is high time the country realised that the Opposition are not prepared to put the full facts before them.
On the benches opposite I can see two hon. Members who have a great knowledge of the mining industry and I should like to ask the Opposition if this is not true. One of the chief reasons why the price of coal has gone up since nationalisation is because the miners have advanced from 82nd in the list of industrial wage rates to where they are today. The Opposition have a perfect right to say that they do not agree with that use of the money. Is any hon. Member of the Opposition facing me now prepared to say that he does not agree with the increases in wages given to the miners since nationalisation? I shall give way if he will get up and say so.
§ Mr. Roberts
Of course it is. The amount by which the price of coal has gone up is not all due to the wages. It is the extra amount—[An HON. MEMBER: "That is not the answer."] The hon. Lady has given way very kindly. The amount by which the price has gone up is now in the neighbourhood of 14s. or more, and the amount in wages 1157 represented in that is under 10s. I do not think there is any quarrel that the amount of wages increase is represented by 10s. but perhaps the hon. Lady will apply herself to the amount above that.
§ Miss Burton
I will, but the hon. Member should not think that I would make a statement without having all the facts. I can give a complete list of how the amount of the price of coal is made up. My statement was that by far the largest part goes in wages, holidays and pensions, and I asked if the Opposition objected. The hon. Member has given a long dissertation and avoided the point. Let us move on from that.
I know the Opposition hate talking about the good old days and if I went back to those, no one else would get a chance to speak tonight, but I shall say this. I worked in the Rhondda Valley in the '30's and we know that miners wages were 82nd in the list of industrial wage rates in 1938. We also know—any hon. Member opposite who has been in the Rhondda Valley or knows the Durham or Yorkshire coal fields will know as I do—that it was the women who said in the '30's, "My lads are not going down the pits." One could not get a woman to agree to her lad going down the pit. That is a statement of fact, it is not clap-trap, soap-box oratory, or politics. I see that the Opposition agree with me.
If we go on from there and come to the question of expense, since nationalisation we find that in 1947 the National Coal Board spent £19 million on capital equipment in the mines and, in 1948, £25 million. Before the war the British coal owners did not put their profits back into the industry. I ask hon. Members opposite if anyone objects to the costs of capital equipment which have gone into the pits since the war, which has sent up the cost of coal. I shall give way if I may have an answer to that specific question.
§ Colonel Clarke (East Grinstead)
I see no objection to capital costs, but I disagree with the statement that no money was put back between the wars. The sum of £110 million was put back between the wars, and that is no mean sum.
§ Miss Burton
I appreciate the knowledge of the hon. and gallant Member for 1158 East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) which is considerably greater than mine, but I would refer him to the Reid Report, published before 1945 and before the election, which spoke of the state of the capital equipment in the mines and I would refer him to the far-reaching report, "Plan for Coal," published by the N.C.B., which plans for much greater expenditure on capital equipment. When I have taken a political meeting anywhere and someone has got up and queried the price of coal, whether it was a Conservative with a brief from the Central Office or a well-meaning housewife not with a brief from the Central Office, but who had heard that brief from someone else, I never found one person anywhere of any political party who disagreed when it was explained to them that the price of coal had risen because men have now a decent wage and because capital equipment was being put into the mines. When we have a colliery disaster in this country there is not one bleat out of the Opposition or Opposition newspapers about the price of coal, but, once those disasters are in the past, this is all dug up again. It does no good to the country. It is the duty of the Opposition to criticise and to criticise constructively, but I did not hear one breath of constructive criticism from the right hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch, not one.
§ Mr. George Ward (Worcester)
It is my experience that machinery in every other industry tends to cheapen the product and not make it more expensive. The hon. Lady is saying that machinery in the coal mines makes the product more expensive. Will she please explain that?
§ Miss Burton
I certainly will. I do not know the extent of the knowledge of the hon. Gentleman, and after this I wilt leave the Opposition and get on to more pleasant topics. No one imagines that one can transform an industry within a few years. The Opposition made an effort a couple of years ago—we very nearly fell for it but I am very glad that we did not—to push us into the position of defending the efficiency of a nationalised industry by the returns yielded financially in so short a time. We on this side of the House know, and I am quite sure that the hon. Member knows, that in another five or 10 years the machinery will have produced more coal with fewer miners working 1159 fewer hours, and at a cheaper price. We are prepared to stand by that.
I shall now move on to more pleasant subjects. I wish to put, through the Minister, to the National Coal Board what I think is a constructive suggestion. It is an incentive which I wish to be given not to the people whom we hope to attract into the mines but to the people already there. I marvel that any Member of the Opposition, if he has ever been in a mining valley, dares to get up and talk about putting up more houses for those valleys. Look at what they did not do before the war. We hope to get more houses in the future, and the Minister has given a figure this afternoon.
I have lived in the mining valleys, and I believe in the years to come it will be our job, as responsible citizens, to whatever party we belong, to see that these mining valleys and the villages in them have better shops, picture houses and decent theatres. I say that because without any offence to the people there, the mining valleys of this country are drab and dreary, and there are no incentives for people to earn good money and then go out and spend it there. I also say that having lived in them, I have not found them drab because of the spirit of the people in our mining valleys which is the most marvellous thing in this country.
I believe something could be done in the immediate future which would bring great comfort to the mining valleys and save fuel. I believe it would bring great comfort to the womenfolk of our miners. I want the National Coal Board to look at the homes of our miners. If one looks at the National Coal Board Report for 1948, one finds on page 81, paragraph 318, the details of the houses taken over on nationalisation. In that total, other than agricultural dwellings, freehold houses number 85,988 and leasehold houses 54,144. I am concerned with the total, 140,132.
I have lived with a miner's family in a miner's home in the Rhondda Valley and in other parts of the country. I was in Trealaw, which is a village just off the Rhondda valley two miles from Porth and near Tonypandy. The family I lived with, like so many other families in South Wales, was called Jones. I shall indict the Opposition, without developing the 1160 point, by telling them that Mr. Jones, the head of that family, was 42 years old; he had been out of work for 12 years. His two lads, aged 17 and 18, had never worked in their lives; they had propped up street corners in the Rhondda Valley since they left school. None of them got work until the war broke out.
We had a good house; it had one cold water tap in it. That is a good house. They have not all got that. The hon. Member need not smile, I am not making this remark jokingly—
No, I am not giving way. I am perfectly serious in saying that it was a good house because it had one cold water tap in it. It also had an outside lavatory. The house was quite well built. When I lived there I had to go to the clinic at the bottom for my bath. Because the caretaker there was the uncle of my landlady, I was able to get a bath there. There were no baths in Cairo Street. If one went up the valley and came to Cymmer, Abergwynfi and Blaengwynfi one found miners' houses which were not so lucky—they had not even a cold water tap in them; there was one tap out at the backs of the rows of terraced houses each of which served a whole row.
The work of the women who lived in them was never done. They were more lucky than the Joneses, they were not out of work. Hon. Members opposite cannot—and I do not blame them, for if one has not experienced it one cannot know what goes on in the world—realise the condition of the men coming home from the pits. We are lucky, and we have baths. These women had to go out to those taps, fill a bucket with water and carry it indoors and repeat that process often enough to fill a tin bath. Then the water had to be heated. That procedure had to be repeated for every member of the family. It was a job of work which was never done. In Coventry we have a pit called the Keresley Pit, and the present Mayor of Coventry, who has been an underground worker all his life, took me there during a night shift. When I returned I could not get the dirt off myself and out of my clothes: that was for one night only.
I should like the National Coal Board to spend about £50 on each of their 1161 140,000 houses by putting into them a modern range supplying cooking facilities and hot water. That is an amenity which we enjoy every day, but it is something these women have never had. If the Coal Board spent up to £30, where there is already gas cooking they could, for that sum of money, put in a modern grate to warm the house. By doing that we could save several hundreds of thousands of tons of coal a year, because I am advised these modern grates use between six and seven tons of coal a year. Miners receive concessionary coal. I have tried to work out an average but it is very difficult. One has to be married and have a house, and according to the number of one's dependents one gets so much coal. I am prepared to say that the average would not work out at a much higher figure than seven tons. No more than 18 tons of coal can go into one house however many people there are there. In County Durham, for example, any miner not taking his concessionary coal home is paid at pit head rates.
If modern grates were put in their houses not all that concessionary coal would be needed, and we should save the amount which is not required. In Ferry-hill, County Durham, about 50 houses have had new grates put in them. Some miners' wives in South Wales have said that if they had that improvement they could take their names off the housing list. Not all houses would require all these improvements. I wish to see the Coal Board make a drive in the next five years towards supplying the houses they own with modern ranges at a cost of £50 per house. It will give the miners and their families a satisfaction in their homes which they have never had before. It will save fuel and be a great fillip to the coal industry.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Miss Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
I would first like to make it perfectly clear that I am not speaking from a Central Office brief. I make my own observations, and it may be that they will be no more palatable to my own party than to the party opposite.
Before the war our production was limited by our markets. Today, of course, the emphasis is different; our markets are limited by our production, and that really is the crux of the problem. On every occasion when he has made a 1162 speech on the coal situation, the Minister of Fuel and Power has referred, in very great detail, as an excuse for shortages, to the effects of full employment. The Parliamentary Secretary, who is a little more realistic and a little more honest, made a speech the other day in which he very rightly congratulated the miners on a "bull" week; and he asked, rather pathetically, why it was that we could not have a "bull" week every week. That is the problem to which I should like to hear the Minister of Fuel and Power address himself.
