§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD STEWARD (Earl BEAUCHAMP)
My Lords, I am glad to think that this Bill which I have the honour to ask your Lordships' to read a second time this afternoon cannot in any sense be described as a new measure. It has been before the country for a number of years. Bills have been introduced into the other House every year for 1419 nearly seventeen years, with one exception, dealing with this subject, and, therefore, it cannot be described in any sense as a new question either to Parliament or to the country. Under these circumstances I shall not venture to detain your Lordships' at any inordinate length in describing the measure. I think it is quite obvious to any Member of your Lordships' House that there are special conditions in the work of mining which afford sufficient reason for giving special legislation to those employed in that occupation. If it were the mere fact that they were for so many hours during the day away from air and light, that, I think, would be a very great distinction between them and every other class of labour. The only other work which in any way approaches to that of miners is the work of stokers upon big liners or on battleships, but in their case it is possible to get to fresh air in much less time than is the case with miners.
I think it is only fair to mention to your Lordships' some of the figures dealing with health and accidents in the case of those engaged in this occupation. I do not wish to lay undue emphasis upon either of these sets of statistics, because I think statistics should not in a case like this be regarded as absolutely conclusive; but they certainly are of some importance, and I think attention, at any rate, may fairly be given to them by your Lordships' House. If you take the age of from fifteen to twenty, the death-rate of occupied males between those ages is 2.44 per 1,000, but the death-rate amongst miners between those ages is 3.22. To go to the other extreme, taking the age at sixty-five, the death-rate in the case of occupied males over that age is 88.39 per 1,000, but the death-rate amongst miners is no less than 139.83 per 1,000. The figures with regard to accidents show that miners live under circumstances of special danger. Fatal accidents in the case of railway men are 7.77 per 1,000; amongst miners the figure is 12.82 per 1,000.
In dealing with this subject this country is, after all, only following the example of other countries, not, perhaps, in the same way. In Germany they deal with it in a totally different manner 1420 —namely, by limiting the hours of labour when the temperature is over 82 degrees Fahrenheit. His Majesty's Government, for reasons which I shall venture to go into later, have on the whole decided to deal with the matter in accordance with the Bill now before your Lordships, and I am glad to think that this is not, strictly speaking, a controversial matter which divides the two sides of your Lordships' House in any strict degree of accuracy. I think it is only fair to Mr. Chamberlain to remind your Lordships that he was one of the very first to call the attention of Parliament to this matter, and that he has more than once expressed his desire that it should be dealt with by Parliament. In 1892 Mr. Chamberlain said—In my opinion, there will be no such decrease in the output as some persons imagine, and I think that the fear of a decrease is altogether exaggerated and largely imaginary.And again—It is desirable, in the interests of humanity, that the ordinary miner's day should be eight hours.Beyond that there is also the fact that, more than one member of the late Government has voted and spoken in favour of this or a similar measure.
With regard to the actual Bill now before the House, the first clause is, I am afraid, rather a lengthy one, but the gist of the Bill is to be found in that clause. The whole matter is somewhat complicated by the system of shift-working. The average time taken to wind a shift up the shaft and to let it down is about half an hour, so that your Lordships will see that there are different methods of calculating an eight hours day. One way of calculating it is from the first man down to the last man up. This is the method known as bank-to-bank, and it gives rather less than eight hours—it is only about seven and a half hours—for the average man in the shift. That is the method adopted in the majority of the private Members' Bills that have been introduced in the other House in previous years. Another way of calculating an eight hours day is from first man down to first man up, and last man down to last man up. This is the method adopted by Mr. Russell Rea's Committee which submitted last year a very valuable Report, and it is also the method adopted in the Government Bill after 1421 the expiration of the preliminary period of five years. It gives, as will be seen, an eight hours day to the average of the shift; that is to say, it would give an eight hours day to each man in the shift it they all went down and came up in the same order. Practically speaking, as they do not observe the same order it may be said to give an eight hours day to the average man of the shift. The third way of calculating an eight hours day is from the last man down to the first man up. This gives eight and a half hours for the average man, and is the method adopted in the French law and in the Bill now before your Lordships for the preliminary period of five years.
Your Lordships may be interested to know what the law exactly is in France. In 1905 an Act was passed in France limiting the hours of hewers in coalmines as follows—for two years, to nine hours from the last man down to the first man up, or nine and a half hours to the average man of a shift; for two years after that, to eight and a half hours on the same method, or nine hours for the average man of the shift, and thenceforward to eight hours on the same method, or eight and a half hours for the average man of each shift. That is last man down to first man up. Of course this only applies to the hewers, and not to the other men working in the mines. As your Lordships will have gathered, the method in the Bill is different from that suggested in the private Members' Bills which have been introduced at various times. Those measures were not based on any ascertained statistics, and it was impossible to foretell what the result of them might be. The Home Secretary, therefore, on the Second Reading of the Bill of 1906, announced the necessity of acquiring more statistics on the subject and further knowledge of the probable effect of an eight hours day. With that object in view he appointed the Committee to which I have referred, which met under the chairmanship of Mr. Russell Rea. That Committee, as I have said, produced an exceedingly able and exhaustive Report, but a Report of a somewhat judicial character. I have no doubt that while I shall be able to quote sentences from that Report in favour of this Bill, the noble Lord opposite who intends 1422 to move that it be read three months hence will probably be able also to quote passages from the Report against the Bill; but that will not prevent me quoting sentences from the Report in favour of the Bill as introduced by His Majesty's Government.
This Report dealt with the position in the mines as they are at present worked. On a full working day the average hours bank to bank of an individual miner are just over nine, but the hours are not the same for all classes. The average hewer is eight hours and thirty-six minutes underground, of which time he spends sixty minutes travelling to and from his working place, and thirty-nine minutes in meals, leaving six hours and fifty-seven minutes for productive work. For persons other than hewers the average hours underground are nine hours twenty-eight minutes, of which thirty minutes are spent in travelling and thirty-nine in meals. Eight hours and thirteen minutes are available for productive work. As those of your Lordships who are interested in coalmining know, the hours vary considerably in different districts. But a miner does not work six full days a week; a proportion of short and idle days is customary. Reckoning these in, the Committee found that his "theoretical full time" was just under fifty hours a week. But a further deduction has to be made for: (a) Stoppage of collieries from bad trade, strikes, etc.; and (b) voluntary absenteeism of men from the pits on days when work is available. From these two causes the Committee calculated that 13 per cent. of the "theoretical full time" is lost, and that the average time actually spent by all classes underground is only forty-three and a half hours a week.
After consideration of this Report the Government Bill was drafted and introduced at the end of the session of last year. There was no time to proceed further with the question during last session, and the Bill was introduced again unaltered at the beginning of this year. But, before the Second Reading, the Home Secretary resolved to change the scheme of Clause 1, and in place of giving the average worker nine hours for eighteen months and thereafter eight hours, to give 1423 the average worker eight and a half hours far five years and thereafter eight hours. His object was, first, in the interests of safety, to give a longer time in which the industry might accustom its methods to the new condition, of affairs, so as to obviate any danger which might otherwise have occurred, particularly temptation to hurry the winding, and to avert a possible economic disturbance which might have resulted from a shortage in coal and consequent rise in price. There was also the consideration that a reduction to nine hours would have had little or no effect in several districts, while the reduction to eight and a half would give some immediate benefit to the men in almost all districts. Under the Bill the Inspector of Mines is to approve the length of time fixed for lowering the shaft and similarly that for raising it, the object being to provide against evasion of the Act which might be effected by unduly lengthening the winding time or risking an accident if it were to be unduly shortened.
There are three safeguards in the Bill. One is that officials of the mine, except firemen, are totally exempted from the Act, and exemption is provided for all the workers when there is danger to be met or some emergency which requires to be dealt with at once so as to prevent serious interference with the ordinary working of the mine. The second safeguard is that overtime of one hour a day on sixty days in the year is allowed to meet seasonal demands and also to mitigate the effect of the Act on old collieries. The third safeguard is that power is taken, in Clause 4, to suspend the working of the Act altogether in the event of war, imminent national danger grave emergency, or economic disturbance due to shortage of coal.
There are some few objections which I imagine will be urged by noble Lords opposed to this Bill and with which? I should like to deal somewhat briefly before I sit down. One objection which may be brought is that this is a miners' Bill. That is, of course, an accusation which it is easy to bring against most Bills. I suppose that those of your Lordships who sit on this side of the House would say that the Licensing Act of 1904 was a publicans' Bill. Most Bills are certainly brought to the notice of the public 1424 by the classes affected. In that sense it is true to say that this is a miners' Bill, but it is no more true to say that it is a miners' Bill than it is to say that other measures of a similar character are introduced and promoted by the classes who are going to benefit by them. The next objection which I suppose will be taken is that this Bill is likely to restrict the output of coal and to increase the price. I think there is one organisation known as the Coal Consumers' League, of which the noble Lord opposite is president, which has estimated the increase at no less than 5s. a ton. I shall be interested to know whether the noble Lord endorses that estimate, or whether he will say, when he moves the rejection of this Bill, that in his opinion it is an excessive figure. We shall all be interested to know how far the noble Lord was—shall I say?—the author of it.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
The question is how far this Bill will seriously restrict the output of coal. Prophecies of that kind are familiar to your Lordships. They are always brought forward when any Bill of this nature is introduced. It was stated that the Workmen's Compensation Bill—I take that because I do not wish to make a party point of it—would have so great an effect on the conditions of labour as to take away the profits from a large number of capitalists and employers in various occupations and trades. We heard it even with regard to the gold-mines in the Transvaal when we proposed to abolish Chinese labour. But these prophecies, though they are made with some frequency, are not always borne out in actual practice, and I think we may fairly say that there is no reason to suppose that these somewhat lugubrious prophecies are likely to be entirely fulfilled when this measure becomes law. A prophecy of that kind might have some substance if all coal-mines at the present time were working full time, but that is far from being the case; 44 per cent. of the mines in this country are now working slick time, so that your Lordships will see that there is a considerable margin by which, in the case 1425 of mines where labour is not being fully employed at the present time, the output might be considerably increased.
But I would venture to ask your Lordships to turn your attention to the Report of Mr. Russell Rea's Committee. The Committee do not accept the contention that there would be as great a reduction in output as in the aggregate time of all classes underground, calculating the eight-hours day from the first cage down to the first cage up. The aggregate reduction in the time of all classes underground was given at 10¼ per cent., but the Committee give various reasons why, in their opinion, there would not be a corresponding reduction in the output. The stoppage of collieries for bad trade and accidents was, in the opinion of the Committee, Calculated to account for the loss of over 7 per cent. of the present full time. Then there was the case of voluntary absentees from the pit at times when work was available. That, the Committee calculated, would result in a loss of over 6 per cent. of the time of the pit's work. Taking those two cases together, the Committee consider that part, at any rate, of the present full time now lost would be made available, and that also there would be a considerable mitigation of the effect of a legally restricted day for a number of various other reasons.
In the first place, there was the idea that there would be a considerable increase in the efficiency of the labour at present employed, especially in those districts where the hours now worked are the longest. I should like to ask your Lordships' special attention to the evidence given by a Mr. Hann, one of the best witnesses before the Committee. He said that South Wales men would be able, if they were pressed, to produce 10 per cent. more than they did at the present time. I may also—and this is, I think, very pertinent to the matter—direct your Lordships' attention to the fact that Durham and Northumberland hewers, who work shorter hours, produce more coal per man per hour, and that on a short day the percentage of output per man is higher than on a full day. It is agreed that men who are working for a shorter 1426 time do produce more per hour than they do when working for a longer period. The second direction in which they thought there would be a mitigation of the effect of the legal day was in improvements in the mechanical equipments of many collieries; and, thirdly, by the extension of the use of labour-saving machinery. They also suggested that by the extension of the system of working more than one shift per day, which is common now in the North of England, but elsewhere exceptional, there would be a considerable increase; and, lastly, that by improved conditions of labour there would be a further increase in the output.
On the main principle underlying this Bill I do not think there is really any very great difference between the two sides of your Lordships' House. There has been legislative interference with hours of labour before now. I rather fancy that both sides of your Lordships' House are equally involved in guilt, if there is any guilt, in the matter. There is, indeed, no reason to argue as to whether it is cither desirable or proper to interfere by law with the hours of labour in special industries. Figures have been put forward sufficiently often to show that any slight increase there might be under this Bill would not at any rate spell ruin to the coal companies of this country. They are, I think, generally speaking, exceedingly prosperous, and this is no burden to put upon the industry at the present time.
Finally, we are bound, I think, to notice the fact that this is not merely a national movement in this country, but part of an international movement. In the United States, in Germany, and also in Belgium steps are being taken to regulate the hours of labour in mines. Under these circumstances it is not asking very much, I think, that His Majesty's Government should put this Bill before your Lordships for your consideration now. I think it is quite obvious that in the neutral markets of the world the country which will win will be the country which possesses the most efficient workmen, and it is, I think, quite easy to prove that, under the proposals of His Majesty's Government, which give shorter hours of labour 1427 to miners, much will be done to improve their efficiency, and certainly to make life more tolerable for one of the hardest-working of the various classes in the community. Under these circumstances I hope the Bill will receive a Second Reading.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(Earl Beauchamp.)
§ LORD NEWTON
, who had given notice, on the Motion for the Second Reading, to move that the Bill be read a second time this day three months, said: My Lords, the noble Earl who has moved the Second Reading may be congratulated upon the fact that he has made the best of a bad case, and I will own that I do feel some slight hesitation in my own mind as to the wisdom of the course which I propose to adopt, but not for reasons which will probably suggest themselves to the noble Earl. This is a Bill for which, obviously, His Majesty's Government feel no enthusiasm at all. It is a Bill which is extremely unpopular in the country, and His Majesty's Government have so little confidence in their own measure that not only have they introduced numerous limitations in it, not only have they, for the purpose of conciliating their supporters, exempted one important district temporarily from the operation of the Bill, but they are actually going to postpone the operation of this beneficent measure for no less than five years, when the duty of administering it will fall on somebody else.
I can conceive that I might be doing a good turn to the Government by procuring the rejection of this Bill. I might also be serving the purposes of some Gentlemen on the other side if this House thereby became embroiled with the Labour Party, and I should thereby involuntarily be contributing my own personal assistance towards that thankless and ungrateful task of "filling up the cup," which up to now has been pursued with so little success. But I must admit that, as far as I am concerned, principles weigh more than tactics, and therefore I have every intention of going on with my Amendment and proceeding to a division. The noble Earl, in order to recommend his Bill, mentioned that this proposal had been supported in the 1428 past by Members of the Unionist Party, notably by Mr. Chamberlain and by Members of the late Administration. As far as I am concerned, that produced no effect upon me whatsoever. I regret to say I have occasionally known my political leaders vote for extremely foolish things, and, as a matter of fact, the case of Mr. Chamberlain is not an accurate case. Mr. Chamberlain, it is perfectly true, did announce himself in favour of the principle of this Bill. At the same time, as I know perfectly well, he was in favour of the principle of local option in connection with the Bill, and I imagine that if the principle of local option were introduced by your Lordships' House the Bill would practically be killed.
The history of this Bill is as follows. The proposal of an eight-hours day for miners first made its appearance in 1888, when it was recommended really in order to reduce the output. It was openly stated that 20,000,000 tons of coal too much were produced in the year, and that, therefore, this Bill was necessary. As, naturally, this proposal did not commend itself generally it was then put forward as a cure for unemployment; but I presume it very soon dawned upon all intelligent persons that the Bill, instead of preventing unemployment, would undoubtedly be a strong contributory cause of unemployment. Then we come to the humanity plea. I am afraid the fact cannot be denied that the humanity plea has been completely shattered by the Report which the noble Earl has quoted, and, to be perfectly frank and honest in the matter, this Bill has now become what I might term a test of political docility, and we are told it has got to be passed because the majority of miners want it.
It is perfectly true that this Bill has, on many occasions, passed a Second Reading in the other House. A very much worse Bill of the same character also recently passed a Second Reading in the House of Commons, and it is only charitable to assume that the persons who voted for this Bill were under the impression that an eight-hours day was a thing like female suffrage which might be safely voted for under certain conditions, and that some lucky accident would prevent its passing into law. But 1429 when the present Government came into office it was intimated to them by the Labour Party that this shilly-shallying with the question must come to an end, and the Government, being anxious to discover some rather better reasons than had been hitherto advanced in favour of this measure, appointed a Committee, of which we have heard to-night, in order to consider the economic effect of an eight-hours day.
