§ 3.42 p.m.
§ The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the Annual Report and Statement of Accounts of the National Coal Board for 1954.Everyone in this House will agree that a large increase in the price of coal is a very serious matter which has to be weighed carefully, which has widespread effects, and which is bound to be extremely unpopular. Whenever a coal price increase is discussed, some people think that it is too large a burden for the consumer to carry and others, on the other hand, think that it is too small to serve the vital needs of coal economy.
I believe that all reasonable people would agree that it would be wrong for the National Coal Board to go on selling coal at below the cost of production. The recent increase was aimed at covering the full cost, but no more than the full cost, of supplying coal. I consider that the Board was justified in proposing it and the Government right in agreeing to it. It is very natural that various suggestions should be made for escaping the inevitable unpopularity of a price increase of this kind, but the unpleasant fact is that the costs of the Coal Board have increased and are increasing, and someone must pay to meet those costs. The Government view is that it would be wrong to ask the taxpayers to pay, which would be the case if the Exchequer were to pay the loss on imports. There really is no one but the coal consumer to meet the cost of supplying the coal.
Some people have asked, "But why should all the consumers pay? Why should not those who want more coal be forced to import and pay the higher price of imported coal?" It so happens that that is the system in Germany at present. There, also, coal production is lagging seriously behind the rising tide of consumption and large imports' are necessary, even though at the same time the Germans are exporting a considerable amount of coal. Each importer there pays £2 a ton more for imported coal than for domestic coal.
I should like to quote what I think is a very interesting comment on the situa- 384 tion in Germany made by the "Financial Times":The result has been that an unofficial rationing system has become necessary to ensure fair distribution of the cheaper home produced coal. Rationing or a 'grey market' at premium rates are the natural consequence of a two-price system, and Germany suffers from them both.I do not think that a system of that kind would suit this country.
It is appropriate that now, after dealing with the price increase, I should say a word about fuel efficiency. The right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker), who is to follow me in this debate, is an enthusiastic evangelist for fuel efficiency. He used to broadcast a great deal about it. Without any disrespect to him—I am sure he will accept this—if he had broadcast every day over the last five years he would not have achieved one tithe of the advancement of fuel economy that is achieved by this large increase in the price of coal.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
I did not hesitate to propose an increase in the price of coal, and I have not forgotten what the Tory Party said when I did so.
§ Mr. Lloyd
Perhaps the right hon. Member is not in disagreement with me when I sum up by saying that the largest increase in the price of coal since nationalisation is the most powerful stroke for coal economy since the war.
The Government recognise that, and therefore, to take advantage of it, there will be a fresh drive for fuel efficiency which will be organised in connection with the National Production Advisory Council for Industry and with the regional boards for industry. I am glad to tell the House that the new National Industrial Fuel Efficiency Service has had a most successful first year. Heat and power surveys have increased eightfold during the year. First-aid services have been given to 5,500 firms, one in six of the industrial consumers of more than 100 tons a year. Each month that service is contacting 200 to 250 fresh firms and it is estimated that as a result of this work 1 million tons of coal will be saved this year.
Why has this service been so successful in the first year, after being set up as 385 a result of my initiative? I think the secret is that it has been able to increase its staff, which was never possible when the service was run directly by the Government. We were repeatedly told that the reason this fine work could not be extended was the great difficulty of getting technicians. The service, in its new independent form, has already increased its number of technicians by 20 per cent. and as a result of expansion it is to increase them by a further 25 per cent. It has advertised and already got twenty times the number of applicants it requires.
That shows that the Government were right to set up this Service on an independent industrial basis. In tune with this work, we have decided to improve the Fuel Efficiency Loan Scheme and, therefore, will abolish the limit on the cost of each individual scheme. That will considerably help, for example, conversions from coal to oil and also the large back pressure turbine schemes.
I turn to exports. As the House knows, we have long nourished the desire to reestablish this country in its traditional role as an exporter of coal. For obvious reasons we have thought it right to reach decisions in good time each year about the export target for the following year. We have kept that target at about 13 million tons a year, although we knew that that meant we might have to import varying quantities to meet our marginal needs.
This time last summer, when we had to consider the export target for 1955, production from the mines was rising and the Board and the National Union of Mineworkers had agreed a target increase of 5 million tons for 1954, which might well have been reached during the winter. Therefore, at that time, it was a wholly reasonable decision that exports in 1955 should be more or less maintained at the 1954 figure. Ever since that time, however, coal production has been falling and, combined with the exceptionally cold winter and the continued upsurge in industrial production, that has made our need for imports far larger than could have been foreseen.
Export commitments had, meanwhile, inevitably been made, so we cannot reduce coal exports this year by more than about 2 million tons. But for 1956, we have reluctantly concluded that there must be a sharp reduction in exports— 386 and this will mean a corresponding fall in our need for imports. Of course, existing commitments and the requirements of our own commercial interests limit the extent of this reduction, but it would clearly be quite wrong to continue exports at the present rate.
§ Mr. Lloyd
In the first instance, it is necessary for the Coal Board, from the commercial point of view, to consult its customers. Therefore, I cannot give a more precise indication. I have, however, indicated quite clearly that there will he a sharp reduction in exports next year.
I turn now to the Coal Board Report for 1954 and the main theme of my speech this afternoon. If hon. Members study Chapters 2 and 3, they will find that the real increase in output from the deep mines last year was about 500,000 tons—that is, after allowing for absenteeism and holidays—and that it is estimated that the increase in industrial consumption resulting from the rising activity of industry amounted to about 3 million tons.
That is the central problem in the coal industry and of our fuel position, upon which all the other problems depend. It is clear that the coal industry alone at present cannot do the job and that it needs help, for two purposes: first, to meet the rapidly rising consumption of our prosperous industries in this age of full employment, and second, to give the coal industry itself a breathing space.
That may be a new thought to some hon. Members, but I would point out that since war broke out, after twenty years of bad trade, the coal industry has been under intense and constant strain and that since the day when, against the protest of the Father of the House, the right hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), who was then Secretary for Mines, the miners were taken into the Armed Forces, the industry has had to bear that strain—
§ Mr. Lloyd
—with a perpetual shortage of manpower.
On top of that strain, the industry is struggling to renew itself. Tunnelling is 387 going on all the time for the new mines of the future. Twenty-one thousand men are now on development work and these include some of the most skilled men in the industry I am taking a conservative figure. I left out the men on special work because I think that for the true development work for the future, my figure of 21,000–I have looked into it very carefully—is the right one. If those men were available for current production, this would mean an increase of 10 million tons a year in the production of coal.
When that job is done, 80 per cent. of our coal will be coming from new mines or mines so much reconstructed that they will be virtually new. For the present, however, the strain of the two jobs together is very great and some relief from this deadly continuous strain would be of enormous help to the industry itself. Only a year or two ago it seemed impossible to provide this kind of help to the coal industry and to the national fuel position, but, as I hope to show this afternoon, the position has now been transformed.
My own wartime experience taught me the immense flexibility and the enormous productive power of the oil industry and I have long been convinced that only oil could bring quick help on a really massive scale to the coal industry and our fuel position. Unfortunately, nothing much could be done along these lines until the Abadan settlement. The companies had done a magnificent job in making up for the lost oil, but there was not very much to spare. The Persian settlement, however, transformed the situation. Then, if anything, the danger would be too much rather than too little crude oil. But there remained the important question of the relative cost of coal and oil.
Then came two events. First—it is necessary to be quite realistic about this—there was the increase in the price of coal in May, 1954, and second, there was the readiness of one large oil company to go out after this new business by quoting specially low rates for large quantities of oil delivered by water. This meant that my broaching of the subject with the Central Electricity Authority assumed a new economic justification. In fact, the junction was made and for the first time in this country oil became competitive with coal for steam raising on a 388 large scale. The contract was signed and oil will begin to be used towards the end of this year. The quantity will rise sharply in 1957, and by 1960 the equivalent of over 4 million tons of coal will be used.
A second contract with another oil company has been signed today for the use of a further 3 million tons of oil. This means that in 1960 the Central Electricity Authority will be using oil to the equivalent of about 9 million tons of coal a year.
I have also discussed this matter with the gas industry, which will use new processes to make towns' gas entirely from oil. It is also making interesting arrangements with one of the oil refineries to take oil and petroleum gases direct from the refinery, which, incidentally, will greatly help the balancing of the refinery throughput. More than a million tons of coal will be saved by the gas industry by this use of oil.
This is really only the beginning, because there has this year been a sharp rise in the use of oil for heating and for steam raising in general industry. In fact, the increase for steam raising in April was as much as 51 per cent. over the year before. Many big firms are considering switching to oil. Of the new boilers ordered by industry this year, 90 per cent. are either for dual firing or for oil and only 10 per cent. are for the use of coal only. I emphasise that all this took place before the last price increase that we are discussing today. That price increase is equivalent to a reduction of £1 a ton in the price of oil, and this is bound to have a powerful effect.
I have, therefore, consulted the oil companies again and I have been assured by them that, in addition to the normal increase of 3 million tons, they can supply a further 6 million tons of oil in the next five years. This—the normal and the special increase together—is the equivalent of a further 15 million tons of coal. Thus, by 1960 we can see our way to using oil on a scale equivalent to an extra 25 million tons of coal a year. This is a really substantial figure and it takes care of a good deal more than the normal industrial increase of consumption of coal. There are still further possibilities, because low-flash fuel oil and even crude oil is being successfully used, and the supply of these is virtually unlimited.
389 As from 1960, the atomic energy programme, about which I told the House in February, will begin to make its contribution on top of the rising curve of oil consumption. I can briefly report good progress on the siting of the first atomic power stations. For maximum economy, they will be far from the coal fields and near to the great centres of consumption. Of the first two, one will serve the London area and probably will be on one of the Essex rivers, the other will serve the Birmingham and Bristol areas and probably will be on the Severn.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
The right hon. Gentleman can do so much more about the use of oil if he would only ask the Minister of Health to find capital to enable hospitals to convert to oil burning. It is not being found and they cannot do it.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I am in touch with my right hon. Friend. Very considerable progress is being made.
The atomic energy programme is flexible and is not limited by finance, but it is limited by the number of scientists, engineers, and designers with the necessary skill in this special sphere. They are numbered in hundreds rather than in thousands. At present, our progress depends essentially upon the mental output of these men. We must not overload them or we shall have the story of the coal industry over again. But if the work proceeds faster than now seems likely, we shall certainly expand the atomic energy programme.
These fuel allies are marching to the rescue of the country and the coal industry with a two-fold result. The first is that the spectre of the "coal gap" is removed both in the short term and the long. Second, at long last we have the prospect of giving the coal industry some relief to drive ahead with its own tremendous reconstruction plans. If the coal industry is to gain the maximum benefit from this opportunity, it needs to be administratively reorganised. This is a most important subject, but a most difficult and most delicate one. This is an old industry with strong traditions. It is one that suffered more perhaps from bad trade than any other industry in the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "And bad management."] It has had bitter industrial disputes and has been the storm centre 390 of some of the greatest political controversies of our time.
This I do know. The motives of those who attempt the task of reorganising the coal industry must be above suspicion. They must be known to act in a full and sincere desire to help the industry. It is essential to carry the industry with one. It is certain that any hint of political tampering would be fatal. That was why, in the last Parliament, I stood out against the desire of some of my hon. Friends for a Government committee of inquiry, and that is why I thought it best to proceed by an entirely industrial and completely non-political inquiry instituted by the Coal Board itself.
The danger of that course was that it might be thought to be a mere whitewashing inquiry, but the names of the members who were chosen for the work were a guarantee against that, and the report of the inquiry turned out to be one of the most brilliant, searching and constructive reports ever written on a British industry. We should be extremely grateful to Dr. Alexander Fleck, Sir William Lawther and their colleagues for their really remarkable work.
It is the reverse of a white-washing report, but it is a balanced document and I should like to quote a passage from it:The industry's age and history and the immense changes inherent in national ownership and single management, have created difficulties unparalleled in any other industry of which we have knowledge. The public is only now beginning to grasp the facts about the industry, and much of the criticism of the Board and their organisation has been ill-informed.Yet the members of the inquiry proceed to make a most trenchant diagnosis.
They note a lack of team work in past boards. They say the industry at large continues to lack true cost consciousness. They say that there are not enough able men in the industry and in general, that the management system is out-of-date. I think that the message of the report is best summed up in one sentence:The colliery manager has been taught how to mine, but not how to manage.One very important point is that every criticism, however frank, is accompanied by a constructive proposal to put matters right. Broadly, they stress the need for a wide managerial renaissance in the industry and they recommended, as a prerequisite for setting these reforms in 391 motion, the immediate reorganisation of the Coal Board itself.
We did this at once and the new Board, after a month's intensive work, decided to accept all the remaining major recommendations of the report. So now we have a new Board in charge and one which is pushing ahead with a thorough reorganisation of the whole management arrangements of the industry. There is indeed a new note of hope, realism and decision.
It is in that context that I should like to say a few words about manpower. The Board and the Government are conducting a publicity campaign for the recruitment of men to the mines, and we are also helping with housing, but I suggest that we must approach this question in a more fundamental and realistic way. In an era of full employment it will always be difficult for the coal industry to get enough men. The industry must make fresh efforts to do what other industries are doing, that is, to economise men by still more mechanisation.
I have, therefore, brought to the attention of the Board what I might call the reserve of manpower that is still in the industry. Hon. Members who represent mining constituencies know it well and perhaps they will pardon me for mentioning it. Coal cutting is at present 85 per cent. mechanised. The transport of coal through the pit is about 90 per cent. mechanised, but there is a gap in between. It is a big gap, because only about 9 per cent. of the coal is power-loaded. The rest, that is about 90 per cent. of the coal produced, is still loaded by hand. There are still 80,000 workers shovelling the coal in the old-fashioned way.
The difficulties are great but much can be done, particularly with some of the power machines that have become available in the last few years. I am glad to say that the Board is launching a full-scale power-loading drive and hopes by this means to save 5,000 men a year, that is, up to 25,000 men in five years time. I am convinced, however, that we ought to do more. When I was reorganising the Board, I paid special attention, which, incidentally, had been suggested by the Fleck Committee, to encouraging team work among members 392 of the Board. Above all, I paid attention to this as between the production member and the scientific member, dealing with production on the one hand and research and development on the other. Anybody who has had any experience of these matters knows that, if one is to obtain real progress in development, one must have the closest possible co-operation between the practical user on the one hand and the scientists and development engineers on the other.
I am sure that the Board has got to make tremendous efforts to develop improved machines and mining techniques and, if I may say it in the presence of the Members representing mining constituencies, the ordinary coal cutter and conventional shot-firing are by no means ideal methods in the second half of the twentieth century. For example, the dust production is considerable, and we know how dangerous that is. I refuse to believe that that is the best our scientists and engineers can do for us, and, therefore, I think that the machines must be developed and the Board must make a great effort to help to harmonise the interests of production and the workers, and reduce the number of heavy, physical jobs in the industry. In any case, quite apart from the merits, in an age of full employment the industry will not keep its men unless its operations are in tune with the kind of technical progress that is being made in other industries.
To sum up, we cannot do without a coal industry transformed and reinvigorated to match the needs of modern Britain. This transformation will take time, but if it is to be achieved with reasonable speed the industry must be relieved of some of the more extreme pressure for immediate output. This makes the closing of the gap between our fuel requirements and supplies a serious problem. Indeed, there lies before us a fuel battle for some years to come which will be hard to win. But the Government's fuel policy, I dare to say, gives us grounds for confidence.
We have reorganised the Coal Board. We have launched an atomic energy programme with promise of incalculable value. We have good reason to expect that by 1960 the oil industry will be 393 saving us an extra 25 million tons of coal a year, that is, at least 250 million tons in the ten years during which the atomic energy programme will get into its stride. This is the Government's strategy both for enabling coal to renew its strength as a great industry and for the bridging of the fuel gap. I commend it to the House.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add:and expresses its appreciation of the efforts of the miners which have resulted in producing more coal with fewer and older miners; is concerned for the economic future of the country consequent upon the declining manpower in the coal mining industry; condemns the Government for its failure to pursue a vigorous and successful fuel efficiency policy; and believes that the financial loss on coal imports should not be placed upon the National Coal Board.In his first speech as Minister, in 1951, the right hon. Gentleman told the House that the Government accepted nationalisation and would try to make it a success. In reply, I said that we would not play politics with coal if the Government and their supporters would do the same. I believe that, according to his lights and with most inadequate Government support, the Minister has endeavoured to fulfil his pledge, and I thank him for what he said this afternoon about political interference. I cannot say the same for some of his hon. Friends, and for some of his supporters in the Press, and I start this afternoon by warning them in the plainest terms that they are playing a very dangerous game.
In spite of all that the Minister has said about oil, the nation is face to face with serious difficulties over coal. We foresaw them four years ago, and we have given the Government constant warnings ever since—warnings which they have treated with contempt. Hon. Members opposite and people outside, with all the history and all the experience and all the expert advice against them, try to tell the nation that these difficulties are due to the failure of nationalisation, that the remedy is to sack the Coal Board, to decentralise the pits and to put highly paid business magnates from private enterprise in charge.
Language like this has already created bitter feeling among the men who get the coal. They have not forgotten that for six long years, from 1945 to 1951, the 394 Tory Party, Front Bench and back bench alike, did everything in their power to discredit nationalisation and to stir up the public against the Coal Board and its men. They thought that talk of dirty coal and miners' absenteeism would help them to win Elections. They must not be surprised if the miners react with keen resentment at what they say today, for in those six years they built up a fund of deep mistrust among the miners which it will take years to wipe away.
The miners know what is the most important single cause of the difficulties we have had in the last few years and which we face today—the long decay of the coal industry under private enterprise; the fall in output from 289 million tons in 1913 to 174 million tons in 1945 and the fall in manpower from 1¼ million to 700,000. The miners know what that meant to them, year long unemployment, starvation wages, searching desperately for other jobs that were not there, with their wives and children hungry and ill-clad all the time [Interruption.] I wonder whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) has ever visited the Rhondda or the Durham coal fields.
The miners know what that long decline meant to the nation. They had only to read the Reid Report, even if hon. Members opposite have not. They know that great private fortunes were taken from the mines, but that as pits were exhausted and closed very little new coal capacity was created to take their place. Apart from a few progressive firms everything about the industry was wrong—most pits and companies uneconomic units; too few mining engineers and their skill very inadequately used; the whole industry starved of capital; mechanisation and haulage far behind the Continent; and bitter strife and suspicion—the right hon. Gentleman has said so this afternoon—between management and men.
That was the damning indictment of the Reid Report of 1945, and it was with an industry in this derelict condition that the Coal Board had to start. It had, on the basis of the Reid Report's new national plan, to build up current output to meet the rising post-war demand of full employment-that was something new—and, at the same time, to reconstruct the industry, to replan and re-equip 395 the mines, and make good the damage done by thirty years of neglect.
It was a task, as Sir Charles Reid often warned the nation, that could not be hurried. Workings underground cannot be hurried. The Report for 1954 shows what a tremendous task the Coal Board has performed. It shows beyond dispute that the policy of public ownership and control has saved the nation from disaster in these post-war years.
Let the House consider what the Board has done. Every year 4 million tons of pit capacity is exhausted. If it is not replaced by new investment and new capacity, output falls by 4 million tons a year, or 40 million tons since 1945. All that, the Coal Board has made good. In addition, it has increased annual output from 174 million tons in 1945 to 214 million tons in 1954, another 40 million tons.
The output per man shift at the face is the highest ever. It has increased from 2.70 in 1945 to 3.265 tons today—a greater increase than any in Europe; an increase that has taken us, by what is almost a miracle, in the first ten years more than half-way to the target of 3.70 tons which Sir Charles Reid set for 1965.
All that has been done with 75,000 fewer miners than in 1938 and with 40,000 men on development—or on what the Minister calls specialised duties—40,000 men who are not producing coal. Leave out what the Board has done for welfare, a living wage and safety in the mines; the result in coal produced is by itself a massive and remarkable achievement, which alone has rendered possible our economic recovery from the war.
What are the charges that are brought against the Board? "The vast investment of new capital has brought no adequate return in coal." Even the "Daily Telegraph" rejects that argument. The critics forget the vast investment needed to prevent output going down. Like Alice through the Looking Glass, we have to run very fast to keep in the same place. Of £635 million of capital investment proposed in the national plan of the Coal Board in 1950, £350 million was to keep output where it was. To date, the total investment of the Board is only £273 million and £100 million of that is on projects which so far have given no return in coal.
396 That argument falls. What about absenteeism? An Irish Nationalist once said that Ireland was divided from England by St. George's Channel, the Act of Union and the perorations of the Tory Party. Certainly, Tory perorations about absenteeism have not helped. The miners' leaders conduct a constant campaign to improve attendance in the pits. The Tory jibes do great harm. Let us see the facts in their true perspective. What is voluntary absenteeism today? Under 5 per cent.—one day a month for every miner throughout the year. Who can point a finger of scorn at a miner for leaving the pits one day a month? [An HON. MEMBER: "Not Members of Parliament."] How many company directors do as well?
There is the ancient gag, with which the Minister dealt, that the Board is cluttered up with too many officials. The Fleck Committee Report, prepared not by a Socialist but by the Chairman of I.C.I., blew that argument sky high. The Report called it "ill-informed" and said that the proportion of non-industrial employees in the Board was only 5 per cent., compared with 15 per cent. in general industry; and it said, in terms:We believe that the efficient management of the industry requires a higher ratio.What about the sovereign remedy of the party opposite—decentralisation of the pits? Again, the Fleck Committee Report blows that sky high. It argues in detail that the general structure of the coal industry is sound, but that more central control, not less, more central direction of policy from Hobart House, not less, is urgently required. I hope that we shall hear no more about decentralisation today, and again I warn hon. Gentlemen opposite that it only serves to arouse the suspicions of the miners, and to remind them of their bitter struggles against district agreements in times gone by.
But for nationalisation the difficulties we face today would have been incomparably worse. But they are grave enough, and the Minister is extremely lucky that they are not graver still. In the two years during which I held his office, home consumption of coal rose by 12½ million tons. Faced with the prospect that, with full employment, that increase would go on, I told the House that to avoid a desperate situation arising 397 by 1955 we must do two things: first, we must have a national drive to get a bigger manpower for the pits and, second, we must have a national plan, with large investment, for saving the coal we waste today.
When the Minister took over, for two years the consumption did not increase at all, but fell below the level of 1951. Only last year did he have an increase of 5 million tons. But, alas, the Government did not use the respite for building up the manpower, and for carrying through a national plan for saving coal.
I welcome what the Minister has said about relief for the mining industry. I welcome what he has said about oil and I hope that his expectations will be fulfilled, although I think it will make a serious difference to our balance of payments situation, if we are bringing in oil instead of producing coal ourselves. I welcome what he has said about power loaders. However, I do not think it will go as fast as all that. I made desperate efforts with Sampson strippers and other things. Five thousand men saved a year is very optimistic. I wish him luck. Whatever happens, the pits still need many more men today. They could put between 10,000 and 15,000 men on to getting coal tomorrow, and that might mean 5 million tons extra production within a year. I believe that the managers, if they were told to firmly, could take another 10,000 or 15,000 men and could put them on to development, to opening extra face room for the years to come.
There are always experts—I wondered this afternoon whether the Minister was among them—who say that with full employment we cannot get workers down the mines. They told me that in 1950, when manpower had fallen to 690,000. They said that there was nothing we could do, that it would go on falling until, by 1954, it would be 620,000. What would have happened to the nation if the Government and the Coal Board had accepted that defeatist and ridiculous advice? We did not accept it. We brought in a host of measures. We dealt with wages, supplementary pensions, houses, benefits for widows. We called in the help of the Service Departments and of almost every other Government Department, too. As a result, we stopped the fall, and in 5 months we 398 added 17,000 men. And the expansion went on, after some minor fluctuations, until, by the end of 1952, the total passed 720,000 men.