§ Mr. Robens
I made that speech in September. I did not say that we should have a "bull" week every week. I understand that is quite impossible. I did say, in the first week in September, that if we could have a "bull" week once a month we should build up stocks to the safety level.
§ Miss Ward
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman, because I would not like to quote him incorrectly; but for the purposes of my argument, that is exactly the same. Perhaps he would explain to what he attributes the difficulties of having a "bull" week once a month. I realise, as well as everybody else in this House, that there is a very real problem with regard to wastage in the mines and with regard to recruitment to the mines, but the fact, however, does remain that if, as the hon. Gentleman said, we could have a "bull" week once a month we should be a long way on the road to solving the problem of lack of coal. Therefore, I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman, when he winds up the debate, would explain to us what it is that stands in the way of our having a "bull" week.
From that I wish to turn to another point, and if I may, apologise to the House, because I want to be as quick as I can and therefore the various points I want to raise may not be in the Parliamentary form I should like. Everyone knows that in the running of efficient mines a great deal depends on contact between the mines manager and the men underground; and that contact should be maintained almost permanently.
The Minister of Fuel and Power referred to a statement made by Mr. Drummond, now in the north-west region. Mr. Drummond is a very admir- 1163 able man whom I have known since I was a child and I am delighted to know that he is doing such yeoman service to the industry he serves so well. He said, and I am sure rightly, that the mines manager is as free today as he was before. That may be so; I am always ready to accept a statement from Mr. Drummond. But the point is that the mines manager feels he has so much paper work to do, he has so many officials from the National Coal Board superimposed above him, that a great deal of his time has to be given to paper work, and he is no longer in such close and intimate contact with the men underground. That is the fault of the structure of this nationalised industry.
I noticed, with very great regret, that the other day the Minister of Fuel and Power stated that he did not think it necessary to have a mining engineer on the National Coal Board. He said, and quite rightly, that there is a wealth of experience in mining engineering in the regions. That is perfectly true. We have first-class mines managers and first-class mining engineers. We have first-class technical staffs, but the whole of that managerial and technical staff is frustrated under the present system. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he thinks that the mining engineers in the country have a proper channel of communication when the National Coal Board is run on Civil Service lines?
I was struck when the Minister of Fuel and Power announced—or so it emerged—that he had never even had a conversation with the former member of the Coal Mines Board who was a mining engineering expert. I thought that, if the right hon. Gentleman was really interested in problems of production, in spite of what I call the Civil Service channels of communication—through the Deputy-Chairman to the Chairman of the National Coal Board—he would have been at least sufficiently interested to have had conversations with Sir Eric Young, who was by common consent the most expert mining engineer in the country.
§ Mr. Wigg
If the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Miss Irene Ward) would take the trouble to read the debates on the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act, 1164 she would find that one of the clamant demands from her hon. Friends was that the Minister should on no account interfere in the day-to-day running of the coalmining industry. Therefore, it would be quite improper for the Minister to discuss problems with individual members of the Board. Surely the channel should be through the Chairman.
§ Miss Ward
The hon. Gentleman is too ingenuous for words. How does he imagine anyone learns anything in this world unless they go and discuss it with the experts? I was not suggesting that the Minister of Fuel and Power should interfere with the day-to-day management of the coal industry. He is not capable of doing it, even if he wanted to, because he does not know anything about mining. All I thought was that it was a most extraordinary mistake, when the real problem of the industry is production, that the Minister, apparently, is not sufficiently interested to discuss the problem of production with a man who would be able to give him the necessary information. I make those remarks only in passing. In the regions there is a great sense of frustration among managerial and technical staffs because of the structure of the nationalised industry.
Another matter that I wish to raise is the question of the quality of coal. We have had very little discussion about that. I wish to read an extract from a conference at—
§ Mr. Hamilton
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. What has the quality of coal to do with the Amendment on the Order Paper?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
I certainly think the question of the quality of coal is within the purview of this debate.
§ Miss Ward
I realise that the hon. Gentleman opposite is not at all anxious to have this extract appearing on the pages of HANSARD. In April, 1950, the following report appeared in the Press. It was made by Mr. Stanley Walton- 1165 Brown, of Northumberland, who has been intimately connected with the pits all his life as a mines manager, and now he is the National President of the British Association of Colliery Managers. Here is the extract:Coal, so much of which was stone, and the cumbrous system of negotiation with the N.C.B., were two points criticised at the British Association of Colliery Management conference at Scarborough.Mr. S. Walton-Brown, of Northumberland, the National President, said that almost 33 per cent. of the additional gross output obtained by the National Coal Board since nationalisation consisted of stone. Most of it had been paid for as coal.
§ Miss Ward
He was the colliery manager at Seghill in Northumberland. Now he happens to be the President of the Colliery Managers' Association. He was a very fine colliery manager. This bears out exactly what I said earlier. Colliery managements realise that the quality of coal sold to the public today is not nearly as good as it was before nationalisation. I am extremely surprised that there have not been any prosecutions of the National Coal Board for providing as coal material which in fact is not coal.
Not very long ago I asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he could state what the reduction in the calorific value of a ton of coal was today compared with before nationalisation. The Minister, who I am afraid does not really understand mining jargon, replied that the calorific value was the same today as it was then. My mind went back to my early days—
§ Miss Ward
It was a long way back, and I am proud of it. My mind flew back to that old conundrum which used to be posed—" Which is the heavier, a pound of lead or a pound of feathers?" Of course, the point is that the ton of coal sold as a ton of coal today, as Mr. Walton-Brown rightly pointed out, is 33 per cent. stone. Therefore, the calorific value of a ton of coal, if I may interpret it in that sense, has been considerably reduced, and this is inflicting great problems on other industries—the fishing industry, the railways and the whole gamut of industrial production.
1166 I have listened carefully to a great many hon. Gentlemen saying a great deal about the high wages of the miners. As often happens with hon. Members opposite, they are so anxious to support their own Government that they are not always fully informed of all the facts. It is true that the men at the coalface have got good wages.
§ Miss Ward
But the datal men and particularly married men with families are hard put to it to meet the ever-increasing cost of living. If the Minister really wants to do a good service to the miners, as I assume he does, I am surprised that he does not inform the public that not all miners get high wages, and that in fact less than 50 per cent. do. That again, if I may say it without offence, leads me to a point I want to make about the quality of coal. In the old days there was a penalty for the filling of stone. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is still there."] Yes, the penalty is still there, but the point is that it no longer interests the miners working at the coalface.
§ Mr. P. Bartley (Chester-le-Street)
Might I remind the hon. Lady that over the period of 10, 15 or 20 years before the war, when wages were forced down to a very low level, there was no corresponding reduction in the penalties?
§ Miss Ward
That may be so, but the point is that if we want clean, good quality coal, which is just as important to the mining community as it is to all other industries, the Minister should concentrate some of his energies on trying to get it. I am trying to make a practical and constructive suggestion. I do not necessarily expect hon. Members opposite to agree. It worries me very much to come to coal debate after coal debate and never hear any proper discussion of this important technical matter. It has been suggested to me that if the penalties bore the same relationship to wages as they did in the old days, the quality of coal would be vastly improved.
§ Mr. Manuel
This is a most important matter. Few ordinary people grasp this point. Whereas before the war we were accustomed to the middlemen, and the ordinary coal merchants at the railway siding who bag the coal, picking it in addition to the cleansing it got at the pit, that no longer happens. Consequently, more stone goes to the householder now than before the war. The figures in the Minister's last Report show that per million tons extracted we are taking out more dirt now than we did before the war.
§ Miss Ward
That may be so. I understand that the mechanisation of the mines has caused the raising of more dirt with the coal. Therefore, I do not think that that argument is relevant. I should like to hear from the Minister a great deal more about how he considers, after consulting his experts, that the quality of coal can be improved. If I had my way I would have every coal merchant asking his Member of Parliament to lead deputations to the chairmen of the regional boards to complain about the quality of coal. Unfortunately, under nationalisation the merchants feel, as indeed do a great many other people, that if they protest too loudly to those in authority today, their supplies will be cut.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I cannot let that remark pass. I constantly see the representatives of the Coal Merchants' Federation and of the co-operatives who carry on the coal trade. They are represented in the consumers' councils, and they are able to say exactly what they like.
§ Miss Ward
I am delighted to have the right hon. Gentleman's assurance. All I can say is that when one gets down to the organisation in the regions, there is a fear among the coal merchants. I know enough about politics and the machinery of Government to know that if one makes a nuisance of oneself, one is not likely to get to the top.
§ Miss Ward
I have had representations from coal merchants who fear to make undue representations through the regional boards to the Minister. After all, ordinary people in the regions would 1168 not be consulting with the Minister. It is only the miners who get to the Prime Minister. The merchants have a real sense of fear that if they pressed too much and demanded too much from the National Coal Board, they might be the ones to have their supplies cut.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady again. The distribution of household coal is carried on by the house coal emergency scheme which is manned by members of the coal merchants' trade. I assure her that what she says does not happen.
§ Miss Ward
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but, as it happens, the people with whom I was in touch are merchants who sell to industry.
I want to make one other comment on the quality of coal, because the Minister made a great point about the coal that had been exported. From my inquiries in Europe, I gather that the coal that has been exported has done no credit to the British coal trade, and, unless the quality can be improved, I fear that, when all our competitors in Europe get into full operation again, we shall find ourselves in very great difficulties in maintaining our markets. I would regret that very much, particularly as I come from the County of Northumberland, which has such a fine tradition of coal exporting.