Before dealing with the Report of this Committee, may I, in a sentence or two, sum up the present situation and what it is proposed to do? Roughly speaking, there are in this country something like 900,000 men employed in or about coal-mines, the majority of whom, of course, work underground. The wages of these men, which are admitted to be good, but not higher than the circumstances justify, are governed by the price of coal. There are something like 3,000 pits in this country, and no two pits are exactly alike. Some are dangerous, some are safe, some are deep, some are shallow, some can profitably be worked under a shorter hour system, while in others it is necessary that the men should work longer hours. In some the men can get to their working places at once; in others it takes them an hour to reach their working places. Some of them are well-equipped with modern appliances, and some are old-fashioned. I do not know whether it strikes your Lordships in the same way, but when I see a proposal deliberately put forward to place all these mines under a rigid and cast-iron eight-hours rule, differing as they do in every particular, it really seems to me about as sensible a proposal as if you were to pass a Bill that nobody should wear boots of more than a certain size irrespective of the size of their feet. Supposing a law of that kind were passed, it is pretty obvious that those persons who could not be accommodated to the State boots would have to do without them altogether, and that is precisely what will happen under this Bill. Those mines which are unable to exist under a rigid eight-hours day will disappear.
Now, with regard to the Committee. This Committee, which certainly could hardly be described as a hostile Committee, considering that the Chairman 1430 was already pledged to support this particular Bill, and one of the other Members was a supporter of the Government pledged to the same thing, sat for a long time and examined all kinds of witnesses, including owners, engineers, Government inspectors, medical officers, and miners agents—in all seventy-four witnesses. It is a most remarkable fact, and I have not seen it alluded to by anybody, that of all these witnesses there were only three who expressed an opinion in favour of the Bill. I have read all the evidence and also the Report, and I have been unable to discover any but these three, who were miners' agents with advanced views, and whose evidence was immediately contradicted by men from the same neighbourhood. Every other witness pointed out the difficulty there would be in putting the Bill into force. The promoters of the Bill—the Miners' Federation—never appeared at all. These are the people who promote the Bill, and instead of coming and answering questions and giving their reasons for the Bill, they stood aloof, and gave their orders that the Bill was to pass. They intimated to the Government that the Bill had got to pass. They knew their men, and the result has completely justified their attitude.
The Federation also intimated that if this Bill did not pass there would be a general strike. So far as I am able to gather, there will be a strike in any case. We are told by the miners' leaders that there will be a strike if the Bill does not pass; but it appears to me a strike is equally inevitable if the Bill does pass, because I cannot imagine that the owners are going at once to pay men who are working nine and a half hours the same wages when they work only eight and a half. The Committee, as the noble Earl pointed out, found that whereas the hours varied exceedingly in different places, the theoretical number of hours put in during the week was forty-nine hours fifty-three minutes, but that the actual time was no more than forty-three hours and thirty minutes, not, on the whole, it will be admitted, an excessive figure if applied to any trade. So much for the hours. 1431 Now as regards health. The noble Earl seemed to convey the impression that the health of miners was distinctly worse than that of other workmen. I will call his attention to this passage in the Report—The Committee find that the health and physique of coal-miners compare favourably with those of any other class of workpeople. While we have found in the districts in which the longest hours are worked that the same standard is not maintained, we believe that a legal limitation of hours underground to eight per day cannot be expected to produce any marked change.Now I turn to the question of safety. There is no special recommendation with regard to this subject, but the noble Earl rather seemed to imply that if this Bill were passed the miner would be in an emphatically safer position than he is at the present moment. I extract this sentence from the Committee's Report—We have failed to obtain any evidence which could associate the number of accidents in any disproportionate degree to hours in excess of eight, spent underground or districts where the longest hours are worked.Although mining is not an unhealthy, we know that it is an extremely dangerous occupation, and the death-rate is heavier amongst miners than in any other occupation, except that of the sailor. But what is the cause of the large number of fatal accidents which, unfortunately, constantly take place amongst miners? Every now and then we are horrified at the terrific loss of life which occurs in consequence of explosions. And I might add that those are incidents which very frequently show the miner in his best light in respect of the courage and the devotion which he so often displays. But this is not the main cause of the fatal accidents which occur in collieries. The main proportion of accidents, fatal or otherwise, occur in the course of everyday work—they are accidents which arise from fall of roof, sides, and so on, and the man's safety really depends to a great extent upon himself. One of his duties is to make his place safe. I will ask any sensible person whether, if you are going to reduce the man's hours, it is not absolutely certain that, in order to make more money, and in consequence of being contracted in this 1432 way, the inevitable result will be that he will naturally take fewer precautions for his own safety. So much from the point of view of health and safety. I contend, and I think any reasonable person will contend, that this Bill, so far from placing the miner in a safer position, will most emphatically render his occupation more dangerous.
I pass from these two questions to the economic effect. The noble Earl was disposed to charge people who have opposed this Bill with considerable exaggeration in regard to the estimates they have formed on this matter, and he alluded especially to estimates which had been put forward by the Coal Consumers' League, with which I have the good fortune or otherwise to be connected. I am not prepared to admit that there has been any considerable exaggeration. For my part, I never yet heard of a league which did not exaggerate at one time or another, and more especially when elections were going on. But when I think of the statements which were made not so long ago with regard to other miners, yellow in colour, then I am positively stupefied at the moderation of the statements which have been made by the opponents of this Bill. It is really no use to contend that there wall be no reduction of output under this Bill. The noble Earl, in common with those who support this measure, takes up the attitude that the more you reduce a man's hours of work the more he will produce. Figures will not bear this out in the least.
I suppose the noble Earl will admit that there has been on the whole a tendency towards a reduction of hours during recent years. That being so, I would like to point out that, going as far back as 1880, the number of tons then produced per head by men working underground in this country was 413; in 1883 it was 429. Taking a year nearer the present year, in 1889 it was 400, and during the year 1905, which is the last year, I believe, in respect of which figures are available, the amount produced was only 361 tons per head. So much for the argument that the shorter the number of hours worked the more is produced. The Committee, as a 1433 matter of fact, found that there must be a reduction of output, and that there must be a consequent rise in the price of coal. They admit that in no other country are manufacturing activities so chiefly dependent on the coal produced within its borders, and they proceed to say that the first necessity of the manufacturer is coal. I do not wish to incur the disapprobation of the noble Earl by indulging in exaggerated estimates. I will be studiously moderate. I will assume an increase to the extent of 1s. per ton, and ask the House to consider what this means. An increase in production of 1s. per ton, which would presumably be got out of the consumer, would, in the case of the shipping trade, mean an extra £1,000,000 a year; in the case of railways, it would mean £800,000 a year; in the case of the cotton trade, it would mean £200,000 extra; in the case of gas it would mean an extra £1,000,000 a year, and in the case of iron and steel it would mean an extra expenditure of £1,500,000 a year; and in connection with this I cannot resist quoting a passage from a speech delivered in this House by a noble Lord opposite at the commencement of this session. Lord Airedale, in moving the Address this year, observed—Your Lordships will be aware that there has been an Committee of inquiry, the result of whose deliberations is to confirm the general opinion that by limitation of hours you will have restriction of output; that if you have a restriction of output you will have an increase in cost. Coal is the primary necessity of all our manufactures. In the iron and steel trades, with which I am associated, each ton of iron or steel consumes several tons of coal, and if you increase the cost of coal you will increase the cost of steel and iron. You will thereby enhance the cost of raw material and diminish the demand for our ships, engines, and manufactures, and consequently diminish the employment of those engaged in those special industries.I do not think that even a member of the Coal Consumers' League has made a stronger statement against the Bill than that, and, under the circumstances, to have selected the noble Lord for the purpose of moving the Address in reply to the King's Speech, in which this Bill was mentioned, seems to me one of the most heartless practical jokes that I can think of.
In addition to the figures I have quoted, you have, of course, to consider the export 1434 trade. Anybody who reads the Report of the Committee will discover that our export coal is in acute competition, and that any special handicap to British export coal is immediately effective in reducing British exports. I need hardly remind the House of the agitation which was successfully carried on against the export duty on coal. The real point is this. It is not so much a question of whether the extra cost of production is going to be 1s. or 5s. The danger is this, that if you really do reduce your output the price of coal may go up to a positively fantastic figure. Coal, as has been pointed out over and over again, is the first necessity for the manufacturer. He must have coal. Whether it is cheap or dear, he has to buy it. It is not a luxury; it is a thing he must have, and experience has shown that in years when there was any fear of a shortage of coal prices have risen enormously. In the language of the Committee—If there is even a small temporary excessive demand beyond the immediate powers of the colliery to supply, then a considerable danger will arise to the consumers in this country.In plain words, a situation might perfectly well arise in which the consumer would be absolutely at the mercy of the coal trade. I am not going to dilate any further upon this particular aspect of the question, because there are noble Lords who are engaged in business and who can speak with much greater authority than I can on this particular aspect. But I should like to remind the House, in case the fact has been forgotten, that this impost upon the consumer is the work of a Free Trade Government, a Government returned for the special purpose, according to their own statements, of looking after the interests of the consumer; and their method of safeguarding those interests is to put an enormous tax on a raw material—a thing which the most ardent Tariff Reformer has never even suggested!
I have dealt with some of the difficulties raised by this Bill, and it is only fair that I should now draw attention to the remedies and the palliatives suggested. It has been suggested that, although a restriction is inevitable, yet a mitigation 1435 of the effect of a reduction of hours might be obtained by securing greater intensity of labour, and by doing away with those holidays which miners not unreasonably enjoy. But what reason is there to suppose that the men do not now work as hard as they can? A coal-mine is not a pleasure resort, though I once heard a noble Lord opposite, when he was a Member of the other House, describe it in such idyllic terms that one might suppose that the highest form of enjoyment would be to dig coal for the noble Lord. Men go down to coal mines to make as much money as they can. The majority of them are paid on result; therefore, why should it be assumed that they are not working at full pressure, and that it is not the interest of the owner to get as much coal out of his mine as he can? With regard to the suggestion that the miner will, if this Bill is passed, work in a more regular manner and on more frequent days, why on earth should he do anything of the kind? He does not propose to have his wages reduced. He proposes to exact precisely the same wages in future as he receives now. Why, therefore, need he trouble himself to work on more days than he is doing at the present moment? At present he works under what I venture to call commonsense principles. He goes more or less when he likes, and he leaves more or less when he likes. The term "master" in connection with a coalmine is almost a misnomer. The masters have to take into account the wishes of the men and the orders which are issued to them by the men's leaders. But, as a matter of fact, the system works out very well. If a man wishes to take a holiday he works rather longer on one day so as to be free from work on another. It is a perfectly natural thing to do, and I cannot see why it should be necessary to interfere with it. It is, to my mind, a mistake to suppose that in order to suit the academic views of Liberal politicians he is going to adopt a totally new standard and work more days in the week.
Let me take another suggestion which has been made. The noble Earl suggested, and the Committee suggested, that it might be met by the extension of labour-saving machinery. Here I would ask, Are colliery owners absolute fools? Are they incapable of managing their 1436 own business? If labour-saving appliances—coal-cutters, and so forth—are advantageous to them, is it likely that they would not make use of them to the fullest extent? As a matter of fact, if there is opposition to the use of these labour-saving appliances the opposition comes from the men and from the men's leaders; and if anyone doubts what I say I would refer him to the evidence given before the Committee. Another alternative which has been suggested is that of multiple shifts. Here, again, I would refer people who feel any hesitation on the subject to the evidence, and they will find that multiple shifts are not objected to by the owners, but by the men. When this anxiety on the part of the men to work in multiple shifts is alleged, I would call attention to a rule of the South Wales Miners' Federation, to the effect that the object should be—To endeavour to secure by legislation the reduction of the hours of labour in mines to eight hours from bank to bank, and to oppose the system of double shift except where absolutely necessary for the purpose, of ventilation.There is one more suggestion—namely that an additional flow of labour should be secured from outside. As a matter of fact, mining is more or less an inherited profession, and the ranks of miners are not largely recruited from outside. I would also remind the House of this fact, that mining is a protected trade. A man is not allowed to work at the face of a coal mine alone unless he has previously worked for two years in the mine, and only a short time ago a Bill was introduced by responsible miners representatives, I think with the aid of Sir Charles Dilke, which actually proposed to enact that no man should be allowed to work in coal mines unless he had previously worked there before attaining the age of eighteen years. Therefore it seems that the flow from outside, contemplated by the noble Earl, is not likely to be appreciated by the miners at the present time.
I have pointed out the objections to this Bill, and I hope I have disposed of some of the arguments in favour of it. It only remains to deal with the question why this Bill is brought in and what its object is. I must candidly admit that 1437 were I a miner I should in all probability be in favour of this Bill, more especially if I Were told that I was going to get the same wages for eight hours that I got for nine or ten hours and if I believed it. But, at the same time, I should have a poor opinion of the intelligence of my countrymen if I succeeded in obtaining this privilege. Nobody at the present moment is under the delusion that the miner is a poor down-trodden person who is incapable of looking after his own interests. As a matter of fact, the miners represent what is called the aristocracy of labour, and to institute special legislation for their benefit is to my mind almost the same thing as if you were to propose that there should be a special abatement of income-tax in favour of dukes. Miners as a class are men possessed of admirable qualities. They are intelligent, courageous, energetic, admirably organised, and led by extremely capable men who have attained the most extraordinary proficiency in squeezing the last ounce out of Governments, out of Members of Parliament, and out of Parliamentary candidates. I was first; led to take an interest in this question from the fact that in former years I used to represent in the other House a mining constituency, and every now and then the miners' leaders would come to me and threaten that they would turn me out unless I did what they wanted with regard to an Eight Hours Bill. Even in those days I had just sufficient sense to realise that if anybody wanted to vote against me he would do so whether I supported an Eight Hours Bill or not. Therefore, although I am naturally of a meek disposition, I bade defiance to those gentleman and I have never had occasion to regret the attitude I assumed.
I should like to impress upon the House that the loyalty of these men to their leaders is absolutely unquestioned, and I will cite an instance which came within my own observation. In the year 1892 the miners' leaders thought that too much coal was being got. Throughout the whole of the Federation area they ordered a stoppage of work, and the pits all through that area stopped from 12th March to 21st March, solely because too much coal was being got. That particular case is an illustration of 1438 the way in which prices may be made to rise. Before this stoppage took place best coal stood at 27s. a ton, but after the stoppage it rose to 34s.—an even larger margin than the problematical increase suggested by the Coal Consumers League. I give this illustration in order to show the extraordinary power wielded by the Miners Federation. I really doubt whether there are such powerful autocrats in this country. They can literally move the men in and out of the pits like so many pawns. Will anyone seriously believe that men with this tremendous power and with this organisation behind them could not have obtained this measure long ago if they had really been united? The reason why this Bill is brought in is that they are disunited.
Now I come to the last point of all—the object of this Bill. It is no good denying the fact that the real object underlying the Bill is the reduction of the output. It is not avowed, but any one who can read has only to study the Report and the evidence to discover in almost every page that limitation of the output is what really is aimed at. I would refer anyone who doubts it to the evidence and to speeches which, in unguarded moments, have been made by representatives of the miners. On 11th April this year, Mr. Walsh, M.P., who represents a Lancashire division, stated that the hours worked would be reduced by one-eighth or one-ninth, and they would have to put an equal amount on the hewing price. They would, he said, get such an amount per ton as would compensate the men for the limitation of hours. Another speaker in the same month said the Bill would be the salvation of the coal trade, and that if it did not pass wages would very soon fall. This month another representative declared that they must remember that cheap fuel meant to the miner starvation wages.