Since then there has been another fall. Manpower is down by 17,000 from that figure and we are still losing 400 or 500 men a week. With all respect, the Government have taken no adequate action to help the Coal Board to arrest the fall or to get and keep more men. There are many things that they could do apart, from the new wages structure. They could help the Coal Board much more over houses. There is still nothing so attractive to a man who wants to marry, or to a miner who thinks of transferring from one coal field to another where there are more openings and jobs. They could stop cutting down local authority housing where there are miners without homes, as I believe there are in Cannock Chase.
The Government could improve the supplementary pensions to keep them up with those of the railway and electricity workers, who have now far better schemes. What about sick pay? What about a bonus for a miner who transfers to a coal field where he is wanted? Last October, I told the Minister that the French were paying a bonus of £200 to a married man to move to the Lorraine coal fields. Suppose we did the same. It might be a magnificent investment for the nation. There are scores of ways in which the Government could help the Coal Board to increase its manpower. I repeat: an increase of 25,000 or 30,000 men in the industry is the most urgent single step towards restoration of the nation's economic health.
Next to manpower is the need to stop the wicked waste of coal. There is no country in the world which wastes coal as we do. Every expert is agreed that great savings could be made. Mr. Oliver Lyle, no Socialist, says that 80 million tons could be saved. The Anglo-American productivity team on fuel conservation said that 30 million tons could be saved. The Ridley Committee said that, of the 60 million tons used by industry, 12 million tons, or 20 per cent., could be saved.
Many people, including the Government, think that this is fancy theorising, which bears no real relation to the problem that we face today. Yet in some 399 sectors of the economy great results are being obtained. Last October, the Minister paid tribute to what the nationalised industries have done. How right he was. The Central Electricity Authority, in 1954, saved 4½ million tons by the increase in the thermal efficiency of its power stations since vesting day. The gas boards saved 2 million tons. The Coal Board saved 2 million tons compared with 1947, almost 20 per cent. The railways saved I million tons compared with 1950. How is that for efficiency? Where would the Minister have been but for this saving of 9½ million tons by the nationalised industries, at which the Tory Party gibes?
Also last October, the Minister told us that the picture in general industry was very different. Again, how right he was. He said that there were too many nineteenth century boilers, too much wasteful stoking, inadequate insulation and lagging, supervision and control. What have the Government done about it? They have done two things. For factory discipline and education, they have set up the National Industrial Fuel Efficiency Service, known as N.I.F.E.S. To do so they have wiped out the Ministry's own service, against the advice of the Ridley Committee unanimously given in 1952. If the Minister had kept the Ministry's service, he could have expanded it far beyond what N.I.F.E.S. has reached today.
Reading the first Report of N.I.F.E.S., I am bound to confess that my main impression is of three wasted years. Still, in 1955, there are thousands of untrained stokers firing Lancashire boilers, each of whom wastes every week as much coal as a miner in the pit can dig. Let hon. Members reflect on the tragic folly of that fact, and they will then not deny that the scale of what the Government have attempted to do in N.I.F.E.S. is utterly inadequate to the need.
So is the Government's second measure of loans to industrial firms, free of interest for two years, to enable them to instal new fuel-saving plant and equipment. Year by year, in coal debates, on the Finance Bill, and at Question Time, we have urged upon the Government the vital importance of fuel-saving appliances in our factories. What results have the 400 Government obtained from their miserable little scheme? After three years the Minister has approved 139 loans, 100 of them in the last twelve months. There are 32,000 industrial establishments in the country which use more than 100 tons of coal a year, and the vast majority need new fuel-saving equipment.
On this Loans plan, at the rate of 100 firms a year, the Government will get round the job in about 300 years from now. The loans so far amount to £815,000. That is a magnificent investment to save 12 million tons of coal a year! The Government are investing £350 million in atomic energy to save the equivalent of 5 million tons of coal. That is a beginning, of course, and we hope for more. However, that is the present target. If the Government invested one-tenth of that amount in fuel efficiency, they would get a far greater result than that.
Let me give one last example of the Government's attitude. The Beaver Committee told us that air pollution costs the nation £300 million a year, and that £50 million, almost as much as the Minister is spending on coal imports, represents fuel which is wastefully burnt and goes up uselessly in smoke. The Smoke Abatement Society, by common consent, has done a splendid job in cutting down that waste. Yet, when I asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government to give the Society a subsidy of £3,000 to expand its work, he turned it down—not even £3,000 to reduce a waste of £300 million a year.
In the last four years there has been no national plan for saving coal and, I submit, no effective action of any kind. It is the Government's double failure over manpower for the pits to increase coal production, and over fuel efficiency to reduce consumption, that has made the present situation and the present prospects so much graver than in 1951. For four years the Government have neglected the two vital measures by which real relief could certainly have been obtained. They have made things worse by other follies. Why in heaven's name did they hold the Coal Board back on opencast production, by delaying permission to work sites where coal was proved? Are they still afraid of their back benchers? The case for opencast is absolutely overwhelming. It needs only a quarter of the manpower 401 per ton, it makes a profit of 7s. a ton, and restoration of the agricultural land has given admirable results. Here is a profitable method which the Government should have exploited to the full.
How can the Government justify what they did about exports. The Minister made a kind of defence today, but it was very thin indeed. I know all the arguments for exports, and they were far stronger in 1950 and 1951 than they are today. Yet when we had to import 1 million tons, we cut exports and bunkers from 19.4 million to 11.7 million, and used the coal at home. Last year, when they imported 3 million tons, the Governed kept exports and bunkers at 16.3 million, leaving the Coal Board to carry the loss of £5 million. This year they have left exports and bunkers at 14½ million tons, although they are importing 12 million tons and imposing a loss on the Board variously computed to be between £18 million and £27 million. I do not say that the Government should have wiped out exports altogether, but they should certainly have cut them by 6 million or 7 million tons, so reducing by more than half the loss of foreign exchange and the burden which the mining industry is asked to bear. I do not know why that burden should not have been still further reduced by allowing large importers like the C.E.A. to make their own purchases, as the "Economist" this week suggests.
At best, over exports, the Government have been guilty of a grave lack of foresight, and we challenge with all our power their decision that the mining industry should carry the resulting burden. We import a lot of wheat, but we give the British farmer a subsidy of £10 a ton. Why should British miners have to bear the loss on imports? Of course, that reduces the miners' hopes of further improvements in their conditions. It makes it harder for the Coal Board to meet their claims.
The Government have greatly aggravated the difficulties of the Board, and the national loss, by their policy on exports; and they have done so even more by their policy on price. If the price of coal is too low, as the Minister said, people waste it; the Coal Board cannot afford the wages and conditions which will bring into the industry the men it needs; it demoralises the industry and, above all, 402 the managers, if pits are working at a loss.
Hon. Members have often heard me say this, both in the Committee rooms upstairs and in this Chamber; it is the greatest danger of nationalisation that, under Parliamentary pressure, the price of goods and services will be kept too low. I remember what I had to face—I have recalled it already this afternoon—from the Tory Party, when I proposed an increase of 4s. 2d. a ton on coal. I think now that that increase, made in 1951, was overdue. But our Government were trying to make effective a policy of wage and dividend restraint. We did not hold back the increase in order to win a General Election.
I want to ask the Government some candid questions to which I hope the Lord Privy Seal will not fail to reply. Last week, at Question Time, the Minister told us that he first discussed prices with the Coal Board in February. Did the Board then ask for an increase of price? Did the Cabinet refuse it and procrastinate and delay? Did they wait—
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I will put all my questions and then see what the Government say.
Did the Government wait until the Election was safely over before they agreed to what "The Times" this morning says was obviously required? Did the Cabinet thereby deprive the Coal Board of 10s. a ton on six months' production, that is, on a 100 million tons? Did they thus increase the difficulties of the Coal Board, and the burden on the miners by £50 million? Did the Cabinet do so, not in the interests of the nation, but in the interests of the Tory Party? If so, were not the Cabinet playing politics with nationalisation in an unscrupulous and shameful way?
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that had these coal price increases been announced shortly before the Election, or during the Election, the political effect would have been to heap further odium on nationalisation?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The nation is quite intelligent enough to understand that the 403 Coal Board ought to sell its coal at a price that covers the cost of production.
I have not finished with prices. The F.B.I. has protested against the belated increase which the Government have made. The F.B.I. says that it is staggered. We are staggered by Sir Norman Kipping's claim that the Coal Board should go on selling to private industry at prices below the cost of production. Even now, our private industrialists have a great advantage over their competitors abroad. Their coal is still the cheapest in Europe at 5 per cent. to 15 per cent. below even the German prices, and far below what the Coal Board could sell it for elsewhere.
If they wanted to, most of these industrialists need not spend a penny more on coal, this year or next year, than they spent last year. Air Marshal Holling-hurst, the head of N.I.F.E.S., said last week, in reply to Sir Norman, that his fuel experts had hardly visited a single factory or plant where 15 per cent. to 20 per cent. of the coal consumed could not easily be saved. We are far from happy, even now, about the prices of industrial coal. Three years ago, half the Ridley Commission recommended that an increase of £1 a ton should then be made. We are not at all happy about the working of the wartime gentleman's agreement under which the Government have the last word on prices. The Government are scrapping controls—what about setting the Coal Board free?
I make now what I hope is a constructive suggestion; that there should now be a full and impartial inquiry into the whole pricing system of our nationalised coal, and, in particular, into the part played by the Government. In the light of recent events, and the suspicions which have been aroused, it is very much in the interests of the Government that such an inquiry should now be made.
The Government are facing a coal shortage which was foreseen by everyone four years ago. If they continue as they have done, in spite of the provision of oil and other things, that shortage may get worse. In the two great measures which could have helped, and which we have unceasingly urged upon them—manpower for the pits and a national plan for saving coal—the Government have, 404 for four years, singularly and dangerously failed. They have made things worse for themselves, for the Coal Board, the miners and the nation by what they have done about opencast mining, about exports and about the price of coal.
They seek now to impose upon the Coal Board, and in the last analysis on the hopes of the miners for a better life, the heavy loss which has resulted from their imports. Their supporters seek to excuse the failure of the Government by saying that nationalisation has failed. They demand that the structure of the Coal Board shall be changed. I warn them again that by so doing they are arousing, or they risk arousing among the miners the fears and the bitter passions of long ago. Their ill-informed and disingenuous propaganda has become a potent factor in disheartening the industry at every level, and thereby checking the increased output of coal which the nation needs.
I say to hon. Members, and to people outside this House, let them stop it. In the Coal Board, in the pits, and at every level in the industry there are men, of all parties and of none, who, for eight years, have worked as they have never worked before to recreate a decaying industry and render possible Britain's recovery from the war. The Government must quickly remedy their manifold mistakes. But they must do something more. I beg the Lord Privy Seal, with his authority, to do what the Minister, with some courage, did this afternoon—to say openly to the Tory Party that the days for partisan sniping at the Coal Board have gone, and that it is time for Tory Members and Tory journalists to show themselves to be as good and as patriotic Britons as the miners always have been and are still today.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Farey-Jones (Watford)
It is with unusual trepidation that I rise to address the House for the first time, because most of my working life has been spent in dealing with air matters, or, as some of my more candid and rude friends would say, "with my head in the clouds." It is because, during the last two or three years, I have had to do a personal survey of the fuel, coal and oil facilities available in the Commonwealth and Western Europe that I do not hesitate to take part 405 in this debate. I believe that there is not only a national but an international danger in this debate continuing to take place in an atmosphere of bitterness.
In making my first speech I cannot be controversial, but because of the speech which which has just been made by the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) I decided to make my first speech in the House today, though I should much have preferred to make it upon a quite different subject.
No Member of previous Parliaments in the House—either upon the Opposition or the Government benches—can escape responsibility for the present position of the coal industry. The coal mines have been nationalised, and no one desires to put the clock back, but as the very existence of our commercial future depends upon what we do now, it is of the utmost importance for us to realise that no criticism of the Government or Ministries by the Opposition can wipe out the fact that the Coal Board has been created, and that in creating it we have brought into existence the biggest monopoly in the British Empire.
We have created a monopoly which is impersonal in its effect upon the mind, the heart and the work of the miner. I am very familiar (with the miner—his home, his thoughts, his mind and his life—particularly the Welsh and the Yorkshire miner. I do not imagine that there is very much difference in the Scottish miner, except that, after hearing some of the speeches of Scottish Members, I imagine that he would be a little more obstreperous and difficult if he were so minded.
One vital fact which has so far been left out of the picture is that the rising price of coal and its shortage will affect every hearth and every home; the life, health and happiness of everybody, in every cottage and croft in Scotland and every prefab around London. It is therefore the solemn duty of all hon. Members to approach this problem from a completely non-party standpoint. We have to make this organisation work, and we cannot do so if, for reasons best known to certain people outside this House, bitterness and hatred are kept alive for purposes inimical to the industry.
On page 74, the Fleck Report recommends: 406That the functional Heads at each level of the organisation should be of better calibre and higher status than their functional counterparts at the next level below. This seniority should be openly acknowledged and reflected in remuneration. The senior man's views in his own field should normally be accepted at the next level below him.The very fact that that recommendation was made by a Committee appointed within the Coal Board—and made by men of international reputation—shows exactly what has been happening, and the need of a speech such as I am trying to make.
I have made a careful study of the Coal Board during the last year, and the first thing that sftruck me was that it is doing far too much that it should not do. Its activities should certainly be telescoped and confined to the production of coal and the humanisation of the industry. I am quite sure that certain right hon. Gentlemen opposite would agree with me that a miner is much happier when he can "have it out" on the spot with somebody in authority who knows what he is about than with the completely impersonal organisation which exists today. I am sure that no one will deny the truth of that.
I now come to the very important point that the gas and electricity industries must unquestionably be given greater freedom. The monopoly of the Coal Board must be diminished. I want to make clear a very important cleavage of opinion which I have with the right hon. Member for Derby, South. I believe the policy of opencast coal mining to be one of absolute failure and despair. When we are losing so much of our beloved islands through more building, more roads and more development of every kind, I wonder that this House does not rise up in anger and do something about the desecration of what little is left, when we have within the British Commonwealth sources of coal and fuel beyond the imagination of mankind. I want to pay a tribute to a great statesman whose policy of Empire economic unity, viewed against the background of history, will have the plaudits of generations to come. I refer to Lord Beaverbrook.
As I told the House at the beginning of these few remarks of mine, during the last few years I have studied fuel resources in the Commonwealth and Empire. I would ask hon. and right hon. 407 Members to consider how great they are; and then to remember the debt we owe to the Scandinavian countries, and to reflect that we are now stopping coal exports to those countries. Do hon. Members not think that we shall pay for that in all kinds of ways? Do they think that that is a one-edged weapon?
The real answer to the problem of the coal industry is pyschological, spiritual; and to find that answer and to apply the remedy is desperately important to us and our families—to the families of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, I would remind them. Not only that, it is of importance to the future of this country.
I have a personal reason amongst other reasons for my interest in the Commonwealth beyond this country, those lands whose fuel resources, as I said, I have been studying, for the lady I had the happiness and privilege to marry was born in South Africa. I could not then but be inspired, as doubtless we all were, when in Africa, in 1947, our gracious Queen, then a young and very beautiful girl, dedicated her life and her unbounded talents to the service of all her peoples everywhere.
We can learn a lesson from that dedication. In the mining industry, in the whole of our industrial life, what only can save the situation—nothing else will—is the same kind of personal dedication. Every time I pass under the Churchill Arch to come into this Chamber I remember the desperate days at the beginning of the war, the retreat from Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain. There are many of us in this House who know very well that then and afterwards there was in our mines, in our factories, in our shipyards, more production in one hour than there is in six hours in these days.
The reason for that was that in those days everyone felt that there was something so wonderful about this island which we were struggling to defend that it called for the best in each and every one of us and the best that each and every one of us could give to the common cause. That spirit is the answer to our problems now, whatever happens anywhere.
There are one or two matters of detail to which I would draw my right hon. Friend's attention. I believe that one ought to tell the House if one has a 408 personal interest in a commodity being debated. I am, in an advisory capacity, interested in a commodity called in the United States of America "Densite" or pet-coke, by means of which they are able to conquer the problem of smog and air pollution in the industrial cities and towns of the United States. I hope that that commodity will be utilised to save the health of the people of this country, and to save also a large amount of money. I should like also to see far greater use made by the coal and coke companies of this country of liquid methane, vast quantities of which are used now in Canada to cheapen the price of coke.
I thank the House for its indulgence. A debate like this is listened to or read of by the miners all over the country, and not only by them but by every housewife, every householder, everyone who, thinking of the coming winter, is wondering whether he or she will have enough of the coal he or she is entitled to. In the last resort—I repeat—the solution to the problems of this industry depends on one thing, whether the enmities and hatreds of the past, the bitterness felt in the valleys, can now be allayed and replaced by, and forgotten in, a common, united effort by all concerned.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. George Sylvester (Pontefract)
It is my privilege to make my speech after a maiden speech. and I should like on behalf of the House to congratulate the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones) on the way in which he delivered his maiden speech. To make one's first speech in this House is an ordeal, as everyone who has done it knows. The hon. Gentleman delivered his speech in a very honest and sincere manner. We on this side of the House will be delighted to hear him speak on another occasion, when, of course, he will be subject to analytical correction by hon. Members on this side of the House. The hon. Gentleman said that he knew the Yorkshire miners. I suppose he got to know them in the 1950 General Election, when he contested the constituency next to my own.
The Minister, in his speech, said that he would provide a survey of what happened in the inter-war years. He blamed it on trade at that time. I believe that the Minister was a Member of the House before the war. To that remark of the 409 Minister I reply that all Members of the House on the Government side who were Members of the House at that time must take some responsibility for the shortage of the manpower in the pits today. In 1925 there were 1,172,000 men in the pits. In 1938 that number had been reduced to 728,000.
Why that reduction during those years? For the simple reason that men had been forced out of the industry by unemployment, victimisation, and so on. Young men who, in the 'twenties and the 'thirties, were getting married were saying that their sons would never go down the pits. As a result, we find ourselves today with only a few more than 700,000 men in the pits.
Great play is being made by some speakers and some sections of the Press with the allegation that the miners are not pulling their weight. I do not say that responsible Ministers are saying that, but certain sections of the Tory Party are saying it, and wherever it is said I should like it to be contradicted. The country has a right to know what the miners are doing about this very vexed question of the shortage of fuel. There is a fuel shortage. It is called a fuel crisis, but in the inter-war years there were crises in every miner's home in the country, economic crises which the Conservative Party of that day lifted tot a finger to resolve.
However we measure it, we find that the men in the industry are producing more than they have ever done. In 1946 the output per man-shift overall was 1.03 tons; in 1954, according to the Report of the National Coal Board, it was 1.23 tons, and at the face, 3.26 tons. In other debates on coal hon. Gentlemen opposite have asked what the production has been per man-year. In 1946, the year before nationalisation, the output per man-year was 260 tons. In 1954, according to the Report of the Coal Board, it was 303 tons.
Therefore, we have had a gradual increase in output, whether we reckon it by output per man shift or output per man year, with less men in the mines. It is also true that a few years ago the miners, after years of agitation, got a five-day week, and, immediately they got it, they surrendered it because the country was in a difficult position. As the result of this voluntary surrender of some- 410 thing for which they had fought for years, the miners last year added to production between 10 million tons and 12 million tons of coal by working voluntary shifts on a Saturday.
Furthermore, the output in the British mines was higher last year than in any previous year. In fact, it was the highest output of any country in Europe. Out of 709,000 men, the Minister said that some 20,000 were engaged in development and reconstruction work. When we examine the Report, we find that there are more than 40,000 men on development and reconstruction work which ought to have been carried on over a period of years, but which was left until the Coal Board took over. Coal became short and, therefore, men had to be taken away from the coal face to do this development and reconstruction work. As I have said before, certain people and certain sections of the Press are constantly criticising the miners and suggesting that the fuel shortage and the increase price of coal are the fault of the miners, but in my opinion the miners are doing a good job.
This country admittedly wants more coal. It also wants more men to get the coal, but surely it is not the sole responsibility of one section of the public to provide the men. Surely it is not the responsibility of the people who live in the mining communities to provide all the young recruits. What about some of the people who are so voluble in their criticism? They take jolly good care that their sons do not go down the pits.
We in the mining areas and in the N.U.M. take no responsibility for the situation which has been created through the decadence of the industry in the years of private enterprise. We take no responsibility at all for that. The Board has been placed in the position that, in ten years, it is trying to repair the loss of forty years' development. Since nationalisation more borings have been made in one year than private enterprise made in the previous twenty years.
Great play has been made with the balance sheets of the Coal Board. We in the mining world are not prepared to accept depressed balance sheets. We say that the industry itself has made a working balance of £20 million, £1½ million has been paid in taxation, and £5 million to make up for the loss on 411 imported coal. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) mentioned the question of imported coal. A sum of £17½ million has also been paid to the old coal owners. Personally I have always felt that we paid them too much, but that was in the Act. They exploited us for generations, and now they are not doing too badly out of it.
There is an old saying that "Those who make the most noise have the least room," and British business men and industrialists have taken far more advantage of a free economy than have the miners. Dividends and holdings have been increased by the policy of this Government, and yet the miners, although in a strong position, have been very moderate in their demands and have not attempted to hold the country up to ransom. Therefore, this nation owes a debt of gratitude to the men in the pits.
Another matter to which the Minister rightly referred was that of home consumption. Home consumption was running at the rate of 218 million tons last year, nearly one-and-a-quarter times the rate of production in the pits in 1945. I feel that because production cannot provide 12 million tons for export and meet the increased requirements at home, we shall have to continue importing coal. Certain hon. Members opposite, in conjunction with industrialists, who, incidentally, may be getting coal well below the economic price of production, are saying that nationalisation has failed, and are calling for a new policy in the industry. In my opinion, raw coal can never supply the need for power which this modern age demands and, therefore, it will be necessary to import a certain amount of coal.
I feel that the Coal Board should be the body to import the coal. They should be the Government agent, but not financially responsible for any losses, because it is not the Coal Board which wants the coal. It imports coal under Government direction for certain industrial concerns and, therefore, it is wrong that the industry should be called upon to bear the loss on imported coal. Any loss that may occur should be a Treasury charge. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South mentioned that we were following that course in the 412 case of wheat, and paying £10 a ton to the British farmer.
Another point in the Report is the fact that the total cost of producing coal during 1954 was £3 1s. 11d. per ton and the average selling price was £3 3s. 6d. per ton. I think that it is fair to say that the domestic consumer pays about £6 per ton or over for coal. [An HON. MEMBER: "More than that."] At any rate, he pays between £6 and £8 per ton. That leads me to the conclusion that there is something radically wrong with the system of distribution of coal. It the selling price is £3 3s. 6d. per ton and the domestic consumer has to pay between £6 and £8 per ton, then, if the distribution system is O.K. industrialists must be getting it at less than cost price. There are only two conclusions which one can draw.
Another matter referred to in the Report which does not get Press headlines, and which no one mentions because it is not the concern of anyone outside the industry, is the accident rate in the industry. As one who was in the industry for many years, I feel very strongly about this.
The fatality rate dropped in 1954. It was one of the lowest on record. Fortunately, there were no major disasters, yet 364 men were killed; that is, one for every day in 1954. In that year, 1,825 men were injured severely, and the other reportable accidents as a result of which men were off work for three days or more were 219,000, making a total of 221,000. That does not take into account the hundreds of men who died, while off work, from various dust diseases such as pneumoconiosis and silicosis.