There is one other point I wish to make. This is a very rough speech, I am afraid, and is badly put together, because I do not want to transgress on the time of the House. I noticed that in his speech the right hon. Gentleman referred to the advantages of the Mecco-Moore power loader. I was very glad indeed to hear the tribute which the Minister paid to this power loader, but, of course, it has been developed under private enterprise, mainly by the Bolsover Colliery Company, stimulated, encouraged and inspired by Sir Eric Young. I am not going to enter into the details of the dispute, which do not interest me, but I wish to put certain things on record on my own responsibility.
When the Minister announced Sir Eric Young's resignation in the House, I felt that, considering that he and the National Coal Board had had the benefit for very many years of the services of the most expert mining engineer in the country— 1169 a man who has an American and European reputation of high standing—the least that he could have done was to have thanked Sir Eric Young for the services he had rendered. I would like to remind the Minister that Sir Eric has been knighted, after his successful work in America, by His Majesty the King for his services to the mining industry as a member of the Board. I dislike injustice and unfairness, and I like to see everybody paid the tribute that is their due. Therefore, I was determined, particularly after I had heard one of the Members of my own party make some observations on the subject, that if I were fortunate enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, I would have those remarks placed on the record.
Finally, may I say I have lived in an industrial county all my life. My whole background has been that of heavy industry, and I have represented an industrial constituency in this House for 14 years. I know the shipyard workers, the miners, the engineers, the fishermen and the whole range of industrial workers very well indeed. I want to say that I think the Minister should regret that, in making these speeches on coal production, he does not sometimes refer to the problems of other industries and their difficulties in connection with the coal they need. The position of the fishing industry in my constituency is complicated very gravely by the bad quality of coal and its high cost. The railways are certainly affected by it, and the railwaymen feel that their wage claims are impeded because of the high cost of coal and the effect which it has on the railways.
All industry feels that the whole concentration of the Government is only on the problems of the mines, and not on the problems of industrial workers as a whole. So far as I and my party are concerned, we do everything possible to help to try to improve the national economy, so that all sections of the community shall have fair shares of what we can produce and as much social justice as is possible in these difficult and very imperfect times.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Follick (Loughborough)
I would not have intervened in this Debate, in which we have had so many contributions from experts in mining—men who have 1170 worked in the mines—who sit on this side of the House, but for the fact that there is a very important mining area in my division. I have been listening to the flood of gloom which has been coming from the other side, where hon. Members seem to rejoice only in gloom. I am going to give them some cheerful news. It is about time a little bit of cheerful news was given here in this House.
My division is in the area of the South Derbyshire and Leicestershire coalfield, and I have received a telegram which I will read to the House. It is as follows:Output man-shift South Derbyshire and Leicestershire coalfield as follows: Week ending 6th January, 40.46 cwt.; week ending 13th January, 40.42 cwt.; week ending 20th January, 41.16 cwt.; week ending 27th January, 41.36 cwt. Average for month, 40.84 cwt. Unparalleled in the industry at any time in any part of the world.That shows that, at least in the West Derbyshire and Leicestershire coalfield, nationalisation has not failed. This is the solution of the problem. If this could be done in the whole country, we could put up output by 70 per cent., and we would have about 350 million tons of coal a year. Now, why does it not take place?
In our part of the country the miners have very good relations with the divisional board. Mr. Torrance, the area general manager, has consultations at every possible level. There is good understanding in the pits. That goes back some long time in the history of those pits, because those pits have always been small units where, even when there were directors and managing directors, there was a little bit more sympathy between the directors' families and the mine-workers. That was not so in the large units of the country which the managing directors and the directors were in London, and never went into their mines and never treated the miners as their workers.
§ Colonel Clarke
I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman one question. Does he feel that that remark applies to one famous Midland colliery, Lord Fitzwilliam's? Because that was a very big colliery.
§ Mr. Follick
I cannot answer that question because I do not know anything about Lord Fitzwilliam. I do not want to talk about a lot of things I do not understand.
1171 Amongst the people responsible for this tremendous output—never before equalled in the mines—I think the President of the South Derbyshire Coal Board, Mr. Harry Wileman, who is now in America, and Mr. George Taylor, the Secretary, and Mr. Herbert Buck, the divisional labour officer should be congratulated on this great effort that our mines have made.
If the result I have indicated can be achieved in one area of the country it should be possible to wipe out the horrible tradition of hardship that is still bitterly felt by the miners in the other parts of the country. If we can do that, then we shall put up our output, and if we increase our output, as has been done in South Derbyshire and Leicestershire, we shall solve the whole of the national problem. I do beg the Minister to look into this matter to find out if the same sort of treatment cannot be spread amongst the miners all over the country, in such a way as to bring more happiness to the men in the mines, and so to encourage increased production, as has been attained in South Derbyshire and Leicestershire.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North)
I shall detain the House only a few moments because I know that there are many other hon. Members who want an opportunity to take part in the debate; and besides, by the time this stage of a debate is reached many of the points one had wanted to make have usually been taken up by previous speakers. I shall not endeavour to follow the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) tonight, because normally I follow him in debates on the groundnut scheme in East Africa, about which he may possibly know more.
Having listened to every speech in this debate, I feel that my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr), made constructive suggestions which, I am sure, are worthy of serious consideration by the Minister himself. I do feel that this problem has to be tackled on a business basis. All this soap-box talk here today about the miners is no good. That is not going to get them anywhere. It is not going to get the country anywhere. The whole point is how to get out of the difficulties in which we are placed. We have been exhorting the 1172 miners to produce more, and we have been trying to do everything we can to increase production—by mechanisation in the mines, and so on.
We come to the other side of the picture, a study of how to economise in the use of fuel, and to the study of the question of steam raising. My hon. Friend quoted some very important figures. I think many hon. Members agreed at the time, they were very worthy of consideration. It is true that in industry in particular, we have a variation of between 3s. and 11s. per 1,000 lbs. in the raising of steam, and many industries, we know, have called in steam engineers, and taken advantage of the services that are available to study this question and to try to put improvements into force. They are doing so, not only to save fuel, but also from the point of view of economy, which has now become such a stringent factor in business. I ask the Minister to see that that aspect of consumption is studied most carefully.
Turning to another side of the picture, I should like to refer to the point touched upon for the first time in this debate by the hon. Lady the Member for Tyne-mouth (Miss Ward). That is the question of the quality of the coal itself. She concentrated more on coke, but I should like to comment on coal. A short time ago Croydon Council, of which I am a member, had a very heated discussion arising from the feelings of members about the quality of coal delivered in Croydon. I have copies of correspondence on this subject, sent by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams).
Here is a situation which is surely unique. We all pay a tremendous amount of money for inspectors engaged by various authorities, particularly in connection with the food industry. They take samples in shops all day to decide whether someone has been defrauded on 1 per cent. of sugar or a fraction of something else. They are like policemen who want to secure a certain number of prosecutions. They delight in coming before the authorities to say that they should endeavour to prosecute this or that firm. It costs a lot of money to take those firms to court and very often the case is laughed out of court. We have to bear the cost of that type of nonsense 1173 throughout the country, under the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, and other food regulations. [An HON. MEMBER: "Surely they are necessary."] The are very necessary and I am not decrying them, but why do we not get the same kind of consideration with regard to the quality of coal, and the same facilities to prosecute? Alderman Regan, who up to a few months ago was a leading figure in the Labour Party and who has now seen the light and come over to the other side, said at a meeting of Croydon Council a short time ago that 80 per cent. of the coal he tried to burn was sub-standard. This is generally known, and particularly by the housewife who has to keep the economy of the house going with a quality of coal which is deplorable.
The Coal Board is being utterly and completely dishonest in charging the same price right through for certain grades of coal. How can they get away with the fact that they put a certain price on what is supposed to be good coal and then the consumer receives dust, rubbish and stone and is charged that same price? An ordinary private enterprise firm would be taken to court and prosecuted, but the monopoly of a nationalised industry allows that to happen.
I think the people of this country are accepting this type of thing far too easily. I cannot understand why they are letting the Government get away with it. If the Government would choose to put themselves before the country at a General Election they would find that the country does not support them in the policy pursued by the Coal Board. I should like to see some public organisation prosecute the Coal Board for defrauding the public as they do. To charge the top price for some of the rubbish that they sell is sheer dishonesty. I hope that this can be investigated more fully. What would happen if a publican sold beer which had been watered down or a milkman diluted his milk? He would be taken to court very quickly indeed.
§ Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge and Airdrie)
Can the hon. Member tell me what happens when the vegetable man sells us brussels sprouts and turnips, of which half are rotten?
§ Mr. Murray
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that under private enterprise the best seams of coal in this country were worked out, and that the National Coal Board has spent thousands of pounds in various cleaning operations in order to send out clean coal to the people?
§ Mr. Harris
The point of the hon. Gentleman's interjection is not the point which I am trying to make. I fully understand that under mechanisation the general quality of coal has to go down and that we are certain to have some rubbish. I have my own opinion about targets and trying to get a certain figure of tonnage which must bring rubbish with it, so that the Minister can come to this House and talk about it.