I do not profess to have dealt exhaustively with this Bill. I have left unsaid a good deal which I might have said, and those who have paid me the honour of listening to my remarks will realise that I have said nothing on the entirely novel principle of the interference with adult labour and the refusal to permit men to sell their labour to the best advantage. I have not done so because I 1439 imagine that even on the other side of the House there must still be some belated worshipper at the shrine of individualism who will have something to say on the subject. But I submit that not one single solid argument has been adduced in favour of this measure, except those which are dictated by pure political expediency. In other words, we are told that this Bill is to pass because there is a mandate. We know what the theory is with regard to this House and a mandate, and I am not prepared to quarrel with it; but I deny that there is a mandate on this occasion. To borrow a phrase from the noble and learned Lord below me, I would say that there is a sort of a mandate proceeding, not even from one trade, but from one section of one trade only. I know perfectly well what will be said if this Bill is rejected. It will be said that this House is incapable of sympathising with the claims of labour, and that we who have never known what it is to work with our hands or to earn a weekly wage have no right to have opinions on the subject at all. That may, in the opinion of some people, be true, but, at any rate, whether we have practical experience of labour questions or not, we at all events have sufficient sense to distinguish between what is to the general interest of the country and what is not; and it is because this Bill is unsupported by either serious facts or serious argument and because it proposes to penalise the whole of the community by conferring special privileges upon a class which is not even unanimous in demanding them, that I ask the House to reject it.
To leave out the word 'now,' for the purpose of inserting the following words 'this day three months.'"—(Lord Newton.)
* EARL CROMER
My Lords, in common, I presume, with the rest of your Lordships I received a copy of this Bill at half-past ten this-morning. We have, therefore, had a full six hours to consider a measure that certainly does not yield in importance to any measure which of recent years has been brought before your Lordships' House. I know it is no use going over this well-known ground again. His Majesty's Government is not responsible, nor is any individual responsible. 1440 The system is responsible. But my Lords, what a system it is! I have lived so long abroad that I have not had the opportunities offered to the rest of your Lordships of closely watching the working of the legislative machinery of this country. But I must say it does appear to me to afford the maximum of facilities for obstruction and delay and the minimum of facilities for deliberate consideration of important measures. I certainly hope that the Young Turks, in whom I take a great interest and who are now making their first faltering footsteps in the direction of constitutionalism, will not look to this country as a model for their Parliamentary procedure. Everybody recognises the evil; the difficulty is to find a remedy; and unless a remedy is found the legislative efficiency of your Lordships' House must be very seriously impaired.
I turn to the Bill. On the occasion of the Old-Age Pensions debate last summer I said that, in spite of the devotion, which I did not at all question, of His Majesty's Government to free trade principles, they were unfortunately producing a measure which would give a heavy blow to the cause which they were pledged to defend. I must confess, speaking as a free trader, that I earnestly wish the zeal of His Majesty's Government to the cause of free trade was somewhat more practical and less academic. Here we have another case in point. This Bill is almost equally objectionable, whether it be regarded from the point of view of a free trader or from the point of view of a tariff reformer. The free trader may argue, with what, I think, is unanswerable force, that the Bill provides for the interests of the producers and pays very little heed to the interests of the consumers. He may point to the fact that it will probably raise the price of manufactured articles throughout the country; that it will, therefore, by so much lessen our power of competing with foreign nations, and by so much also, I fear, stimulate the cry in favour of protection in this country. He may point to the fact, also, that it will affect every single industry in this country. My belief also is that it will affect every individual who lights a kitchen fire. The tariff reformer may, as the noble Lord has already said, point to the 1441 fact that coal is the raw material of every industry in this country, and that raising the price of raw material does not form part of the tariff reform programme.
The case against this Bill may really be put in the very smallest compass, and it does not require any technical knowledge of the peculiarities of the coal industry to understand it. The whole point is, will or will not the operation of this Bill raise the price of coal? There have been some exaggerated statements on this point, as the noble Lord said. I am not prepared to commit myself to any special figure. I have no doubt that the 5s. that was mentioned is very much exaggerated, and I am inclined to think that the figure of 1s which was mentioned by the noble Lord behind me is rather below the mark, but so far as I can make out the best authorities think that coal is likely to be raised from 1s. 6d. to 2s. a ton. That has been contested. The noble Earl opposite dwelt on a number of reasons which had been given by the Departmental Committee for thinking that certain influences might be brought to bear which would probably mitigate this evil. The noble Earl will pardon me for saying that he could not have read the last remark of the Committee, for after studying those five different reasons the Committee spoke with a very faltering and uncertain voice as to the effect of those five reasons. What they say is—The probable cumulative extent of the operation of these various influences in mitigating the effect of a reduced working day, in curtailing production, must remain a matter of uncertainty and of opinion.They certainly do not convince me, and I do not think they have convinced most of those who are engaged in the coal industry. If the price of coal is to be raised, it is, I think, admitted on all sides that the Bill is open to very great objection. Let me assume for the sake of argument that the price of coal will not be raised—I do not agree with that view, but I am assuming that it is so. Then I maintain that the Bill will be disappointing, and will entirely fail to realise the objects which the promoters of the Bill have in view, for although, as the noble Lord behind me said, some of the miners would perhaps be content with the same 1442 wages and lesser hours of employment, it is perfectly notorious that the real backbone in support of this measure is the desire to limit the output of coal, and thus to increase wages which, as your Lordships will remember, in the case of coal are regulated by a sliding scale dependent on the price of coal. This was put very clearly some years ago by a Mr. Fenwick, who, I believe, is a Labour Member of Parliament, and what he said in 1901 is, I believe, as true now as it was then. He said—My hon. friend has said that it is not the object of this measure to limit the output of coal, but this was really the object with which the agitation began. At the Bradford Trade Union Congress in 1888 it was distinctly stated that the object was to restrict the output of coal which was about £20,000,000 more than was necessary.That unquestionably is the real object of the promoters of this measure, and if they succeed in that object the price of coal must almost of necessity be raised.
Let me also read one further extract from the Report of the Committee with a view to showing with what very great hesitation the Committee spoke of the whole of this subject. After dwelling on all the reasons to which the noble Earl has drawn attention, they say—After giving all reasonable credit to these considerations, we are, nevertheless, convinced that the establishment of a fixed eight hour day, whether introduced suddenly, or gradually by annual reductions of half an hour, cannot but result in a temporary contraction of output and a consequent period of embarrassment and loss to the country at large. The extent and the duration of this period will depend chiefly upon the intelligent and willing co-operation of both employers and workmen to reduce it to a minimum, both in the immediate interest of the public and the ultimate interest of the coal industry. Should such co-operation be lacking, and an interval of national inconvenience be extended and aggravated by the controversies to which the situation might probably give rise, respecting wages or other domestic arrangements, an industrial crisis of serious importance might ensue.The Committee were so clear that an industrial crisis of serious importance might ensue that they went on to recommend the adoption of the practice which has been adopted in some other countries that the Executive Government should interfere and arrest the operation of the Act. That, in fact, has been done under Clause 6, I think it is, of the Bill. The noble Earl dwelt upon the practice 1443 in other countries. I wish to point out to him that the Committee have recognised that there was no analogy whatever between Austria, Holland, and France, where these measures have been adopted, and the United Kingdom. The only country which bears any sort of analogy to ourselves is the United States, which is a large coal-producing country. I think the noble Earl mentioned that in the United States measures similar to this had been adopted, but I really think the noble Earl is under a false impression, because the Committee most distinctly said that although laws had been enacted in the United States in restriction of the working day in mines in some States those States were not the great coal-producing States of America, and that in the chief coal-producing States no such laws have been enacted. Are we in a matter like this in a free trade country to go further in the direction of protection than the United States, which is pre-eminently a protectionist country? The real truth is that the only justification, except Parliamentary convenience, for this Bill, is the health question. If I was convinced that the health of the miners would be greatly improved by passing this Bill I should certainly think that that would cover a multitude of sins, and I should gladly withdraw any opposition on my part, but the case about health, as the noble Lord behind me has pointed out, breaks down hopelessly on examination. I need not read the Report of the Committee, but the case seems to me to be clear, and so also does the case which is based on danger to the miners. All the evidence goes to show that the danger to the miners, so far from being diminished, will be rather increased by this Bill.
Now, with regard to a wholly different class of arguments that have been raised. I am not a capitalist, and I am never likely to be one, and I have no particular mission to defend capitalists—I suppose they are no better and no worse than other individuals—but I do hold most strongly that the main disease from which this country is now suffering is a total want of confidence amongst the investing classes, and if we are to deal with unemployment, and all these various difficult social 1444 questions which are cropping up, I strongly maintain that we shall never be able to deal with them unless that confidence is restored. The point is one of vital importance, and I hope you will pardon me if I dwell on it a little longer. I hear it sometimes said that there is no capital in this country to invest. I do not believe there was ever a time when there was a larger amount of capital in this country to be invested than there is now. I happen to have been going into this question recently. My attention was directed to what Mr. Gladstone had said in one of his Budget debates, in the year 1862, I think it was. He then estimated that the annual accumulation of capital in this country was £50,000,000 a year. I am not prepared to commit myself to a figure, but I have been endeavouring, with the help of the most competent authorities, to arrive at what it is now. It is extremely difficult to arrive at accurately, but I have convinced myself of this, that the amount of the accumulated capital every year is enormously greater than it was in Mr. Gladstone's time. The lowest estimate I received was £250,000,000 a year. That was from a most competent authority, but, of course, I cannot guarantee the accuracy of the figure. The peculiar thing is that all that enormous amount of capital is not invested in industrial concerns in this country. If you go to any broker in the City, he will tell you you can readily get money for the Argentine, or for America, or for Russia, or for Japan, or for China, but you cannot get money for Great Britain. Why is this? Of course, a certain amount of this difficulty may be attributed to the fact that the rate of interest in this country is low as compared with that of some other countries. I daresay that accounts for a good deal. It is quite impossible to say how much it accounts for, but I think it is also perfectly impossible to absolve His Majesty's Government from a certain degree of responsibility in this matter. Consider what has been taking place in connection with this general subject during the last year or so. First, His Majesty's Government, produce a Bill, the Old-Age Pensions Bill, which is said to cost the country some £6,000,000 or £8,000,000 a year, 1445 and which may eventually cost the country some £30,000,000 a year, without giving the country the smallest indication where the money is to come from. The only indication we have had is vague newspaper talk that in some way or other the burden is to fall on property and capital. That, my Lords, is not a fact which in its nature is likely to inspire much confidence. The next thing is that His Majesty's Government throw away, I think it is £3,500,000, in the relief of sugar duties. As a free trader I should not object to that, but I do object when I find that they throw that amount of money away with the positive knowledge that in a few months time that taxation will have to be put on again in, perhaps, a more objectionable form. Then, again, there is the language of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I ask whether that is calculated to inspire confidence. Surely not. Again, there is the Licensing Bill; I am not going to deal at any length with the Licensing Bill now, but I should like to say that I, in common with, I believe, a good many of your Lordships on this side of the House, hesitated a good deal about how we should have voted on that Bill, and I can only tell you, as far as I am concerned, what it was that made me go into the lobby with the noble Lords behind me. The main consideration was that as that Bill could not be amended, it was as well to give a decisive blow which would, in some degree, restore the great want of confidence that there is now on the part of the investing class. There was a speech made by Lord Faber on this subject when, I think, few of your Lordships were in the House; he pointed out that he represented £100,000,000 worth of debenture holders and preference stock-holders in brewery undertakings, whose interests would be very greatly depreciated if that Bill had become law. So that, my Lords, I say that our first interest is to restore that confidence which has received an additional and very serious blow from this Bill. If confidence is not restored, who will suffer? Not the capitalists, not the Members of your Lordships' House; it will be the working classes. Those are the people who will suffer, because they now want employment; they cannot get employment 1446 unless they are paid, and you cannot get money to pay them unless you restore the confidence, which has been so much shattered, of the investing classes, and induce them again to invest their capital in this country. I think I can safely say that we who hold these ideas and resist these measures are much truer friends to the working classes than those who make specious promises which cannot be performed, and put forward unsound economic proposals which will certainly react later on the very classes whom they most profess to benefit.
Then, my Lords, there is the question of public opinion. I am aware of the difficulties your Lordships' House is faced with in that matter. I hesitate to give any opinion about it, because it is only so very recently that I have taken any part in your Lordships' debates, but if I really thought that there was any effective public opinion behind this measure I would instantly say, however much I might see strong objection to that course, that I should withdraw my objection to this Bill. But as the noble Lord behind me said, there is nothing to show that there is any strong public opinion in favour of this Bill. The commercial classes are very much against it. Even the miners speak with an uncertain voice. In the other House it was very much opposed, and even by Liberal Members. There have been also several recent bye-elections, some of which have, to a certain extent, more or less turned on this question. I do not think it can be said that they prove anything very much in the way of showing that the public is much interested in this Bill. But, until we are certain that public opinion is such that we ought to pass this Bill, I cannot see my way to withdraw my objection to it, and if there is to be any doubt as to what public opinion really is, the sooner we get to some system of referendum the better, because then we shall know where we are.
I earnestly ask your Lordships to pause before you pass into law a measure of this far-reaching description. No measure has lately been brought before your Lordships' House which will so seriously, in 1447 my opinion, affect the trade, and, therefore, the general prosperity of the country. Of course, I am perfectly well aware that at this moment a campaign is being undertaken against your Lordships' House. I do not think we need be very much frighted by all this false fire, but in any case I cannot help thinking that we shall gain nothing whatever by endeavouring to conciliate those who are perfectly irreconcilable; on the other hand, while not doing, what I must be permitted to say is our duty, we shall certainly alienate the sympathies of those who are our natural supporters, and who will, not unnaturally, cas[...] in our teeth that we have not got the courage of our opinions. My objections against this measure are so strong that they cannot be removed by any changes that might be made in Committee. I am obliged to go away, and perhaps I may not be present at the division, but if I am present I shall certainly go into the lobby with the noble Lord behind me.
§ LORD ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, the noble Earl who has just sat down has given us his reasons for his vote on the Licensing Bill, and he has also told us that capitalists in Great Britain have no confidence in His Majesty's Government. That was all very interesting, and I should like very much to have an opportunity of saying something about it on some future occasion, but I think perhaps to-night I shall be more in order if I confine such remarks as I have to make mainly to the course of argument of the noble Lord opposite who has moved the rejection of this Bill. The noble Lord in his speech told us that this Bill had been brought in to gratify the academic views of Liberal politicians. I should just like to remind him and the House that this Bill passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons in the year 1906 unopposed, and that it passed its Second Reading in the year 1907 unopposed. This year for some reason or other some opposition to it has been whipped up, and yet in the House of Commons this Bill that the noble Lord has denounced so eloquently has only found 120 people to vote against it out of 670 on the Second Reading, and on the Third Reading, when no doubt Members understood it a little better, they 1448 could only find eighty-nine people to vote against it. After that, I think we need not consider this Bill as merely representing the academic views of Liberal politicians. I rather gathered that the noble Lord was a little uneasy whether that might or might not be so himself, because in his very amusing speech he gave us a number of confidences about his own party. He told us that his leaders often voted, and then he modified it to sometimes, for very foolish things.
§ LORD ST. DAVIDS
I am not cavilling at it. Then he went on to say that he regarded this Bill as a test of political docility. He said that the Miners' Federation knew the men with whom they were dealing, meaning the Government, when they pressed it on, and that, of course, the Miners' Federation naturally knew that the Government was in favour of this Bill all along. I rather thought the noble Lord opposite had just a little doubt in his mind as to whether the Miners' Federation did not also know the men they had to deal with on the benches opposite. I rather gather that the noble Lord in all that speech about political docility, and about his leaders voting for foolish things, was rather wondering whether his leaders on the front bench opposite were going to support him in the attitude he had taken up. What did he say? He said the Bill was unpopular in the country. The noble Lord has been conducting a political agitation. He has come into great prominence with a thing called the Coal Consumers' League, which has, undoubtedly, had a great influence at bye-elections. What has this league been saying? People take the most different views as to what the effect of this Bill, if it becomes law, is going to be on the price of coal. Speaking generally, those who are in favour of the Bill think that it will either not raise the price of coal at all, or if it does that it will raise it by from 4d. to 6d. a ton. Those who are against the Bill think that the rise in the price of coal—I am talking now of the permanent rise in price—may go as high 1449 as 2s. or even 3s. But, of course, everybody knows that it is possible there might be for a few days or a few weeks a panic when a Bill of this kind has been brought in. The Bill has been very much misrepresented, and it might lead to a panic which might be the cause of a temporary rise of price, and nobody can put a limit to what rise of price there might be in a short panic. But no responsible person has ever argued that there could be a permanent rise in the price of coal under this Bill of more, at the outside, of 2s. or 3s. a ton.