Not many weeks previously, the National Union of Mineworkers and the National Coal Board were negotiating a wage structure for the day-wage men. A national newspaper had the cheek and audacity to refer to the miners as "now the aristocrats of industry." When I read those startling accident figures I wondered how many aristocrats had died like those men in the coal fields.
The N.U.M. is very perturbed indeed about the old compensation cases, the men whom we have described as the "forgotten" men in the industry. They are the men who were unfortunate enough to meet with their accidents before July, 1948. They have had no increase from 413 this Government. This is a matter on which the Minister could get into touch with the Minister of National Insurance if he wants more men in the industry. I have no doubt that if my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) is fortunate enough to be called to speak he will develop this point, because he is an expert on the matter.
I appreciate that a lot has been done since nationalisation to improve the miners' position and to make mining attractive to new entrants, but the N.C.B. will have to take care that the relationship which exists at the top exists also at pit level. Unless that is done we shall always have unofficial stoppages. We decry unofficial stoppages, but we must instill at pit level both among management and men—mainly management—that they must show the same relationship at pit level as the National Coal Board shows to the National Executive of the N.U.M.
My last suggestion to hon. Gentlemen on the Government benches is that they must in no way, shape or form interfere with the present structure of the industry, either by decentralisation or by any other method which will put district against district. Those of us who were in the pits in the inter-war years know quite well what that means. We know full well that it will be resisted by the men in the pits, and strongly resisted by the N.U.M. by every means in its power. It will not only result in chaotic conditions in the industry but will bring economic disaster to the country.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones (Birmingham, Hall Green)
The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Sylvester) opened his speech by dealing with the problem of production and went on to deal with the problem of price. I agree with him that that is the true order of importance of the matters that we are discussing. I should like to follow him in that precedent.
One of the main questions we have to answer today is: why is production static? I suppose one may distinguish between causes which are attributable to authority and those which are not so attributable. All the speakers in the debate so far, both the opening speakers and the hon. Member for Pontefract, have laid emphasis on a cause which is nobody's fault and is, so to speak, an act 414 of God: shortage of manpower. I do not think that any hon. Member will deny that, in prospect certainly, the problem of shortage of manpower is most serious.
Whether it is quite as serious at present as both the opening speakers and the hon. Member for Pontefract made it out to be I am not quite so certain. At any rate, I derive the impression from page 12 of the Annual Report of the Board that the shortage of manpower is limited to certain divisions, and to certain areas within those divisions, namely, the West Midlands and the North-Eastern.
Besides, there are certain facts which are most interesting, and which are not explained merely on the ground of shortage of manpower. For instance, it has been customary to expect a spurt in coal output on the eve of Christmas. Last year, in contrast with tradition, there was no such spurt. That is not to be explained on the ground of shortage of manpower.
We are far too prone to seek material facts in trying to explain what is happening, when the real explanation sometimes lies in the human mind. We are living in a time of prosperity. There is a reverse side to the coin of prosperity: a blunting of effort. I would add that that blunting of effort is universal to all industries but is particularly marked in industries which are heavily dependent on manpower, such as the coal industry. I do not blame anybody; but it is something which we ought to note.
There is a more fundamental cause of stagnant output. I attribute it to the fact that in the past there has been inadequate investment. That prompts me to ask a further question: why has investment been inadequate? The answer, I suggest, lies in the diagnosis of the Fleck Committee—the fact that the leadership given to the coal industry by the Coal Board has been hesitant and faltering. There has been too much preoccupation on the part of the Board with the problems of the present, with mitigating and masking each crisis as it arose, and there has been too irresolute a pursuit of the longterm goal of output in the future.
§ Mr. Bernard Taylor (Mansfield)
Would the hon. Member not agree that during the past ten years there has been a shortage of technicians and engineers in the mining industry which has meant a slower tempo?
§ Mr. Jones
Yes, I would agree; but I would revert to what I said earlier. Whereas material facts explain some of these things, the larger explanation is to be sought in the human mind.
I believe, and I repeat, that there has been far too much preoccupation with covering up immediate crises and far too irresolute a pursuit of the long-term goal of output in the future. I do not know whether there has now been a change, but I shall in a moment give figures which lead me to believe that at present investment in the coal industry is still inadequate. There are the facts. What are we to do about them? What are the remedies for stagnant output?
There has been talk this afternoon of exports. There was a word which the Minister used which filled my mind with doubt. It was the word "reluctantly." He said, "We acquiesce reluctantly in restriction of exports." In the years past we have gone on exporting in the expectation that some day output would suffice to cover both exports and home requirements. The expectation has been falsified. I do not think that it is merely that output has lagged behind expectation. It is more than that. Once again we are in the realm of the human mind.
In the coal industry there is a strong exporting tradition, and, in my judgment, the industry has been the prisoner of that tradition and has adjusted itself too slowly to the new reality which has been emerging. That is why we have the present bill for coal imports. The Coal Board, I believe, has now adjusted itself to the reality, but the Minister's words lead me to question whether Government Departments have yet adjusted themselves. The Government Departments, also, are in the grip of the exporting tradition. They have been accustomed to attaining certain objectives of commercial policy and foreign relations by coal exports. The time has come to seek those objectives by other means.
Then there is opencast working. To some extent I find myself in sympathy with the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker). I am not an advocate of any change in the long-term policy for opencast working, but I cannot help being struck by the fact that production by opencast methods has fallen in the last two years—two years of crisis in 416 output. Not only has production fallen, but the number of applications granted for opencast working has sharply contracted. My right hon. Friend gave some most interesting figures the other day in reply to a Question from the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey).
These figures showed that until about two years ago—up to 1954—all applications for opencast working were granted practically in full. In 1954, the applications made represented 15 million tons. The applications granted represented 8 million tons—50 per cent. In the first six months of 1955 applications made represented 27 million tons; applications granted represented only 4 million tons. I repeat, I am not disposed to question the long-term policy in this connection, but I think it proper to ask: is it right so rapidly to contract development by opencast working at the very moment when coal is throwing its heaviest strain on the balance of payments? I hope that by the end of the debate we shall have had some explanation of Government's policy on this point.
These, however, are relatively short-term remedies. The only long-term remedy is, again, further investment. My right hon. Friend this afternoon used words which I interpreted as expressing contentment with the present rate of investment. I am not contented. The White Paper on nuclear power shows that capital expenditure invested in plant which by 1965 will produce electricity equal to that produced now by 5 million to 6 million tons of coal is £300 million. In other words, £300 million to effect by 1965 an economy of 5 million to 6 million tons of coal. To sustain and increase an annual production of 220 million tons of coal the capital investment is £100 million. I grant that that is a crude comparison, but for all its crudities I suggest that those two figures placed in conjunction reveal an inadequacy of investment in the coal industry even now.
How is investment to be made adequate? Certainly not by asseverating the fact here. The only answer is to ensure resolute leadership on the part of the Coal Board. This afternoon my right hon. Friend expressed himself as satisfied with the Board as it now stands. He led us to believe that we are in a new era. In this respect there are certain recommendations of the Fleck Committee 417 which have not been heard of since it reported. There was, for instance, the recommendation about part-time members. The Committee recommended that those members should be given access to the Minister, and that the Minister should consult them on full-time appointments to the Board. We have heard nothing further about that.
Indeed, the sequence of events has been interesting. The chairman of the Board remains where he is, but the part-time members have gone. Reading between the lines of the recommendation, I think that the reason it was made is quite clear. The Fleck Committee was apprehensive of the undue dependence of the Minister on the chairman of the Coal Board. It was anxious to provide a check on the chairman, and to multiply the points of contact between the Minister and the Board.
As I say, the two eminent part-time members, Sir Geoffrey Heyworth and Mr. Hambro, have gone. Why? We have never had an explanation. Would it be too much to infer that, in accordance with the Fleck Committee's recommendations, they were, in fact, consulted on the present constitution of the Board but went because they were not satisfied with the present constitution? I hope that before the end of the debate we shall have an answer to that question.
Then there is the matter of salaries. There is a most important reason why the problem of part-time members should occupy a large part of our attention. There is today no lustre attached to service with the Coal Board—and not much in the way of emoluments to make up for that lack of lustre. There was a time when it might have been proper to regard the nationalised industries as leading the way to the levelling down of managerial remuneration. That conception is outmoded—it belongs to the past—and to persist in it can have only one result—to staff the Coal Board with second- and third-rate talent. If the Minister believes in and has had it in mind to constitute an efficient Board, then there must be an answer to this question of salaries. Once again, I should like to ask what the Government's policy is towards the salaries of the full-time members of the Board.
From these problems of production I turn to the problem of price. For a 418 variety of reasons costs in the coal industry have risen, and the price has been increased to cover the cost. I agree entirely with what was said this afternoon by my right hon. Friend in this connection. In agreeing to this rise in price the Government have adhered to the principle that the price should be related to the average cost. In my view, that is the right principle. On the other hand, words used by the right hon. Member for Derby, South led me, at any rate, to infer that he was preaching the doctrine of equating price with marginal cost. I am not sure whether I drew the right inference, but he used words that went far in that direction.
I grant him that the economists are in favour of equating price with marginal costs. I was brought up among economists and, very fortunately for me, I left them for other things, but the result of my dual experience has been to make me profoundly suspicious of economists. They all have a besetting sin. They make certain premises and draw certain conclusions. They know perfectly well that the premises bear no relation to reality, but when it comes to pressing the conclusions they forget that. Be that as it may, there are two reasons why I believe it right to adhere to the policy of relating price to the average cost instead of equating it to marginal cost.
My first reason is this. If experience shows anything, it is that it is much more difficult in a nationalised industry than in private industry to keep down costs. The resistance to upward costs is much weaker. If we are now to depart from the rule of breaking even one year with another, if we are to allow the Coal Board to accumulate profits by equating price with marginal costs, in my judgment we shall weaken considerably what resistance there is to the mounting pressure of costs, and the upward spiral of coal prices in the future will be far steeper and far more alarming than any that has been experienced in the past.
There is a second reason why I believe we should continue to relate prices to average rather than to marginal costs. We are doing something in this country which is without precedent. We are trying to carry on with a percentage unemployment of one, and we are trying to do so while holding our own in a competitive world. I see no hope of doing so unless 419 the prices of our basic commodities are in large part related to average rather than to marginal costs. If we relate them to marginal costs, the result must be inability to maintain unemployment at the present low percentage.
This being my view, certain consequences follow. I think it right that the price of imported coal should be the same as the price of domestic coal. I think it right because I think it impossible in the long run to hold two prices, one for domestic coal and one for imported coal. The inevitable tendency would be for the price of domestic coal to rise to its marginal cost.
Equally, we have at the moment one central distributing authority, the Coal Board. It more or less allocates or rations. It may ration more liberally in the case of A than in the case of B, in which case B would be forced to find imported coal and pay more for it than A. That would be unjust, and the injustice would be intolerable.
For these reasons, I believe that the price of imported coal should be the same as the price of domestic coal. That is not a burden on the Coal Board, provided that the increase of costs is reflected in the price, and I am wholly at one with hon. Members opposite in so far as they ask for that.
The other way to relieve the Board of the burden of imports is to cut down exports—indeed, in my view, as soon as it is practicable, to eliminate them entirely. For the future I would hazard the opinion that we need not in this country be a considerable importer of foreign coal. Provided we cut down exports and provided, as my right hon. Friend promised this afternoon, we pursue a resolute policy of substituting fuel oil for coal, I do not believe that the imports of coal need be more than marginal.
We are strongly tempted, when things go wrong, to raise cries of panic and to clamour for quick results. I do not believe that quick results are obtainable. Indeed, I think that the scope for Governmental action in this matter is extremely limited. I hold the opinion that the fortunes of the Coal Board are far gone. Whether they can be redeemed or retrieved at all is a matter of the gravest doubt. The only chance of retrieving 420 them is by establishing an efficient and properly constituted Coal Board.
Despite the words used by my right hon. Friend in this connection earlier this afternoon, I, for my part, am not satisfied that the present Board is as efficiently constituted as it might be. I urge that the Government should address themselves to that as their first task, and only when it is accomplished can we then sit back and look to the Board to do the job which it alone can do.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Finch (Bedwellty)
I am very pleased to follow a fellow countryman. I must say that he has at least demonstrated his wide knowledge of the mining industry and industry generally. I do not for a moment agree with all that he said, but he approached the subject to a great extent dispassionately, and that cannot be said of many hon. Members opposite.
It has been said on many occasions, I think with truth, that the two basic industries in this country are coal and agriculture. Today, we are reviewing the coal mining industry—an industry on which, in my opinion, our economic life depends. While it is necessary to do everything in our power to increase production, if we continue to waste coal at the rate that we are doing now we shall do so at our peril. I agree with the need for advancing as speedily as possible the development of atomic energy and other forms of power, but even so, in the last analysis, the House must face the fact that for many years to come our prosperity and the full employment of our people for the most part will rest upon the mining industry.
I can understand why, in recent weeks, a good deal of attention has been paid to the mining industry, but much of it has been in the nature of criticism, even ill-informed criticism. Attacks have been made upon miners, the National Coal Board and nationalisation. This is nothing new. It has been going on since the day that the mines were nationalised, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) was faced with the stupendous task of organising this great nationalised mining industry, and when we had such a severe winter.
I have worked and lived with miners for many years, and I say that the continual attacks on the mining industry, 421 whether on the miners themselves or on the Coal Board, cause great resentment among the miners and the mining community. In addition, they discourage technicians, management and all those who are faced with the difficult job of winning coal for the nation. What is more, they are bedevilling industrial relations and making it more difficult for the Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers to carry on the negotiations on many matters with which they have to deal in connection with the industry.
Indeed, the attacks go a long way to retard recruitment into the industry. The continual sniping of the industry is lowering its status. People do not want to belong to an industry of which there is so much criticism. I beg hon. Members to realise that this is a vital industry, and I trust that these continual attacks, made both inside and outside this House, many of them malicious, will cease. The Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers should be allowed to get on with winning coal for this nation.
We on these benches welcome this debate because it at least helps some of us to throw some light upon the mining industry. To those who are prepared to look at the industry dispassionately and to judge it on its merits the debate should be very useful. I sincerely hope that by the end of it we shall have gained a clearer understanding of the great problems which face the industry. First of all, in the words of the miner, "Let us clear away the rubbish and get at the coal." Let us start with the miner himself. If we consider the industry, there is the miner, the Coal Board and the Ministry of Fuel and Power.
§ Mr. Finch
And the consumer. For the moment I am dealing with the industry.
Let us begin with the miner. First, has he done his job? Has he delivered the goods or has he failed the nation? I claim at once that he has done a magnificent job. He has helped to continue the prosperity of the country. Our prosperity has been maintained by the coal industry throughout the years and is maintained by it today.
The industry has maintained and improved output. My right hon. Friend 422 gave the figures, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Sylvester). The average face productivity in 1954 was 3.26 tons per man-shift, higher than in any previous year—in fact, an increase of 11 per cent. on the 1947 average. Overall productivity was 1.23 tons per man-shift and was also a record, being an increase of 13 per cent. on the 1947 average and being greater per man-shift than any comparative figure on the Continent.
In 1946, the year before nationalisation, the output per man-year was 260 tons. In 1954 it was 303 tons. The only year when this figure was surpassed was in 1937, when it was 309 tons. In 1951 the outcome per man-year was 303 tons. Surely that is not a bad achievement by the miners.
The total production was 214 million tons compared with 187.2 million tons in 1947. That has been achieved with a reduction in manpower and with more men being placed on development work. Moreover, no less than 12 million tons of this was obtained by voluntary Saturday work. This output has been maintained by older men than those who worked in the industry many years ago. It has been obtained from older pits and thinner seams. If ever there was an industry with a good record, this is it.
I am sure that hon. Members know that thousands of miners are working in seams less than 2 feet thick, lying in a cramped position all day and risking life and limb to win coal. They have done it throughout the years and are continuing to do it today. No other industry has such a heavy toll of life and limb. It has been an industry of blood, sweat, toil and tears. How can it be said that the miners have not played well with the nation in producing the coal?
Hon. Members may ask: What about unofficial stoppages? I want to face all the facts. I want to look at the assets and the liabilities. It is true that there have been unofficial stoppages. We do not condone them. I am of the opinion that there could be a speeding up of the settlement of some of these disputes at the pits themselves, and I agree with an hon. Member opposite that the manager should be given more power and more freedom to settle them. On the other hand, I admit that men get "off the handle" 423 sometimes, even against the advice of their officials—and who would not?
These are all matters which must receive the closest attention of the Coal Board and, I am sure, of the National Union of Mineworkers, but do not let us exaggerate them. These unofficial stoppages and these losses in production of coal, unfortunate as they are, are sometimes exaggerated. People say, "If only men were all working full-time with no strikes at all, this industry would be in an excellent position." We know that is not true. Do not let us exaggerate the losses. If every miner worked throughout his holiday it would not alter the facts: production would still be less than consumption and we should still be in a serious position.
Some people imagine that the miner must be a perfect man and must be different from any other members of the community. On the contrary, the miner likes his pleasure and his sport as does everyone else. I do not want for a moment to encourage absenteeism, but let us consider what my right hon. Friend has said: absenteeism is one day per month. The miner in South Wales may like to go to the Eisteddfod. He may be sorely tempted to take a day off to go there. Or he may go to Ascot. Are all those who watch Tottenham Hotspur and the Arsenal miners? Are those who go to football matches all miners? Let us have a sense of reality about this. I do not want to encourage absenteeism, but we have to take human nature as it is.
When we talk about absenteeism, we must consider the miners' conditions of employment. He cannot get into work a quarter of an hour late. If he is a quarter of an hour late, then he is too late; he must go down on winding time, and if winding time is finished he has lost a shift. If he stops in bed for an extra half hour, he has had it. A factory worker or a worker in some other class of employment may perhaps lose half a shift or a quarter of a shift if he is late, but the miner must be there on time or he loses an entire shift.
If he has a puncture in his bicycle and he is late, then he has lost the shift. What is more, if he loses a shift in a week he also loses the bonus shift and loses two shifts' pay. The Coal Board is not 424 encouraging absenteeism; it has kept rigidly to this rule, so that if a man loses a shift in a week he also loses the bonus shift. If we look at the position we find that the miner has done his job.
Turning to wages, is it suggested that the miners are getting too high a wage? Does any right hon. or hon. Gentleman opposite suggest that the wages are too high in this industry? There is an erroneous impression of the wages in the industry. Large sections of the nation are being led to believe that the miner is getting all this money which we are discussing. According to the Annual Report of the Board the average cost of wages per ton is 35s. 8.8d. What is the domestic consumer paying for coal? He is paying £6, £7 and £8 a ton. I do not say, of course, that all the other costs are not essential, for when we consider the cost of production we have to take many other factors into consideration. We should be clear about the situation, however: on an average, until the last increase, the miner has been getting 35s. 8.8d. per ton. There can be no complaint about the miner's wages being too high.
What about his safety? The House recently passed an Act to improve the safety and health of those employed in the industry. Is it suggested that this should not be carried out? I realise that this will cost the Coal Board another £12 million, but it is essential to improve the conditions in this industry. Does any right hon. or hon. Gentleman opposite suggest that the Board should not carry it out in the next few years? It is a liability which the Board has to meet.
Let me turn to the Coal Board itself. What did the Board inherit? I do not want to go into the past, for I agree that if we harp too much on the past we shall not make progress. Nevertheless, we have to look at the past in certain respects. The Board inherited an industry already going fast into decay. That cannot be denied.
I do not know when a pit was last sunk in South Wales, but it must have been many years ago. There was the unemployment in South Wales and other areas, the long depression, and many men left mining. The miner would no longer encourage his son to go into the industry. That is the situation which the Board inherited. I do not want to deal with Socialist propaganda; let us see what the 425 Reid Committee said about this question. It said:The atmosphere of financial stringency, and the lack of broad vision which it must be admitted generally surrounded the direction of the British coal industry, provided the mining industry with little encouragement to formulate bold schemes.The Fleck Committee, presided over by Dr. Fleck, said:From the end of the First World War to the end of the second, the industry was starved of capital and of technical men. At nationalisation it was, for the most part, backward both in general and technical management. The condition of many collieries was poor.A great deal of capital investment has to be put into the industry. Many new pits have to be sunk, and a pit cannot be sunk in twelve months; it takes three, four, or even six years. In the Nottingham district a pit is being sunk. It was begun two years ago, but it will take some years yet and may not be winning coal for many years. What does it cost to sink a pit of any magnitude? It costs £7 million, or thereabouts. The Coal Board has the colossal task of sinking new pits and spending more on development. Is it suggested by hon. Members opposite that this money should not be spent on development?
Then there is the question of manpower. The Board is not responsible for the reduction in manpower; neither are the miners. Not very long ago one of the officials of the miners' union said that in the mining valleys we do not breed miners. It is not the responsibility of the miners but the responsibility of the nation. It is not the responsibility of the National Union of Mineworkers, nor of the Coal Board. If every miner's son went into the industry today that would not replace the wastage which is taking place.
How are we to get more men into the industry? It will not be done through wages alone. I admit that there have been wage increases paid by the Coal Board, but there are other factors. There is the question of the conditions under which the miners and their families live in the mining valleys. Many parts of South Wales are very grim places in which to live. Just after the war, when I was trying to help to bring factories to those districts, I was told by officials, "This is no place to bring people to live." People do not want to go to live among 426 the slag heaps, amid the dangers of subsidence and in old, grim houses.
I do not think that the Minister has carried his weight at all on the question of better houses and better conditions. Where is the Minister of Housing and Local Government in this matter? The urban authorities in these areas are impoverished. We cannot get playing fields in these areas. The Battle of Waterloo might have been won on the playing fields of Eton, but if we are to win the battle of the survival of our economy by coal production it will be in the Welsh valleys—and there are no playing fields there. I have made requests to the National Playing Fields Association on this matter. The Minister should put more pep into the effort to get better amenities for those labouring in the mining valleys.
Then there is the question of consumption. Factories are consuming more and more coal, consumption is going up, but production cannot keep pace with the demand. Like everyone else, miners like to see the balance sheet at the end of the year. In their lodges they like to know what is going on, and whether the Coal Board is making a profit or a loss. The Board will never make a profit the way things are going, for so much is saddled on to it. It is being saddled with the importation of coal. £5 million, and next year it may be £30 million. What prospects are there for the Board to make a profit in those circumstances?
I am suspicious that, behind it all, that may be the policy of the Government. I am doubtful whether they want a balance sheet which will show a profit. If it shows a profit there might be some further demands for wages, but for the moment I am thinking of the consumer and that there would be a chance of reducing the cost of house coal if the balance sheet were not saddled, as it is, with the loss on the importation of coal. There is also the question of taxation of £1,500,000. It seems quite paradoxical that an industry which is suffering a deficiency should have to pay tax. If many of these items were excluded from the profit and loss account, this industry would on this occasion be showing a profit.
We are very concerned about the cost of the importation of coal being placed on the balance sheet. 427 We say that it is the responsibility of the Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer does his job very well from a Tory point of view. We had the same sort of thing on social insurance, where uncovered liabilities are paid by the contributor and not by the Exchequer. The people who have to pay for this increase are the domestic consumer or the miner, because the loss on importation of coal is placed on the balance sheet.
We have controls in this industry—it is the only industry in the country where there are controls—and if we are to keep controls we must treat the industry as a great social service. We must either do that or have a free market in coal and leave the Board to get what price it can. If that were the situation the miners would be far better off. This is the one commodity which is controlled and I say to the Minister that in common fairness he should treat it as a national service and not use the balance sheet as a yardstick for miners' wages or prices paid by the domestic consumer.