I am saying that the Coal Board charge the same price for good coal as they do for rubbish, and I think that it is time that someone took them to court and showed up the exploitation which is going on at the present time, particularly so when the Minister has today announced a further drastic increase in the price of coal, not only to the public but also to industry, which is going to have very serious results. I impress upon the Coal Board that this question of quality should have serious attention paid to it at the present time.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Pryde (Midlothian and Peebles)
The right hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Bracken), is not in his place. I have looked closely at the Amendment which he and his right hon. Friends have on the Order Paper, and it brings very much to my mind the boys who follow the race horses. The Amendment accuses my right hon. Friend of failing to forecast accurately the output of coal That, I find, is the grievance of some of the "Daily Herald" readers against Templegate and others, who fail to give an accurate result of the races.
The mining industry is the most difficult industry in the world about which to make forecasts. In Scotland alone, owing to what took place in the days of private enterprise, I know of one pit where the shaft collapsed and of another where a fire occurred both during the past year. That would upset the best calculations of any Minister. Then there occur such things as happened at Cresswell and Knockstennock which dislocate production.
1175 The Minister made reference to opencast workings being flooded. In Scotland, we have considerable areas of opencast workings. In my own constituency, we have eight seams which have been exploited. There are 40 seams which come up to the surface and eight are within reach of opencast workings. During a long period of last year, those workings were flooded, and it was imposible to produce the amount of coal expected from those operations.
Hon. Members are in the habit of thinking of the coal mining industry as they do of an engineering works. The engineer goes into the engineering shop and goes to his lathe in the same place day after day, month after month and year after year. Every day a miner goes down the pit he finds that he has to work six feet further away from the shaft. We have heard a great deal about mechanisation. It is true that the men at the coalface are producing more than ever before. What is wrong is the fact that it is now necessary to employ so many more men underground on transporting the coal. That is the cause for the higher prices of coal.
Let us look at the number of collieries in operation today compared with 1924. We had 2,762 collieries in operation in 1924, but by 1929 there were 489 collieries out of production, which meant manpower reduced from 1½ million to 955,000. As late as 1935 private ownership could not employ all our manpower. There were approximately 400,000 miners either fully or temporarily unemployed, 39,000 of them being in Scotland.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The hon. Member has referred to 400,000 miners being wholly or partly unemployed. Will he give us the year for that figure?
§ Mr. Pryde
The date is 31st May, 1935, and the hon. Member will find the figure in the OFFICIAL REPORT in the Library.
Reference has been made to Lanarkshire. I wish to make it clear that the National Coal Board has done such a good job in Scotland that no miner needs to be unemployed. Both in Fife and Midlothian houses have been built quicker than anywhere else in the country by Messrs. Cruden and the Scottish Special Housing Association. It is a fact that we have miners returning because 1176 we have not been able to build up the social amenities at the same rate as the houses. But we shall do it in time. We have had houses in old colliery villages like Smeaton and Poltonhall swept away and something like 2,500 new houses, built by the local authority in the shortest possible time, to take their place.
Members opposite have no cause to censure the Government in this regard. They criticise us for not getting the fruits from the mining industry, but is it not true that in 1917 the wage rates in Scotland were raised for the first time since the beginning of the 1914–18 war? The basic rate never rose above 10s. a day. This House suddenly issued an edict in 1921 that the coal industry would be decontrolled, and wages in Scotland dropped to 8s. 6d. It has been said that we cannot get coal in the House of Commons, but the House of Commons can make things most unpleasant for the mining industry. This House has inflicted more trouble on the people in the mining industry than any other agency. In 1926 the best of our men were driven from industry. That marks the day of the decline on the economy of this country. That is when the whole structure of British economy was undermined.
I would say to hon. Members opposite and particularly to the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr)—do not shout for a General Election. Do not try to get into power, because the Tory Party cannot govern this country. I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. Glanville). I like a debate on coal in this House, because it puts 2,000 on to our majorities in the mining areas. The hon. Member for Mitcham said that the National Coal Board had no overall policy. He has not read the "Plan for Coal." Under that plan the Coal Board intends to spend £500 million to reconstruct an industry ruined by private enterprise.
I shall conclude with a demand. The men of Scotland have still 2s. less than the average wage for Britain. We have never worked a five-day week. In Scotland our men work the 11-day fortnight. While they have six days' pay for five days' work and 12 days' holidays with pay, they voluntarily give up their Saturdays in order to come to the rescue of the country. I trust that the Minister will convey to the National Coal Board the 1177 fact that our men in Scotland have given more to the industry and more loyalty to this Government than any other section of the community.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Redmayne (Rushcliffe)
The hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Pryde) will forgive me if I do not follow his remarks because I want to speak on what was mentioned by the Minister as being his greatest anxiety—the supply of coal to the power stations. He said that was his first anxiety, and that his next was the supply of household coal. Indeed, the supply of coal to power stations may well be his first anxiety, because the demand for electricity since 1938 has increased by something like 125 per cent., which is far and away more than the increase in any other particular section.
In December the Minister said that in one week the supply of electricity was forced up by yet another 23 per cent. of current. In our last debate on coal, the Parliamentary Secretary stated that coal consumption in the power stations was as good as coal used directly in industry. That was a straightforward remark, but I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that it is not really as accurate as it sounds. If the figures for electricity consumption are compared with those of 1938, it will be found that the actual increase in coal used for electricity is 18 million tons. Working out the figures for domestic consumption, it will be seen that the domestic user has increased the coal used for electricity by about 7 million tons of the 18 million, and, in addition, farms and offices have taken a share of 1½ million of the 18 million increase.
It will be seen, therefore, that it is not fair to say that industry has accounted for that enormous increase. Industry has taken only about half of it—about 9 million tons. There is here a problem which I think has been wholly neglected in the approach to this matter of coal production. It means th4t the domestic users' interest in coal today is divided as to two-thirds burnt as coal and one-third burnt in the form of electricity, whereas before the war the domestic consumer burned seven times as much coal as he used in electricity. That change is of great importance. It is partly voluntary, and as such it is desirable, but it has to some 1178 extent been forced on the domestic consumer since the war by the shortage of coal. The result has undoubtedly been a most wasteful use of electricity for space heating.
Like other hon. Members I have been worrying about this subject, and I have had some correspondence about it with the B.E.A. because, in my opinion—and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will say something about a scheme of this sort—warning of power cuts should be given by maroon, something everybody hears. The maroon should be set off after short-wave messages from power stations to police stations. Without wishing to implicate any official of the B.E.A., I would say that I was told that the system could not be adopted for technical reasons, and because of adverse public reaction. I think that if we gave warning by maroon, it would be of definite advantage to manufacturers in regard to production. This is a time of crisis, and when the maroons went off they would be a signal to all users of electricity to switch something off. The Minister may agree that that would have a far greater effect upon the use of electricity and the consumption of coal than publicity campaigns without some such forcible way of bringing the matter home to the public.
I took this matter a little further and I wrote some more letters about it. I was told that the use of maroons was not possible and that there is an alternative. It is possible that the Parliamentary Secretary will announce that alternative in a few minutes. I do not know. I was told that it was proposed to use short-wave transmitters for giving warnings of power cuts and that consumers would warn others by telephone, "with snowball effect." That is the wording of the letter. To my mind, this snowball effect is a kindly and considerate way of still keeping the wool over the public's eyes. We want something a good deal more forcible, and I expect no more success for this particular snowball than there is for the other snowball in warmer places.
I believe that it is the duty of the Minister to bring home to the public by the best possible available means that they have the greatest interest in economising electricity for the saving of coal and that they have very nearly a 50 per cent. share in the increase in coal used for electricity since 1938. It has not been 1179 brought home to them and it is the Minister's duty to do so. If it were possible to increase the domestic ration of coal, even in this grave crisis, I believe it would be quite possible that extravagant space heating by electricity would come down. We might then be playing with something like five million tons of coal which are now being wasted through bad management. It seems a peculiar thing to suggest an increase in the domestic ration at this stage, but it might well be an investment to save, on balance, two or three million tons a year.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)
We have had an interesting debate today, which, curiously enough, except—forgive my saying so—for a considerable portion of the speech of the Minister of Fuel and Power, has covered somewhat different ground from that of 12th December. I do not know whether many hon. Members recall that debate, which took place such a very short time ago, or to what they were committed by the terms of the Amendment which they eventually carried to our original Motion. It will be remembered that we asked for a full and impartial inquiry, and one portion at all events of the Amendment carried rejected that request on the ground that the granting of it would divert the Board and the industry from its urgent task of providing adequate supplies of coal for the country. The implication of that was that if they did not have the inquiry and would provide adequate supplies of coal their energies were not diverted, they for the needs of the country. That is what hon. Members thought only two months ago.
The other thing which was noticeable about that debate was the speech made by the Minister and the trouble he took during that speech to explain by what a tiny margin they had made mistakes and the industry had failed to achieve its target and by what a tiny margin consumption had exceeded the estimates that he had made. I think he will agree that on more than one occasion he emphasised that the margin was of the order of a half of 1 per cent. I shall have occasion later on in my speech to refer to that. All I can say is that, in the light of experience, it shows how dismally the industry failed, because of the 1180 appalling results that we now see facing us, as a result of such a tiny short-fall which it should have been possible to make up.
The hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) made what I thought was one of the best speeches—and at the same time the greatest speech in support of our thesis—on either side of the House today. He gave figures showing how greatly the output had improved in South Derbyshire, and he said that if a similar increase in output had taken place in other parts of the country, we should have got an additional 70 million tons of coal and all our problems would have been solved. Precisely; and it was our accusation on 12th December, and it is still more our accusation tonight, that it should have been possible for the National Coal Board and the industry to get better results. If they had got better results even by the small margin about which the right hon. Gentleman talked we should not be in our present mess.