§ LORD ST. DAVIDS
That is just what I want to get to; it is the noble Lord that I want to get to. The noble Lord is the chairman of the Coal Consumers' League; he has been going round the country with a leaflet—that is why the Bill is rather unpopular until it is understood—saying that the permanent rise in coal under this Bill is going to be 5s. a ton. That is why the noble Earl who moved the Second Reading of this Bill, called on the noble Lord opposite, I think not unfairly, and said: "Do you stand by that leaflet; are you responsible for that leaflet or do you repudiate it?" Surely your Lordships all agree that when it is not a phenomenal person out of doors, but a responsible man, a man of high position in the country, a Member of your Lordships' House, who is chairman of a league taking part in an active agitation, and putting forward a definite thing in black and white, when the chairman of that league is asked on the floor of this House: "Do you justify or not here in public the statement which you and your friends have been putting forward?" we are entitled to something more from that noble Lord.
§ LORD NEWTON
Nobody can possibly tell what the price of coal will be in the future; those are matters of speculation. I have never said that coal is going to cost 5s. a ton more.
§ LORD ST. DAVIDS
No, you have not; but the league of which you are chairman has said it, is saying it, and has not 1450 stopped saying it, and as you are chairman of the league which has said it and is saying it, we are entitled to ask you, do you stand by it, do you justify it, or do you admit that it is unjustifiable? That, at any rate, is a question which I think is a fair question to put to the noble Lord and his league, and I venture to think that in this House, at any rate, it is no answer to a statement like that to say that at election times various people in various places make mendacious statements. As to any likelihood of an increase in the cost of coal, I should like to point out that under the provisions of this Bill it only takes effect in the summer, except as regards Northumberland and Durham, when coal is usually cheapest, and is most plentiful, and when there is less likely to be any panic of any sort or kind on the passing of the Bill. I am not talking of a week or a month, but we are in a period which may go on for a year or more, perhaps for several years, a period in which the prices of coal are falling; coal is plentiful and there are, undoubtedly, rather likely to be falling markets than rising markets. Therefore, the chance of coal going up in price because of a popular panic is at the present time very unlikely indeed. The noble Lord who opposed the Bill put the extra cost of getting coal at 1s a ton, and the noble Earl who spoke next put it at 1s. 6d. to 2s. a ton.
* EARL CROMER
What I said was that competent authorities appeared to think that that would be the extra cost. I was not speaking for myself, because as I said, I did not consider that I was a competent authority on that matter.
§ LORD ST. DAVIDS
The noble Earl adopts the view of what he calls a competent authority. I do not know what authority that is, but in the part of the country where I live the miners are being paid by the ton for getting coal; they are paid 2s. 4¾d. a ton; that is what the hewer of coal is getting. If he is getting under 2s. 6d. a ton, and if under this Bill the production goes down—I doubt, if it will go down at all—5 per cent. or even 10 per cent., is it reasonable to suppose that where a man is being paid less than 2s. 6d. a ton the fact that he is going to work 5 or 10 per cent. less time is 1451 going to put cent. per cent. on to the price of coal? It seems to me that the idea is a preposterous one. You must remember this, that colliers are paid by the ton, and because they are paid by the ton they are pretty certain to get out all the output they can. Some noble Lords may say that may be so, but they are also paid on a sliding scale, and if the reduction of the output puts up the price of coal that also will meet the views of the miners. But we must remember this, that it is constantly being found in industries in this country where you lessen the hours of labour you do not reduce the output at all in some cases, and in many of the other cases you do not reduce the output anything like in proportion to the period by which you limit the hours of labour. Let me give your Lordships two instances where that has actually occurred. When the great chemical firm of Brunner Mond adopted the eight-hours system I remember the remark being made that the result was quite extraordinary, as the men in the shorter number of hours put out very nearly the same amount of stuff that they had before put out in the longer number of hours. The other case that occurs to me is that of Messrs. Mather & Platt, where exactly the same thing occurred. Among all who are interested in this question in South Wales, at any rate, it is common ground that whether or not the output could be maintained where it is now, it would, at any rate not go down in proportion to the reduction of the hours of labour. The men in the pits are down there and cannot get up at any minute they wish to do so, they can only get up when winding begins, and very often men have done as much work as they are physically fit for, and have to knock off, but they cannot get to the surface, and they have to lie about and wait at the bottom of the pit until winding begins. All those men's time is reckoned in the long hours of working, whereas if the hours were shortened these men's work in proportion to the hours of labour would be more effective. Then we must remember that the miners cannot really control their wages by limiting the output, because you can easily get more labour into the pits, in fact, we constantly do. All over 1452 Wales in the agricultural districts the young men drift off to the coal-mining centres.
§ LORD ST. DAVIDS
I do not know whether they are called skilled or not, but I know the immense extent to which the colliers of this country are young men, and that that number is increasing year by year, so that they cannot be men who can have had any very long apprenticeship. If you take the rate at which the number of miners is increasing, I think it shows pretty conclusively that they are not men who have had any very long apprenticeship. Then we have to face the fact that those who take the extreme view of the Coal Consumers' League ask us to pity the poor consumer and to think of nothing else. For myself I am very sceptical about all these prophecies of greatly increased cost. The noble Earl who moved this Bill has reminded you of what happened in the case of the Workmen's Compensation Act, that when miners were brought under it I do not think there was an authority that did not put the extra cost of working the mines at less than 2d. or 3d. a ton, and a great many people, we must remember, went so far as to talk about the ruin of the mining industry. As a matter of fact since that Act passed the mining industry has seen some of its very best days, and I believe that the outside that that Act is now estimated to cost the coalowners is something between ¼d. and ½d. a ton.
The noble Earl who spoke second in opposition to this Bill pressed us not to do anything to risk raising the price of coal, and the noble Lord, who spoke opposite took the same line, that it was most dangerous, that coal was the prime factor in all the other industries in this country, and that anyone who was raising the price of coal was practically doing the act of a very bad citizen. But, my Lords, after all we who are supporting this Bill deny, to start with, that there will necessarily be any rise in the price of coal at all. I think it is very doubtful, and if there is any rise I should myself put it down at 2d. or 3d. a ton at the outside. But there are other proposals in the air that would also add to the cost of 1453 coal-getting. Did your Lordships read a speech the other day, made somewhere up in the North of England, of a very distinguished Member of the last Government, Mr. George Wyndham? He was telling us what the party opposite are going to do when they get back into power. It is always interesting to know what they are going to do in that eventuality. What are they going to do? They are going to put a tax on timber—an excellent thing for a man who has woods, but it is not a very good thing for the coal industry; a tax on timber in this country means necessarily raising the price of every ton of coal you get out of the pit: it must mean it, and I venture to think, my Lords, when you are considering two proposals, one, a proposal like this in the Bill, which may conceivably raise the price of coal, though we do not know that it will, and the other which must raise the price of coal as long as that proposal remains law, I venture to think that this experiment is one which you, at any rate, ought to adopt first.
Then we are told that Parliament ought not to interfere with adult labour. Parliament has interfered with adult labour on many previous occasions. I do not see the noble Lord at the moment in the House who was responsible, for instance, for the great Bank Holiday Act which so many of His Majesty's subjects enjoy every year, but that was a proposal which interfered with adult labour, which both Houses of Parliament passed, and which nobody would, I am sure, wish to repeal. Such proposals as those which interfere with adult labour have been adopted by the Legislature of this country, and they are proposals which it is very reasonable to ask Parliament to extend. But we are told that it would be better to leave miners to rely on their own private exertions, to leave them to the exertions of their trade unions, than to try and help them to shorten their hours of labour by legislation of this kind. But, my Lords, is it better to ask the miners of this country to go into a strike, because that is what it means, rather than to try and obtain their objects by peaceful legislation? It is not so very long ago that this House passed the Trade Dispute Act. That Act put the great 1454 trade unions of the country back into the strong position in which they were before the Taff Vale decision. It has put them back into a position where they can strike with advantage, and strike with a strong hand; and I would ask you, is this House by its vote to-night going to tell the miners of Great Britain, who are determined to get these shorter hours, that in the opinion of this House it is better that they should get their eight hours day for themselves in their own way, by a strike, that must damage and ruin many other great British industries incidentally, rather than get it, as they ask, peacefully from the Legislature of this country?
There are foreign precedents, my Lords. France has adopted legislation on this subject, so has Holland; and Belgium is now suggesting laws of the same kind. In two great countries, and they are countries it is true which are great competitors, Germany and America, there is no legislation directly limiting the hours in mines; there is no legislation to that effect in America, because it is illegal under the constitution, but in both those countries the hours of the miners are much shorter than the average hours of the miners in Great Britain. In Germany I should remind you there is a law by which in mines where the temperature goes as high as 82 degrees Fahrenheit, the hours of the miners are limited not to eight but to six, and that is a much stronger proposal than anything which has been brought forward by His Majesty's Government.
I do not want to take up much more of the time of the House. I would only ask noble Lords before I sit down whether, in their opinion, after all this is not a somewhat high ideal that the miners are going in for. We have been told by the noble Lord opposite that the real thing at the bottom of this measure is that they are going to strike for higher pay. The miners have said nothing of the kind. They have been agitating for years and years for this proposal for shorter hours, because they believe it will be the thing best for themselves and their families, and I ask the House to support them in this demand to-night and to allow them to obtain their desire, not as the result of a great industrial 1455 war, but as the result of a demand which has been granted to them by the Parliament of their own country, and granted to them in peace.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, the two speeches which have been delivered from these benches must have brought home to His Majesty's Ministers, if it was necessary to bring it home to them, that their proposal is regarded in this House with very grave misgivings. I say at once that I share those misgivings, and I add that they have been very little, if at all, diminished either by the official explanation which has been given by the noble Earl in charge of the Bill or by the more pronounced utterances of the noble Lord who has just addressed us from the back benches. I wish at the same time to explain that, like my noble friend Lord Newton, I am certainly not going to argue this case upon the assumption that any interference on the part of the Government between employers and employed, any regulation of the terms on which adult labour is utilised, is to my mind undesirable or opposed to sound principles. We have left far behind us the days in which those tenets prevailed. But for my part, at any rate, I have always believed that whenever it was sought to afford protection to the people who prima facie might be regarded as able to protect themselves, it was necessary to establish two separate propositions; in the first place, to my mind, it is necessary to show that the particular employment upon which the persons whom you desire to protect are engaged is an employment of a specially irksome, or risky, or unhealthy nature, and, in the next place, it seems to me essential that you should prove that the persons in question are not really in a position to protect themselves. I ask the House whether those two conditions are present in the case of the coal miners, and first with regard to the conditions of their employment I admit at once that to my mind the employment of a coal miner is of a kind which, if no other considerations had to be taken into account, does give him a special claim upon the Government of the country. To my mind, the man whose daily work has to be performed, 1456 not under the firmament of heaven, but deep in the bowels of the earth, a man who has to stop at the bottom of a coal mine for a number of hours at a stretch, who is not able to come and go as he pleases, is a man who, to my mind, is entitled to the especial sympathy of the Legislature, and if the matter began and ended there I should be quite ready to affirm that in my view such a man ought not to be detained for more than eight hours below ground. I put it rather in that way than upon the ground of the unhealthiness of the miner's profession. The Report of the Departmental Committee has indeed been quoted with great effect to show that the health of the miners is upon the whole good. But I am bound to add that I think that part of the case is put sometimes rather too strongly by those who oppose legislation of this kind. We all know what a vast amount of literature has found its way to our tables lately upon this subject, and I have observed statements which really seem to suggest the idea that if anyone wanted to find a thoroughly salubrious climate and agreeable surroundings he should look for them at the bottom of a coal mine. My Lords, I can scarcely bring myself to believe that that is a reasonable statement; and I am also inclined to suspect that if it is true, as I believe it is true, that upon the whole the health of the coal miners is good, that is due to some extent, at all events, to the fact that they are picked men, and that it is only persons who are thoroughly sound and robust and vigorous who are employed upon this particular work, persons amongst whom, therefore, you would naturally expect to find a low percentage of invalidity. If I may borrow a phrase which I think was used by the Home Secretary quite lately, I suspect that it is true to say that these men are miners because they are healthy rather than that they are healthy because they are miners.
So much as to that part of the claim of the miners to special intervention by the Government. When you come to the other condition, their inability to protect themselves, I own that I am not so completely satisfied. So far as I understand the case, the miners are a particularly independent and a particularly 1457 highly organised body of people, and I cannot bring myself to believe that it is beyond their powers to obtain for themselves an eight-hours day if they really desire it. I attach importance to this because I notice that some of His Majesty's Ministers have hinted not obscurely that this legislation is only the precursor of a general movement, and that they have no idea of stopping short with the Bill which is upon your Lordships' Table.
So much with regard to the case of the men. But there are other parties whom we have to consider. What about the coal owners? They, I am given to understand, are by no means unanimous with regard to these proposals. They must certainly look forward to a certain amount of inconvenience and probably loss from the adoption of this Bill, but, on the other hand, I incline to the view that even if this Bill does lead to an increase in the price of coal, and perhaps because this Bill will lead to an increase in the price of coal, the coal owners will have no great difficulty in taking care of themselves: a rise in the price of coal generally enables the owners of collieries, so at least I am informed, to ensure that a sufficient portion of the increase finds its way into their pockets, and that in moments of candour has been admitted more than once by the owners of collieries. Therefore, I am not greatly concerned for the owners of collieries.
But there is another party whom your Lordships have to consider in relation to this subject, I mean the consumer, and to my mind it is the case of the consumer which most demands your Lordships' careful attention. His Majesty's Ministers formerly had the reputation of taking the consumer under their special protection. We occasionally ventured to hint that there was such a person as the producer who required a little looking after also, but we were always told that that meant protection, and that protection was a heresy. Here is a case where the producer is certainly going to be protected. It is protection to my mind, and in its most naked form, and I ask your Lordships to consider what is the particular commodity which is going to be the subject 1458 of this particular form of protection. Now coal is a commodity which is not a luxury; it is not an article of consumption of which the use could easily be discontinued by those who use it. We can conceive that people should do without tea or perhaps by a stretch of imagination even without sugar, but to imagine the people of this country doing without coal requires a stretch of imagination which I cannot command. It seems to follow that any interference with the price of that particular commodity, any artificial inflation of the price of that commodity, is about as dangerous a step as any Government could well contemplate. We are told, and we are told with great assurance by the noble Lord who spoke last, that this Bill will not materially increase the price of coal. My Lords, prima facie it seems to be almost evident that if you increase the expense of raising coal you must diminish the output, and that if you do this you must increase, to some extent, at all events, the price. This is, indeed, affirmed unambiguously in the Report of the Departmental Committee which warns the readers that the adoption of an eight-hours system cannot fail to occasion at any rate some temporary embarrassment to the industries of this country. The only question, therefore, seems to be what is the extent of that embarrassment? The Home Secretary has announced that he is unable to forecast what the extent of the dislocation is likely to be. I believe that he added that in his opinion it was even conceivable that the consumer might in the long run gain by the change, but how that most extraordinary conclusion was arrived at he did not, I think, condescend to explain. But, my Lords, let us assume that there is going to be only a slight rise in the price of coal, and that the embarrassment is, as the Departmental Committee pointed out, likely to be only temporary embarrassment. What a moment to select for occasioning such a temporary embarrassment to the industries of this country, a moment when the gaunt army of unemployed is constantly parading in our streets, when you are devising special measures for the relief of the sufferers by unemployment, a moment when all the evidence that comes to us 1459 from no matter what quarter shows that a great part of the business of this country is carried on, at an extraordinarily small margin of profit, a margin of profit the disappearance of which might mean something very like a general calamity.
I was struck, in the debate that took place last night on the Port of London Bill, by an observation which fell from my noble friend Lord Leith of Fyvie. He was considering the effect of the new dues to be levied upon goods entering the Port of London, and he said that 1d. on the ton might have the effect of diverting trade, which now comes to the Port of London, to some other port. Does not that show how grave the risk is of doing anything which may encroach upon that extremely narrow margin upon which our men of business are now trading? As my noble friend Lord Newton pointed out, there is scarcely any industry which might not suffer heavily by a change of the kind. There is, however, another consumer, I do not know whether he referred to him, but he is at any rate a consumer whom we should not leave out of our calculations; I mean the private consumer of coal and particularly the poorer class of those who consume coal.