As I said, the prosperity of the country has rested, and continues to rest, on the mining industry. When hon. and right hon. Members opposite talk about prosperity, they should remember that it is based upon the mining industry, and I hope that as a result of the debate today we shall not only encourage the miners and the Coal Board to get on with the job, but will do all in our power wherever we can to get men for the industry and to help in every way possible.
The National Union of Mineworkers is not partisan in this matter. It realises that our prosperity depends upon coal. While it is prepared to do its part, it expects the nation and the House of Commons to do their part. The Amendment states that we congratulate the miners and that we want the importation of coal to be taken out of the balance sheet. Surely hon. Members opposite will not vote against an Amendment of that nature. I hope that, as a result of what has been said today, the Amendment will be supported by the whole House.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Colonel C. G. Lancaster (South Fylde)
I hope that the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) will forgive me if I do not 428 follow his arguments too closely in my speech. I want rather to return to the opening speeches of my right hon. Friend the Minister and of the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker), who moved the Amendment on behalf of the Opposition.
The right hon. Member for Derby, South, not for the first time, indulged in a number of generalities and made a number of comparisons which really are not in the interests of an objective approach to this problem. What is more, the right hon. Member made some play with the name of Sir Charles Reid. I had a conversation with Sir Charles Reid two days ago and I believe that it would be a sobering experience for the right hon. Gentleman if he would do the same rather than quote Sir Charles Reid for his own purposes.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I did not speak to Sir Charles Reid two days ago but I spoke to him ten days ago, and I would like to hear what he said to the hon. and gallant Member.
§ Colonel Lancaster
I propose in the course of my speech to mention a number of points which Sir Charles Reid discussed and about which he agreed.
What I want to do first is to refer to an omission both in the discussion today and in our debate last October on the Coal Board Report. No mention was made of the cost of production. Can it be wondered that, with lack of discussion of that kind, the very high rise in price which has just occurred has come as a shock to all sections of the nation? I do not believe that we can have a balanced or objective discussion about the very important matters which my right hon. Friend mentioned this afternoon—the introduction of alternative sources of power—unless we see these various sources of power in their true relation. How can we do so if we ignore the vital element of cost in the matter of coal?
I should like to try to evaluate the part which I feel coal mining should continue to play. Quite obviously, in doing so I 429 must have regard to the cost, not only of production of this commodity, but its comparative cost to both, eventually, atomic energy and, more immediately, the very large importations of coal to which my right hon. Friend referred.
Before I reach that point, however, I should like to clear up one or two misconceptions which are apt to bedevil an objective approach to this problem. I do not think that any good purpose is served by drawing a comparison between what is occurring today and what happened in 1947. That year was the culmination of eight years of shortages of men, materials and the like, and a comparison of that kind is not sound.
Neither do I believe that we serve any good purpose by taking credit for the fact that we are producing coal more cheaply than it is produced on the Continent. It would be almost as realistic to bring in the comparison of the United States. With all its great advantages, America produces coal at almost half the price at which we produce it in this country. It is producing coal, on the other hand, at an average depth of about 400 ft. We produce coal at an average depth of 1,200 ft. In the Ruhr and most of the Continental coal fields, the depth is 2,100 ft.
§ Colonel Lancaster
I am coming to that later. I fully admit that between 400 and 1,200 ft. costs rise more sharply than between 1,200 and 2,100 ft. Nevertheless, we have some natural advantage over our European competitors, an advantage which it is not in the interests of frank discussion to ignore.
A good deal is said about the wastage of our better seams. In the sense that our best coal has been worked out, that is quite correct. The most valuable of our coal has been worked out, but the coal now being worked, although of an inferior quality, is not much less in thickness than the coal which was previously worked. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] No. In fact, in the last decade, the diminution in the thickness of the coal worked was something over half an inch.
We are admittedly working inferior coal but since the price can be controlled, that is not of great importance at the moment.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
It is also a fact that the dirt content of the coal has nearly doubled since 1938. Well over 10 million tons a year which has to be brought up now would not have been brought up then and is not reckoned as coal.
§ Colonel Lancaster
I think it would be more correct to say that, owing to the particular manner in which coal is being won, cutting in the roof or in the floor very often produces a bigger mixture of dirt. I do not know that the coal itself is necessarily much dirtier than before. But that is not a point which I intend to argue strongly.
I want to raise a matter which was brought up in our last debate on the industry; that is, the question of major reconstruction schemes. A slightly false impression was given—unwittingly, I think—on that occasion. It was suggested that only three major schemes had come into operation since vesting day, but that was simply because a somewhat arbitrary figure of £1¼ million had been taken as gross cost; and gross cost, of course, is not necessarily the actual part of the scheme which is attributable to the increase in coal production. Part of that cost may have been used in purchasing land for dirt-tipping or for surface arrangements.
A more reasonable approach is to use the Coal Board's own description of a major scheme of reconstruction, and some thirty schemes of this type—costing between £¼ and £1 million—have come into operation. I do not say that those schemes could have done a great deal more than take up the wastage which is occurring in the coal industry. What is disturbing is that, despite the fact that many of those schemes show great technical advances, there has been no great benefit in the costs of production related to those schemes.
On the last occasion that we debated this subject, it was said that there had been no new sinkings, but three new pits have come into operation. The point made was that as they had been planned before vesting day they had not been mentioned, but that is a purely academic point. Three major pits have come into operation since vesting day.
An impression has got about that it takes about ten years to complete a new sinking. I believe that that impression has grown because some of the major 431 schemes of reconstruction take five to six years, but that is because they are spread over a period and broken down with the purpose of not interfering with normal production. A sinking need not take anything like ten years. I am sure that hon. Members opposite will agree when I say that the large South Yorkshire pits which were sunk between the beginning of the century and 1920 were mostly completed, so far as the sinking and surface arrangements were concerned, in three years, and were well opened up for coal in the subsequent two or three years. The Calverton pit, which was started before the last war, was 50 per cent. completed in rather less than two years.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
Whilst it may be untrue to say that the average is ten years, there is in fact a case in my constituency where the first sod was cut in 1946 and it is not expected to obtain coal from the pit until 1956, which is in fact a period of ten years.
§ Colonel Lancaster
I do not say that it never occurs, but I think that we are stretching the matter too far if we attribute ten years to a sinking.
§ Colonel Lancaster
I cannot say, but I have had some experience of this matter. Sinking a pit does not take quite as long as some hon. Members imagine.
I want to try to hold a reasonable balance in discussing this subject, and to look at the matter of the substitution of alternative sources of power in relation to the part which I am confident the coal industry can continue to play in our national economy. Let us look for a moment at the experience of the United States. There, the coal industry faces far greater indigenous competition than the coal industry does in this country. There is natural gas there, unlimited oil supplies, some of the biggest hydroelectric schemes in the world, like the Tennessee Valley Authority, and no doubt the Americans are doing their share in producing nuclear power and putting up atomic plants. Despite that competition, coal production, if not exactly buoyant, is still on the upgrade and at 670 million tons is the greatest in the world.
432 In the light of the fierce competition which the industry faces in America, I cannot believe that it will be found that the home industry of this country will not be able to put up and continue to put up very strong competition against alternative sources of supply of power. We have and continue to have very great advantages in our coal industry. Despite wastage, we still have great reserves of coal. We have some of the best young technicians in the world in our industry and we have first-rate colliers. Let no one suggest that we have not. We have to assess all those advantages against our handicaps, and attempt to strike a balance.
It is silly to suggest that at the moment the industry is not sick and sorry. It is, but why is it? No doubt many if us have our own views about that. I still hold very strongly to the view that the industry is not administered and organised to the best advantage. I gave it as my opinion rather more than three years ago that production would flatten out and would then be on the decline. I came to that conclusion, not because I thought nationalisation as such had failed, but because I was quite certain that the industry was being administered in the wrong way. The fact that I have turned out to be right is of very little satisfaction to me. Anybody who had had the same administrative and productive experience in the industry as I have had would have come to the same conclusion.
It has been very disturbing that during all that time the National Coal Board, either because it could not or would not see the situation, has continued to take a short-term view of matters in the face of all the evidence, and has continued to make optimistic appraisals of the future outlook. It has been very wrong to do that. In those circumstances, the Government quite rightly decided that they must have an inquiry into the industry and that the inquiry should be one undertaken by the industry itself. I do not think that anybody would quarrel with my right hon. Friend in that decision. He set up the Fleck Committee, composed of very eminent people, who carried out what must have been a most difficult job.
I had hoped that they would have had among them someone with the necessary experience and ability in productive 433 matters. I had hoped that possibly one of the signatories of the Reid Report, or an administrative counterpart, would have been invited to take part, because, first and foremost, this was a production problem. Without a man of that type I felt that we should get something of an unbalanced report.
In due course the Fleck Committee reported to the House and, of course, one must regret that we had no opportunity at that moment of discussing its recommendations. Indeed, we are in the somewhat difficult position today of possibly criticising a report and recommendations which are already being implemented, and of running the risk of appearing to be both carping and critical of something to which people might suggest we should wish well. But unless we are to abrogate our right of discussion in the House we must look more closely into what the Fleck Committee reported.
The Committee applied, as I think it was inevitable in the circumstances, the classical industrial approach to the problem. I think that everybody would agree that the Report was admirable for the lucid way in which members of the Committee expressed their opinions and put forward their recommendations. But the end-product with which the Committee was dealing is not a constant. It was dealing with a variant, produced in variable conditions with the most explosive labour content in the country. I do not mean by that that it is explosive in the sense that miners are irresponsible and "go off the deep end," but explosive in the sense that miners work in conditions which produce tension and conditions which are possibly the most difficult in the whole industrial field. No standard method can be of universal application to this problem.
My quarrel with the Committee and its recommendations is that it tried to do just that, and the result has been more centralisation and less decentralisation. What, in fact, one can say is that a few heads have rolled, it has claimed that the original set-up was right, the decentralisers have been told they are wrong, and centralisation is the order of the day. But the matter is not quite as simple as that. Men in many parts of the world have been thinking about this problem for generations, and the answer was not 434 so easy as I think the Fleck Committee imagines. As I say, the end-product is a variant, produced under variable conditions, and the more we centralise the weaker we make the periphery. It is at the periphery, at the point of production, where the strain on this industry rests.
I want to give one simple example of what I have in mind. One of the first decisions given by the Fleck Committee was that the limit of expenditure by assistant general managers should be cut from £100,000 to about one-quarter of that amount. On the face of it that sounds sensible and good budgetary control, but what, in fact, does it mean? Let me give this simple analogy.
There are three assistant general managers, Mr. Brown, Mr. White and Mr. Black. Mr. Brown is a man with considerable experience who has had the advantage of being brought up by a progressive firm, which was able to build round him a large and efficient planning staff. He is a man who can be trusted with considerable development expenditure. Then there is Mr. White. He is a young man on the way up, showing a good deal of promise but inexperienced, and who needs guidance and a firm hand. There is at the other end Mr. Black, a good pitman, with first-class labour relationships but with no head for figures and no administrative capacity.
Overnight these three separate individuals have been brought down to a common level. Is it to be supposed that meanwhile the divisional chairman could not exercise his own views on the separate qualities of those three individuals? Of course he could. But more than that has been done. Overnight the division has been burdened with the responsibility for every one of those schemes between £20,000 and £100,000 which previously were being developed and undertaken by areas, and amounting to three times the number of major reconstruction schemes.
Has it the staff to do it? Where will it look for additional staff? It will look to the areas. Once again the periphery is weakened, and the very place where original research and development should occur has necessarily had some of its best planners taken away. That is not an advantage. There are a great many recommendations of this Committee which I consider require a great deal of thought. 435 A good deal of what it has done is first-class. I am not suggesting otherwise, but a great deal of what it did requires thinking about again. Indeed, I believe that the whole of this problem requires new thought.
I am not going to pretend today that everything is right with decentralisation and that everything is wrong with centralisation. I have the shrewd idea that there is a middle way to be pursued. I should like to see a completely fresh approach to this problem, even at this late hour. I do not believe we can be satisfied either with the position as at the date of the Committee's Report or the position today. It is steadily going downhill. Week by week we see production dropping, dropping not only as against the previous week but dropping progressively as against the same period last year and the year before. The industry at this moment is in decline. There is nothing more difficult than to arrest a decline and set production on the right way.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman say that he thinks it would have happened if there had not been a loss of 17,000 miners in the pits, and would not production have gone up if there were a force of 730,000 miners, as there ought to be?
§ Colonel Lancaster
Of course there has been a loss as a result of a lower number of men employed, but the loss in coal is greater than the loss in manpower.
§ Colonel Lancaster
Yes, o.m.s. is going up, but under the circumstances of the material and the technology which is going into the pit there is bound to be some improvement. Nevertheless, it would be silly not to face the fact that at this moment things in the coal industry are not flourishing. I do not think we serve any good purpose if we blind our eyes to this. I am not being critical of any section of the coal industry. I am not being critical of men or of management. I am trying to point a way to a 436 fresh appraisal of this problem and to get a balance between what this industry should do and what my right hon. Friend has suggested will come along in the form of alternative power in oil and the like.
I believe we have to do a great deal more hard thinking before we come to that decision. I am not satisfied that all these recommendations are necessarily for the better. Even at this late hour I should like to feel there was going to be a fresh approach to this problem, untrammelled by previous conceptions of management, centralisation or decentralisation. I should like to think we would approach this problem from the aspect that we need new men in a number of places. I should like to feel that we were going to approach this matter once again from the aspect that further consideration is needed. Unless we do that I am afraid I am not very hopeful about the future.
§ Mr. B. Taylor
I was interested in what the hon. and gallant Member had to say about production. May I put this question to him? He admits that o.m.s. is on the increase. Supposing there were more men producing at the present rate of o.m.s. would not the global output be bigger and would not that, therefore, deny the case he is making?
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Hubbard (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
I am quite sure that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Fylde (Colonel Lancaster) will forgive me if I do not follow him too far into his arguments, because I find that he was arguing the question right, left and centre and was then suggesting that what we ought to do is to have some fresh thoughts on it. I should have thought that there had been ample time to give consideration to all those things he mentioned.
The hon. and gallant Member suggested that there was falling production and a wastage in the number of men employed, but he should not forget that there has been an increase per shift worker and a reconstruction of the work. Obviously, a fall in manpower in the mining industry is bound to have an effect and, therefore, the only clear directive we can have as to whether the men are working hard and efficiently is the 437 output per man-shift. It is the only safe measuring stick which we can use.
Nor do I accept the statement that most of our valuable coal has been worked out. If the hon. and gallant Member follows closely the plan for coal development in the future, he will realise that much of the difficulty we are in arises from the fact that we are making sinkings in areas where large fields are still unexplored but which contain the most valuable coal.
I noted with great interest the anxiety of hon. Gentlemen opposite not to go too much into the past in dealing with the problems of the present. But many of these problems are focussed on the shortage of manpower in the industry. I think it would be very wrong indeed if we did not try to adduce a reason why there is such a shortage of manpower in the industry. It is only by examining the case in that way that we may find methods of increasing manpower, and, therefore, of solving many of those difficult problems which we must solve if we are to continue to have economic prosperity.
The basis of our economy is to be found in the coal deposits which still remain to be worked. The suggestion of the Minister to transfer some of the work previously done by coal to oil ought to have been adopted a long time ago. It is a belated suggestion, when we have an ever-increasing volume of imports of coal, to talk about exploring the possibility of using oil instead.
It may sound like an Irishism to say that, since coal is the foundation of our economy, the foundation of our economy will crumble unless the foundation is brought to the surface. Yet we must have our coal on the surface, and one of our difficulties is that we are unable to extract the coal we know to be present. The Government, the Minister of Fuel and Power and the Tory Party cannot escape responsibility for the consequences of their actions.
Instead of talking about solving the problem by fresh approaches today, it should be remembered that this could have been solved if the Tory Government of 1920 had been prepared to accept the recommendations of the Sankey Commission. The warning note was struck at that time. That Commission made it clear, after exhaustive evidence had been 438 taken, that if there was to be any future for our coal industry immediate action should be taken. That Commission was set up by the Government of the day, but that Government would not implement its recommendations.
From that moment onwards the coal industry has been running down. Another warning note was struck by, amongst others, the late Bob Smillie, the trade union leader in Scotland. Following close upon that, there was the 1921 strike, and ever since manpower in the industry has fallen off. It has been mentioned already today that there were 1¾ million men in the industry at that time and now there are only 725,000.
Our difficulties arise almost solely from the lack of manpower. In addition to the wastage due to men leaving the industry throughout these long years, there has also been horrible wastage through fatal and serious accidents. There is further wastage at present due to pneumoconiosis and other chest troubles. I do not know whether it is generally realised, but the recent figures for Scotland show that no fewer than 1,108 new cases of pneumoconiosis occurred last year. Until recent times it was thought that Wales was the centre for pneumoconiosis and silicosis in Britain, but mass radiography has shown an alarming number of new cases of chest complaints in Scotland. In one colliery alone there were nearly 300 new cases, so there is tremendous wastage there. We must take cognisance of these facts.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Fylde said that he was speaking to Sir Charles Reid recently, but he did not tell us what the new points were that were discussed. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said he would tell us, but he has left the House in the position of having to depend on what we find in the Reid Report and in the Fleck Report. It is regrettable that the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who has had a close association with the industry, should mention the name of Sir Charles Reid and then not tell us what he said, because we were waiting with interest to hear.
§ Colonel Lancaster
What I said, or what I intended to say, was that I had told Sir Charles Reid what I proposed to say in this debate and he was in general agreement with my approach to the problem.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)
On a point of order. Can we be advised whether it is in order, Sir, for an hon. and gallant Gentleman to tell the House that he was telling a friend outside what he proposed to say in this debate, when you yourself decide who shall speak in these debates?
§ Mr. Speaker
That is quite in order and I think that some speeches in this House might be improved if they were subjected to the impartial scrutiny of someone not a Member of this House.
§ Mr. Hubbard
Our speeches might have been improved, Sir, had the hon. and gallant Gentleman given us the advantage of his conversation with Sir Charles Reid.
In addition to the Reports to which I have referred, we have also read the statement made by the chairman of the National Coal Board as recently as a month ago at the miners' conference in Rothesay. That gentleman cannot be accused of being either an ex-miner or an ex-member of the Labour Party. He is a man charged with tremendous responsibilities.
At that conference the chairman of the N.C.B. made no bones about it, but said distinctly—and he ought to know at least as much as Sir Charles Reid about this industry or he ought not to be the chairman of the Coal Board if he does not—that the mines were suffering from thirty years of neglect, and he has access to all the information. Yet we are told in this House that we ought not to go too far back into the past when trying to find a solution of this problem.
I should imagine it was within the province of the chairman of the Coal Board to talk forthrightly and honestly to a conference of miners and to make the statement that the consumers, who have to face up to the increased cost of coal, are paying for something that was taken out of the industry long ago. Had proper development schemes been carried out at that time, the chairman of the Coal Board, the Minister and the country would not be facing the problems that they are facing today.
I am bound to call upon the experience of the past, because I was one of those miners who was affected at the time. I was a miner with a young family of sons. 440 I was one of a group of miners in Scotland who thought themselves lucky if they could get three days' work a week at 8s. a day. I was one of a group of miners in Scotland who saw continuously man-made mountains of coal growing at the pitheads. That was not good management, and is open to criticism. The coal owners received handsome sums in compensation when the mines were taken from them and they have no reason to be proud of those things.
When we are thinking of the job that has to be done by the Minister, the N.C.B. and the miners today, it should not be forgotten that at that period we saw man-made mountains of coal but today, in the same area, I can gaze out upon a man-made island to put down borings in the Firth of Forth for developing the great coal field underneath. That is good management, but it was only made possible by the nationalised coal industry. No private coal owner could carry out an experiment of that description. No coal owners at any time during my lifetime have shown any anxiety to carry out such an experiment. It is an experiment of the utmost importance to our economy.
I must accept some responsibility for the present situation. None of my sons entered the mines, but I do not apologise for that. When my youngest son was born we did not have a penny in the house; the wages I received the previous week amounted to 12s., and I had another 12s. in unemployment benefit. I made a pledge the morning my son was born that he would never become a miner. Nobody can blame a man for doing that in view of the conditions under which miners were living and their lack of security. Many other capable, hardworking miners pledged that their sons would never become miners. That seems to have happened in many coal mining areas.
Other things which happened in those days have a bearing upon the industry's present manpower shortage. I remember when working miners earned so little that they had to be given parcels paid for by the Prince of Wales's Fund, which had been inaugurated to help miners who were in work. As the local officer of a trade union, I had to help to distribute parcels to men whose wages were so low that they had to be subsidised 441 by means of a little parcel containing 1 1b. sugar, a piece of fat ham, a ¼ 1b. tea, and a piece of cheese which could have carried the parcel away. That sort of thing was no inducement to recruitment in the industry. Although people do not now want to play on such matters, we must take them into consideration.
In Scotland, since vesting day 66 pits have gone out of production. That is very serious. It would be much less serious if we knew that the miners from those pits were being transferred to developing coal areas. However, that is not so, and by 1960 6,000 men will have become redundant in the Lanarkshire coal area. By 1965, the Lanarkshire coalfield will be almost completely blotted out; only one small area there will be producing coal.
Coal development is taking place in Fife, the Lothians and Ayrshire. What have the Government done to ensure that experienced miners who become redundant in Lanarkshire will be attracted into the developing areas? They have done absolutely nothing at all, but it is a responsibility which they cannot escape. One cannot just uproot families in Lanarkshire and expect them to be attracted to the developing areas. Where the Government have built houses for such men, they have been so niggardly that no amenities have been provided. As I understand, there is a positive danger that the coal industry, already carrying far too much financial responsibility, may have the added burden of building houses and providing amenities in the developing areas to attract miners redundant in other areas.
I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for South Fylde that all miners have some responsibility for coal development. So has the National Union of Mineworkers, to which the the country is greatly indebted. Notwithstanding wages restraint, irksome conditions and redundancy in certain areas, there has not been an official strike in the mining industry since the war, and we should thank the officials of the union for that. It is true that there have been some unofficial stoppages. The hon. and gallant Gentleman gave some of the reasons for them. Trouble may break out suddenly in a district and men may strike before the management can solve the problem, and the union will not take part in negotiations while men are on strike, and such 442 strikes are, therefore, unofficial. Again and again the leaders of the union have condemned unofficial strikes. I have heard no stronger speeches against unofficial strikes than the speeches of officials of the union. We must consider the point of view of the miners.
The financial burden resulting from the change in the wages structure during the past year will fall on the Coal Board. There is a possibility of a further burden having to be borne in years to come because of another change in the wages structure in respect of men working at the coal face, which may cost £13 million. Are we to say that we will not continue with the new wages structure for face workers? As a result of the Mines and Quarries Act a fresh measure of safety will be given to the miners, but that will cost about £12 million next year. Ought we to stop that? These are some of the questions that we would like to ask.
Consumers will now have to pay more for their coal. I notice with interest how concerned some hon. Members opposite are about whether old-age pensioners will be able to buy coal or not. An hon. Member opposite made great play of that at Question Time last week. The results of past actions by the Government are forgotten. Old-age pensioners went without coal all last winter because they could not afford its price at that time, and they had to wait until close on the General Election for an increase in their pensions. If the Government had been honest and increased the cost of coal when they knew that an increase was inevitable, which was last February, the pensioners would have had even greater difficulties.
§ Mr. Hubbard
The hon. Member reminds me of Jimmy Edwards blowing the trombone. There is just about the same appearance and the same noise. He should bring his trombone with him on the next occasion, and then we might enjoy his interventions more. If the price of coal had been increased at that time, the electors would have known whether the Tory Government had brought the prosperity which they claimed to have done.