The right hon. Gentleman gave some very interesting figures, some of which were published in the papers this morning, showing the tiny margin between success and failure and the appalling consequences to the country of the failure, which are quite disproportionate to the extent by which we failed to achieve our target. The papers this morning published the news that widespread cancellation of trains would take place over the next few days. Anyone reading that, and appreciating the vast disorganisation that will ensue to travellers all over the country, would assume that this would save quite an appreciable amount of coal. What is the saving that is to be made? According to the Press, a derisory 10,000 tons a week. To save that we shall disorganise the habits and cause hardship to thousands of passengers.
If the right hon. Gentleman will forgive my saying so, the other thing in which he erred previously was the way in which he presented the picture to the public on two or three occasions. He did so tonight again and I shall deal with that, but I should like particularly to call his attention to what happened about shipping. The right hon. Gentleman gave two answers in this House, one a written, the other an oral answer. He said in November: 1181With due regard for the essential needs of shipping, they are reducing the coal supplies for bunkers, and for bunker depots overseas.And in reply to a written Question later that month he said:I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport that discussions with the shipping industry and the overseas bunker proprietors are now taking place, in order that this reduction may be made without any dislocation of shipping services."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th and 27th November, 1950; Vol. 481, cc. 40 and 116.]Quite clearly from that the right hon. Gentleman gave the impression—I assume he intended to do so—to anyone hearing those answers or reading them, that the reduction in bunker supplies was a comparatively small matter and was to be done without any dislocation of shipping?
What has been the result? The result of this cutting down of bunker supplies in the first place was an enormous increase in the cost of bunkers. To take one or two instances from many I have with me, the price of bunkers at Gibraltar was 111s. a ton on 1st October, at 30th January it had risen to 165s. a ton. At Port Said it rose from 125s. to 193s. a ton and at Oran it rose from 107s. to 165s. a ton. Those are typical cases selected at random. And all for what? This afternoon the right hon. Gentleman gave the figure of savings. Hundreds of thousands of tons? No, 38,000 tons a month. Yet we have that enormous increase of bunkers and the great dislocation which ensued.
The right hon. Gentleman announced suddenly in the autumn that we would import something over one million tons of coal. Before that announcement was made the shipping situation was just about on a balance. It was approaching a difficulty because of the demands for Korea and for stockpiling, but then there was just about a balance between supply and demand for ships. Suddenly, without any warning, the Minister announced that the British Government were in the market for about one million tons.
The net result of that was that the whole of the shipping freight market was thrown into disorder. It is quite true that as a result of negotiations between the Ministry of Transport and the ship-owners, arrangements were made to find the ships to bring the coal in, but at a 1182 cost—and what a cost to the country. In the first place, it caused freights to rise all over the world—again, to our great disadvantage, because it increased the costs of our imports. It caused foreign freights to rise higher than British freights, so that the foreigner got a greater advantage than the British. It reduced very materially the invisible income of this country which had been provided by our shipping, and, most important of all, it dislocated and deprived our export trade of a great number of ships that would otherwise have carried exports abroad—ships chartered by the liner companies, for example, for motor cars for Australia; and it stopped very important imports which we should otherwise have got.
I do not know whether the House realises that as a result we lost 600,000 tons of iron ore at a time when we need iron ore and supplies of scrap are becoming increasingly difficult to find. We lost 600,000 tons after Christmas, and are losing it today, I am informed, at the rate of 200,000 tons a month. That is a wholly disproportionate cost to the country as far as shipping is concerned for the relatively small amount of coal involved. I have quoted those instances only to illustrate the way in which the right hon. Gentleman has tried to minimise the effect of the trouble.
The other point arising from the last debate is this. We asked for an impartial inquiry. We had a debate some little time ago on the whole question of Parliamentary control over these nationalised corporations. Surely, the last two debates showed overwhelmingly that the House is at a great disadvantage under present conditions in discussing these corporations. We have not got the information. In putting forward our case, we are bound to rely to some extent on hearsay; and equally—I think, badly from the national point of view—the Government are tempted always to come to the defence of the corporations. The net result is that at the end of the debate there is a general feeling of frustration all round.
§ Mr. Hudson
In addition, under present circumstances and under the present set-up, there is no real possibility of the consumer getting a say. Indeed, I have a pamphlet written by the Fabian 1183 Society, who have come round to the view that it is essential that some new form of inquiry, preferably something like a Select Committee, should be set up with power to investigate these matters. Anyone who has been a Member, or who has read the accounts, of the Public Accounts Committee, knows that—
§ Mr. Hudson
No. Anyone who has read the accounts of the Public Accounts Committee knows that hon. Members who are on that Committee act in an impartial and non-party manner, and are thus able to question witnesses more satisfactorily than either party can do across the Floor of the House.
As far as domestic consumers are concerned, this pamphlet to which I have referred reaches the conclusion that the domestic consumers' council are a useless body as far as getting any redress is concerned.
§ Mr. Hudson
I am sorry, I have very little time. The Fabian Society, which is not, obviously, a supporter of ours, says:It is hardly surprising that these reports"—that is, the Annual Reports—should be limp arid platitudinous documents, which do little more than apologise for the inability of the Council to do anything for the consumer in the present circumstances.That is a very formidable indictment—
§ Mr. Hudson
—and I suggest that there is a strong case for setting up some form of permanent inquiry of an impartial nature which should carry on in a similar way to the Public Accounts Committee.
I turn to the speech of the Minister. The first point he made was that it was only in September, and, more especially in December, that the Government realised how serious the situation was becoming and really started to take action. What I should like to ask him is whether that is really true, because our information is that representations were made in the summer about the inadequacy 1184 of the stocks of coal that were being built up, actually in the beginning of July. It was in the summer that the Minister of Food made a speech in Denmark about the importation of coal. A responsible Minister would not make a speech like that unless the question had been discussed, or unless he had heard it raised.
We have in addition the record of the F.B.I. that early in July they made representations to the Minister about the inadequacy of stocks of coal, and not until 11th September was a meeting held to discuss the matter. So, when the right hon. Gentleman made his statement in the autumn and said that he was going to get 16,500,000 tons stocks by the end of October, he must have realised that there was considerable doubt in the minds of his advisers as to whether that would be feasible or not.
The Minister went on to deal with the extra coal that had been got over the last few weeks as a result of the additional efforts made by the miners. It is clear that there has been—and everyone welcomes it—additional output of coal, but when he said that the increase of 60,000 tons a week was mainly due to Saturday working he was guilty at all events of failing to disclose to the House certain material facts. Anyone who reads the figures can see that the total increase due to Saturday working was on the average 150,000 tons a week and not 60,000 tons.
Therefore, if the total for the week only went up by an average of 60,000 tons, as is in fact the case, it is quite clear that during the other days of the week there must have been a reduction in output compared with the corresponding weeks of the previous year. It is true there was a great deal of influenza and that involuntary absenteeism figures went up as a consequence, but by the figures published by his own Department the right hon. Gentleman will see that voluntary absenteeism went up by more than 40 per cent., from 5.1 per cent. to 6.98 per cent., and his own officials would admit that some portion at least of the 150,000 tons due to working Saturday shifts was offset by a reduction caused by absenteeism on one of the other days.
Another point on which the right hon. Gentleman gave definitely a mistaken view to the public was on the question of domestic consumption of coal. He said 1185 that the British housewives had already had 1.6 million tons of coal more this year than last year and reminded the House that he had promised to provide one million tons more and had more than fulfilled his promise. I pass over the doubt I entertain whether there are a great number of housewives in the country who will believe they have had 1.6 million tons this year more than last, but in fact the right hon. Gentleman is not comparing like with like.
This undoubtedly is the explanation. He talked about having provided 1.6 million tons more to the housewives this calendar year, but the promise he made to the housewife was that he would provide one million tons more in the coal year running from April to April and asked the housewife to buy more coal this summer to stock up against requirements in the early part of next year. He has taken that amount of coal and applied it to this calendar year, whereas of course there are still four months of the coal year still to run.
§ Mr. Hudson
I wish first to finish my sentence. In addition there were, it is fair to point out, a large number of housewives who, when they applied for that extra coal this summer in order to stock up, were unable to get it.
§ Mr. Hudson
Yes, but the question is how much are they going to get during the remaining four months of the coal year? It is not very much good to say, because we cannot tell what the final result will be, whether the Minister's promise has been carried out or not, until 29th April. That is merely another example of the way in which the right hon. Gentleman quotes figures.
If the House doubts that, I will give another example, taken from the Minister's figures. The Minister talked about the future of opencast coal. He was at pains to say what will happen over the next year or two, when consumption increases still further, unless he can secure a large increase in deep mined coal. He said that he intended to help the situation by arranging over the next five years an output of 50 million tons of opencast coal. 1186 That is not an increase over present supplies, because over the last three years opencast coal supplies have been running at the rate of 12½ million tons a year. If they are to average only 10 million tons per year over the next five years, it will not do much towards closing the gap.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I said 50 million tons, or more if possible. The programme announced for from now until 1955 was 38 million tons, so that the figure I have now stated is an increase of 12 million tons, and we hope it will be more.