We used to be taunted in our recent debates upon the Licensing Bill with our solicitude for the poorer sufferers from legislation which threatened brewery shares and debentures. I hope we shall not be taunted if we remind His Majesty's Government that in this case there are very humble people who buy their coal, not by the ton but almost, you might say, by the pound, and to whom a rise in the price of coal might spell misery during the cold of winter. It can scarcely be denied that His Majesty's Government are asking us to take a very heavy risk. They are asking us to run that risk for the sake of a body of men who are personally not a very numerous body, and for whom this thing is to be done at the expense of the whole community of these islands. I ask myself what has been said on the part of the friends of this Bill which can be held to justify us in facing all these risks Let me, in the first place, say that I am not very much moved by the 1460 argument founded by the noble Lord who spoke last upon the practice of foreign countries. I doubt extremely whether, if the legislation of other countries was to be closely examined, you would find that it corresponded in all particulars with the legislation which we are intended to pass. But, besides that, pray do not let us forget that these are countries which freely protect their products and which, because they protect the products of labour, need have no great scruple in protecting labour itself. I therefore put on one side any argument based upon the practice of foreign countries.
To my mind, there is only one argument or only one set of arguments which we can seriously consider as justifying the acceptance of the Government Bill. I mean the arguments which go to show that our apprehensions as to a rise in price are greatly exaggerated, and that there is really no cause for fearing a reduction in the output of coal and a consequent rise of the price. How is that part of the argument put to us? It is suggested that in respect of the limit imposed by this Bill the hours of labour will not, upon the whole, be materially reduced; that there will be some kind of adjustment under which the hours taken off one day's labour may be added to another day, or again it is suggested, and that argument was put with great earnestness by the noble Lord who spoke last, that a shorter day's work very often means more strenuous exertion on the part of the worker, and that we may hope that in the shorter day's work which would henceforth be done in the coal-mines, an equal, or perhaps a greater output of coal will take place. Then there is the argument founded upon the prospect of the adoption of labour-saving machinery. I am certainly not going to dismiss these arguments with contempt. I feel sure that His Majesty's Government before they used them, must really have satisfied themselves that they were entitled to weight, but I cannot profess that I am entirely convinced by them. My impression is that what the coal-miners intend is that they shall receive the same wages, or perhaps even higher wages, for less 1461 work than they do at present. That is admitted by their own spokesman, and it does not seem to me that we can disregard the admission. Therefore, as I ventured to say just now, I am by no means reassured, and I consequently have to ask myself whether I shall allow the pessimist view which I take myself to guide my own action or whether I shall, on the contrary, allow myself to be persuaded by the much more optimist view held by noble Lords on the other side of the House.
I ask your Lordships' leave to mention very briefly two or three reasons which Lave induced me to accept the latter view. In the first place, I think it has been said with great truth that this is not a new question. It has been constantly before Parliament for a great many years past. The noble Lord who spoke just now was quite justified in reminding us that an Eight Hours Bill was passed by very large majorities in 1893 and 1891. An Eight Hours Bill was passed by a small majority in the days of the late Government, and, as he pointed out, in 1906 and 1907, an Eight Hours Bill was passed unanimously by the House of Commons. Now, my Lords, that being so, is it at all likely that this demand for an eight-hours day is going to be dropped? I do not believe it. I believe, on the contrary, that if your Lordships were to reject this Bill you would really whet the appetite for this demand. I believe it would be renewed again and again, and your Lordships' House would find yourselves in the position of denying a measure of relief constantly pressed upon Parliament by the coal-miners of this country. What would be the effect of a prolonged struggle of that kind? Would it not be to bring about an indefinite period of suspense and unrest? I cannot help believing that, considering the history of this question, it is better that it should be disposed of and that it should not remain in suspense, a subject of acrimonious discussion in each successive session of Parliament. I feel that the more strongly because I should be sorry to see this House pinning itself to see obstinate refusal of a measure which can, and we must admit it, be represented as one which upon humanitarian grounds alone, and not upon 1462 economic grounds, is a measure worthy of your favourable consideration. To those two arguments I add a third, namely, that we are told by His Majesty's Government, with all the responsibility which they must feel in connection with this subject, that they have satisfied themselves that this Bill is not likely to produce the serious results which some of us apprehend. We take note of those statements, and if some of us allow ourselves to be persuaded in spite of all our doubts, we do so because we feel that His Majesty's Government are ready to assume this responsibility, and to advise Parliament upon the strength of it.
In these circumstances, I for one cannot vote against the Second Reading of this Bill. I earnestly hope that the misgivings which I have expressed may turn out to be without foundation. Nobody will be better pleased than I shall if hereafter we are able to admit that we were in the wrong and that you were in the right. But, my Lords, I wish to add that if I am prepared to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, I do so in view of the possibility of making some alterations, and important alterations in it in the Committee stage. This is not the proper moment for passing the details of the Bill in review, but I will indicate two points upon which I think your Lordships, should the Bill read be a second time, would do well to consider whether Amendments are not necessary. In the first place, the Bill seems to me to be open to objection on the ground of the inequality of its operation. We are told that there are some collieries in which the pissing of the Bill would make no alteration at all in the hours spent by the men below ground, that there are other collieries again where the Bill would make a difference of one or one and a half or even two hours in the day's work. Is it not possible to do something to meet cases of that kind? I am the more inclined to press that upon His Majesty's Government because I see that they have introduced in the Bill a clause, I think it is the fourth clause, in which very considerable dispensing powers are given to the Secretary of State, and there is another clause towards the end of the Bill dealing specially with the collieries of Durham and Northumberland. That is one point. 1463 The other point, and it is the only point to which I wish to refer, is this. The Bill, as it now stands, contains provisions under which, during the first five years both windings are to be excluded from the calculation of the number of hours work-done by the men, but after five years one winding is to be excluded and the other included. With all submission, it seems to me that it is bad enough to bring about one serious dislocation of industry by a Bill of this kind without providing for a second dislocation five years hence when the five years term comes to an end. Surely, in common prudence, we can leave it to those who are coming after us to decide, be it five years hence or ten years hence, whether further modifications of the law are necessary. In support of that, I wish to cite a precedent which will perhaps appeal to those noble Lords who ask us to rely upon the example of foreign countries. The French Government adopted legislation of this kind not very long ago, and passed a Bill providing for a kind of graduated arrangement such as that which His Majesty's Government contemplated. What was the experience of the French Government? Before the Bill had been two years in operation, they found that they had completely miscalculated their case. Here is the description of what happened. I am quoting from the Home Secretary—The French had already got what was called an eight hours law; the French, who considered this question practically, included in their Act such provisions as they thought necessary, and also limited its scope to what they thought would be safe, having regard to all the circumstances of the case. But now, two years later, they found that an Amendment of the Act was necessary. They found the greatest difficulty in enforcing the Act; in many respects it had failed and could not be enforced, and they were now engaged in drafting a new Bill.I say let us learn wisdom from our neighbours and let us leave these further adjustments, which may or may not be necessary, to the judgment of those who will succeed us and who will have the experience of a certain number of years to guide them. That is the proposal which I think is likely to be made in Committee, and which, as at present advised, seems to me to be entirely worthy of adoption.
My Lords, I apologise for having detained your Lordships so long, but I 1464 desired to explain to your Lordships why it is that in spite of the serious misgivings with which I regard this legislation, I for one will not take upon myself the duty of standing in the way of the passing of this Bill.
§ * LORD KNARESBOROUGH
My Lords, I have listened with the greatest admiration to the speech of the noble Marquess, but I am afraid nevertheless that I must persist in my intention to oppose this Bill for two reasons, first, that I am absolutely convinced that it must lead to a rise in the price of coal, and, secondly, because I am equally convinced that the industries of this country cannot, at the present moment, afford to pay any increase of price. You have had a great deal of information before you as to the reasons why there should be an increase in the price of coal, reasons drawn from the Report of the Committee, and from other sources, but now I propose to give you some special figures drawn from the accounts of one particular colliery which will show you what will be the results in that colliery if this Bill becomes law. The colliery is a very large one, producing 630,000 tons of coal a year, employing 2,250 men, and paying £190,000 a year in wages. To begin with, I may point out to your Lordships that the men have already, without any assistance from Parliament, contrived to raise their wages by an amount of 55 per cent. in the last twenty years. The wages, which are now fixed by a Conciliation Board, are at the present moment 55 per cent. above the standard, the standard being the rate of wage that was paid in 1888. The men do no more work than they did twenty years ago—I am speaking of the below-ground men—they do exactly what they did before, but the colliery owners have to pay £155 in wages for the same amount of work that they paid £100 for twenty years ago. Now let us see what effect this Bill would have upon this particular colliery. For the first five years it is allowed by the Bill that two windings shall be excluded from the eight hours. I propose to confine my remarks only to those first five years. After that, of course, the conditions would be worse for the colliery. I am afraid I must inflict a few rather dry figures and facts upon you, but I will 1465 be very brief, and I do not see how I can carry my argument through without giving them to you. This is how the colliery works. At the present time the coal getters descend between 5 and 6 a.m. and ascend between 2 and 3 p.m., and the average time underground is about eight hours forty-five minutes. Although the coal getters commence to come out at 2 p.m. the men and boys who bring the coal from the face to the shaft do not come out until 4 p.m. Coal winding commences at 6 a.m. and ceases at 4 p.m., and coal is wound continuously during this period with the exception of twenty minutes at 2 o'clock when the main number of coal workers ascend. The coal winding hours are, therefore, nine hours and forty minutes. Under the Bill the haulage men and boys will have to come out at 2 o'clock, and consequently the pit will cease winding coal at 2 o'clock, making a proportionate reduction in the output as nine and two-thirds is to eight.
I am not sure whether I have made myself quite clear, but I think this illustration will perhaps make it more so. The coal is coming continuously out of the pit. It is just as if water were running continuously through a pipe out of a reservoir. Suppose this water is running for nine hours forty minutes continuously you would get a certain number of gallons; if the coal is coming for nine hours forty minutes out of the pit you will get a certain number of tons. If the time that the water is running is reduced from nine hours forty minutes to eight hours you will reduce the number of gallons you get in the proportion of nine and two-thirds to eight; exactly in the same way if you reduce the time during which the coal is flowing out of the pit from nine hours forty minutes to eight hours, you must reduce your number of tons obtained in the proportion of nine and two-thirds to eight. The output is practically 2,300 a day and would, therefore, be reduced to about 1,900. The colliery is working at its full capacity and no more coal can be wound per hour than is the case at present. If, therefore, the amount of wages received by the men remains the same the cost of wages must be calculated on 1,900 tons instead of 2,300. It is practically 1466 6s. per ton at the present time, and would, therefore, be 7s. 3d. or an increase of 1s. 3d. per ton. There would also be a proportionate increase in stores, timber, horse-feed and general charges which would not be less than 2d. a ton, making a total increase of 1s. 5d. a ton. That is what we calculate would be the actual increase in the cost of working this particular colliery. Of course, if the wages of the coal-getters were still paid in proportion to the work done, and the wages of the road-men and surface men were reduced 20 per cent. to correspond with the reduction in their hours, the wages would come down also in the proportion of 2,300 to 1,900; the only increased expense would be the 2d. a ton which I have just mentioned. But will the men consent to this reduction in wages?
Now let us see how it would works. If the limitation of hours would only admit of 1,900 tons being drawn where previously 2,300 were being drawn, the production of each man must be reduced in consequence, because the whole of the coal has to come out of the shaft within eight hours. It is no use the man working harder if it were possible for him to do so, because no more, coal can be got out of the roads and shafts. The collier is paid by the piece, that is, in proportion to the amount of coal he hews, and out of these earnings he has to pay his trammer, the man who hauls his coal to the haulage road. At the present moment a collier and his trammer average 16s. a day, out of which we will assume that the collier pays the trammer 7s., leaving for himself 9s.; under the new arrangement the man's earnings would be about 13s. 3d. a day, and, if he still paid his trammer 7s., his wages would be reduced to 6s. 3d. as compared with the 9s. a day previously. No doubt the trammer would still demand his 7s. a day and consequently the collier would at once apply for an increase in his wages to make up for the loss which the Bill imposes upon him. The loss of the colliery at 1s. 5d. per ton on the decreased output of 520,400 would amount to £36,800. The colliery would be working at a loss and unless the price rose considerably would have to stop.
1467 Then we are told that the colliery might work with two shifts. If this were possible, the output of 2,300 tons per day would probably be maintained, but to do so we should have to provide an additional shift of haulage men and boys on the roads and additional shifts of screeners and surface men, making a total increase of 8d. per ton on account of two sets of men doing the work previously done by one. This increased cost of 8d. calculated on the 630,000 tons now produced would amount to £21,000. But there are two difficulties in the way. To begin with, the men dislike the second shift. Secondly, would it be possible to obtain the extra men? At this colliery alone, 373 additional hands would be wanted, and as many collieries in the district would have to do the same, it is extremely doubtful if a sufficient supply of suitable men could be found, at any rate by 1st July next. In either of these cases, whether of a single shift or a double shift the colliery I have been mentioning would in average years be carried on at a loss unless the price of coal rose considerably. There are many other collieries in a worse position which could not possibly be carried on unless there was a considerable rise in the price of coal. The country cannot get on without the coal, so I think it is evident that a considerable rise of price is inevitable.
Now we come to a most important question. What would the rise in the price of coal be? We have been dealing so far with the increase in the cost of production. That is a comparatively easy matter, but when we come to the question of what the rise would be in consequence of the restriction of the output, of a scarcity of coal, then we pass out of the region of fact into the reason of conjecture. No one in the world knows what the rise of price might be; we can only guess. The only thing certain is that we are going to run an enormous risk, we are going to take a leap in the dark, we are going to imperil the most vital interests of the country, without any certain knowledge or any admitted justification. The people who use coal cannot do without it; the householder and the manufacturer must have it, and with revival in trade and a restriction of the output it is impossible for anyone 1468 even to guess what the rise might be—2s., 3s., 5s. or much worse—anything is possible. Noble Lords laugh at 5s., but it might be a very great deal more than that. Of course, as one industry after another was stifled and had to stop, the demand would fall off and prices might fall; but in the meantime irreparable mischief might have been done Trade might have been diverted into other channels and a great deal of it might never be recovered by this country. And here it may be pointed out that to avoid the shortage in the supply it is not sufficient that the present output should be maintained. The consumption of coal has increased enormously year by year over a period of years, is still increasing, and except for temporary periods of depression it must go on increasing with the growth of the population and as the industries of this country expand. The world outside England is also hungry for coal, and the export of it is continually rising. If the effect of the Bill was merely to restrict the output of coal to the present production, that would be quite sufficient to produce a great shortage in the supply, with the most disastrous effects to many of our leading industries. Now, why is a cheap and plentiful supply of coal vital to the prosperity of this country and to the employment of the people? To realise this we must look at the position of England as compared with some other countries. England is in a different position from that of any other country in the world. Some countries are in a position of stable equilibrium like pyramids firmly fixed on their base; England is, unfortunately, in a state of unstable equilibrium like a pyramid based on its apex. Take the United States of America; there is an eminently stable country. They have enormous tracts of fertile land; they have forests and rivers and lakes, and immense products of iron, coal, and all other minerals, including gold and silver, but perhaps excluding tin. They can produce in the way of agriculture anything that we can in this country, while in the South they can grow cotton and tobacco and all semi-tropical products in almost inexhaustible quantities. Whatever happens to a country like that, the present inhabitants will be able for many 1469 years to come to earn a livelihood somehow or other. They are in a position of stable equilibrium; the more you shake them, the firmer they would settle down on their base, and the same is true in varying degrees of most of the other countries in the world. England stands alone in the insecurity of its position.