There are a number of items in the Coal Board's balance sheet which should not appear at all. According to this 443 balance sheet, there is a loss of £17 million. Yet, also on the sheet, is shown a profit of approximately £19 million. There are a whole series of deductions, including £1½ million paid for Profits Tax, although the balance sheet shows a deficit. This is the sort of accountancy which, one would imagine, had been prepared in a madhouse. It is not the sort of responsible balance sheet one would expect from a Government Department.
Hon. Members are entitled to know which industries have the advantage of cheap coal. We all know that when the mines were privately owned, the owners also owned a great many ancillary industries, and by a mere book transaction they supplied cheap coal to those industries. Will the Minister tell us whether that kind of thing still goes on? We are entitled to know, although we have been denied that information at Question Time.
Does the steel industry pay the full price for coal? Are we not entitled to know who is responsible? We understand that the Coal Board cannot increase coal prices without the consent of the Minister. But must the Minister's consent be obtained to increasing the price to other sections of industry? Is it right and proper that the ordinary consumers and the miners should subsidise cheap coal for industry? I have been led to believe that the steel industry enjoys the advantage of very cheap coal, and I should like confirmation of that.
§ Mr. Nabarro
May I correct the hon. Member? Industrial coal prices are not controlled by the Ministry of Fuel and Power. Only domestic coal prices are so controlled, and his constant allegations that industrial coal prices are being kept artificially low by the Minister are wholly wrong, because the Minister has no control over industrial coal prices whatsoever.
§ Mr. Hubbard
I should be grateful if the Minister, whose authority I respect rather more than that of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), would say so.
If it is not the responsibility of the Minister, it must be that of the Coal Board, and it should appear in the 444 balance sheet. Why is it not made clear what price is paid for coal by every industry? Obviously, that is the responsibility of someone. We are entitled to know why domestic consumers have to pay the increased price of coal, and why the miners are to be held responsible for the deficit in this balance sheet, if industry is getting cheap coal. If it is not the responsibility of the Minister, is it the responsibility of the Coal Board? The Minister should see to it that the Board discloses the full facts when it issues its balance sheet.
§ Mr. Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)
Do we understand that the hon. Gentleman wishes to see the price of industrial coal raised again above the present increases?
§ Mr. Hubbard
Not at all. All I wish to see is the users of industrial coal paying an economic price for it. They should not be subsidised, they should pay the same price as anyone else.
At Rothesay, an accredited official of the National Union of Mineworkers stated publicly that the steel industry in the area had made a profit of over £60 million last year. He further stated that if the industry had paid an economic price for coal, it would probably have lost £20 million of its profits. It would still have had £40 million, but £20 million would have been transferred to this balance sheet of the Coal Board, and what a difference that would have made. So we are entitled to know whether any industry is enjoying the advantage of buying coal cheaply, and I hope that in future we shall have a more realistic balance sheet than this one.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that, for the purposes he has mentioned, this form of balance sheet has been identical over since we have had a report from the Coal Board, and that this price policy has been continuous ever since the Board came into existence?
§ Mr. Hubbard
Does that make it right? Are all the things about which hon. Members complain right because they were done by a previous Government? In point of fact, when the Labour Government was dealing with this question, the volume of imported coal was very low and coal was imported as a temporary expedient. Now, the importation of coal 445 appears to be something which has become permanent. It is very important, because the imported coal represents a loss of at least £2 a ton to the Coal Board. I understand that there is a strong possibility that we may soon be handling American coal.
§ Mr. Hubbard
I am glad that the "trombone player" has given us some further information.
I understand that the further importation of American coal, which has to be shipped to the Continent and reshipped to this country, will result in a loss of £3 a ton. Is the Coal Board to be held responsible for that? Is that to be another reason why the Lord Privy Seal can say that the nationalised coal industry makes no profit? How can it make a profit if it has to subsidise the importation of coal, and when the electricity industry, the steel industry, and we do not know how many other industries, obtain cheap coal?
§ Mr. Hubbard
Yes, and above all that, there are the interest charges to the former coal owners, which, last year, amounted to £17½ million. And what have we got for it? A lot of coal mines which are now redundant.
These things must be faced. We have to consider a great many interests and, as an ex-miner and one who can never dissociate himself from the industry, I wish to enter a claim on behalf of the miners and their union. I wish to give a warning. The miners and the coal industry are mainly responsible for our present economic position. The recruitment to the mines after nationalisation has paid big dividends to our economy. Even with the fall in the number of men in the industry and the increasing prosperity for other sections of the community, we have been able to provide coal up to two years ago, but it is becoming more difficult. That is not the fault of the miners. It is the fault of the former coal owners, who hindered necessary developments.
Publicity has been given to the fact that hon. Members opposite want decentralisation of the mining industry. Certain sections of the national Press, including the "Daily Express"—and I have heard a lot about Lord Beaverbrook 446 in this House—and the "Sunday Express," continually talk about the miners being the pampered aristocrats of industry. Unless the Government desire to throw this country into complete economic chaos, they should not interfere with the nationalised coal industry. I advise them to keep their hands off it. If they wish to encourage the recruiting of men to the industry—which it must have although it may be a number of years before effective use can be made of them—they should stop being critical of the industry.
The men in the industry are doing a good job of work, and have something to say. They wish to retain the present structure of the industry, and an economic price for the coal they obtain must be ensured. We must not burden the industry with charges which should be borne by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There is nothing unreasonable about that. It does not happen in other industries, and it should not happen in the coal industry. Men should be recruited under the most favourable terms which can be offered.
Our miners have done a good job of work in the past, and a tremendous task faces them in the future. They can do their job only if they receive the assistance which they are entitled to expect from the Government of the day. No one has yet been able to justify a case for denationalising the coal industry. It is all very well to sit on sidelines, sniping, and playing at being a trombonist, but this matter is much too serious for that. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) may not have been here to hear the sonorous sound of the trombone emanating from his hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster who, through no fault of his own, always reminds me of Jimmy Edwards.
I suggest that if the Government and their supporters interfere with this nationalised industry, which was set up by the Labour Government, then, instead of doing a service to the country and its people, they will be doing them the greatest disservice.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Sir Albert Braithwaite (Harrow, West)
Nobody will doubt the sincerity of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Hubbard). The coal industry has now been nationalised, and my 447 hon. Friends and I accept that fact. We must do everything we can to make it work in the national interest. I have spent my life working with the miners, and I know something about their conditions and the difficulties in the industry. I say, quite frankly, that British coal has always been to cheap. Before nationalisation the industry was reduced to a difficult financial position because the price of coal was not an economic one.
It is all very well to talk about coal owners having been bad and difficult, but the whole of the mining fabric was destroyed by the uneconomic price at which coal was sold during the 1920s and 1930s. It was from that time that development ceased to expand as quickly as it should have done. We must also remember that we have had a long period of war during which it was impracticable to do anything in the coal mines. In addition, many coal miners were taken for war service, and there was a considerable reduction in the industry's manpower. A fearsome attack upon the economy of the industry was thereby brought about.
When an industry is nationalised, various problems have to be worked out in the change-over to an entirely new type of management. I wonder whether we have enough good leaders in certain districts in the coal mining industry. The miner is very susceptible to good leadership. He will do everything that is required of him if he is led wisely and properly. It is in respect of the educational side of management that I fear the industry is lacking somewhat today, and it is our duty to solve the problem.
Most hon. Members are aware of my interest in opencast coal mining. The criticism that comes from my hon. Friends in connection with this matter is more fearsome than that which comes from hon. Members opposite. When the Father of the House was Minister of Mines he started these operations and, whatever may be the criticism of them, they have contributed over 200 million tons of coal to the nation's economy. I have had the privilege of negotiating with many, many Ministers in this connection, but I am appalled at the lack of 448 interest that has been shown in the subject during the last four or five years. It is not entirely the fault of the Minister. I think that pressure has been put upon him by senior Members of the Government, because they are afraid of the bleating of my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) and others who have opposed this scheme.
§ Sir A. Braithwaite
Then I had better make the term "roaring."
The National Coal Board's balance sheet shows a profit of £18 million and, of that, £3½ million has been earned by opencast coal mining. Production from these operations has gone down by 1½ million tons since the year before. The Opencast Division of the Board has plans for the extraction of between 50 million and 60 million tons of coal, but the land will not be released to it—not because the Minister has not tried to get it, but because the Minister of Agriculture, the Secretary of State for Scotland and outside societies and interests have stood in the way.
There would have been no need to import one single ton of American coal if we had exercised our right to use what is in the ground here. I make the pledge that if sufficient land is released during the next year, sufficient machinery and men are available to get an additional 6 million tons of coal. But the land must be released. The Minister has fought hard for it. I cannot see why we should go on losing our valuable currency abroad in order to buy coal when we already have it here.
Many of my hon. Friends say that these operations destroy the amenities of the land. I beg the Minister to ask a small Select Committee of this House to go round all the opencast coal sites in England in order to see whether or not the damage which has been done is worth the risk. I have taken hon. Members opposite round these sites to show them what we were doing. These operations help the miners to meet the requirements of our economy in the new conditions of full employment.
I believe that we have lost £300 million by our neglect of this method of mining coal—by not going ahead properly and fully with this scheme. When we are 449 striving on every side to earn dollars to keep our balance sheet in order, I can see not the slightest sense in spending £10 million or £20 million a year in bringing coal into the country, and using valuable dollars to do so. I should like to know who is responsible for preventing these sites from being made available.
I want the House to be satisfied that opencast coal-mining does not do the amount of damage which many people have said it does. If the House were to say that these operations should not continue, I should he the last one to argue that they should.
§ Mr. Rupert Speir (Hexham)
Would my hon. Friend be satisfied about that if I told him that the National Farmers' Union has passed resolutions year after year bitterly opposing opencast coal-mining?
§ Sir A. Braithwaite
It may well be that the National Farmers' Union is bitterly opposed to these operations—nobody likes to lose his own property—but this is a question of what is in the interests of most people.
When the proposal was made that a site in Midlothian should be acquired, Lord William Scott said that he would resign his seat in Parliament if the site were given over to coal extraction. There are 5 million tons of coal in that area. eight feet thick and forty feet below the ground. Scotland could have had 5 million tons of coal in exchange for 5,000 tons of potatoes.
§ Mr. B. Taylor
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that land which has been used for opencast coal-mining is left in a much better and more profitable condition than land is left after iron ore mining?
§ Sir A. Braithwaite
I can only say that in ordinary mining today 12 million tons of dirt taken from the mines is spread on to the land in great heaps all over the place—for ever. In opencast operations, we take the dirt out while the coal is being extracted, but when the coal is extracted we fill it in again, and the productivity of the land is as good as it was before we touched it. In some cases it is very much better.
450 I have talked with the chairman of the National Farmers' Union and I have taken him round many sites all over the country. He is quite satisfied with the work that has been done. It is not a question of just filling in a hole. This work is done in a proper sequence of events. All the top soil is put on one side. The subsoil below that for another two feet is put on one side, and it is all put back again, with proper drainage, when we have finished, and with proper hedges. [An HON. MEMBER: "With trees as well?"] The only thing that we cannot replace is trees. Of course, we cannot; but the people of the country cannot work without coal. If we can get an extra 5 million tons of coal we shall see opencast production rise from 200,000 tons a week to 300,000 tons a week within two months. The machinery is here. In fact, half the machinery available for this operation has been standing idle, because the Minister was not able to get sites.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Has the National Farmers' Union on any occasion complained about the condition of the land after it has been restored?
§ Sir A. Braithwaite
No, Sir. It has congratulated the Opencast Division many times on the way in which the land has been restored. The actual operation is not a pleasant sight to see, and farmers do not like having their farms taken away from them, but I would ask the Minister to do his best for us.
There is plenty of profit in this operation for the Government. It comes to nearly 7s. a ton on every ton they sell. Out of that, they could afford to pay the farmer substantially for any loss of production, as well as putting the land into a better condition than it was when we took the farm over. Surely that ought to be satisfactory. The Minister ought not to lose anything.
I am staggered that Parliament has allowed the neglect of opencast operations to continue while we run up a deficit on coal. I hope that the House will resolve that hon. Members on all sides should see what is happening and make up their minds that amenities are not being destroyed. The financial aspect of this operation speaks for itself.
I know that in the Department over which my right hon. Friend the Minister 451 of Fuel and Power presides there has been great frustration. It has not been able to get on with its job and to get the results that are expected. I earnestly hope that the House will keep this matter in mind until we have sufficient coal to supply the demand. I do not believe that an extra 5 million tons is by any means the limit. When we started opencast operations I claimed that there were 40 million tons available. We have already got 200 million tons and we are now getting opencast coal at the rate of 10 million tons a year.
§ Mr. P. Roberts
I agree with very much that my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Sir A. Braithwaite) has said. Is it not a fact that much of the responsibility for this situation arises from the fact that sites have been transferred from the Minister to the National Coal Board and that it is a question of getting the Coal Board to co-operate with the Minister?
§ Sir A. Braithwaite
I will read an extract from the Coal Board's Report. It says on page 10:There was a decline in production from open cast workings. In 1954, open cast sites produced 10.3 million tons of coal, nearly 1½ million tons less than in 1953. This decline offset most of the increase in deep-mined production, and was mainly due to long delays, which were outside the Board's control, in securing permission to work sites … and to bad weather.It therefore cannot be the Coal Board's responsibility. It must be the responsibility of the Government to get the sites released.
I declare that I have an interest. It is a minor interest, but I declare it to the House because I have been so keen to carry this operation on. In fact, if it had not been for the Father of the House, whom I see in his place, we should not have had any opencast coal at all. He realised the position when he was Minister of Mines, and opencast working has now developed into a great industry.
I return to the main theme. We must make the mining industry tick over in a proper way without all the difficulties and irritations that have occurred. It is difficult, in a time of full production and rising prices, to substantiate the criticism that the ordinary householder will not pay the price for coal. If we are patient, if we get good teamwork, and if we can 452 attract more and better leaders into the industry, we shall solve our problems. The miner is one of the finest citizens we have and will respond magnificently if given the opportunity.
There is a lot of work to be done in the coal mines. Sinkings have been going on very slowly and pits have not been opened as fast as some of us would have liked. In some cases the forward preparations have not been nearly sufficient. Mechanisation is coming very fast. The Minister spoke about some of the new face-loading machines. We must have these because of the shrinking of the seams. It is of importance to get the mechanical loader into practically every pit because coal cannot any longer in this twentieth century be manhandled in the way it has been.
We ought to give a great deal of attention to this industry, on which the whole of this island relies. I shall do everything in my power to help the Coal Board to work out a proper plan for the industry.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)
I should be most grateful to the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Sir A. Braithwaite) if he would correct me if I have not properly understood part of the case which he has made for the extension of opencast coal mining. If I understood him correctly, there are agricultural areas where we could develop opencast coal mining, which would mean temporary inconvenience to farmers, but would not interfere with any large centre of population. I gather from the hon. Member that that is a correct interpretation.
If that is so, I hope the Minister will listen to what he had to say. Everyone in this House accepts that there has to be opencast coal mining in present circumstances, but some of us are more than a little worried and suspicious because we are not quite certain that the selection of sites for opencast coal mining has been entirely fair. I am not surprised at objection coming from anyone at the prospect of his home or land being upset for this purpose. My own constituency, being a mining constituency, has to face this problem in a big way. It would be a most frivolous and improper attitude on the part of any hon. Member to put only a particular constituency point, of view 453 and to argue, "Because this is my constituency, the Minister must leave us alone." Nevertheless, it is proper that there should be exceptions in an area where there is a good deal of opencast coal mining, and an obvious exception is where an entire mining village and all its amenities, including its new housing settlement, are affected by opencast coal mining.
Therefore, I hope that when the Minister is re-examining the problem of opencast mining he will look at what has been happening, in particular in the Great Wirley area in my constituency. We have not complained about other schemes. We have expected to have to put up with even more than our share of the social disabilities of this type of mining, but I should like to be satisfied that other areas have not been exempted because it would have caused inconvenience to, at most, a handful of people, whereas with us it is a whole community. The very essence of the argument I wish to put before the House is that the mining population will not be maintained unless, in dealing with mining problems, we take a more serious view than we have yet done of the social environment in which the miner and his family live.
I listen always with the greatest respect and interest to hon. Members in all parts of the House who talk with expert and technical knowledge of mining, a knowledge I do not profess to have. I even enjoy the Jeremiah speeches which we have regularly from the hon. and gallant Member for South Fylde (Colonel Lancaster). Always in those debates, however, the expert appears to feel that the area of expertise ends when he has finished dealing with coal and machinery, but unless we can keep—and attract—young men to the coal fields all is useless. We can sink new coal fields, develop new means of saving fuel, improve, as far as humanly possible, conditions underground, including safety measures, but we have still not solved the problem of mining recruitment.
Everyone who knows anything about mining knows that when the time comes for the lads in the mining area—and it is they on whom we must mainly depend—to go into the pits and follow their father's calling, the mother has considerable influence in the decision, and rightly so. We are these days hoping that the 454 world is not going to continue forever in an atmosphere of international tensions. We are glad that at the Four-Power Conference in Geneva there is a prospect of easing those tensions, but has this House considered what will be the effect of successful international negotiations to reduce these tensions and so make it unnecessary for us to continue forever our present two-year period of conscription?
I ask that because, when the mother is deciding whether to encourage or discourage the boy to go into the pit, again and again I have heard it said, "His mother is not keen on him going into the pit. The wages are better than they were, but there is still the accident rate and other disabilities, but she says that, at least, he will not be taken from her to serve for two years, perhaps abroad, in the Army." That is the mother's view. The miners themselves are always there when dangerous work is to be done in the pit or in war. That I do not have to argue. But has the House considered what is to be done to keep men in the mining community if, as we hope, there is an easing of international tension? Hon. Members must not underestimate the effect that that will have on recruitment for the mines.
I do not understand why some factors that to me seem so obvious continually elude the Government—I do not say the Minister, because his shoulders are not broad enough to carry the problem I am about to put. It seems simply nonsense to me that when a young fellow in the coal industry becomes engaged he and his young woman should not be able to go to the council offices and find out what houses are available; a new house—and if we had sense, we should have the local authorities reconditioning old houses as well. If we want young fellows to put up with the inevitable dangers and disabilities of coal mining it is elementary common sense to give them compensations on the surface.
I found a certain pathos in reading the housing section of the Report. In that we are told that the Coal Board, as we all know, has built 20,000 houses. It goes on to say thatThe aim … was not merely to build houses but to create mixed communities … and to avoid establishing isolated groups of miners' houses segregated from the rest of the community.455 Of course we want a well mixed community. We want the butcher, the baker, and the bus driver, the lawyer, doctor, teacher and the rest living together, not a separate ghetto for colliers.
Why has the Coal Board been brought into this? The Board should have other things to do besides building houses. That ought not to have been the duty of the Coal Board or of the Minister of Fuel and Power. It certainly ought to be the duty of the Government. In areas where we hope to keep, and recruit, a mining community we should not expect a young fellow nowadays first to have to marry his young lady, and then probably see his first or second child in conditions of squalor and unhappiness. But that is exactly what we are permitting in this year of grace, 1955.
If a man has money he can build himself a house in every county in England and no one will stop him, but the young miner cannot afford to buy himself a house. He does not want to do it. What he is entitled to is a good, pleasant house to rent, not to have to wait drearily month after month, year after year, on a council list. A house should be his so that he can start married life in an atmosphere of hope and pleasantness.
I suppose that one day we shall have this problem dealt with by a high-falutin' committee of psychologists, sociologists and the rest. Then it will come back to this House on a slow curve as the recommendation of experts and we shall have to pay attention to it. The problem may even be solved for us in another way. It may be that new methods of using coal and atomic energy will be developed so rapidly that we shall be able to hold our own with a fast-declining mining population. But what hon. Member is willing to run that risk?
I am not condemning the Coal Board for building 20,000 houses. It was a policy of desperation; it had to fill the gap; but what is needed is that councils in mining areas should have adequate quotas for building houses. My constituency is in an expanding coal field where we have to bring in new miners from Lanarkshire and other parts of the country. We have not the houses to meet the needs of the newcomers and to house the old miners. Instead, we find that 456 our housing quota has been harshly cut. I ask the Minister of Fuel and Power to insist on the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer combining with him to improve the social amenities of mining villages.
We have one speech after another from hon. Members opposite, but they ignore wages, welfare conditions and housing needs. I appreciate what they do tell us when it comes from genuinely expert knowledge about how best to deal with the technical side of coal getting, but what we really need is a day to discuss conditions on the surface. I should like to have a survey, and an estimate made of how much it would cost and how soon the job could be done, not only to make good generations of neglect of the coal pits, but generations of neglect of the social amenities in the mining villages.
We have to repair the neglect of generations. We have the squalor caused by mining subsidence, and we have not yet got a Bill through this House which will take care of all aspects of mining subsidence. We were glad when the Labour Government gave us a Measure dealing with its effect on modest property such as little cottages, but it is time we had a Bill dealing completely with the damage caused to all kinds of property in the mining areas.
We have, in addition, the problem of opencast coal mining. I know of an excellent mining area where it is planned to build swimming baths and a good library—only planned. Even now these are lacking. But, generally speaking, when young fellows should be looking forward to settling down in the mining industry and getting married and raising their families in comfort, there are no adequate facilities either for sport or for education. I think that this is absolute lunacy.
Occasionally, I walk down Pall Mall and I see the faces of old men sitting at the club windows. I do not make war on old men or on babies. I do not care what their income is, neither do I care how they have spent or misspent their lives. I think they should have a universal benediction when they reach the age at which they can only sit in an armchair in a sunny window and watch the world go by. But in the parts of Britain where wealth is spent rather than earned, 457 the social furniture is adequate, whereas in my constituency, in spite of the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers, we have been trying since the end of the war to get enough cash and good will to build one small club where retired miners can go, feeling that they have a place of their own.
I refrain, as time is short, from dealing with the tempting subjects of the price of coal and the nonsense that many of us had to put up with during the last General Election from hon. Members opposite. In one remote part of the country I was told that the same price of household coal should obtain everywhere. I agree, but the Government do not agree. They will not look at our claims for nationalising the distribution of coal.
I repeat, because it is of the utmost importance, that it is no use having all the expert knowledge in the world on how to produce coal unless we accept the fact that the young collier and his young woman are not comparing the starvation wages of the past with the present. They compare their life with that of other workers. They are not going to tolerate the nagging, the preaching and the discrimination between what they may do and what others can do—mid-week sports, for instance.
The miner is expected to be a voluntary worker every second Saturday; he cannot organise his social life, and if, on top of that, he has squalid home and social environment, we cannot hope to hold him. The council cannot do all that is needed, for it has not got the money to do it. All that the Tory Government have done is to put up the rate of interest and make it more difficult for the local councils to build, whether it is homes, hospitals, schools, concert halls or swimming baths.
One of the things which will condemn the present Government will be the country realising that we cannot have coal without colliers. Yet the Government are failing to provide the social environment in which the collier and his family may live a more attractive life than at present.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
It will not have escaped hon. Members that in the course of the last few weeks I have had disagreements with my right 458 hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power on many aspects of coal policy and associated matters. I intend to speak very briefly this evening on one or two aspects of those disagreements, and let me say at once that they are not disagreements of a party political character. They are disagreements in matters of economics, finance and technology. I think that the whole of the subject which we have been discussing today is of such great complexity that it must surely allow of disagreement, even within one political party.