§ Mr. Hudson
I will leave the point to the House to decide, but no one can deny that 50 million tons is an average of 10 million tons per year compared with 12½ million tons per year over the last three years.
There is only one point I should like to ask on the question of opencast coal. The right hon. Gentleman did not say anything about the increased price or the increased compensation. It is clear that if there is a considerable margin today between the cost of opencast coal and its sale price, it is clear that if the price of coal generally is increased by 4s. 2d. per ton there will be a still bigger margin. That should go towards paying increased compensation to those whose land is affected.
I have left the most important part of the Minister's speech to the last. That is the announcement, which I am sure stunned the House, and which I am sure will stun the country when they realise it tomorrow, of the rise in the cost of coal of 4s. 2d. per ton. The right hon. Gentleman tried to comfort people by explaining how much other articles had risen in price in the last two years. All I can say is that the only reflection that occurred to me was how much the country is suffering from having this present Government. Since the National Coal Board took over the cost of coal has gone up by an average of about 9s. 2d, per ton so that an increase of 4s. 2d. is very nearly an increase of 50 per cent, over the rise which has taken place over the last four years.
The right hon. Gentleman—again I apologise for rubbing this point home—asked the House and the country to believe that this rise of 4s. 2d. a ton represented, if I heard him aright, one-fifth of a point in the index. One-fifth of a 1187 point! It is the worst turn in the spiral of inflation that has occurred over the last two years. What does it represent, 4s. 2d. a ton pithead price? It means an increase in the cost of coal to the railways. It means an increase in the cost of coal to industry. It means, to take an example, an increase of 10s. in the cost of steel. It is an increase in the cost of the raw material fuel for every single one of our industries. It is a spiral that goes steadily up.
The housewife will be hit twice over. She will have to pay 4s. 2d. a ton pithead price, plus whatever are the intermediate charges. In addition, there cannot be an increase of this order without putting up the cost of electricity and gas. Electricity went up last year although the cost of the fuel concerned went down. Now the cost of coal to the electricity industry is going up by 4s. Therefore the housewife will be hit, not only by the increase in the cost of coal for the grate, but by the increase in the cost of gas and electricity. Coal enters into the cost of every single item which she buys. It is the worst type of inflation, because it is inflation at the bottom with a steadily mounting effect as the spiral grows; and to announce this in the very week when the Chancellor of the Exchequer started his new savings scheme is the height of irony and shows how hopelessly bad is the liaison between the different Departments.
In the whole of this debate we heard no explanation from the Government side of the discrepancy between Government promises, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East, and Christchurch (Mr. Bracken), referred, and the miserable results which the Minister of Fuel and Power chronicled today The Government bears full responsibility. In debate after debate we on this side of the House put forward advice and criticism, both destructive and constructive. In debate after debate the whole of that has been rejected by the Government. The Government themselves created what one of their own newspapers which support them, not a Conservative paper, described as that organisational Frankenstein monster which is rapidly taking possession of its Parliamentary master. That is how it is described in a Left Wing paper. We suggested alterations in which be believe to try to make it work better. 1188 It is working badly. It has dissipated most of the good will which existed when the National Coal Board took over.
That is evidenced by the men concerned who are not happy, judging by the steady wastage. The technicians are not happy, judging by the resignations of men; not men like Sir Charles Reid or Sir Eric Young, but younger men in every branch. Does anybody think that a young man who spent all the early years of his life in a career, chucks up that career when he has family responsibilities, unless he has very sound reasons for desiring no longer to serve the National Coal Board? And do not forget that under private enterprise these technicians have a chance of going elsewhere and finding a job with another firm, but under nationalisation their only chance is to find an entirely new career. I do not believe there is anyone in the country, except the Government and perhaps the members of the National Coal Board themselves, who feel that the present set-up is the correct one. We believe it should be fundamentally altered. It has brought the country into its present position. The Socialist Government are entirely responsible and we should have no hesitation in voting for this Amendment.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power (Mr. Robens)
During this debate, most hon. Members who have spoken have asked, that when I replied generally to the debate, I should reply to the points which they had raised. Obviously that is impossible, but I hope to cover most of the points. Before I do that, I should like to say a few words about the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson). The right hon. Gentleman made a series of allegations towards the end of his speech, all of which I refute. I hope during my remarks to prove the case against them.
For example, he talked about the good will that there was on nationalisation. There was no good will when the industry was nationalised. In fact, it was very much the reverse. It is one of our problems today that, because of the lack of good will, we had so much difficulty in the mining industry. He referred to the railway cuts which would mean a saving of 10,000 tons of coal a week. He referred to that 10,000 tons a week as a 1189 derisory figure. In point of fact, 10,000 tons a week of railway coal, which is suitable for the domestic market, is equal to 1 cwt. of coal a week for 200,000 domestic consumers, and I do not regard that as a very small matter.
He said that we had saved 38,000 tons by cutting bunkers and, as a result, there was a great increase in bunker prices throughout the world. He referred to the fact that when the announcement about the importation of coal was made, shipping freights rose all over the world. It seems to me that that is a condemnation of private enterprise. It shows the way in which private enterprise is ready to exploit a situation at any time when it presents itself.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson
What I said, and what is the fact, is that foreign ship-owners introduced very much higher freight rates than the British rates which were kept down in accordance with an agreement with the Ministry of Transport.
§ Mr. Robens
I repeat that what the right hon. Gentleman said shows that private enterprise was exploiting this situation. I say that that is really a condemnation of private enterprise. The right hon. Gentleman finished with this time-honoured line that the price of coal had increased considerably since nationalisation. He said that the price had increased by 9s. 2d. a ton. At the same time he ought also to have told the House and the country that, since nationalisation, the National Coal Board had incurred expenses to the tune of £100 million on better wages and conditions for the miners, and that if in fact money had not been spent in that direction, the man-power position in the industry today would have been completely hopeless. That shows that if hon. Gentlemen opposite had been in power and dealing with this industry, apparently they would not have increased the price of coal; they would not have given greater benefits to the miners; and the point is that we should have had a fuel crisis years ago, and British productivity would not have reached the height at which it is now.
Other hon. Members will expect me to say something about their speeches, but before I do that, I think that the House, and especially those hon. Members who had the opportunity of listening to the 1190 hon. Member for Abertillery (Rev. L. Williams), will join with me in congratulating him upon a very good-humoured, delightful, well-delivered maiden speech. We shall look forward to listening to him on many future occasions.
The hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen), speaking on behalf of his party, asked a number of questions, and was concerned about the building up of stocks in the summer months. Why, he asked, were not stocks built up in the summer months? Quite clearly—and I have said something like this before in the House—the first demand upon coal production must be for industry and the public utilities providing the power for industry. The supply for the domestic market is already too low, and consequently we cannot expect to save any coal in that direction.
Therefore, the only way in which we could save more coal to build up stocks was to take it from the export market. What, in fact, happened? Exports were constantly under review throughout the summer and were reduced from time to time by the insistence of the Government, having regard to the vital need to keep exports as high as possible. How can it be said that the Government took no action in the summer, as some hon. Members have suggested, when the position is shown quite clearly in the Trade Accounts and in the Monthly Digest of Statistics?
From May to July, we reduced our average weekly cargo exports by between 15,000 tons and 20,000 tons below the average level of the preceding four months. During August and September, there was a still further decline, and in October and November exports were brought down by 70,000 tons a week below the July level to about 220,000 tons a week. Since then they have been further reduced to 100,000 tons per week.
§ Mr. Robens
I shall be dealing with that; I am not escaping anything, and I shall certainly come to it.
1191 Then the hon. Gentleman wanted to know something about absenteeism, and he had the impression that absenteeism at the face was about 30 per cent. I thought we had cleared that up fairly well, but the facts are that in 1949 absenteeism at the face was 14.94, of which 7.83 per cent. was involuntary. In 1950, the figure was 14.51 per cent., of which 7.71 per cent. was involuntary, which is a very slight reduction in the two years. It is true that in the last few weeks there has been an increase in both voluntary and involuntary absenteeism, very largely due to the influenza epidemic.
I think I should interpose at this stage to say that a man may be classed as voluntarily absent when, for one reason or another, it was impossible for him to get to the pit. Therefore, when we look at the involuntary figures we are, in fact, seeing a number which is very largely made up of absences which are backed by medical certificates. Very many men, not feeling particularly well, will stay off a day and rest, and then go back to work again without bothering about a medical certificate, and very often they may be classed as voluntary absentees when, in point of fact, their absence was involuntary. Therefore, I think that there is no case for laying a great deal of blame on the face worker because his absenteeism is higher than the average absenteeism over-all.
The hon. Gentleman was anxious to know why mechanisation had not had a bigger effect on production; but, of course, mechanisation has had a big effect on production. It is interesting to look at the figures. In the eight years from 1928 to 1936 there was an increase of 32 per cent. in pit mechanisation, and it gave a 15 per cent. increase in output per manshift. In the three years 1946 to 1949 there was a 6 per cent. increase in mechanisation and a 9 per cent. increase in output per manshift. That clearly shows that there was harder work clone by the face workers or that there was better management, or both.
The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) was interested in the cost of American coal freights and one or two other matters. Quite clearly, it would be quite contrary to public interest—[Interruption.] Would it not? Is there any businessman in this 1192 House who, when engaged in commercial negotiations, would tell the world the prices he was paying when he had to buy? I say quite clearly that it is contrary to the public interest, whilst commercial negotiations are still proceeding, to give these figures, but I will say that when the operation of importing coal has been completed, information as to the prices paid and the cost in both sterling and dollars will be made available. In regard to freights, obviously anyone who would care to take the trouble to look through the daily freight register would be able to see from the charges that the majority of the ships have been chartered, as that shows, at round about 65s.