Look at the circumstances of the case. Here we have 44,000,000 of people gathered together in these small islands. There is little land, and these 44,000,000 could not possibly subsist on what is produced at home. The materials for food and raiment are sent to them from all the countries in the world. And how are they paid for? They are paid for mainly by the profits of our manufacturing industries and of the ships which carry these manufactured goods to the ends of the world and bring back our supplies of food and raw1 material in exchange. And what an extraordinary business it is! We import cotton from America or Egypt or India; make it into cloth and sell it in China at a profit. We bring ore from Spain, convert it into steel, steel into machinery, and send the machinery to India, South Africa and all over the world. We bring tin from the Straits Settlements, we coat sheets of iron with it and send it out in the form of tin plates in every direction. If you looked through the earth to Australia and fixed your eyes upon an Australian farmer, what would you see? Well, you would first see the soles of his boots, because as you know people have a habit of walking with their heads downwards in those parts. Yet these soles would very likely be made from hides which were taken from Australian cattle, the hides having been sent to this country and returned in the shape of boots. His stockings and his tweed suit would probably be made of Australian wool sent to this country and manufactured in Yorkshire or Scotland. If he had a cotton pocket handkerchief it would probably be made from cotton brought here from America and manufactured in Lancashire. If he had a silk tie the raw silk would very likely have come from China and been manufactured at Derby. If he had a gold pin in that tie, it might be made from gold brought from Australia and manufactured at Birmingham, while 1470 if he had a felt hat it would very likely be made from the hair taken from Australian rabbits and manufactured in this country. And why are people willing to buy our products in preference to those of other countries which are competing with us? It may be said that the Australian buys English things because they suit his taste; but how about our enormous trade with India, China, and the East generally, and all the other parts of the world? They do not buy because of any preference for, or love of England, but simply for the reason that we give them, or they think that we give them, better value for their money, and good value for money is being more and more identified with cheapness. I believe it is universally admitted that in these days cheapness is much more effective in selling goods than the old-fashioned qualities of durability and excellence; therefore, we cannot trust to the excellence of our goods to sell them if the price rises considerably in comparison with that of our competitors. And what is it that has enabled us so far to give such excellent value for the money—to give good quality and cheapness at the same time? I believe it has been due chiefly to our having the enormous advantage of cheap and plentiful coal. We have had advantages in other ways, but I believe the advantage of cheap coal far outweighs all the others put together. If anyone doubts this let him go to the coalfields and see how all the manufactories are gathered together there. You would think that some of them, like cotton mills, which mainly import their raw materials and export their products, would go nearer to the sea, and to places where they could get cheaper land, lower rates and other advantages; but no. They are obliged to go to the coalfields because the advantage of cheap coal far outweighs all other considerations. The competition is getting keener every day and is springing up in new and hitherto unexpected directions. I will give you two instances that have come under my own observation. One was in a contract for machinery for a distant part of the world. An English firm got it but they were very close run by a firm in Switzerland. Now a few years ago the idea of Switzerland competing with English machinery would have been thought ridiculous, but as the English tender was 1471 cut very close, a very small increase in the cost of coal would have given the contract to Switzerland. Again, in the rail trade, I remember the time when we used to send large quantities of rails to Russia; now Russia is one of the countries which is competing most keenly and successfully for the supply of rails in the open markets of the world. A very moderate increase in the price of coal, and the chance of England supplying rails to foreign countries would be absolutely hopeless. The cheaper the coal of England the better for the prosperity of England. Of course, no one grudges the miners reasonable wages nor reasonable hours of work, but we must face the fact that every shilling added to the price of coal is a misfortune to this country and a burden to its industries.
My Lords, in conclusion, I will sum up in the following way. Supposing anyone of you were addressing a meeting of working men who were not miners and one of them were to stand up and say: "You voted for the Eight-Hours Bill; why did you do it? You know that the miners have already enormous advantages over us. They can easily earn 48s. a week; many of us cannot earn half of that. They get coal for their own use free, or at an extremely low price; we have to pay a high price for all we use. Their employment is much more certain and permanent than ours. They can easily get employment at good wages for their boys; we have the greatest difficulty in finding employment for ours. Their health is as good as ours, and they can without difficulty lay by a comfortable provision for old age, which many of us are quite unable to do, however much we may wish it. There are many more of us than there are of them, and we look upon them as exceptionally lucky, and yet you have not hesitated to imperil our livelihood for the sake of increasing the pay or lessening the work of those who are already far more fortunate than ourselves. We know that cheap coal is absolutely necessary to enable the industries in which we are engaged to live. Industries cannot be carried on at a loss either by private individuals or by companies, or they soon end in the Bankruptcy Court. No one in the world can say what will be the effect of this Bill in the way of raising the price of coal, 1472 but there is a great and unknown risk. You are risking misfortune and unemployment for us; will you kindly tell us what is your justification for doing so?" It is because I feel that there is no satisfactory answer, that there can be no satisfactory answer, that I feel bound to oppose this Bill.
* THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
My Lords, it is perfectly true, as has been said by most of the noble Lords who have spoken, that this matter has been before Parliament for many years. I remember the Bill since the year 1889, but there were talks of such a measure when I first entered the House of Commons in the year 1874. Though it had not crystallised into such a position as to be called a Bill, yet the matter was under debate among the men, and certain leaders on the masters' side held that if you wanted good trade you must put up prices. Experience has shown that they were wrong from the beginning and wrong to the end. This Bill has been before the House many years, since, as I said, 1889, and it has been through various stages of ups and downs in the House of Commons. It has been well received one year and had a Second Reading, and it has been thrown out in another year; but from first to last the Bill has had the uncompromising opposition of the members of the coal trade. When I say the members of the coal trade I am speaking not only of what I call the masters but also of a very large body of the miners themselves. The whole of Northumberland and Durham were dead against the Bill, and the Forest of Dean, a smaller district I grant you, were against the Bill. The masters in their protests were alone and there was nobody in the House of Commons in those days to speak specially for the Northumberland and Durham men. Not only were the masters alone, but the general public in this country never spoke a word in their favour. They allowed the thing to go; they said: "This matter is a question for you to settle with your men; it is not for us to interfere." They would not think about it; they have thrown the thing on one side. If that has been going on from the year 1889, nineteen years, is it wonder-some, is it curious, that some of those 1473 gentlemen who used to oppose it have from want of outside support weakened, that they have felt want of confidence in what they have been doing? I think it is not wonderful. Indeed, I was one myself. I weakened, I regret to say, and I stand before you now in shame for having done so. But what is it that has restored my confidence; what is it that has restored me my self-respect? I have to thank the action of the noble Lords on the front bench, the action of Government themselves, for having restored to me my self-respect. That requires explanation. The Government introduced their Bill into the House this year, and very soon afterwards a large section of the House of Commons, the Labour Members and the trade union Members and the Socialist Members, got into correspondence naturally with the Government and they were fortunate in having to deal with the Home Secretary. They made the discovery that if they wanted anything they only had to ask for it in a certain tone of voice and they got it. Flushed by their discovery, feeling surprised and delighted by their victories, some of these Members of the House of Commons spoke out freely and allowed their hearers to learn what were their real thoughts, what were their real wishes, and what their intentions were, and those intentions were practically: "At any cost let the price of coal be forced to the front in order that we may have better wages." But what effect has this on the general public who, for eighteen years had sat silent, never helping the owners? They listened; they began to make inquiry: "What do these words mean?" and they looked into the question. But still they sat silent. Until when? Only a short six weeks ago. It was not until six weeks ago that there was any agitation running through the country as to what this Bill really meant, and now they are speaking out.
But I want to look at the question not as a coal owner, not as one of the public even, but as an outsider looking at it from apart, as to what the real effect of the Bill will be, and I believe, so far as I have been able to gather this evening, from a point of view which has not been yet examined. What will be the ultimate 1474 effect of certain action which may be brought about by His Majesty's Government? What is the Bill going to do, what is the object of the Bill? The object of the Bill, I take it, is to raise the price of coal. I think there is no doubt that that must be so. I acknowledge, as the noble Earl who introduced the measure said, that there would be a danger of a temporary rise in price, but I do not feel quite confident that it would only be temporary, according to my experience of colliery working. What it does do is to make an artificial production of one single condition of a time of great commercial prosperity—one single condition of it—that is fuel at a high price. But of what does commercial prosperity consist other than fuel at a high price? The component parts of commercial prosperity must be taken as supply, demand, and I may add, confidence. Commercial prosperity, if you analyse it, means practically this: a person, A, here has something to sell, B here buys it; then the matter changes over. B having bought it, manufactures something from it, and has to find somebody else, C, who buys that, and so on, from one end to the other constantly repeated. The summation of each of these small single deals forms the volume of trade, and provided a margin of profit is left on each sale to the min who buys to re-sell, the volume of trade is prosperous. What does the Bill do? Undoubtedly it raises prices; there is not the slightest doubt about it. Why? Because owing to its action on the whole output of the country there will be a shortage of some 20,000,000 tons. The noble Lord smiles, but I still maintain my opinion. What is this shortage? It is true that coal has not been produced, but it is brought about in an artificial way. Prosperity requires demand and supply and confidence, but all must be genuine, and one or any of them being artificial it is not prosperity, and the thing is reduced to speculation or gamble. This raising of price is not a genuine, but an artificial one, because time is being taken away from a man who is able to work.
Now with regard to the question of demand. Again I say the Bill will inevitably create a demand for a time. But, 1475 again, this demand will not be genuine; it will be a demand created by panic. What does panic mean? It means that a person who has the absolute necessity to possess a certain article finds another person alongside of him, who wishes to possess that article, which is not enough for two, therefore they compete against each other, and the price goes up. I remember the strike that took place in the year 1872. There was one piece of coal not so big as my fist that was wanted by a hundred people, and the price jumped up to 60s. a ton in London right straight away. The period of those highly inflated and artificial prices went on not for a long time, but it was ruinous to the trade for ten to fifteen years afterwards. If trade were now advancing, in the classic term, by leaps and bounds, this difficulty of the rise in the price of coal of 1s. or 2s. temporarily, mind you, would not be a very serious matter. I do not say for a moment that the price is going up to 60s. and to remain there, because that is a panic price, but when things level down again it will certainly be 2s. more, at least, than it is now. I should have said that before. Trade is not rising by leaps and bounds; on the contrary, it is on the downgrade, the brakes are on, the wheels are skidding, and in all probability there is a chance of a dangerous sideslip at the corner at the foot of the hill.
The last condition that I spoke of independent of supply and demand is confidence. What do I mean by confidence I mean that in the case of a manufacturer looking forward to the future, if he sees that the conditions of trade are such as will warrant him in laying out money for the extension of his works, and increasing his power of supply, he will do it, and fresh capital will come in, with the general result that the power of output is maintained to supply the consumption of coal, and commercial prosperity is increased throughout the country. But will this Bill produce confidence? No, certainly not. What are we told in the City of London among the bankers? There was never more money actually here lying waiting for investment than there is at the present time, but people are afraid to invest in 1476 home securities. The result is that month by month hundreds of thousands of pounds have left this country and have been invested in foreign securities, preferable to any that we can offer here. What is the cause of that? It results from a distrust of the present Government and from a distrust of such measures as may be brought before the country, and because people never know what the future is going to bring forth. The Bill produces, as I say, two artificial conditions for commercial prosperity, demand and supply, and an absolute failure with regard to the third condition, confidence.
I will not detain your Lordships longer as the hour is getting late, but I was mentioning a few minutes ago that the general public had heard these words let slip by some of the Labour Party implying what their real desires and hopes were, and whether my noble friend who moved the rejection of the Bill had anything to do with it or not, I know not; nevertheless within the last few weeks, and even within the last few days, I have personally, and no doubt all your Lordships have, received protests against the Bill from the shipping world, from the shipbuilders, from the Iron and Steel Institutes, from the cotton trade, from the gas trade, from the railway companies, and from chambers of commerce. All these requests which have been sent to your Lordships' House have not been isolated petitions bearing the signature of a private business man, but they have come from the representative organs of their own body, that is their institutes, and one single signature therefore, would represent the millions of pounds involved in each one of the trades that I have spoken of. Hundreds of millions of capital are represented in the requests that have been sent to your Lordships to throw out this Bill and if we take that action the House will not be unsupported. Are we to allow a Bill of this kind, which is to cause true damage to trade and misery to many in this country by what must come to pass? Are the coal owners in this country the only ones who are able to supply coal? Is not Germany ready and willing to load her ships and send them over with coal to our coasts? Has not America sent over iron and steel and undersold me in our home markets? Of course she has. At first the beginning 1477 will be a vast increase in the price of coal. The next will be a shortage because the colliers do not work as long and as regularly as many noble Lords seem to think they do. They are not like bank clerks; they are not put to work and told that they must work for a certain number of hours and turn out a definite amount. The miner works as long as he likes, and he seldom works two days running, if he is weary. I do not say a word against the miner personally, because I consider the miners are the finest set of men in the world. Many of them are intimate friends of mine, and I have lived with and loved them.
The responsibility for the Bill is upon their leaders. Miners are the most loyal set of men you could possibly conceive, and they will do exactly as their leaders tell them. Even although they may not be acting as their hearts would desire, yet they will stick to their leaders although they feel they are going to make a mistake. I cannot help feeling that to pass this Bill would be a lamentable thing for the country. The various trades cannot afford to pay the price that will be asked for coal. Traders will by degrees say: "We cannot manufacture when we have this high price of coal against us; we shall have to close our works." Not only that, but all old coal pits—I speak of pits fifty or sixty years old—if they have thin seams will be done away with, and the men who have boon employed in those mines cannot be transferred to other places, so that there will be greater and more serious unemployment than there ever has been before, and the unemployed will not come from the miners only; they will come from all the other trades as well. The railways cannot afford the extra 2s. a ton; the cotton trade cannot afford it. The cotton trade fought the other day over a very small point, and that fight lasted a terribly long period. With all the respect that I bear to my noble leader I wish he had been here and would have got up and said that he had changed his mind and that he could not pass a Bill which legalises a gigantic corner in labour.
* THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
My Lords I only want to occupy the time of the House for a very short period in order to express my views rather as relating to a particular part of the coalfields in this country, namely, in South Wales. But let me say at the outset that I do not wish to argue against the whole principle of this Bill. I share the doubts that have been expressed by the noble Marquess, whom I nearly always follow, both as to the wisdom and as to the necessity for this Eight Hours Bill for miners. I do not wish to take up the time of the House in arguing that general question of principle, because I accept his conclusions, and in spite of feeling those very grave doubts as to the result of this Bill, I am prepared to follow him in not giving my vote against the Second Reading. Therefore, all the arguments I use will be rather in favour of the relaxation of any rigid application of this Eight Hours Bill.
In the first place, I entirely agree with what the noble Marquess behind me said, that it is of the utmost importance that some alteration should be made in the Bill in order that there should be no inclusion in it even after five years of one of the windings. I think this is most important both on the ground of safety and on the ground of the in equality in the way that it would work in different collieries. I believe the whole of the Miners' Associations of Great Britain have unanimously agreed that the question, of safety is one which ought not to be lost sight of in this respect. It is only human nature that if it is in the interest of the colliery proprietors to get their men up and down in the shortest possible space of time, however careful they may intend to be there will be a tendency to increase the dangers of winding if the windings are included in this eight hours. I earnestly hope that His Majesty's Government will agree to an Amendment that was foreshadowed by the noble Marquess behind me that even after five years they should retain the exclusion of the two windings.
Then one word as to the inequality in the way in which this would work in different collieries. The Departmental Committee showed in their Report that 1479 the difference between the distance from the bottom of the pit to the face varied from four yards to four miles. That is in their Report. That shows clearly that in the case of a new pit and new sinkings the operation of the Eight Hours Bill will be very very slight compared with what it must be where men have two, three, or even four miles to walk from the bottom to the face. I want to say one word upon the suggestion that I think the noble Lord opposite, Lord St. David's made, that the workmen in shorter hours would bring up the same amount of coal as they do in their present longer hours. I wish to point out that it really is not a question of what the coal-getters, the hewers, themselves can do. The getting of coal out of a colliery is a complicated affair requiring a great organisation. The coal-getters may, if they please, cut as much coal in eight hours as they did in nine or nine and a half before, but that is not the whole of the question, because that coal has got to be cleared, it has to be got to the pit's mouth, and it will be quite impossible in many instances to clear the same amount of coal in the shorter number of hours that will be available for winding up the coal.