The Minister of Fuel and Power said today—I wrote his words down with great care—when he was approaching his peroration, "Coal problems will be solved in both the short and the long term." Nothing of the sort. We are not even making any approach—
§ Mr. Nabarro
I did not interrupt my right hon. Friend. He has corrected me and has said that he said "the coal gap," and not "coal problems." I will give him his point—"the coal gap will be solved in both the short and long term." It makes little difference. The point is that I do not believe that we are approaching a solution to the coal gap. Notwithstanding the policy of the substitution of oil, notwithstanding the so-called dawn of an atomic era, I do not believe that we are even beginning to approach the problem of solving the coal gap.
My right hon. Friend, in three successive debates on fuel and power in the House, has carefully refrained from giving figures of the last three years' coal production. My hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) called those figures stagnant. I think what he meant was static. It is true that between 1945 and 1951 coal production in this country did rise from 175 million tons a year to 224 million tons a year, but I suggest—and here is where my fuel policy starts—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] Yes, I said at the outset that there are very profound differences between us in this matter.
My fuel policy starts from the fact that in 1952 we mined 224.9 million tons of coal, in 1953 224.5 million tons of coal, and in 1954 224.75 million tons of coal. Coal production is practically 459 static, and what nobody has mentioned in as many words today, and what I think is the most significant and important feature of all, is that, out of that 224 million tons of coal, 24 million tons is exceedingly vulnerable. It comes from Saturday and Sunday working in the pits as to 12 million, and from opencast mining as to a further 12 million tons.
At least let me pay this immediate compliment to the mining community, and particularly to those who work below the surface. Other than the steel workers, they are the only body of organised workers in the country today who are consistently and continuously working on Saturdays and Sundays. That fact is not sufficiently realised. As I said, out of the 224 million tons of coal, 24 million tons is exceedingly vulnerable. But what has happened? In the first six months of this year we have not even been maintaining that static production. Coal mining production has fallen in the first six months of this year by 2,500,000 tons. Pro rata to a full year, that means that in 1955 we shall produce 219 million tons, five million tons less than last year. Coal consumption, however, will rise this year by approximately five million tons. With a decline of five million tons in production and an increase of five million tons in consumption, a further ten million tons will be added to the gap this year.
I said to my right hon. Friend twelve months ago, "This year you are importing only four million tons of coal." That was in 1954. "Next year my calculation is that we shall import ten million tons." He said, "No, that is a great exaggeration." A few months later I repeated that statement publicly before a number of leaders of the nationalised industries and they thought my figures were an exaggeration. In the event, we are importing this year not ten million tons but twelve million tons.
In the event, my prognostication of an increase in price of 10s. per ton this summer has become 12s. per ton as an average. My prognostication this evening, and what has driven me to public disagreement with my right hon. Friend, is this simple fact: next year, from the figures which I have already put before the House, I believe we shall have to import not twelve million tons of coal but twenty-five million tons, and I believe that 460 the adverse effect of this, with hardening coal prices, with a shortage in Western Germany and elsewhere and with our having to haul much of this coal across the North Atlantic, will be £170 million in our balance of payments. I suggest that that may well take the whole of the surplus on the Chancellor's balance of overseas payments next year.
My right hon. Friend says, "My policy is to substitute oil fuel." That is not my policy. In my view, the substitution of oil fuel is not a policy; it is an expedient, and more, it is a desperate expedient. It is a desperate expedient to which we have been driven by the circumstances of the last few years.
I do not want to be unkind to my right hon. Friend. This is not entirely his fault. But I want some realism brought into the debate, for I am not talking party politics. What I am saying is that if we substitute oil fuel for imported coal, we are aggravating the adverse balance of payments to only a slightly lesser extent than by importing the equivalent coal. It is not only a question of the dollar content of fuel oil, which may be relatively small, for surely our balance of payments year by year does not depend only on a dollar element?
I suggest that the combined effect of importing next year twenty-five million tons of coal, coupled with increasing supplies of oil fuel, may be calamitous upon our balance of overseas payments. I believe that the only difference between oil and coal in this respect is that there is a ratio of five million tons of oil to eight million tons of coal and that the oil, having greater calorific value, brings in its train certain advantages only. It diminishes the grave payments problem but does not eliminate it.
Are we to turn, over the next twenty years, to massive imports of foreign fuel instead of utilising the unbounded wealth which lies beneath our soil in this country? I have not always been wrong in this matter, and I believe that we are not likely—and I hope hon. Members opposite will not consider this sacrilegious—to get more than 220–225 million tons of coal per annum, including Saturday and Sunday working and opencast working, in each of the next five to ten years, in spite of all the capital investment in the pits.
461 My reason for saying this is that in conditions of full employment I doubt very much whether our manpower can substantially be raised. The constituencies of both the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) and myself, in the West Midlands, and the coal mining areas generally in the West Midlands, are contiguous to industrial Birmingham and Coventry, where there are 60,000 vacancies for jobs and where unskilled men in engineering factories can very often earn as much as men working in the coal mining industry. How can we suppose, in such conditions of full employment—unless we have direction of labour, which is unthinkable to all of us—that we shall keep our men in the mining industry or improve the working strength in the industry in that area? I can speak only for the West Midlands, and the position may be different in Scotland or Durham or elsewhere, but I do not believe that there will be any substantial improvement in manpower in the mining industry in such areas as the West Midlands.
That is where my fuel and power policy starts. It starts from the fact that we shall not get much more than 220–225 million tons of coal a year. It starts from the fact that it is calamitous to import ever-increasing quantities of foreign fuel. From that point forward it identifies me with the evangelical right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker). I am not quite sure what my right hon. Friend meant when he called the right hon. Gentleman an evangelist. Perhaps he meant an evangelist of fuel efficiency and conservation.
The last time we had words on this subject my right hon. Friend called me his secret weapon. Whether the right hon. Member for Derby, South is an evangelist or whether I am a secret weapon is a matter of minor importance this evening. What is of major importance is that the right hon. Member for Derby, South and I, party politics aside, happen to have a close identity of view about one aspect of this fuel and power problem, and it is that the nation's policy ought to be to make coal work a great deal harder than it has been working in the last few years.
The right hon. Gentleman might even have been making the speech which I had prepared for this debate. He quoted my sources of information. It is the fact that we sent a very highly-qualified team of fuel technologists and trade 462 unionists to the United States to study this problem only two years ago. Those men would not have come back and written in black and white, in a voluminous and most well-informed Anglo-American productivity Report, that we were wasting thirty million tons of coal a year in industry in this country if that were false.
The Professor of Thermo-dynamics of the University of Oxford, Sir Fredrick Simon, received a knighthood from this Government only last year. [HON. MEMBERS: "From the Queen."] I am sorry; he received it from Her Majesty the Queen. Can it be suggested that a person of his stature would write that the total fuel economy of which this nation is capable within a ten-year plan is sixty million tons a year if that were not true? It is extraordinary how fuel technologists and those who have spent a lifetime in the study of these sciences have all arrived at a nearly unanimous conclusion in this respect—and that conclusion was voiced today by the right hon. Member for Derby, South, and is again being voiced in my speech.
To epitomise what I am saying, I believe that a ton of coal saved by greater efficiency, supported by the appropriate capital investment, is infinitely more valuable to this nation than a ton of coal mined. I cannot believe that anybody in his right senses, party politics aside, can ever deny that fact.
I want to say, very shortly, what ought to be done in this connection. I believe we urgently need a Fuel and Power (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill with six principal Clauses in it. The first ought to be to require the certification to minimum standards of proficiency of all industrial boilermen and firemen within a period of two or three years. The right hon. Member lifted something straight out of my speech. It has been said many times before but I do not think it will detract from its value if I mention it again. The coal miner at the face wins about three tons of coal in a shift. An unskilled boilerman in an engineering factory can waste far more than that in a shift.
I am not casting aspersions on boilermen, but I say it was quite ridiculous for my right hon. Friend the Minister to send his Parliamentary Secretary to this House to respond to an Adjournment debate, when I pleaded for arrangements 463 for certification on these lines by saying, "We have the City of Guilds examination for training boilermen." We are the only industrial nation in the world which does not require a minimum standard of competence of that kind. The United States of America, Canada, Western Germany, Australia, South Africa, all do it. Do we, in Britain, regard coal as so dirt cheap that that is not worth doing?
The second Clause in the Bill would require that every new boiler plant installed in this country is certificated according to minimum standards of efficiency, fired by mechanical stokers, controlled thermostatically, with all its steam pipes lagged, and with smoke recorders and alarms fitted, also manned by fully qualified firemen, all within the statute and certificated by the staff of the National Industrial Fuel Efficiency Service. If it is asked if that is the special theory of the hon. Member for Kidderminster I would reply, for goodness sake go and look at the city ordinances of the United States of America and Canada, where they have all the fuel they need—all the coal, all the lignite, all the natural gas, hydro-electric power and petroleum resources they need. Yet those cities write into their ordinances that a new boiler plant cannot be installed unless it reaches certain minimum standards of efficiency, and is capable of being operated without emission of dark or black smoke.
In my Fuel and Power (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill I should require that every new industrial building, as a condition of the granting of a development certificate, shall be properly insulated. I cannot see the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) present. We have only one thing in common, he and I. We both happen to be industrialists engaged in the engineering industry. The right hon. Member is as keen on industrial insulation as I am, but I would legislate for it.
Quite recently I had occasion to extend a large machine shop and the cost of doing so was about £20,000. At the end of the process I had a detailed estimate taken out of the cost for the insulation and it was £750. The effect would be to reduce the coal consumption for raising steam for heating purposes by 25 per cent. to 30 per cent.
464 There is not an industrial building in the country where steam heating is employed, either from the use of oil fuel or of coal, where insulation would not be conducive to reducing the fuel requirement. Why has my right hon. Friend not insisted on it? I have told him about it often enough. I am sure he has read, with the same avidity as I have, Cmd. 8647, the Report of the Ridley Committee, which recommends exactly what I am saying this evening. Every fuel technologist, every architect, every works engineer in the country knows it to be true. Why not write it into a Fuel and Power (Miscellaneous Provisions) statute? I assure my right hon. Friend that the results, in terms of coal economy, would be very big indeed.
Fourthly, I am still waiting for the Government's anti-smog Bill. My small claim to Parliamentary fame and fortune will undoubtedly rest on the fact that a Private Member's Measure, my Clean Air Bill, last February resulted in both main political parties, at an immediately ensuing General Election, writing the proposals into their manifestoes. The plain fact of the matter is, as I am sure is realised by the overwhelming majority of hon. Members, that dark and black smoke from industrial chimneys is the concomitant, the evidence, of faulty burning of raw bituminous coal. One of the only ways in which we can legislate against that sort of waste is by tackling the visible evidence—the smoke.
I hope the Government's Bill is to arrive soon. Surely coal wastage on this scale cannot be continued indefinitely. Surely it is a matter of urgency—more urgent than many other Bills which have been introduced. Surely it is a matter of urgency that that Bill should receive a Second Reading within the next few weeks. I suppose it will have to be in the next week if it is to be before the long Recess, but at any rate we can all co-operate and endeavour to see that the Bill reaches the Statute Book before Christmas.
Finally, in my proposed Fuel and Power (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, I come to the most important matter of all. This has had a curious history. I was the first hon. Member of this House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The hon. Member who is sneering at me was not here.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I was the first hon. Member of this House who suggested that a really dynamic means of inducing industrial fuel efficiency should be through the use of the fiscal instrument. I said that if we allowed industrialists to charge certain specified industrial fuel economising equipment against profits for tax purposes in the year in which the equipment was installed—in other words if we gave them a 100 per cent. initial allowance—that would overcome the principal difficulty in industrial fuel efficiency matters, namely, that in the case of most engineering products the value of the element of cost in respect of fuel and power is generally about 2 per cent. of the value of the finished product. That is what makes it so difficult to get industry to invest in expensive new fuel economising equipment.
I first made this suggestion in the debates on the Finance Bill in 1951, from the benches opposite. The right hon. Member for Derby, South was sympathetic to it. He and many of his party, one after the other—the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) was the first—got up and supported it. Then they went into the Lobby and voted against it. I hope that the right hon. Member will not dress himself in a white sheet about fuel efficiency matters, because, although my right hon. Friend has not done much, the right hon. Member opposite did slightly less. When the two sides of the House changed round, after 1951, Mr. Anthony Crosland, then the Socialist hon. Member for South Gloucestershire, adopted the fiscal instrument proposal during the Finance Bill debates in 1953, and moved it from the Opposition benches, and I was whipped into the Lobby against him. I see the deputy Chief Whip sitting in front of me, and I know he will recall all those momentous events.
Every report made on this subject has advocated a scheme of this kind. My right hon. Friend the Minister said he set up the National Fuel Efficiency Service but that was based on the Pilkington Report, which said, "Let us have an autonomous industrial fuel efficiency body, but it will not succeed unless there 466 is an incentive to industry to install plants of the type we are proposing."
§ Mr. C. R. Hobson (Keighley)
Before the hon. Member leaves the question of fuel efficiency, may I ask if he does not think that there must be embodied in his Bill some form of compulsory consultation with the Central Electricity Authority, in view of the great variation—indefensible in many cases—in regard to the load factor?
§ Mr. Nabarro
Yes, that is a different but associated point, and as I do not want to speak for much longer, as there are other hon. Members waiting to speak, I hope that the hon. Member will forgive me if I do not develop that point.
I revert to my earlier remarks. All these matters are urgent if the nation really believes in balancing its coal budget. All of them are in pursuit of a belief that, by making coal work a great deal harder, we can eliminate the enormous burden of fuel imports during the next few years. I believe that if, in 1951, my right hon. Friend had taken the advice of a Private Member in this matter—namely myself; I say this in all seriousness and with due modesty—we should not have been importing a single ton out of the 12 million tons of coal that we are bringing in this year.
There has been a good deal of speculation in the newspapers as to which way I shall vote tonight. I shall not abstain. I shall not vote with the Opposition. I shall vote with the Conservative Party, tonight. I shall not even drag my feet. I believe that it is better to have a competent Conservative Administration in office, with one lapse of policy in the Ministry of Fuel and Power, rather than risk the return of a wholly incompetent Socialist Administration.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. George Darling (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
I agree, as I think, most hon. Members on this side of the House will agree, with almost everything that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) has said. But I am sure it will take more than these criticisms by the hon. Member to shake the Minister out of his complacency in these matters.
I should like to follow the hon. Member by agreeing almost entirely with him also in his forecast of coal production over 467 the next few years. I would say that, by a proper policy of coal production, it would be possible to get up to 240 million tons of deep-mined coal in ten years' time; but whether that is possible does not concern the arguments with which we are dealing tonight. It is far more important—here again I agree with the hon. Member—that we pay attention to fuel saving than to turning the Coal Board upside down to try to get, if we could do it that way, a slight increase in coal production.
I agree also that a fuel-saving policy should not be associated with shortages. Fuel saving is important in itself whether we have a shortage of coal or not. It is the coal shortage that makes it more urgent. I also agree with the hon. Gentleman that measures for fuel saving should be enforced by statute.
The question of fuel economy is the most important point in this debate. Not only has the Ministry itself done practically nothing about fuel economy, but in responding to the request of the Federation of British Industries to turn over the Ministry's Fuel Advisory Service to private interests for them to run in their own way and merely to persuade industry, if they can persuade industry, to economise in the use of fuel, the Ministry has done a great disservice to the whole of the coal and the fuel and power industries. In handing over the service to private interests, the Ministry has killed what could have been an effective force for fuel economy.
The Minister suggested that he was quite happy—he was rather proud of the fact—that the new private service is likely by its efforts to save the country 1 million tons of coal this year. One million tons of coal is a fleabite in this business. It is completely inadequate. When the Minister suggests that this private enterprise service, with no statutory power, no teeth and no compulsory powers of any kind, has contacted one industrial establishment in every six, I beg to doubt those figures. I do not think that this service has got anywhere near to touching one firm in six.
There must be about a quarter of a million industrial establishments using fuel appliances of one kind or another, and this service has got nowhere near to one-sixth of that figure.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power (Mr. L. W. Joynson-Hicks)
It is one-sixth of the industrial firms using more than 100 tons of coal a year.
§ Mr. Darling
That is the point to which I was coming. The firms who are the worst offenders in the matter of fuel saving are the small and medium-sized firms, who, between them, consume a much greater quantity of coal than the Minister and the Ministry as a whole seem to consider.
The small and medium-sized firms are the worst offenders and they will not respond to any half-hearted persuasion by a little fiddling bit of private enterprise; because, as the hon. Member for Kidderminster said, in most cases the cost of fuel to these firms is a very small part of their total costs. If they removed the whole of their fuel costs from the prices of their final products, they would not be able to bring down prices by any substantial amount. Consequently, there is no inducement in the question of costs to get those firms on with the job of fuel saving as they ought to be compelled to get on with it. Unless, somehow, they can be compelled, and not persuaded, to save fuel, the situation will not improve.
Events have shown that we cannot rely upon persuasion. If the total saving to be expected is only 1 million tons a year, obviously the breaking up of the Ministry's Fuel Advisory Service, which could quite easily have been given statutory power, has been detrimental to the interests of the country. To hand it over to a private company has greatly impaired all our efforts to save fuel.
Two years ago, in one of our debates, I suggested that the Ministry's Fuel Advisory Service inspectors should be given the same kind of authority as factory inspectors have; that they should be able to go into any industrial undertaking and say, "You are wasting fuel" if, by examination, that was proved to be the fact. They could advise that firm how to economise in fuel by installing new equipment, utilising new methods, or whatever it might be. As I have said, however, there is no financial inducement to these firms to put in new appliances.
In any case, if someone said to that type of small firm, "By an expenditure of £x you can save so many tons of coal 469 a year," it would in most cases say, "But by an expenditure of that amount of money we can get new machinery for the production of our articles and by that investment can reduce our costs of production, whereas if we spend money on fuel appliances we will not be able to reduce the price of our articles." The fact that there is no financial inducement in fuel saving ought to be driven into the heads of everybody concerned with this business.
The waste of coal in this country is criminal. If we want fuel saved we must obviously have an inducement other than a financial inducement. That calls for compulsory powers. There is no point, however, in putting a financial burden on firms without giving them a corresponding reward, if that can be done. I agree with the hon. Member for Kidderminster—although I disagree that he was the first person to suggest it—that expenditure upon new fuel-saving appliances should count 100 per cent. against Income Tax. The Treasury inducement there would be substantial and a firm could say that at least it was not a total loss to turn over to the new installations.
Another sanction that is required is that if, as I suggest, fuel advisers should have statutory authority on the lines of that possessed by factory inspectors, and they visited factories and described the new installations which ought to be put in, they should also explain what the fuel saving would be. They could fairly easily make such a calculation, and then the coal or coke supplies of the firm should be cut down to the figures suggested, after the firm has had a reasonable time to put in the recommended installations. That is rationing, but why not? The domestic consumer is rationed. Why should industry be allowed to go on wasting coal in the criminal manner in which it is wasted today whilst domestic consumers are rationed? A rationing scheme of that kind, with the inducements and sanctions which I have suggested, is very necessary.
It should be remembered that the price of coal will not be reduced. It will stay where it is, and perhaps will be increased. Coal is far too precious to be burned in the way it is being burned today. We must have a fuel policy that works to the point, which I hope is not too far distant, when it will be laid down by law that no raw coal is burned. It is possible now to provide the carbonisation plant to 470 carbonise all the coal we produce, including poor quality coal. We can produce gas, coke and tar, and all the chemical by-products derived from tar, from all our coal, except small coal, which can be used in power stations. Why, then, do we go on burning raw coal? Industry could carry on with coke and we could use gas in far greater quantities for industrial purposes. We ought to have gas turbines running our power stations, because turbines are the most efficient motive power units yet put into operation.
All this policy should be prepared and brought into operation over the next ten, fifteen or twenty years. At the moment, all that the Government seem content to do is to rely upon old methods of using coal and to try to find some persuasive methods of getting fuel saved, nobody knowing what the saving will be and nobody knowing what the future developments in the fuel and power industries will be. We ought to try to shake the Government out of their complacency, and particularly the Minister, and try to get a fuel policy roughly along the lines which have been suggested in the debate.
If we tackle this fuel policy and work towards a situation where we do not burn raw coal but extract from the coal that is produced its full value, we can, I am sure, manage without imports of coal. If we had a proper fuel-saving policy now in operation we could obviously manage without the present imports, and I believe we could have a real coal surplus for export, but there is no sign of a policy from the Government. That is our main criticism. I want to put to the Minister one or two questions about coal imports which I hope will be answered.
§ Mr. Robson Brown (Esher)
Does the hon. Member put any capital limit to his proposals for tax relief in respect of the installation of modern steam-raising equipment and the like? Some large organisations have a £250,000 power station. Would that be included because it was shown to save fuel?
§ Mr. Darling
I should place no limit at all, although I admit that there might be a lot of jiggery-pokery in this business and that some firms might put down as fuel-saving appliances equipment that probably did not come within that category and try to obtain tax relief in respect 471 of it. The standards of integrity in British industry are frequently not as high as some of us think they ought to be.
The managerial inefficiency which is at the bottom of our industrial troubles, and is far too widespread, cannot be put right without compulsion. One cannot leave it to persuasion. Inefficiency is too deep-rooted and these people must be compelled to do the things which efficient managements are doing without compulsion. I should place no tax relief limit on the fuel-saving apparatus which even the big progressive firms are compelled to instal. The tax relief which, as far as the balance sheet goes, would be a burden on the Treasury would be a coal saving to the country as a whole and would be worth while.
The first question I should like to ask about coal imports is that we seem to be assuming that the direct loss upon the 12 million tons that will be brought in will be in the neighbourhood of £20 million. That is the cost over and above the cost of producing the coal in this country, but is that the total loss? Where is the coal coming from the United States to be unloaded? I understand that if it comes in freighters of any size it cannot be handled unless the dockers are to shovel it out, because we have not got coal unloading equipment at any of our ports for big ships. Therefore, I should like to ask the Minister whether these ships are to be unloaded at Continental ports, the coal put into coasters and then brought here in that way? If that is done it will add to the cost, but I want to know whether that has been reckoned in the £20 million or whatever the figure is that has been estimated.
I should also like to ask, if the importation of the coal is to be handled in this way, what will be the effect upon freight charges? I understand freight charges are already going up en the Atlantic routes because of the demand for freighters for coal carrying, and it is quite likely that freight charges will also be increased for coasters from the Continent to bring coal here after it has been unloaded there. That, again, will send up the freight charges not only for coal but for general produce which has to be carried across.
This coastwise business from the Continent will also be expensive, because it 472 will be a one-way traffic. There will be nothing to put into the coasters when they return to the Continental ports. These are questions which have to be considered, because the snowballing of the high cost of coal importation is beginning to be realised and it will be seen that it is not going to be £20 million on coal but a lot more on all kinds of other things.
The final question I want to ask is what would have been the increase in coal prices if the request of the National Coal Board had been met in February of this year and not held up until after the Election? Would it have been of the same order as we are now facing; and, if not, how much smaller would it have been if the Government had done their duty and been honest and decent in this business and had granted the request for a coal increase when it was first made by the Coal Board? Those questions ought to be answered so that we can measure the size of the problem with which we have to contend.
But, over and above these immediate issues, I suggest that if the Minister feels incapable of sitting down and gathering round him experts to work out a sensible, progressive long-term fuel policy, let him get out of office and let somebody else get on with the job.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
I hope that the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. G. Darling) will forgive me if I leave the doubtless very interesting questions which he has asked to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House when he sums up the debate later. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will tell my right hon. Friend what those questions are.
I must confess that I think this is rather a melancholy occasion. About eight and a half years have elapsed now since the nationalisation of the mines and we have come to this debate today rather, as it were, to a wake of coal industry. And on both sides of the House one meets a general depression which is characteristic of all the speeches with the exception of that of my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro).