§ Mr. Bracken
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman one moment? He must really recognise that the prices he has referred to have been published in the American newspapers. People know the cost of the freights. They know the cost, and the Minister ought to tell the House.
§ Mr. Robens
I am not prepared to accept from the right hon. Gentleman that merely because American newspapers have printed some figures I should accept those and announce them to the House.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves this rather important issue, would he be good enough to explain how the disparity between American and British prices, as to which there is no dispute, is to be dealt with from the point of view of the consumer? Is the surplus to be passed on to the particular consumers who have the American coal, or is it to be borne by the Coal Board or the taxpayers?
§ Mr. Robens
No, Sir, it will be averaged, and averaged over all. It will not apply to the particular consumers of the American coal coming in.
§ Mr. Robens
Yes. The hon. Member for Woodside (Mr. Bennett) was concerned with the question of unemployed miners in Lanarkshire. I am under the impression that my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Pryde) dealt with that matter, and 1193 indicated the exhaustion of pits, and the fact that joint consultation takes place on all closures today, as distinct from what happened in the days when pits were closed down and men thrown out of work without any consideration at all.
Another hon. Member referred to fuel efficiency and fuel policy. I shall say something about that tonight, but tomorrow there is a Motion on that matter, and perhaps it would be better if I dealt at greater length on it when we come to deal with that Motion.
I agree that I have not been able to deal with all the matters that have been raised, but as I have at least picked out a good number, and the main points, let me turn now to the real business of the House tonight, and that is the Amendment. What does it do? It… deplores the contrast between Ministerial promises of adequate supplies … and present shortages. …That is the issue before the House. In point of fact, I am unable to recall any occasion, nor has any evidence of it been produced today, when a Minister has in fact stated that adequate supplies of coal would come over-night, or indeed within a few years. If I had time I should like to refer hon. Gentlemen opposite to speeches made on the Second Reading of the Bill by the then Minister of Fuel and Power, who made it perfectly clear. He said:But these purposes cannot be achieved unless on the basis of a long-term plan. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January, 1946; Vol. 418, c. 702.]No evidence has been produced that any Minister has said that this job of producing adequate supplies for the country would be anything but a long job.
After all, what does "adequate" mean? Surely it means "fully sufficient," and on that interpretation a simple arithmetical calculation shows quite clearly that adequate supplies, in the sense of fully sufficient supplies, cannot be obtained for several years yet. The domestic market is receiving at the moment about 30 million tons, while the pre-war domestic consumption was about 45 million tons. Even allowing for the greater use of gas and electricity for cooking and heating and the greater efficiency of fuel appliances now going into thousands of houses, at a most conservative estimate of the full domestic fuel 1194 requirements it will take several million more tons than the present supply to satisfy the need. The demands of industry, of power stations and gas works still go on rising, from 96 million tons in 1948 to 104 million tons in 1950, an increase of 8 million tons in two years, and these requirements are rising rapidly.
Demands from importing countries are nowhere near satisfied. Allowing for these increases for maintaining our exports at the 1949 level, and for replenishing our stocks, it would be true to say that we should require next year a total coal production approaching 235 million tons before we could say we were having an adequate supply. But we have to remember also that in our present coal production we are including something like 12 million tons a year of opencast. We have had in the past eight years up to the end of 1950, an opencast output of about 78 million tons. At the current level the opencast output is about six per cent. of the deep-mined output.
Inevitably, the time will come when opencast will have to be made up by deep-mined production, and I am certain there is nobody in this House who will be so bold as to say that a six per cent. increase on the present production of deep-mined coal can be accomplished in 1951. Indeed, we shall do well if we manage that by the end of 1952. So before we could say we had a really adequate supply of deep-mined coal we should have to eliminate opencast and have to produce next year nearly 235 million tons from the mines alone. This figure of nearly 235 million tons compares with last year's output of deep-mined coal of 204 million tons. Knowing that, it is just absurd to suggest that any Labour Ministers promised to produce adequate supplies like a conjuror producing a rabbit out of a hat. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I thought that would appeal to some hon. Members opposite. That is why I put it in.
The amount represented by adequate supplies rises year by year and indeed it must in conditions of full employment and ever-increasing productivity in general industry. In fact, we are using more coal internally in this country than ever before in our history. In 1938, with unemployment standing at 1,870,000 people despite the armament drive which was then proceeding—
§ Mr. Robens
Despite that fact, 224 million tons represented adequate supplies, and that included 46 million tons for export and bunkers. But in 1950, when we used 219 million tons, only five million tons less than the amount of 1938—just a little over one week's production—with only 17 million tons of coal for export as compared with 46 million tons, we were many million tons short of producing adequate quantities. Of course, the fact is that the policy which the Government have steadily pursued since 1945, and which has ensured full employment and a much improved standard of living for the mass of people of this country, has been so eminently successful that the total coal produced in 1938, when hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power, while adequate for that year, would have been totally inadequate for 1951.
I do not want to be too controversial. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I only mention these things to show the complete fallaciousness of the Amendment which hon. Gentlemen opposite have moved. I say that it will take several years before the country, under conditions of full employment, will be able to produce in the mines a full sufficiency of coal for all our needs. It seems to me, therefore, that this House and the country are entitled to know whether, indeed, under a Labour administration, we are making slow or quick progress. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly; the country;s entitled to know whether, under a Labour administration, we are making slow or quick progress towards the objective of fully-sufficient coal.
Let us examine it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Let us see what one of the most eminent mining engineers in the country had to say about future production possibilities. In 1945, the Reid Report was published, and Sir Charles Reid said that the task of reconstructing the industry was bound to take many years to complete. As recently as 1949, when Sir Charles Reid gave the Cadman Memorial Lecture on the Reconstruction of the British Mining Industry, he said that it should be possible to get an output per manshift at the face of 3.7 tons by 1965. He then said that the task of 1196 reconstructing the British mining industry was an immense one which would take years to near achievement. Again, he said that it would be wrong to suggest that the industry could quicken the pace of reconstruction and rationalisation to reach a figure of higher productivity at an earlier date; indeed, it might be said that the suggested output per manshift of 30 cwt. over-all, in 1965, was optimistic.
How have we progressed in the direction foreshadowed by Sir Charles Reid? In 1945, the output per manshift at the face was 2.7 tons. Year by year, this has steadily risen to 3.11 tons in 1950. So in five years we have gone more than one-third of the way towards the goal which Sir Charles Reid, with his great knowledge of the industry, regarded as a 20-year journey. I say that the industry can be justly proud of that achievement. Increased mechanisation and rapidly improving relations in the industry will, I hope, speed up that progress still more. Even so, it is clear that some years lie ahead before deep-mining production is such that all restriction of supplies can come to an end.
What have we to do? I think that the battle of coal—[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide."]—I thought we were discussing a serious matter. Members opposite have had much to say in the debate, and they have been asking what the Government are doing. I am now telling them; so why not listen? The battle of coal is a two-pronged affair. On one side, we shall do all we can to increase production, and on the other side we must do a good deal more about fuel efficiency. The Ministry have done an enormous amount of work in connection with fuel efficiency. I have a number of interesting specific cases, but time does not permit me to give them to the House.
By and large, as a result of the mobile units we have had on the roads during the last 12 months, experience has shown that with a really scientific approach something like a fuel saving of 22 per cent. can be obtained. I hope that industrialists generally will take up this campaign for fuel efficiency on which one hon. Member opposite has had a good many useful things to say during the debate. We can, in this and other ways, conserve our most precious raw material. But the great drive for production goes on, and it must go on. My right hon. Friend has 1197 indicated the various ways in which this is being done. Therefore, I do not propose to reiterate what he has said.