I venture to indicate two other points where certainly I should like to see an Amendment in this Bill. One is in regard to the time of the Bill coming into operation. In the case of South Wales the agreements with the men are made by a Conciliation Board. The agreements are very carefully considered by representatives of the masters and of the men, and the agreement that is now running runs till 31st December, 1909. Therefore, so far as South Wales is concerned, it would be a very great disadvantage to them if the Bill came into operation six months before the agreements naturally come to an end. I think the Government admit that it is of extreme importance that sufficient time should be given so that new agreements to suit the altered circumstances can be arrived at between the colliery proprietors and the workers. They have recognised that in the case of Northumberland and Durham by allowing six months increase of time, and I venture to think that we shall press very strongly for that extra 1480 six months being given to the other coalfields in Great Britain.
Then, my Lords, there is one other point which I should like to see made the subject of an Amendment: that is the penalty clause. In the Bill as it stands there is in Clause 6 a provision that the owner, agent or manager of the mine shall not be guilty of an offence if he proves that he has taken all reasonable means by making public and to the best of his power enforcing regulations for securing compliance with the provisions of the Act. I should like to ask what the Government really mean by "to the best of his power enforcing" the regulations, because it is quite clear that colliery proprietors cannot possibly see that every man is turned out of his workings at the end of the eight hours, and force him to go up to the surface. It seems to me, therefore, that at least those words should be made clear, and that the Government should say what they mean by the management having to enforce these regulations, or that they should cut those words altogether. My Lords, I believe that there are many much greater difficulties in the way of a rigid enforcement of an Eight Hours Bill in all mines than the Government seem to think. Probably they will be found only after the Bill has been some little time in operation. I sincerely hope that they will do nothing to tie the hands of any future Parliament certainly after the five years time-limit, but will rather relax the rigidity of the provisions in the Bill in order to enable some future Government to amend it in such a way that it will meet the requirements that have been proved to be necessary. I wished merely to indicate these three points, upon which certainly, speaking for myself, I hope that some Amendment will be made in the Bill. I repeat that I accept the conclusions of the noble Marquess who leads this side of the House, and that I am not prepared to give a vote against the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
It has struck me, after listening very closely to the speeches which have been made, and after having followed carefully the course of this debate, that there has been one very strong feature which 1481 has appealed to me particularly, and it is that the counties of Durham and Northumberland, which produce one-fifth of the whole coal production of England, has hardly been alluded to. Connected as I am with the county of Durham, and associated as I am with the coal trade, it is perhaps not out of place if I venture, on behalf of the County of Durham Coal Owners' Association, to put their views before your Lordships. Before I do so, however, I should like to say a few words with regard to the principle contained in this Bill—and with regard to that principle I confess, my Lords, that I have no alternative but to offer it my strongest opposition. In the first place, this measure proposes to curtail the freedom of the adult working classes in the coal industry of this country. I say at once that I am not surprised at seeing that principle made a prominent feature of this measure, because the whole policy of His Majesty's Government at the present moment seems to me to be a curtailment of freedom of all sorts and kinds. We have seen this exemplified in the House of Commons, where freedom of debate has been stifled in a manner which I venture to say is absolutely unprecedented. Most of the measures which have been passed through the House of Commons by the present Government have been more or less founded on the principle of the curtailment of the freedom of the people of this country. I think that is a very dangerous principle to embark upon, and the people of this country will surely and certainly resent it. When the time comes to ask the opinion of the country on the question of this constant curtailment of the freedom of debate in the House of Commons, I feel sure that the people will reply in no uncertain tones.
With regard to the measure before us, I think this curtailment of freedom is a matter which should be very carefully considered. To me it seems a very strong order to tell a sturdy adult man, capable of working to the best of his ability, that he shall not be allowed to devote his powers and his strength to doing all he can to earn increased wages in order to put by something for his old age, or to provide his wife and family with those 1482 enjoyments which they might have were he allowed to utilise the full vigour Of his strength. This is a matter which has never before been taken up by the State. The noble Lord who will probably reply to my remarks will, no doubt, allude to the Railways Regulation Bill. All I have to say with regard to that measure is that it was passed in the interests of the passengers and those connected with travelling by trains. Those regulations recognised that the pointsmen associated with the charge of those trains were perhaps overworked. But what I wish to point out is that that Bill was passed entirely in the interests of the passengers and those who travelled by trains. I may be told also that the Shop Hours Act contains an analogous principle. Again I reply that that principle is not admitted in that Act; although it closed shops at a certain time it did not prevent business going on between the employers and the employees after the shops were closed. Therefore I say that this is the first time we have the State intervening and declaring that it is justified in putting a limit to the hours which an adult man chooses to work.
Having said so much upon that question I now turn to another point. I wish to ask, and I hope I shall receive a reply from the noble Lord who will speak on behalf of the Government, whether it is proposed to extend any further this principle of limiting the work of adults who can work and would like to work, or whether the principle is going to be confined to this Bill. I have read the speeches of various members of His Majesty's Government upon this measure, and it seems to me that they consider this Bill is but a stepping-stone to extending the principle of limiting work to other trades. If that is so, I say that we are entering upon a most dangerous course. If the statement I have made is true as to the intention of the Government, there is no reason at all why this principle should not be extended to all trades and industries, and, going even beyond that, to individuals, if that principle is once admitted, and if we are told, as we have been told by some members of the Government, that this principle is to be extended, 1483 then I say in future nothing but chaos and confusion will ensue amongst all our working classes, resulting in the end in a reduction of wages. On these two principles I think this Bill is exceedingly dangerous if it is allowed to pass your Lordships' House in its present form. Then we have heard to-night that this Bill will cause very serious damage to a great number of industries. I have never yet been able to gather how far this Bill is expected to raise the price of coal. I have heard opinions expressed upon this subject, but I do not know that any estimate can be formed with any degree of certainty. There can be no doubt whatever that if this Bill is passed it must increase the price of coal. I doubt if there is any industry which does not depend to a certain extent upon the consumption of coal. Every industry more or less depends upon coal. I have heard it said that the coal industry itself is not in that position, but anyone who has knowledge of the working of coal-pits, knows full well that a great amount of coal is burned in a pit for the purposes of ventilation and other reasons. I should like to know what industry can be named which does not depend to a very great extent upon coal. I have heard several speeches bringing forward the various industries, such as the iron industry, the shipping industry, the gas industry, and other industries which depend more or less upon coal, and what I should like to hear from the Government to-night is how they propose to convince those various industries that they will not be damaged if the price of coal is increased. I do not wish to weary your Lordships by quoting figures at any length, but I am going to ask you to allow mo to say upon what a rise in the price of coal very greatly depends. Allusion has been made to the Report of the Departmental Committee, and I am bound to say that I think the Report of that Committee should carry weight with noble Lords opposite. If it is allowed to carry weight with them they cannot possibly ask us to vote for this Bill. After a most careful inquiry that Departmental Committee came to the conclusion that the proposed limitation of working hours must produce a limitation of output. The noble Lord, Lord St. David's, 1484 seemed to doubt that finding, but I should like to confront him with the names of the gentlemen who sat on that Committee, and I am sure if he were confronted with their arguments he would not deny my contention. Now what must be the result of that? Such a limitation of output must seriously affect the cost of production. What I wish to bring under your Lordships' notice is that the increase in the price of coal to the consumer need not necessarily be in proportion to the increase of the cost. This is a matter of a somewhat complicated character, but I am going to give to your Lordships trade statistics with regard to the rise in price as it has worked out in the county of Durham. What I wish to draw particular attention to is that a very small percentage in the excess of demand over supply may result in a very large increase in the price. We have had experience of this in the county of Durham. Let me quote to your Lordships a few figures dealing with this question of a rise in the price of coal. In December, 1871, the ascertained net average price of coal produced in the county of Durham was 5s. 2.76d. per ton, but owing to the great demand for coal following that time the price rose to such an extent that in January, 1873, the average net price was 15s. 10.76d. per ton. Then we come for a number of years to a depression in the coal trade, and then to a period when prices advanced very considerably from 1888 to 1890. In the month of January, 1888, the price of coal in the county of Durham was 7s. per ton, and this had risen in February, 1890, to 14s. and 15s. per ton. Then there was a time of augmented demand again from 1899 to 1900, and in April of the former year the price of gas coal reached 8s. 6d. and 9s. per ton, whilst in January, 1900, it went up as high as 18s. and 19s. per ton. This period of inflation was followed by another period of decline, and in 1905 the price was 17s. 10½d. per ton. In 1907 the price fell to 15s. 6d. and 16s. per ton. Although this may not be exactly a relevant case, it may not be out of place if I quote figures showing how all this affected the wages of the men. During the period 1871 to 1873, wages rose 58 per cent.; in 1900 they rose 35 per cent., and in the year 1905 there was a 1485 rise in wages of 65 per cent., and in 1907 a 55 per cent. rise. I have quoted those statistics to show what it means to the general public if there is a slight rise in the price of coal.
Various reasons have been put forward as to why this Bill should become law. I have heard several noble Lords put forward the argument that this measure is brought forward in the cause of humanity. My noble friend Lord Newton dealt very fully with that question, and he proved beyond all doubt from the Report of the Committee that this Bill, if it were passed, would not do anything from a humanitarian point of view. But if the humanitarian point of view is the basis of the argument upon which this Bill is brought forward, how can an alteration in the health of the miners be brought about by a reduction of the hours of work to the extent of one or two hours per day. I should be very glad indeed to have an answer to that question. I should have quoted from the Report passages dealing with the health of the miners but for the fact that quotations on this point have already been given by my noble friend behind me. Whoever follows me on behalf of the Government will no doubt have studied that Report, and I should be glad to hear how the Government propose to justify this measure on the ground of health after what has been stated in the Report of the Departmental Committee.
Now I come to the question of safety in mines. I am a large employer of labour myself, and I say honestly that I would give every shilling I have in the world if I thought it would prevent the loss of the life of a single man in my pit. I agree that every precaution must be taken under the Mines Regulation Acts, and every precaution is taken by the Government inspectors who inspect these pits, and very rightly too. But I want to know how the Government propose to justify their claim that the safety of the miners will be safeguarded more than it is now by reducing their hours by one or two. Again, I could quote from the Report of the Departmental Committee on this point passages which bear out my contention. What I say is that the shortening of the hours of labour is not calculated to do anything in the direction 1486 of promoting the safety of the men. If the noble Earl opposite is aware of what the Departmental Committee reported on this point it will not be necessary for me to quote it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I think you are jeopardising the safety of the men by the way in which this Bill deals with the question of the windings. You are encouraging the miners to take advantage of the hours in future; you are encouraging them to hurry or what is called speeding-up, you are also encouraging them to take no notice whatever of the timberings, a matter upon which they ought to be extremely careful, and there are many other points upon which you will be jeopardising the safety of the men if this Bill passes in its present form. I know there are a great number of conscientious, kind-hearted people who sympathise with the men who work more than eight hours a day, and they allude more particularly to those people at work in the mines who are called putters, who work in the mines in the county of Durham and in other collieries. Now I have every sympathy with men who work over eight hours, and the putters practically work ten hours a day, but may I say a word with regard to the experience of the putters in my employment. If the noble Lord opposite asked them, they would tell him that they were perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. They are youths whose ages vary from sixteen to twenty years, and they are more or less apprenticed to the hewers. One noble Lord has already insinuated that agricultural labourers could take the place of these putters in mines, but I should like to see them doing this work in the county of Durham. I am sure they could not do it. The putters are frequently the sons of the hewers, being trained to take their places as hewers, and they are a strong body of men, quite capable of taking care of themselves. When I tell your Lordships that these putters are receiving wages varying from 18s. to 30s a week, I do not think you will say that they are underpaid. 1487 or unable to take care of themselves. I do not blame them, because I think every man should take care of himself. Anybody connected with collieries in the county of Durham will tell you that these putters, if they do not agree with the prices given, will not hesitate to come to those who employ them and inform them that they will leave the pit idle unless they are given a minimum wage of 5s. a day. Are those the men who ought to be bullied by a measure of this kind? I maintain they are not, and I admire them for not allowing themselves to be bullied. The County of Durham Miners' Association is probably the most highly organised association of any similar body of working men in any part of the country, and I say with pride that they are a most independent body of men. If your Lordships could see some of the county of Durham miners you would readily agree with me when I say that they would not thank anybody who offered them sympathy as being an ill-used race. I heard the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, state with what admiration he had met the miners of Lancashire, but even his admiration was not surpassed by my admiration of the miners of the county of Durham. I know what they are. I have seen them in times of trouble after explosions have taken place in the colliery, and I have seen them display deeds of gallantry not equalled by those who have obtained the Victoria Cross. Colliers never hesitate about risking their own lives in endeavouring to rescue their fellow-men. Therefore I repeat they are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves and want no legislation to enable them to obtain and enjoy those good terms and conditions of labour which have existed so long between the employers of miners and the workmen employed in the coal industry in the county of Durham.
Now I turn from that general principle to the question of how this Bill affects the county of Durham. I confine myself entirely to the county of Durham because I do not entirely agree with my colleagues on this bench in the line they have taken up on this measure. I am speaking to your Lordships merely as an employer of labour, and as one who produces coal in the county of Durham. I wish to point 1488 out that the system of the working of coal in the county of Durham is unique, and I hope whoever replies on behalf of the Government will devote a certain amount of his speech to this most important county. In the county of Durham we have a great number of collieries. I have already told your Lordships the amount of coal turned out in Northumberland and Durham, but I cannot help thinking that if this Bill is applied to the deep and old collieries in the county of Durham difficulties must arise which will be exceedingly hard for us to adjust on terms satisfactory to all classes connected with those collieries. There will be a dislocation in the working of those collieries which I do not think any length of time will allow us to readjust, and which certainly cannot be readjusted in the very short time allowed by this Bill. I cannot speak for all of them, but there are a certain number of collieries in the county of Durham producing a large amount of coal under a system of three shifts of hewers and only two shifts of putters. I need hardly tell your Lordships that these hewers are nominally working seven hours per day from bank to bank. As a matter of fact the actual time is only six hours forty minutes, but the putters have to work ten hours a day. Now how has this amicable arrangement been arrived at? It has been arrived at by mutual friendly arrangement between all classes at work in the collieries. Otherwise the system would be absolutely impossible. What will be the result if this Bill passes? I may say that the putters are perfectly happy under the present system of working, because, they are getting good wages, as I have already explained, and they are allowed occasionally to do the work of the hewers and are paid by piecework for what they do. Under this Bill you will have to ask the putters to work shorter hours, and if you do that you must pay them lower wages. I do not suppose anyone will controvert that contention. Then you will also have to ask the hewers who are now working six hours and forty minutes per day from bank to bank to work eight hours per day. The number of hewers in the county of Durham is 44,000 and there are 20,000 putters. If you amalgamate those two classes of 1489 workers you will find that the average works out at a greater length of hours for the whole of them. I do not, however, think that hewers will agree to work longer hours or that the putters will consent to work shorter hours and be content with a lower wage. The result of all this will be that you will dislocate the whole of that trade which, at the present moment, is working exceedingly satisfactorily. It you dislocate this system you will bring into force the night shift, which in the count}' of Durham is greatly disliked and only exists in a certain number of collieries, where it is exceedingly unpopular; but if you are going to insist upon making the alterations suggested by this Bill you must have three shifts, as a general feature of the working of the coal. You must have, the night shift for those men who have not had to undergo it before in order to carry out your three-shift system, and naturally this will bring about general discontent. What is the object of bringing about this dislocation of a working system which has proved most satisfactory in the past and has worked agreeably to both employers and employed?