The debate is singular, for we are faced with a censorious Amendment by the Opposition over a policy which is, in fact, 473 the exact edition of that which hon. Members opposite carried out when they were in office. All the criticisms which we have had from the other side of the House about the structure of the Coal Board and the account keeping could equally have been delivered in the early years of nationalisation when the Board was being framed by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
The extraordinary thing is that we on this side of the House are defending a policy in which we have never believed and which we never thought could succeed, and which is living up to our expectations, for no one could say today that optimism has anywhere reappeared. In fact, it is doubtful, so far, whether much good can come by way of ideas from this debate. We are bound to nationalisation. There has been no suggestion from this side of the House of denationalisation. It is curious that hon. Gentlemen opposite have said that we intend to denationalise the industry when no one on this side of the House has said anything of the kind. We are also bound to the recommendations of the Fleck Report. Yet the main purpose of this debate—and, certainly, the only good it can do—is if it brings home to the mining industry the extraordinary value of the contribution it makes to the national economy.
I would like to divide the eight and a half years of nationalisation into three periods. The first from vesting day, 1947 to 1950, when the industry was undergoing all the trials which we are agreed are inherent with change; and when, if any criticisms were levelled at the Coal Board, that argument was invariably offered as the reason for all imperfections. Secondly, I would take 1951, which has been the only year since nationalisation that could be described as successful. Lastly, I would take the years from 1952 to 1955 which I do not think could be described as particularly successful by hon. Members on either side of the House.
As I have said, 1951 stands alone as successful, and the reason for it is a simple one. During that year the mining industry worked harder than before or since. The reason for that is also a simple one, for they realised during that year the importance of their contribution. That was because of a remarkable letter written to the miners in the early part of that 474 year by the then Prime Minister, the present Leader of the Opposition, which asked for greater effort and higher production in the national interest and placed fairly, squarely, and without any attempt at concealment, the responsibility for production upon the producers of coal themselves.
§ Mr. G. Darling
Would the noble Lord allow me to interrupt? He is talking about the industry, but he probably means the miners working in it. How does he square that with the fact that the output per man in subsequent years was bigger? Surely they must have worked harder.
§ Viscount Lambton
I am not trying to square anything, and the hon. Gentleman is incorrect in saying that the output per man during the last ten years has been higher than in that year. I can confirm that from answers given to my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Robson Brown) by the Minister of Fuel and Power. They show that in 1951 738 tons per year per man were mined and this figure had never been approached in any other year between 1946 and 1954. That is a matter of fact.
§ Mr. Darling
Then the figure in the Report of the National Coal Board is wrong. The figure here is 303 tons—
§ Mr. Darling
if the hon. Gentleman takes face workers the figure is wrong. It says in the Report of the Coal Board that the output per man—
§ Viscount Lambton
I am talking about years, perhaps the hon. Gentleman is talking about shifts. I have those figures here for him to see and I shall be glad if he will look at them.
Now I want to get on to the effect of this remarkable year's work. During that year there were 1,000 fewer face workers, and when we hear about the present troubles being due to the shortage of labour, it should be noted that with 1,000 fewer face workers during that year the industry produced 7 million extra tons of coal than in the previous year. I would stress that that is the one year which we can judge as successful under nationalisation, and it is 475 the one year which we can compare with the present state of affairs, because it was in the autumn of that year that this Government was returned and the present Minister of Fuel and Power took over his duties. My right hon. Friend came in, as it were, at the end of a rise in production. No one would for a moment wish to underestimate the great difficulties which faced him, for they were enormous and varied. The Conservative Party came into power at a time of crisis when the economic position was such that it was considered essential that no large industrial dispute should take place.
I am certain that my right hon. Friend acted with all good reason, but, unfortunately, that fear has hung over him and coloured all his actions concerning relationships with the mining industry until the present shortage of coal has done more harm to the economy than any dispute then would have done. The greatest mistake of all was the Minister's complete failure to understand the patriotism of the miner. His fixed idea has been that the only way to achieve increased production is to shield the miner from any criticism, from the realities of the situation, from any responsibility for results which can only be described as disappointing, and, indeed, from anything which might have made the miner realise the gravity of the situation and would have inspired him to greater efforts. If one wants a comparison, one has only to look at the results of the policy of standing as a shield between the miner and responsibility and the reactions which followed the blunt letter to the miners from the present Leader of the Opposition.
It was to combat that that my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster. my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Fylde (Colonel Lancaster) and others called for an explanation of the true position. The year 1951 is the only year with which a comparison of effort can be made. I contend that the results achieved in 1951 arose from a true appreciation of the position by miners. In that year 287,000 face workers produced just under 212 million tons of coal, at an average of 738 tons per man. That was an increase of 30 tons per man compared with the previous year. In 1952, the first full year in which the present Minister 476 conducted our fuel policy, it became apparent that those satisfying results were not being continued and that there had been a relaxation in the production of coal. By the end of the year the annual amount mined per man had slipped from 738 tons to 729 tons. Yet it was in the autumn of that year that the Minister, with this reduction known to him, chose to declare in a public speech that gradually a great change for the better had come over the fuel and power position.
This decline, which some hon. Members have called static, continued during 1953 and 1954, to the increasing alarm of hon. Members on this side of the House. It was quite apparent that production was not rising in any way comparable with the hopes of the Ridley Report. Yet, in the autumn of 1954, the Minister once again chose to say that the mining industry of this country had a glorious future—when the only "glorious future" offered to it was the gradual reduction in the use of coal and its replacement by oil and atomic power.
Could these figures of 1954 have produced that optimism? Could the right hon. Gentleman have been persuaded that a glorious future was opening for the industry when the production per face worker in that year was considerably below the 1951 figure, over 10 tons per man below the figure of 1951, and when, during that period, nearly £150 million had been spent on capital development within the mines?
§ Mr. Slater
Is the noble Lord suggesting that, because there was no increase in production, miners have been seeking to restrict their labour, and that that, is the reason we have not the increase about which he is talking?
§ Viscount Lambton
I am suggesting that it shows that the situation in the mines is not absolutely happy when, after four years and an expenditure of £150 million of capital, production has lagged behind what it was before.
§ Mr. David J. Pryde (Midlothian)
The noble Lord has mentioned 1951 and quoted the figure of 738 tons per man per year. Would he tell the House for how many hours these men were engaged in producing those 738 tons per man per year?
§ Viscount Lambton
I am suggesting that it is not the hours, but the actual production which is important. It does not matter how and when it is produced.
§ Viscount Lambton
As a further example of the rather unfortunate state of affairs which made this optimism so misguided, I would remind the House that there were 2,640 unofficial stoppages during that year. It was the policy of the Minister, unfortunately, to say nothing about that. One cannot help feeling that this cannot, in a sense, have been unintentional. There is no more competent and efficient speaker or Parliamentarian than the Minister. Yet, in debate after debate, nothing was said to bring out the facts, and this at a time when hon. Members on this side of the House were becoming increasingly worried about the fact that there was no increase in production.
I am sure that certain hon. Members opposite, and on this side of the House, may consider that I am being very destructive. The problem is to be constructive without being destructive to the present organisation. Last year, the Fleck Report was presented. Before that, certain hon. Members on this side of the House had long considered that the one chance of making nationalisation work more effectively was to adopt a policy of decentralisation. I know that that is not the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but it was the view held by many hon. Members on this side of the House. Had this debate taken place a year ago, we would have been only too willing and anxious to put forward these proposals, which would then have been constructive, but now, unfortunately, since the Fleck Report has been adopted, are destructive.
The last thing I want to do is to stir up a continual investigation into the organisation of the industry. I only regret that the Fleck Report was adopted so swiftly, without consulting hon. Members on this side of the House who would have liked to express their opinions.
§ Viscount Lambton
It is a big word and such a large subject that I think it would be impossible to explain it now. I do not know whether the hon. Member heard the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Fylde, but he made the clear point that the nearer to the pithead authority was placed the better. That is what my hon. Friends and I very much wanted, and that is what the Fleck Report has not brought about.
§ Mr. Charles A. Howell (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
Will the hon. Member, who is complaining about his hon. Friends not having been consulted, tell us whether there are any practical miners on that side of the House?
§ Mr. William Blyton (Houghton-le-Spring) rose—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
Time is short. Other hon. Members are anxious to take part in the debate, and I hope that time will not be taken up in this cross-examination.
§ Mr. Blyton
If we had discussed the hon. Member's plan twelve months ago and had competition within the coal industry, our economic position would have been even worse than it is now.
§ Viscount Lambton
That is a very interesting opinion, expressed by a very interesting Member of Parliament, but it really settles nothing.
I want to say something about the position of Sir Hubert Houldsworth, the chairman of the Coal Board, because I believe that responsibility must be accepted for action which is taken. The dismissal of a large number of people not directly at the top of the Board, and the maintenance in office of Sir Hubert Houldsworth, caused surprise, to say the least. Some time ago Sir Hubert made a very fine speech, in which he staked his reputation upon the production of more coal. Sir Hubert has now lost his reputation—but we have not lost him. At present he is instilling his wisdom and knowledge of the industry into his successor. That is not a state of affairs which can cause very great satisfaction.
479 I have tried to concentate upon the single issue of the relation between the Minister and the miners because I regard that as being the beginning and the end of everything. The basic problem is to produce more coal, but the curious thing is that hon. Members opposite have put forward no constructive suggestions as to how that is to be done, neither have they expressed any opinion about the present decline in production per man. I do not want to make any attack upon the miners. All I ask for—and all my hon. Friends ask for—is a frank explanation of the position when things go wrong, and a placing of responsibility where it actually belongs—upon the miners.
I have, tried to demonstrate the remarkably good reaction which followed the letter of the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition. If the Minister, in the months that lie ahead, will put squarely to the industry and the country what is expected from it, the miners will react favourably, but so long as there is a covering up of the situation and a concealment of the true state of affairs they will not. We cannot expect the men to work when they are told that they are doing enough.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)
My speech will be very brief. I propose to say one or two things about what has been said today. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) said that he did not want to quarrel with the miners. I am not surprised. They were the very best friends he ever had when coal was not nationalised and they have been very good friends since it was nationalised, if we take into account what the hon. Viscount has got out of it.
The debate—and I have heard every word of it—has proved to me that the policy of the Labour Government in nationalising the mines has been completely and utterly vindicated. It has also proved, out of the mouths of Members of the Government party, that the Government stand discredited in regard to the present situation. We are debating the production and importing of coal. I do not like importing anything that we can produce at home, and I could talk for a long time on another occasion about the importing of steel into this country. 480 That is a story that will be worth recording and talking about.
Out of the mouths of the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Sir A. Braithwaite) and of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), the one on the score of opencast mining and a failure on the part of the present Government to carry out what he regarded as the right policy, and the other in regard to coal conservation, the Government stand discredited, and ought to do the right thing and get out of office at once.
I am not surprised that we have heard nothing about any proposal for denationalisation. There was a situation in which we were warned of some such proposal, but other things have been said in the last two or three weeks, and have been said today, that make the most reactionary Tory pause before saying what he thinks ought to be done with the British mines.
I have said things in the past about coal-getting that were not very popular, but tonight I want to say a personal "Thank you" to the miners. I do that for myself personally. I want, secondly, to say a bigger "Thank you" on behalf of the steel industry, from which I come. I say it for what the miners have done to make the steel records possible. Without coal, the steel industry could not have done what it has done. The personal "Thank you" is to those boys who agreed to the one-man proposal that was made in another place about Saturday working. It was not very popular but the proposal has been completely vindicated.
The miner is the bedrock of all that this country stands for. We must never forget it. At Election meetings I tell this to my people, and particularly to young Tories who come, although they do not know what they are talking about. Some of them seem to come to our meetings before they have shed their napkins; but that is another story. I tell them that bags of coal are more important than bags of gold. People are burying gold in America because they have no use for it. We are not getting sufficient coal.
The question is how we can inculcate into the mind of the miner that spirit that will cause him to produce more coal. There is not a miners' representative present who would say that the miners are perfect. There are no such things 481 as perfect individuals, perfect associations, perfect Governments or perfect anything. The miners are ordinary people. All that they ask is a fair crack of the whip. They remember what went on in the past. In the very few seconds that I have at my disposal my concern will be with the future.
Every trade unionist, every trade union leader, every industrialist and every citizen should make it his business—because of our common desire to increase prosperity and to keep what we have at the moment—to convince the miners, and particularly the younger entrants into the mines, that the miner is the most important man in the country. We must get into the minds of these younger fellows a sense of responsibility. I want to be quite open about it I meet young miners who do not seem to have the same regard for their lodge meetings and their trade union leadership as have the older men. I meet older miners who are feeling a big fed up about it. Lodge officials say they are resigning because things are not as they used to be.
Above all else, something should be put into operation to cut out trouble quickly at its source. I am a member of an industry in which we have our troubles, just as do the miners. We use shovels just as big as theirs, and we work and eat and sweat and slog and slave. just as they do. We have our troubles but we can solve them on the spot. We can go to the manager or the managing director and say, "This is wrong and it should be put right." Very often it is put right on the spot. I am afraid that in the mining industry there is too much passing the buck along the line until, by the time it reaches the other end, the matter has become of great magnitude and causes trouble.
My time is up, but I want to ask the people in our own trade union movement to do everything possible to support the men in the mines in this gallant fight of theirs. It is all very well at political meetings for the Tories to talk about nationalisation and to say that all the ills and troubles are caused by it. Nothing of the sort. If we had not had nationalisation of the mines we should not be sitting here now discussing this problem. By now we should have been down and we should have been out—and down and out for all time.
482 The country, its industries and its citizens, owe a great deal to the miners, and in return the miner owes a great deal to the country. I say to the miners, "You are important people, great citizens. You should act as such. Accept responsibility, and accept the idea that this is the very finest island under God's sun, that we are the finest people under God's sun and that our way of living is worth preserving." Each miner should say, "I, as a miner, recognise that, I intend to see that our way of life is preserved and, given decent conditions, within my limits I am prepared to do all I can to see that it is."
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I wish to begin by restating the basic facts of the situation confronting us. We are short of coal and, on the assumption that full employment is maintained and industrial expansion continued, it is certain that we shall be short of it for some years ahead. Let us face that fact first. The Minister, this afternoon, has announced plans for alternative fuels. Those plans will take time to mature and to take full effect. We have not had leisure to study them yet but we shall want to study them very carefully.
Even assuming that all happens as he proposes, until such time as the plans of reconstruction bring their results there are two imperative policy requirements. First, we must do all that we can to maintain output in the mines and, if possible, to increase it. Secondly, it becomes more urgent than ever before to ensure that every ton of this precious commodity is used properly, and that not a single ounce is wasted, as it has been so criminally wasted through the generations.
Those are the imperative requirements of policy, and I shall seek to deal with both. First I wish to ask one question—and, in particular, I want the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) to listen. I ask—why are we short of coal now? The other day, Mr. Latham, the Director-General of Finance of the National Coal Board, called a Press conference, in the course of which he gave an explanation which I want to quote to the House. It deserves to go on record and to be remembered by every hon. Member and by the whole 483 nation—and I hope that the noble Viscount will listen. These are Mr. Latham's words:This is an industry in which, to a greater extent than most, current results are determined by the policy and action of earlier years.How true that is.
§ Viscount Lambton
Would the right hon. Gentleman please explain why the production per man is now lower than it was in 1951?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I have already given up some of my time, and I want to be as brief as possible.
Mr. Latham rightly pointed out that during the thirty years before nationalisation this industry had worked in depression and in war and had been woefully neglected by the nation. Let me briefly state the facts of those thirty years, and I only mention them because that is important as a point from which to begin discussing these problems. Over those thirty years a thousand pits were closed, half a million men were lost to the industry, output declined by eighty million tons, and the industry was starved of development. Only this week I read in a newspaper that a new pit has been sunk in Lancashire, the first for thirty years.
Not only did the industry decline, but one has to remember the manner and the spirit of that decline. The consequence was that in this industry, in which human relations are as important, if not more important, than in any other, those thirty years poisoned industrial relations at the roots. It became an industry from which to escape—to shun. That is the measure of the charge against this House, and the Government bear the responsibility for making this industry, upon which the country depends an industry from which people sought to escape. That is the heritage handed down from private enterprise to nationalisation.
The National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers, in parnership, have during these past eight years had three major tasks. First, they have had to increase output quickly to 484 meet an ever-increasing demand at home. Secondly, for the first time for more than a generation, they have had to engage in a major plan for rehabilitation and reconstruction of the industry. Thirdly, they have had to bind the wounds and remove the scars of the thirty years to which I have referred. These tasks have been, and remain, immense tasks. I believe that in those eight years the Coal Board, the National Union of Mineworkers, and the men, have done an immense job that deserves the thanks of this House and of the country.
It is with pride that I ask the House to vote for the Amendment, which begins by expressing appreciation of the efforts that have been made in these eight years, and continue to be made, by the miners to provide the coal that we want. I should like to say a word in amplification of our Amendment. We say that this increased output has been secured by fewer men and older men in conditions which during the eight years have become harder and worse, and will continue to be so for some years yet.
I should like to say a few words about the men. Half the men working in the mines are over 40 years of age. One in four of all the men in the mines are over 50 years of age. I shall return to this point because it is the basic problem. It is, indeed, the biggest challenge, and it is one of the greatest tragedies. Let me repeat those facts. Half the men are over 40 years of age, with more than twenty years of working in the pits behind them-25 years in most cases. One in four is over 50. Yet in spite of that they have, during these last eight years, under nationalisation continued to give of their best. They have worked extra time. They have made an immense effort. I do not want to quote the figures again. They have been quoted so many times in the course of the debate and they entitle us to ask the House and the nation to express appreciation of the efforts which the miners have made.
It is not only that the miners are older. The pits are older, they are deeper, they are dustier, the seams are thinner and further away from the pithead and harder to work.
§ Mr. Griffiths
All I can say is that I thought those facts were so self-evident 485 that no one who knows anything about coal mining would argue about them.
Perhaps I may give a figure which the Minister gave me the other day in answer to a Question. It is relevant to these issues. I asked him to tell me what had been the increase in shot firing over the last twenty years. Miners and those who have worked in mines will realise the significance of that Question. He told me that in the last twenty years the increase in shot firing in our coal mines had been over 100 per cent.
I want to urge this fact because it is vitally important: in some respects conditions are becoming much more difficult. In some respects much of the donkey work has been removed. For some the work becomes easier but for others it becomes very much harder. If he is to embark upon a very big programme of introducing power workers, I beg the Minister from the beginning to realise what that means in the creation of dust.
Those are the conditions in which men have had to work. The men are older, and they are working in pits which are older, hotter, deeper, dustier, drier and more difficult, and with all the dust from these explosives. I believe they have done an immense job which deserves our thanks.
The next problem which we must solve is to get more manpower into the industry. I want to preface my remarks on this aspect by saying a word or two about wastage, and I want to call the attention of the Minister, the Government and the country to these facts. Of the 61,000 men lost to the industry last year, through wastage other than through death, 64 per cent. were in the age groups under 41 years. In 1954 the wastage other than through death was 2,000 more than in 1953. The age group between 18 and 31 years represents 15 per cent. of the total manpower, but 45 per cent. of the wastage was from that group. We are losing the men in the prime of their life—those who are most difficult to replace by any kind of recruitment. The Minister and the country should realise that.
I believe that the first priority is to get more men into the industry. In his presidential address, the President of the National Union of Mineworkers, Mr. Ernest Jones, called for an addition of 25,000 to the manpower, 17,000 of whom 486 could be put on immediately and 8,000 of whom could be put on as soon as places were available. That is a very tough job.
Let me place before the House the facts about recruitment in 1955. This industry and the country can no longer demand that miners' families should meet the need for miners. Only recently have we had to face this problem. The facts are extraordinarily revealing. Thirty years ago, if half the sons born to miners' families entered the mines, they met the full needs of the industry. Today if all the sons born in miners' homes went to the mines they would not meet half the need. They are not all going into the industry. Why should they all do so?
The National Coal Board is confronted with this problem with which the coal owners and the country were never confronted in the old days. We have to get miners from non-mining families. We have to get them from non-mining and mining families in the villages and valleys in competition with other more attractive industries. That is the problem, and it is a tough problem, but the nationalised industry has to face it. There are two or three essentials in facing the problem. The first is that we must take every step, whatever it costs, to prove that this industry is becoming a safer industry in which to work.
It is the mother who decides whether a boy shall go into the pits, and the mother is afraid. She is less afraid today, perhaps, of the old perils. It is some time, touch wood, since we had a Gresford, and that fear is less than it was. Fear of the daily grind is less than it was, but the fear now is the fear of dust and the fear of horrible diseases. Is a mother in my village going to send her boy to the pit when every day she can see scores of men struggling hard for breath when they are 40 or 50 years of age? Last night we had a debate on Remploy and the cost of providing Remploy factories and putting those men to work. The advantage in recruiting alone would pay for all we do in that field.
Is it safe to congratulate the Minister in view of all the charges against him? I want to congratulate him and, even more, to congratulate my hon. Friends on the charter for safety which we passed 487 last year. It will cost £12 million in a full year, but the cost of not doing it might very well mean the end of the industry. I hope that the Minister, so long as he is there, the Government, so long as they are there, the National Coal Board and the N.U.M., will press for the full implementation of that charter of safety. Unless we do that we shall not attract men to the industry.
The first essential for recruiting is to take every possible step to improve safety and safeguard health. The second essential is wages and conditions. We must now compete with other industries. That recruitment is flagging is due to the fact that men know they have a choice, and they do not choose the mines. How does the Minister propose to help them to choose the mines? If present wages and conditions are not good enough they must be made better. That is one of the ways; I shall come to others in a moment.
Hon. Members should not be deceived about manpower. They will find that the period of substantial increase in recruitment was the period of depression. If we are to maintain full employment we must make wages and conditions more attractive than they are now or we shall not maintain our present complement of manpower, and certainly we shall not increase it. It is of vital importance that steps should be taken to this end, and the country must be prepared to pay for them if the country is to have the coal which it will need in the years ahead.
I want now to say a word to hon. Members opposite about the men who are in the pits. They are afraid of the kind of speech that we had this evening from the noble Viscount, the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed. They are afraid of denationalisation. Not only do I ask the Government to reaffirm, from the Cabinet, through the Lord Privy Seal, what the Minister said earlier, that denationalisation is not on their public agenda, but I want hon. Members on the back benches to say that it is not on their private agenda. We heard what the hon. and gallant Member for South Fylde (Colonel Lancaster) said about decentralisation.
For the men, denationalisation means a return to the 'twenties and 'thirties. That is why the N.U.M. leaders say 488 frankly that if this talk continues, the men become disturbed. It prevents recruiting. It adds to the number who leave the industry. It once again begins to poison relations, and it is the worst service that can be rendered to the industry and to the country.
Of course, nationalisation is not perfect in its working, and the National Coal Board is not perfect. I should like to say that we have a very deep regard indeed for the services rendered by Sir Hubert Houldsworth to the industry. Indeed, we refute the attack made upon him this evening by an hon. Member opposite. One of our troubles, and one of the troubles among the men, is that there is a continual nagging about, and attack on, nationalisation. All the time that it continues, we are driven to defend it, sometimes even when we know that perhaps we should not.
On the assumption that nationalisation is to continue, I want to say a few words to the National Coal Board, and I say them as one who is not without experience in the matter to which I wish to refer. This has been said before, and I add my word in favour of it. It is of vital importance to concentrate upon industrial relations at the pit level. If one considers the strikes that take place at the pit, one sees that they are about matters which blow up very quickly. It is a matter of great importance, and I hope that it will be given urgent attention.