When we have had all our conferences at every level, and when we have said all that we have to say about coal in this House and elsewhere, it still remains, and it always will remain, a truism that coal is won at the point of the pick. Whether that pick is attached to a pickshaft or to a machine, there must be a man behind it. Without him, all the verbiage and all the mechanisation in the world will not produce an ounce of coal. Like all human
§ beings, I suppose, the miner has his faults, but his loyalty, courage and steadfastness have never been in doubt. In these last years he has got a square deal for the first time in his life. I back the miner. I pin my faith on him, and I hope that the House will do the same by its vote tonight.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 300; Noes, 289.1201
|Division No. 21.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)||Hobson, C. R.|
|Adams, Richard||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Holman, P.|
|Albu, A. H.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Houghton, Douglas|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Hoy, J.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Deer, G.||Hubbard, T.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Delargy, H. J.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, N.)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Diamond, J.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Dodds, N. N.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Donnelly, D.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Baird, J.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Balfour, A.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. J. (W. Bromwich)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Dye, S.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)|
|Bartley, P.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Edelman, M.||Janner, B.|
|Benn, Hon. A. N. Wedgwood||Edwards, John (Brighouse)||Jay, D. P. T.|
|Benson, G.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||Jeger, G. (Goole)|
|Beswick, F.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Jeger, Dr S. W (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Jenkins, R. H.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Johnson, James (Rugby)|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Ewart, R.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Fernyhough, E.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)|
|Boardman, H.||Field, Capt. W. J.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Booth, A.||Finch, H. J.||Jones, William Elwyn (Conway)|
|Bottomley, A. G||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Keenan, W.|
|Bowden, H. W.||Follick, M||Kenyon, C.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Foot, M. M.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Forman, J. C.||King, H. M.|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Kinghorn, Sqn. Ldr. E.|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Freeman, J. (Watford)||Kinley, J.|
|Brooks, T. J (Normanton)||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Kirkwood, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N||Lee, F. (Newton)|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Gibson, C. W.||Lever, N. H. (Cheetham)|
|Burke, W. A||Gilzean, A.||Lewis, A. W. J. (West Ham, N.)|
|Burton, Miss E.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Lewis, J. (Bolton, W.)|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Gooch, E G||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Callaghan, James||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Rossendale)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Carmichael, James||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wakefield)||Logan, D. G.|
|Castle, Mrs B. A||Grenfell, D. R.||Longden, F. (Small Heath)|
|Champion, A. J.||Grey, C. F.||McAllister, G.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||MacColl, J. E.|
|Clunie, J.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||McGhee, H. G.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Griffiths, W. D. (Exchange)||McGovern, J.|
|Coldrick, W.||Gunter, R. J.||McInnes, J.|
|Collick, P.||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)||Mack, J. D.|
|Collindridge, F.||Hale, J. (Rochdale)||McKay, J. (Wallsend)|
|Cook, T. F.||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Mackay, R. W. G. (Reading, N.)|
|Cooper, A. E. (Ilford, S.)||Hall, J. (Gateshead, W.)||McLeavy, F.|
|Cooper, G. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Hall, Rt. Hn. W. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Cooper, J. (Deptford)||Hamilton, W. W.||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Corbet, Mrs. F. K (Peckham)||Hannan, W.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Cove, W. G.||Hardman, D. R.||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hardy, E. A.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Crawley, A.||Hargreaves, A.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Crosland, C. A. R||Harrison, J.||Mann, Mrs. J.|
|Crossman, R. H. S||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Manuel, A. C.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hayman, F. H.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Daines, P.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Mathers, Rt. Hon. George|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Herbison, Miss M.||Mellish, R. J|
|Darling, G. (Hillsboro')||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Messer, F|
|Middleton, Mrs. L.||Reeves, J.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Mikardo, Ian||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Timmons, J.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Reid, W. (Camlachie)||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Moeran, E. W.||Rhodes, H.||Tomney, F.|
|Monslow, W.||Richards, R.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Moody, A. S.||Robens, A.||Ungoed-Thomas, A. L|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Robsrts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Morley, R.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Viant, S. P.|
|Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S)||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Mort, O. L.||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Weitzman, D.|
|Moyle, A.||Royle, C.||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Mulley, F. W||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Murray, J. D.||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||West, D. G.|
|Natty, W.||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John (Edinb'gh, E)|
|Neal, H.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||White, Mrs. E. (E. Flint)|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|O'Brien, T.||Simmons, C. J.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Oldfield, W. H||Slater, J.||Wigg, George|
|Oliver, G. H||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Orbach, M.||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||Wilkes, L.|
|Padley, W. E.||Snow, J. W.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Paget, R. T.||Sorensen, R. W.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Dearne V'lly)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir F.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Steels, T.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Pannell, T. C.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Pargiter, G. A||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Williams, Ronald (W'gan)|
|Parker, J.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Paton, J.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Vauxhall)||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Pearson, A.||Stross, Dr. B.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Huyton)|
|Peart, T. F||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith||Winterbottom, I. (Nottingham, C.)|
|Pools, Cecil||Sylvester, G. O.||Winterbottom, R. E. (Brightside)|
|Porter, G.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Price, M. Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A|
|Proctor, W. T.||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Pryde, D. J.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Yates, V. F.|
|Pursey, Commander H||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Rankin, J.||Thomas, I. R. (Rhondda, W.)|
|Rees, Mrs. D.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Sparks.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Channon, H.||Foster, J. G|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Fraser, Hon. H. C. P. (Stone)|
|Amery, J. (Preston, N.)||Clarke, Col. R. S. (East Grinstead)||Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Clarke, Brig. T. H (Portsmouth, W.)||Fyfe, Rt. Hon Sir D. P. M|
|Arbuthnot, John||Clyde, J. L.||Gage, C. H.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Colegate, A.||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollck)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)|
|Astor, Hon. M.||Cooper, A. E. (Ilford, S.)||Gammans, L. D|
|Baker, P.||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh)|
|Baldock J. M.||Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Gates, Maj. E. E|
|Baldwin, A. E||Craddock, G. B. (Spelthorne)||Glyn, Sir R.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Cranborne, Viscount||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A|
|Baxter, A. B.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Gridley, Sir A.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Cross, Rt. Hon. Sir R.||Grimston, Hon. J. (St. Albans)|
|Bell, R. M.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)|
|Bennett, Sir P. (Edgbaston)||Crouch, R. F.||Harden, J. R. E.|
|Bennett, R. F. B. (Gosport)||Crowder, F. P. (Ruislip—Northwood)||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)|
|Bennett, W. G. (Woodside)||Crowder, Capt. John F E (Finchley)||Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)|
|Bevins, J. R. (Liverpool, Toxteth)||Cundiff, F. W.||Harris, R. R. (Heston)|
|Birch, Nigel||Cuthbert, W. N.||Harvey, Air Codre. A. V. (Macclesfield)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Darling, Sir W. Y. (Edinburgh, S.)||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)|
|Black, C. W.||Davidson, Viscountess||Hay, John|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Davies, Nigel (Epping)||Head, Brig. A. H.|
|Boothby, R.||de Chair, S.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.|
|Bossom, A. C||De la Bère, R.||Heald, L. F.|
|Bower, N.||Deedes, W. F.||Heath, E. R.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A||Digby, S. Wingfield||Henderson, John (Cathcart)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Donner, P. W||Higgs, J. M. C.|
|Braine, B.||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord M||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr J.G||Drayson, G. B||Hill, Dr. C. (Luton)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W||Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Brooke, H. (Hampstead)||Duncan, Capt. J. A L||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Browne, J. N. (Govan)||Dunglass, Lord||Hollis, M. C|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T||Duthie, W. S||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Eccles, D. M.||Hope, Lord J.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E||Eden, Rt. Hon. A||Hopkinson, H. L. D'A.|
|Burden, Squadron Leader F. A||Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon Walter||Hornsby-Smith, Miss P.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Erroll, F. J.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Fisher, Nigel||Howard, G. R. (St. Ives)|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Carson, Hon. E.||Fort, R||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lswisham, N.)|
|Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Maude, A. E. U. (Ealing, S.)||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Maude, J. C. (Exeter)||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.||Maudling, R.||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Hurd, A. R.||Medlicott, Brigadier F.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Mellor, Sir J||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Molson, A. H. E.||Spens, Sir P. (Kensington, S.)|
|Hyde, H. M.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. R (N. Fylde)|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B.||Morrison, Maj. J. G (Salisbury)||Stevens, G. P.|
|Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Jennings, R.||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Johnson, Howard S. (Kemptown)||Nabarro, G.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Nicholls, H.||Storey, S.|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W||Nicholson, G.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Kaberry, D.||Nield, B. (Chester)||Studholme, H. G|
|Keeling, E. H.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Summers, G. S.|
|Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)||Nugent, G. R. H.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Nutting, Anthony||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Oakshott H. D.||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Odey, G. W.||Teeling, William|
|Langford-Holt, J.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||Teevan, L. T.|
|Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Thompson, K. P. (Walton)|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Thompson, R. H. M. (Croydon, W.)|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare)||Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)|
|Lindsay, Martin||Osborne, C.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N|
|Linstead, H. N.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F.|
|Llewellyn, D.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Tilney, John|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)||Pickthorn, K.||Touche, G. C.|
|Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Powell, J. Enoch||Turner, H. F. L|
|Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Prescott, Stanley||Turton, R. H.|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Price, H. V (Lewisham, W.)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Longden, G. J. M. (Herts. S.W.)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Low, A. R. W.||Profumo, J. D.||Vaughan-Morgan, J K.|
|Lucas, Major Sir J. (Portsmouth, S.)||Raikes, H. V||Vosper, D. F.|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Rayner, Brigadier R||Wakefield, E. B. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Redmayne, M.||Wakefield, Sir W. W. (St. Marylebone)|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Remnant, Hon. P.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|McAdden, S. J.||Renton, D. L. M.||Ward, Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|McCallum, Maj. D.||Roberts, P. G. (Heeley)||Ward, Miss I (Tynemourh)|
|McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Robertson, Sir D. (Caithness)||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C|
|Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)||Robinson, J. Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Watkinson, H.|
|McKibbin, A.||Robson-Brown, W. (Esher)||Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie|
|McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Rodgers, J. (Sevenoaks)||Webbe, Sir H. (London)|
|Maclay, Hon. J. S.||Roper, Sir H.||Wheatley, Major M. J. (Poole)|
|Maclean, F. H. R.||Ropner, Col. L.||White, J. Baker (Canterbury)|
|MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.)||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Russell, R. S.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon. E.)|
|Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Wills, G.|
|Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Scott, Donald||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Shepherd, W. S. (Cheadle)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Marlowe, A. A. H.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Marples, A. E.||Smith, E. Martin (Grantham)||York, C.|
|Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Smithers, Sir W. (Orpington)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Drewe and Brigadier Mackeson.|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ It being after Ten o'Clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Committee Tomorrow.