Secondly, it is important that the N.C.B. should explain to the men the way in which the organisation works. One of the things that it has to explain to the men in the pits is the reason for the number of technicians and other officers. I do ask that real importance and urgent attention shall be given to those two aspects.
Another aspect is coal saving. The fact is that in this country coal has always been too cheap. It has been so cheap and easily accessible that there has been no compulsion to use it efficiently and well, and we have wasted it. The annual production of 10,000 miners is wasted in smoke. How precious coal is, and how badly we use it.
To Sir Norman Kipping, Director-General of the Federation of British Industries, who sent a letter to the Chairman of the National Coal Board, I say 489 that his letter went to the wrong address and to the wrong people. I hope that he will now follow it up with a letter to all his member firms and companies and draw their attention to the way in which they are criminally wasting this precious product, the winning of which costs so much in labour, effort, blood and tears.
I would say only one other thing on this aspect, because so much has been said on it already. I refer to one of the most important things that the Minister said this afternoon and I hope, therefore, that he will follow it up. Having explained all the steps he had taken to save coal and to get it used more efficiently, in which he was supported by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), the Minister said that the present price increase was the best fuel saver. That is an admission that one of the reasons why coal has been wasted is that it has been too cheap. If, therefore, the best way to compel firms to use coal more efficiently is to make them pay a big price, let the price be put up again—for the benefits will come to us in increased saving. It is of vital importance that every ton and every ounce of coal shall be used efficiently and well.
I should like to ask some questions about prices, which were not answered by the Minister, in the hope that the Lord Privy Seal will answer them. The first question has been asked before, but I repeat it because of its importance. We understand now quite clearly that the Coal Board, in February this year, asked for an increase in price. It is rumoured that the increase asked for was 10s., justified on the figures in February. That increase was not granted. No increase was made until July, a six months' delay. I am glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is now in the Chamber to hear the question. I ask the reason for the delay.
We are entitled to know. Was it because of the Election? If not, what was the reason? The nation is entitled to know, because the nation will conclude that the reason for the delay in increasing the price was that the party opposite thought that it would affect them. I know that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) thinks that it would have helped the Labour Party. That was his wonderful suggestion.
§ Captain Richard Pilkington (Poole)
On a point of order. Did not the right hon. Gentleman give way?
§ Mr. Speaker
I saw the right hon. Gentleman give way and heard the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) start to speak. The right hon. Member for Llanelly is the best judge of whether he should give way or not, but if he does, the intervention should be heard.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I promised to sit down very shortly. That is why I shall not give way.
The second queston I want to ask the Lord Privy Seal is whether he will make a clear statement about the price of coal for industry. This problem of the price of coal to industry and the allegation that it is below the cost of production and is too low is a matter which ought not to be left where it is. It should be cleared up.
The Minister of Fuel and Power and the Lord Privy Seal were Ministers for Mines in the 1930s. The hon. Member for Kidderminster said that the Minister of Fuel and Power should have listened to him in 1951. I wish that Ministers had listened to us in 1919, in 1924 and in 1934. We have neglected the industry and depressed the condition of the men for thirty years, and I repeat that we have made it an industry to escape from and to shun.
Eight years ago we began a new chapter. The only hope for the country is to maintain nationalisation, not to tamper with it. Our only hope is not to go backward but to go forward and harness the spirit of these men. They are fine men. They are not angels. They are human beings—all too human. If they were angels they would not be miners, but they are men who are capable and who have shown themselves to be capable of serving their country and the nation, provided that they have a square deal and their place in society, and provided that the things that should be done for them are done. Nationalisation has made a very good beginning. It is our firm conviction it ought to go on and be supported. because in it lies the hope of this country in the future.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Harry Crookshank)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) has just reminded the House that there was a time when I very frequently wound up debates on coal, and I am pleased to come into the field where I spent four very arduous but very happy years in fostering the best relations that could be fostered at that time in the industry. I look back to those years with great satisfaction.
But tonight I am faced with an Amendment which, from the names attached to it, appears to be a Motion of censure. It seems to me to be a very strange thing.
§ Mr. Crookshank
I do not want to be provocative and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will restrain himself. This debate, which he has not heard, has not been of the nature of a Motion of censure at all. It has certainly been calm, and very instructive. I have heard most of the speeches and the speakers have attacked or defended the position as objectively as possible. I hope that I shall be allowed to say what I have to say equally calmly.
I should like to start by calling attention to the most able maiden speech delivered by my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones) and to express the hope that now he has taken the plunge he will frequently intervene in our debates to our instruction and, I hope, to his satisfaction. It is very unusual to start off with a maiden speech in a debate on coal, because it is so difficult not to enter into controversy on this subject, but my hon. Friend managed to avoid it and those who heard him will, I am sure, want to congratulate him.
If this Amendment be a Motion of censure it is unfortunate that in the first part of it the House is invited to express appreciation of the efforts of the miners, which have resulted in the production of more coal with fewer and older men. As I say, it is a pity that that should have been brought into other considerations which this side of the House could not support, because we all recognise the difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) has 492 just been putting before us, the increasing difficulties of getting coal, the increasing noise, the increasing amount of dust and, as he said, the ageing group of miners.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the average age of miners being 50, but I think that the figure is 45 to 46 per cent. who are over 40 years of age. The strange thing about the age of the miners is that if one looks at the Annual Report of the Coal Board for this year one will find that there is absolutely no difference at all in the average age in 1954 compared with 1953, not even a fractional difference. At the moment, the use of the word "older" is, in a sense, going over a period. It does not mean that there has been an increase last year.
Of course, we would all join in appreciating what has been done. That there should have teen some disappointment, as is referred to from time to time, that the target set last year was not reached, is another matter. There is no doubt that many, both in this House and outside it, are disappointed at that. The Amendment goes on to say that the Houseis concerned for the economic future of the country consequent upon the declining manpower in the coal mining industry;That might be taken to mean that, because manpower is declining, therefore we must necessarily be anxious about the economic future. If the right hon. Gentleman takes that view of the words, it is not quite so, because the economic future of the country might well improve in spite of a decline in the number of men in the pits.
Indeed, I am fortified in expressing that opinion as a possibility because the 1949 plan of the Coal Board for coal envisaged just that thing. In 1949, the Board forecast that in 1960 to 1961 240 million tons of coal would be produced; in other words, an increase of 18 per cent., but with a manpower of 618,000, which was a decrease of 11 per cent. So that the Board, as the body responsible for coal, could envisage in its mind at any rate, a time when there would be a vastly increased amount of coal produced with a very much smaller number of men.
That was the plan of the Coal Board which was submitted to right hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in office. So far as I know, they accepted it at the time as being a reasonable target. I am only saying that it is a bit hard, that being 493 so, to ask the House to accept the contrary as a proposition in an Amendment which tends to be one of censure.
Thirdly, the Amendment—condemns the Government for its failure to pursue a vigorous and successful fuel efficiency policy;On that subject a great deal has been said this afternoon.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker), who opened the debate, made it the chief theme of his speech, as he has frequently done before. We know that he has done a great deal of propaganda and worked very hard on this problem which, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly also pointed out, is of vital importance, namely, that coal, now getting scarcer and getting more expensive, should not be wasted.
Broadly speaking, the right hon. Member for Derby, South was saying that we have not paid attention to this problem. One criticism was that we had gone in for the National Industrial Fuel Efficiency Service. I know he has read its last Report. He said that we had gone in for that and had rejected the suggestion of the Ridley Committee for expanding the Ministry's own service. That was his second criticism. His third was that the loans scheme, which now exists, is totally inadequate.
If I may take up one or two of those points, it would be these. First, when the right hon. Gentleman says we are not paying enough attention to this problem, I must point out that attention is being given to it all the time, and increasingly. What is more, expenditure by industry is going up all the time on various methods of becoming more efficient. Indeed, the figures show that between 1950, when he was mostly concerned, industry was spending £8½ million whereas in 1954 that expenditure had gone up to £12½ million. Therefore, on the industrial side there has been an improvement.
If we are to be criticised for having, as the right hon. Gentleman said, abandoned the suggestion of the Ridley Committee of expanding the Ministry's service, it is however the fact, which he must have overlooked, that the Pilkington Committee, which consisted of industrialists and people directly concerned, advised that this service should be established. That was done, and there was no gap 494 between the service of the Ministry and this service. It was not as if things had stood still for two or three years, as he rather implied. That did not happen at all. We moved on from one to the other.
The estimate was that by these methods—there are other methods, and my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) has detailed some of them—we might be able to save 1 million tons of coal a year. That has, in fact, been done in the very first year. Therefore, I do not think that we need be criticised about that.
The loans schemes, which the right hon. Gentleman thought were inadequate, are not, as a matter of fact, the main source of industrial expenditure for this purpose. They are the residue of smaller things. They have also gone very successfully.
To prove what an improvement there has been and how work has progressed—I hope, at least, to be able to prove it to the satisfaction of the right hon. Gentleman—in May, 1954, which was the first month of the year of the new organisation, it was able to make eight surveys, and in the last month it was making sixty-four surveys. That was over and above what was called the first-aid service. As a matter of fact, one in six of the industrial consumers who use more than 100 tons of coal a year received advice in the first year. For a new service, that is a most creditable record upon which it should be congratulated. It is increasing its staff all the time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster, whose speech at times sounded more like an autobiography, described dramatically how an Amendment in which he had been interested some years ago had been taken over by an hon. Member opposite and he himself had been whipped into voting against it. He said that what was required was an initial depreciation allowance of 100 per cent. for fuel-saving equipment, and he said that he moved an Amendment to that effect when speaking in opposition in 1951.
I think my hon. Friend got carried away, perhaps by his own eloquence, because that was not what happened. I was very surprised to hear what he said, and I have since had the debate looked up in the OFFICIAL REPORT. What happened was that the former Chancellor of 495 the Exchequer suspended initial allowances, which were at 40 per cent., in 1951. My hon. Friend moved an Amendment to exempt fuel-saving equipment from the general suspension. In 1953, when my right hon. Friend restored initial allowances, admittedly at a lower level. Mr. Crosland moved an Amendment which would have given fuel-saving equipment a special discriminatory advantage of 100 per cent. In the debate which followed—this is where my hon. Friend went astray in his recollections—it was my hon. Friend himself who pointed out that the proposal was impracticable. He said:… there are literally hundreds of items of industrial apparatus that can fall within the general description of fuel economising equipment …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th June, 1953; Vol. 516, c. 864.]Therefore, I have no doubt that he was very willingly whipped into the Lobby in which he ultimately found himself.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The fact of the matter is that both Mr. Crosland and I were advocating the same principle. In 1953, when I accepted the decision, it was the year before the National Industrial Fuel Efficiency Service came into operation, and I was prepared to give it a try for a year.
§ Mr. Crookshank
All I can say to that, in view of the general tenor of my hon. Friend's speech, is that it was very good of him to do it.
I do not wish to argue a Treasury point which may easily come up on some other Finance Bill, but, of course, it is true that our tax system depends on justice and fair play as between taxpayer and taxpayer. As I understand the mind of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it is not his wish to interfere, through taxation, with the detailed working of any particular industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster has admitted, in the quotation which I gave, that there are so many of these different methods that it would be very hard to put on a discriminatory tax. That being so, he must go one step further, and realise that it would be quite impossible for the Inland Revenue to make any discrimination. And if they are not going to do so, who is?
I am sure that my hon. Friend would not want my right hon. Friend the 496 Minister of Fuel and Power to be mixed up in this affair—judging by the way he attacks the right hon. Gentleman—and still less, that any outside body should be given this task. So I hope that that disposes of that particular set of problems, and I may be allowed to proceed.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
But do not the inspectors of N.I.F.E.S. decide that very point for the Government's loans scheme?
§ Mr. Crookshank
It may be one thing for people like that to decide whether or not, in any given case, a loan may be made; it is quite another thing to have a tax imposed by stray inspectors from an outside body. I think that, upon reflection, the right hon. Gentleman will see that there is a world of difference between those two propositions.
May I now pass on to one or two other points made, I was about to say, by the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends. But there was an argument between two of my hon. Friends, one of whom thought that opencast coal mining was disastrous, and the other who was annoyed that there had been any contraction of it. I did not hear other hon. Gentlemen who may have spoken on the subject. The fact of the matter is that last year just over 10 million tons of coal were taken by opencast mining, and since 1942 the figure has gone as high as 128 million tons. The country would have been in grave difficulties without that coal; but that is not to say that, as a principle, it is a very good idea to take over agricultural land for this purpose, and therefore the situation has constantly to be watched.
The right hon. Member for Llanelly referred to the question of manpower and the need for better relations. The right hon. Member for Derby, South alleged that we had failed to deal with this problem. In 1947, the first year of nationalisation, the manpower figure was 711,000. By 1950, it had fallen to 697,000. We did not blame the Opposition for that, because it was realised that in a time of full employment—as the right hon. Gentleman has himself pointed out—it is not easy to keep men, particularly younger men, in this form of occupation. But in 1951–52 there was a sharp rise. There had been a slight recession, but a good deal of propaganda work was done, with the result that in 1952, broadly 497 speaking, there were as many men as were actually needed, though some were not in the right places—or rather, it would have been possible to employ some in Yorkshire, in South Wales and in the West Midlands.
Today, the problem is to try to hold the total force, and, again, to redeploy it where it is most needed. Here I come to the point made by the hon. Lady the hon. Member for Cannock (Miss Lee), who thought more could be done by housing. I regret that I was not able to be in the Chamber when she was speaking, but I was told what she said. The House will recollect that the Coal Board has had authority to build and has completed the building of 20,000 houses. But the point which I think the hon. Lady had in mind was whether local authorities in the areas concerned could do more. We, as a Government, recognise the need for houses for miners in those districts where coal production can be expanded. We shall encourage that provision by dealing sympathetically with applications for extra allocations from local authorities who are willing to build more houses for this purpose. I think that that covers the point about which the hon. Lady asked.
A publicity campaign is now going on in connection with recruitment. The Ministry of Labour is calling the attention of young men and others to the advantages of the mining industry, and the Government and the Coal Board are joining in a publicity campaign themselves. Incidentally, it might interest hon. Members to know—because this touches upon the manpower problem—that when my right hon. Friend was speaking about the oil programme eventually involving a coal saving of 20 million tons, the use of that oil is equivalent to providing the mining industry with about 80,000 more miners. As the oil programme gets under way, therefore, the necessity for the ever-increasing number of miners will become less—and that is quite apart from the arguments which are employed in the Board's Report for 1949.
I do not think I need say much further about prices. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Fylde (Colonel Lancaster) expressed the need for another inquiry, arising out of the Fleck Report, and said that everybody should think again. I am sorry that I do not agree with him; indeed, it is 498 contrary to what has been decided—not that that would be conclusive, in his view—by the Coal Board, because paragraph 10 of the Fleck Report says:… it has been suggested that the present review should be the last of its kind for some time so that the organisation may have a chance to settle down and get on with its job. We agree.The Government also agree. Let the Board get on with that.
During the debate hon. Members have asked why the extra cost has been spread over the whole field. I am surprised at right hon. Gentlemen attacking our good faith in this matter and suggesting that it had something to do with political reasons, because, when the Government of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) came into office, one of the first things that had to be done was to put up the price of coal by 5s. a ton. That was in December, 1951, and it was hardly a popular thing for an incoming Government to have to do—or, should I say, to find that it had to be done?
The point is that relationships between the Coal Board and my right hon. Friend upon matters of common interest are close and informal, and price increases are not dealt with by formal requests and formal refusals. The question is really misconceived. The new Board took office in February, and thereafter there have been constant consultations upon every kind of matter, including the question of a rise in prices. Of course, on this occasion, it was a question of the largest single increase since the Board was constituted, and, coming just when the new Board had been set up, it is hardly surprising that the most full and detailed consideration had to be given to the question by the new Board and by the Government. I have nothing to confess on behalf of the Government in this matter. The increase came along as a result of these consultations and the Report.
§ Mr. Crookshank
As it turned out it was rather fortunate that an earlier decision was not taken, because now all the anticipated expenditure this year has come to light. If a very early decision had been taken, there would probably have had to be a rise as a result of the stoppage in Yorkshire and of the rail strike. This was one of the reasons for the extra imports, and is part of the reason for the rise. All these things having occurred before the rise, it is likely that there will not be another rise for a considerable period.
I am not going to have the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) trying to make out that we deliberately delayed this thing. It is not true. The Board has not always been satisfied with these matters. In its Annual Report for 1947 it is stated that when the Board asked the right hon. Gentleman to ask the Government for a rise in prices—this is what hon. Gentlemen will find if they look at page 124:In fact, the Minister scaled down the price increases which the Board had recommended; and the increase in price to cover the effects of the five-day week was not introduced as soon as the Board would have liked.My last point is the important question put to me, why the price was spread and why there were differential prices.
§ Mr. Crookshank
There is no truth in reports that industries are being subsidised by differential prices.
§ Mr. Griffiths rose—500
spread over. In 1947, when an hon. Friend of mine asked the right hon. Gentleman who was then Minister, about the import of American coal and who paid the difference between the home cost and the American, the right hon. Gentleman said:
The cost of imported American coal … is unlikely to exceed £5 a ton. The price charged … to consumers of this coal is similar to that for comparable British coal.
When he was pressed in a supplementary question about this, the right hon. Gentleman said:
The price of the coal imported from America, as I have already explained, is fixed so that it will sell here at the same price as British coal. That is obviously a fair thing to do; the burden is then evenly spread among all British consumers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1947; Vol. 444, c. 2105.]
We accept that idea, and that we have carried out.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether or not it is a fact that owing to the six months' delay in granting the request by the Board for an increase in price the burden on the Board was increased by £50 million? Will he now say whether the Government will have an inquiry into the whole business of prices?
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. P. G. T. Buchan-Hepburn) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question put accordingly, That those words be there added:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 253, Noes 317.505
|Division No. 27.]||AYES||[9.59 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Boardman, H.||Clunie, J.|
|Albu, A. H.||Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Coldrick, W.|
|Allaun, F. (Salford, E.)||Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.)||Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)|
|Allen, Soholefield (Crewe)||Bowles, F. G.||Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)|
|Anderson, Frank||Boyd, T. C.||Corbet, Mrs. Freda|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Cove, W. G.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Brockway, A. F.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Cronin, J. D.|
|Baird, J.||Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Cullen, Mrs. A.|
|Balfour, A.||Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Daines, P.|
|Bartley, P.||Burke, W. A.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Burton, Miss F. E.||Darling, George (Hillsborough)|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, G.)||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)|
|Benson, G.||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Davies, Harold (Leek)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Carmichael, J.||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)|
|Blackburn, F.||Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Deer, G.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Champion, A. J.||Delargy, H. J.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Chapman, W. D.||Dodds, N. N.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||King, Dr. H. M.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Dye, S.||Lawson, G. M.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Ledger, R. J.||Ross, William|
|Edelman, M.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Royle, C.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Short, E. W.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Lindgren, G. S.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Logan, D. G.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||MacColl, J. E.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Fernyhough, E.||McInnes, J.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Fienburgh, W.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Finch, H. J.||McLeavy, F.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Fletcher, Erie||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Snow, J. W.|
|Forman, J. C.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Sorensen, H. W.|
|Freeman, Peter||Mahon, S.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Malnwaring, W. H.||Steele, T.|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Goooh, E. G.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R. (Ipswich)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Marquand, Rt. Hon, H. A.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Grey, G. F.||Mason, Roy||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mayhew, C. P.||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mellish, R. J.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Messer, Sir F.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Hale, Leslie||Mikardo, Ian||Sylvester, C. O.|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mitchison, G. R.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Monslow, W.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Moody, A. S.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Hannan, W.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S.)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Hastings, S.||Mort, D. L.||Thornton, E.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Moss, R.||Timmons, J.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Moyle, A.||Tomney, F.|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Mulley, F. W.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Hobson, C. R.||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Usborne, H. C.|
|Holman, P.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)||Vlant, S. P.|
|Houghton, Douglas||O'Brien, T.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Oliver, G. H.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Oram, A. E.||Weitzman, D.|
|Hoy, J. H.||Orbach, M.||Wells, Perry (Faversham)|
|Hubbard, T. F.||Oswald, T.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Owen, W. J.||West, D. G.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Paget, R. T.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Hunter, A. E.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Wigg, George|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Pargiter, G. A.||Willock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Parker, J.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Irving, S. (Dartford)||Parkin, B. T.||Willey, Frederick|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Paton, J.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Janner, B.||Peart, T. F.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Popplewell, E.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs, S.)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Probert, A. R.||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Proctor, W. T.||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Pryde, D. J.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Rankin, John||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Reld, William||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Rhodes, H.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Kenyon, C.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Mr. Pearson and Mr. Holmes.|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. C.||Balniel, Lord||Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel|
|Aitken, W. T.||Banks, Col. C.||Bishop, F. P.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Barber, Anthony||Black, C. W.|
|Alport, C. J. M,||Barlow, Sir John||Body, R. F.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Barter, John||Bossom, Sir A. C.|
|Anstruther-Cray, Major W. J.||Baxter, Sir Beverley||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Boyle, Sir Edward|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Braine, B. R.|
|Ashton, H.||Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.|
|Atkins, H. E.||Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Bidgood, J. C.||Brooman-White, R. C.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)|
|Bryan, P.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Moore, Sir Thomas|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hirst, Geoffrey||Nabarro, C. D. N.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn, R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Holt, A. F.||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Hope, Lord John||Neave, Airey|
|Carr, Robert||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Horobin, Sir Ian||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Channon, H.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Nield, Basil (Chester)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Howard, John (Test)||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Cole, Norman||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Nutting, Rt. Hon. Anthony|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hurd, A. R.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hn. H. F. C.||Hyde, Montgomery||Osborne, C.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.||Page, R. G.|
|Crouch, R. F.||Iremonger, T. L.||Panned, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Cunningham, S. K.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Currie, C. B. H.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Davies, Rt. Hon. Clement (Montgomery)||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Pott, H. P.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Deedes, W. F.||Kaberry, D.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Digby, S. wingfield||Keegan, D.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Kerr, H. W.||Profumo, J. D.|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Kershaw, J. A.||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Drayson, G. B.||Kirk, P. M.||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Lagden, G. W.||Rawlinson, P. A. C.|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Redmayne, M.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Lambton, Viscount||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.||Lancaster, Col. C. C.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Leavey, J. A.||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Leburn, W. G.||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)|
|Fell, A.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Robertson, Sir David|
|Finlay, Graeme||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Fort, R.||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Foster, John||Llewellyn, D. T.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (Sutton Coldfield)||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Freeth, D. K.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Low, Rt. Hon. A, R. W.||Shepherd, William|
|Gammans, L. D.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Glover, D.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Godber, J. B.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Cough, C. F. H.||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Gower, H. R.||McKibbin, A. J.||Speir, R. M.|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Grant, W. (Woodside)||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Green, A.||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Gurden, Harold||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Maddan, Martin||Storey, S.|
|Hare, Hon. J. H.||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Manningham-Bufler, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Teeling, W.|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Marples, A. E.||Thomas, Rt. Hn. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Marshall, Douglas||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Mathew, R.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Hay, John||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Mawby, R. L.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Heath, Edward||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Molson, A. H. E.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Monokton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Turner, H. F. L.||Wall, Major Patrick||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.||Ward, Hon, George (Worcester)||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Vane, W. M. F.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Vickers, Miss J. H.||Watkinson, H. A.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Vosper, D. F.||Webbe, Sir H.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Wade, D. W.||Whitelaw, W.S.I.(Penrith & Border)|
|Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)||Williams, Rt. Hn. Charles (Torquay)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Wakefield, sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and|
|Walker-Smith, D. C.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)||Mr. Studholme.|
Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the Annual Report and Statement of Accounts of the National Coal Board for 1954.