I will turn for a moment to the Report of the Departmental Committee, which deals especially with the case of the counties of Durham and Northumberland, and there I find they state that—The system of labour at present prevailing in the collieries of Durham and Northumberland is one of unquestionable efficiency, and one to which the employers and the great majority of the workers appear to be very much attached. It is a system which has been gradually evolved by the local necessities of the industry, and under it the division and specialisation of labour are carried to a higher degree of elaboration than in any other district.The Report further states that matters have been carefully adjusted with a view to obtaining the largest possible production without any waste of time or energy. I hope I shall be told why it is proposed to upset this system which has worked so well. I often ask for answers from the Government but I seldom get any, but I hope I shall get an answer to that question. With regard to the same point I will pass on to another finding of the Committee in which, dealing with the county of Durham, they say—To the solution of this problem we find both the employers and workmen have given much 1490 more serious thought than appeared to have been the case in other districts, and notwithstanding the difficulty of substituting for the present varied elastic system one of greater rigidity and uniformity, we are convinced that whether by the institution of three shifts of hewers or a uniform system of hours for all classes or by some other arrangement, the same organising ability and the same co-operation between employers and workers which has evolved the present system would succeed in finding a satisfactory substitute should the necessity arise. All the witnesses are of opinion that this could not be accomplished without some increase in the number of underground workers and some addition to the cost of production.I wish to know from the Government how they propose to justify the dislocation of a system which has worked so admirably and which is shown to be so efficient by the quotation I have made from the Report of the Committee. I hope the Government will tell us how it is proposed the county of Durham should be dealt with if this Bill passes into law. I know exactly what will happen. We shall have to recast the whole system of working in the county of Durham. I agree to a certain extent that it is quite possible if this revolution takes place in the county of Durham there may be a general strike, and there must be at any rate a considerable amount of turmoil and dissatisfaction in re-arranging a system of working which has proved so successful in the past. Whatever you may say with regard to other counties Durham and Northumberland stand by themselves, and if you are going to take this line it will be far more difficult for the county of Durham to wheel into line than any other county, because it will involve the change of a system which has been in existence for a great many years; and it will be found far more difficult to readjust our system than will be the case in any other collieries in other parts of the country. It is asked why Durham and Northumberland should have extra favours. The answer to that question is very simple; it is because the working of the coal is totally different.
I wish now to say a few words upon the question of windings. I should like to hear clearly explained what it is the Government propose to do with regard to this question. It is a very difficult question, I allow, for the simple 1491 reason that it varies so much in different collieries. If I may venture, as a colliery owner, to give advice to noble Lords opposite on this point, I would ask them to remember that there are collieries and collieries, and they are all worked in different ways. The whole question of windings cannot be made absolutely automatic for any one individual colliery, and then on those lines be extended to the whole of the coal trade. The question of the windings varies according to the depth of the pits and the number of men who are going to work them, and this is a question which I hope we shall discuss fully in Committee. I hope the Government will consider this question very carefully, because it is a very difficult and complicated one. I am at a loss to understand the line taken by the Home Secretary on this question, and he certainly attributed his attitude on this subject to the question of safety. As I have already said, I would grudge nothing I possess to save the life or even the unnecessary pressure of a finger of any man in my employ. If this line is going to be taken up with regard to the question of windings what is going to happen? Mr. Gladstone, speaking to a deputation of the Mining Association, said—It would be indeed disastrous if by speeding up machinery or by hurrying the work of timbering in our anxiety to secure the safety of the men, the ratio of accidents should increase through faulty legislation.No one would disagree with that view, but subsequently in Committee he altered the Bill by substituting five years as the period when both windings were to be excluded, because he said he thought it was desirable in the interests of safety and for economic reasons to have as far as possible no dislocation and disorganisation of the work. I am bound to say that I am at a loss to understand what the Home Secretary means, and I should like to have explained the reasons which led the right hon. Gentleman to make those remarks. The question of windings is outside the number of hours that the men are supposed to be at the face of the coal. We are told also that the reason for this is because it is dangerous. What I should like to hear is why, if it is dangerous now, it 1492 will not be equally dangerous in five years time. It seems to me that Mr. Gladstone is living in the hope that in the course of the next five years something will turn up—like Mr. Micawber—to make the windings less dangerous. Now what are the right hon. Gentleman's views with regard to what will turn up? Mr. Gladstone said in the House of Commons—The Committee also think that some of the estimated loss will be recovered by mechanical equipment and by new shafts, and by bringing up cast shafts for ventilation into use for windings.I do not know if Mr. Gladstone knows anything about the sinking of a shaft or not, but he seems to me to think that the sinking of a shaft is like a keeper digging through the earth to recover a rabbit from a ferret. I know better, and the noble Lord, Viscount St. Aldwyn, knows full well that nine years ago I commenced sinking a shaft in the hope of securing coal. In the hope of securing coal a sum of £10,000 or nearly £1,000 a year has been poured down that shaft, and only in the spring of this year has it been found possible to produce a ton of coal from it. Further than that, I commenced sinking a shaft in another colliery, and the same sum of money was spent when it was found that the water came in and the operations had to be recommenced. What I wish to impress upon your Lordships is that no one knows the amount of capital which has to be sunk on the mere chance of finding coal. If you do things which will stop people expending their money in endeavouring to find coal what will be the result? The coal supply will be shorter and the unemployed will be more, and when the Home Secretary talks in this manner about the sinking of a shaft and expressing the hope that the dangers will be less five years hence, he speaks in absolute ignorance of the danger and the cost of outlay in the sinking of a shaft.
After the remarks I have made, in all probability your Lordships will think that I should vote against this Bill. I am not, however, going to vote against this measure, but I shall not vote for it, for the reasons which have been given so ably by our Leader on this side of the House. I hope 1493 some necessary alterations may be made in Committee. As has already been said, the Home Secretary seems very sanguine; he does not take the pessimistic view which I take upon this question. I hope he may be right, and I trust that in Committee we may mitigate some of the evils which I and my friends foresee in this measure. I, however, take my stand on higher ground. I put far beyond my own interests in the coal trade the honour of your Lordships House. I do not hesitate to say that I have always advocated on platforms wherever I have spoken, that your Lordships are the real representatives of the country, and that you represent the opinion and the wishes of the people; and I have done so, because I know your Lordships have never rejected a measure which has been before the country for any length of time. As has already been said to-night, the Eight Hours Bill for Miners has been carried through the House of Commons under Governments of both political parties, and therefore I do not think I am justified in asking your Lordships to reject this measure, because, if I did so, I should be asking you to create a precedent which, to the honour of the House of Lords, at the present moment does not exist. In these circumstances, although I look with the most pessimistic view on the manner in which this Bill will be carried into effect, I shall abstain from voting when the division takes place.
* THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Lord LUCAS)
The noble Marquess who has just sat down has put to me a great many questions, some of which I hope to be able to answer very shortly. He has suggested that Mr. Herbert Gladstone has had no practical knowledge of coal-mining, but I believe the Home Secretary has a knowledge of that industry dating from his early youth, although not, perhaps, so extensive as that of the noble Marquess who has just spoken. Nevertheless, the Home Secretary's knowledge of coal-mining is quite sufficient to enable him to refrain from putting forward any proposal which is not of itself of a practical character. One point upon which the noble Marquess asked for information was what provision have we made for 1494 the circumstances under which the different windings are made in different collieries. If the noble Marquess will refer to subsection (4) of Clause 1 he will find the following provisions—(4) The interval between the times fixed for the commencement and for the completion of the lowering and raising of each shift of workmen to and from the mine shall be such time as may for the time being be approved by the inspector as the time reasonably required for the purpose.Therefore, we give the inspector power to deal with the special circumstances of each case as it arises. The debate so far has turned very largely on the recommendations of the Committee. The Report of that Committee has been used by both sides in this debate, and both parties have found in it practical material to support their contentions. The Report itself is of a most judicial nature, but I think there is one thing which has been, perhaps, somewhat lost sight of by noble Lords who have quoted the Report for the purpose of opposing this Bill, and that is the fact that the Committee under their terms of reference were asked to consider the immediate effect of the passing into law of an Eight Hours Bill. That, after all, is not the question which is before the House at the present time. There is no question of passing an Eight Hours Bill to come into effect at once, and it will not be in full working order for a period of five years, and that period will only be reached by successive steps. Even when the Act is in full force you cannot say that it will absolutely lay down eight hours as the maximum time, because when the coal trade is far more brisk, it enables, three months in the year, a working day of nine hours, to be worked. Therefore, when noble Lords quote the Report of the Committee to the effect that the adoption of an eight-hours day may produce a sudden rise in the price of coal, they are not considering the effect of the gradual introduction of this change or the effect which this period of five years time, which is allowed, will have upon that operation. Now that is very important from our point of view. Our case rests upon this, that by giving this period of time to the coal trade to adjust itself to the new conditions we hope very 1495 largely to be able to overcome the difficulties which may present themselves with regard to the question of production, and five years from now it is only reasonable to suppose the coal trade will have undertaken those necessary measures which will enable them to replace in some other way the loss which may be sustained by the decrease in the actual time worked by miners.
The debate has chiefly turned on the question of the cost of production, which it is alleged by opponents of this Bill is going to be very largely increased. The cost of production will be influenced by two factors. In the first place, there is the question of what increase in the working cost may be produced by this Bill, and secondly, how far the output may be affected by it. The noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, said this was not the time at which a measure of this sort should be brought forward, because trade was slack, and the Bill might have a very bad effect. With all deference to that statement, I think there is a great deal to be said in favour of introducing a Bill of this kind at a time when trade is slack. After all, as was said by my noble friend who introduced the Bill, there are 44 per cent. of the collieries of this country which are at the present time not working full time. Therefore, if any decrease of output is produced by the Bill it can readily be automatically met by those collieries which are not now working full time, for they would then be able to work either full time, or a little more than they are doing now hi order to meet that decrease. With regard to the cost of coal being affected by a possible restriction of output, a time such as this is at any rate favourable for such a proposal. And now as to the question of the output itself. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, asked me to make special reference to the application of this Bill to the counties of Durham and Northumberland, and he put before your Lordships very clearly the reasons which he alleged prevented the miners of Northumberland and Durham from asking for the Eight Hours Bill, and being practically the only miners in the country who, for many years, stood out against it. As your Lordships are aware, their opposition to this Bill has now ceased, 1496 and the representatives of the Northumberland and Durham miners have come into line with the other mining representatives, and the position now is that the miners of the country are unanimous in asking for an eight-hours day.
* LORD LUCAS
At any Tate we are assured by the miners' representatives and other people who know that the demand for an eight-hours day is unanimous. How we propose to meet this case is a matter which the noble Marquess asked me to explain, but he will hardly seriously expect me to do that.
* LORD LUCAS
It is not for the Government to do that, because we are not dictating to collieries how they shall work. It is for the colliery people themselves to evolve the best method by which they can meet the requirements of this Bill after it has become law. There is one point which I desire to point out which has a very great bearing on the question of output. As the noble Marquess says, you have two shifts of hewers, and one longer shift of ten hours for the putters. Those are the people who will be affected by this Bill. If, as seems probable, it becomes necessary to make two shifts of putters instead of one, what will be the position? On the general question of output we have the evidence of Mr. Hand, who is an expert on this matter, that if the coal produced by the hewers could be cleared away more rapidly than it is at the present time it would be possible to increase the output of coal by 10 per cent.
* LORD LUCAS
I understand that you have two shifts of hewers working together about fourteen hours. You have also one shift of putters working ten hours, and therefore there are four hours when the hewers are at work during which there are no putters at work. Now if you have two shifts of putters working the same length of time, 1497 that will produce a more rapid clearing away of the coal. Mr. Hand, the expert, is of opinion that it is possible to clear away the coal more rapidly, and that will produce a larger output. That is one of the things which has to be considered in dealing with the general question of how far these restrictions will affect the output.
* LORD LUCAS
Yes. I am dealing with the question of how far the output is likely to be decreased by a reduction of hours. If a man works shorter hours it is reasonable to suppose that his hourly output will be increased. My noble friend quoted some instances of that. A most striking example was given of one county, where, up to the year 1902, the miners worked twelve hours a day. Then the hours of labour in that county were reduced by two hours per day, and the men worked a ten-hours day. The result of that change was an actual increase of the output per man. The first year, in 1903, there was an actual increase of output per man of 3.9 per cent., and in the following year that increase rose to 6.6 per cent. per man, and this was achieved whilst the men were working two hours less. Many other cases have been quoted, and this result is by no means confined to the coal trade. There was a case quoted in the evidence of the Chief Inspector of Ordnance Factories at Woolwich, who stated as his opinion that by shortening the hours a larger output was obtained. The noble Lord, Lord Newton, questioned the fact whether by reducing hours you would get the men to work more regularly. If the noble Lord examines the figures he will find that absenteeism is the greatest in those places where the men work the longest hours. Absenteeism is greatest in those places where the men are overworked and have to take more time off. Therefore, if you can reduce the amount of absenteeism which produces a considerable loss we may fairly consider that the actual increase of output will be quite equal to the possible decrease caused by the reduction of hours of work. I think we may fairly consider this will be an 1498 asset in our favour and something that will assist in keeping up the output, at any rate, to what it is at the present moment.
A great deal has been said in regard to the question of cost, but it is impossible to lay down any hard and fast rule. At the present time a great many mines are working under time, and therefore the question of not being able to meet the demand for coal does not enter into the case at all, and it can only come in when the mines are working their full time when you may have, as I think the Report states, a considerable increase. There are provisions in the Bill for meeting that. The noble Marquess mentioned the case of the poor consumer, but what is the case of the poor consumer? What is the proportion of the price which the poor consumer pays which is affected by this change? I do not allow this argument, but I will allow it because I wish to put the worst case possible, and deal with it. I will assume that this 10 per cent. decrease in the hours of labour worked as laid down under this Bill is going to have its full effect, and that the cost of coal will be increased proportionately. Roughly speaking, in the South of England one-fifth of the cost of coal is the amount paid to the miner; that is to say, you are making a 10 per cent. increase on the fifth of the cost of the coal, which means a total increase of 2 per cent. to the consumer after allowing for the full 10 per cent. increase, which is a result we do not in the least anticipate or admit. Besides this there is every probability that you will increase the man-hour output, that you will decrease the wastage to a certain extent, because as the hours become more regular working expenses will probably become less. Then there is an improvement in the machinery of the mine which the Committee consider is certainly likely to accrue. It should also be remembered that for five years the decrease of the hours worked will only be 5.7 per cent. under this Bill, and it will not be until five years have elapsed, when the coal trade has had full opportunity of realising and adapting itself to the new position, that you will get to the 10 per cent.
1499 The noble Marquess challenged me on the question of danger, and he was the only speaker who came out into the open and opposed this Bill on the question of danger. Other speakers rode off on that part of the Report of the Committee which states that the health of the miners is satisfactory and that the mortality is low. I think that is just one of those cases where mere statistics are the most illusory things in the whole world. Many of your Lordships saw the finish of the Marathon race. That is perhaps a most vigorous form of exercise, but if you take the statistics of mortality of those who ran in a Marathon race there is only one instance on record of a man who died in a Marathon race. It might be argued from that as only one man has died in a Marathon race that the Marathon race is the most healthy thing in the world.
* LORD LUCAS
I am only quoting them to show how illusory these ones were. The fact is that coal-mining is one of those particularly strenuous professions in which a man does not get a chance of dying. If a miner becomes infirm or crippled for any reason by the nature of his work he has to pass out of it into some other trade, and it is in the other trade that death ensues. You can see that plainly enough from the statistics.
* LORD LUCAS
I do not think anyone will deny that coal-mining is arduous and dangerous. It stands second only to one trade, namely, that of the seaman, in the percentage of deaths and accidents. Besides this, coalminers are liable to three or four special diseases, and they work under more unnatural conditions than any other trade. What makes the position worse is that a miner goes down a mine and he cannot get out of it until the end of his shift. When the noble Marquess opposite asks me to show him how this decrease of hours is going to affect the safety of the miner, I ask him to compare the statistics of accidents which occur in his own county 1500 with those which occur in South Wales. In South Wales, where they work longer hours than in the counties of Northumberland and Durham, the percentage of accidents is enormously higher. That, at any rate, is one piece of evidence. I know it is difficult to produce conclusive evidence on that point, but that at any rate, is one thing in our favour. I should have thought that the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, would have found in that particular fact sufficient reason for supporting this Bill, but apparently he regards longer hours as being safer than shorter hours.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I never said so. I never stated that longer hours were safer. What I asked was how by curtailing the hours the Government proposed to secure the health and safety of the miners.
* LORD LUCAS
The noble Marquess quoted the Railway Regulation Act as being the only case where the hours of adult labour had been restricted.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I never quoted the Railway Act at all. I think the noble Lord has entirely mistaken me for some other noble Lord.
* LORD LUCAS
Before speaking of the Shop Hours Act I think the noble Lord referred to an Act in which there had been a curtailment of the hours worked by railway men, and he justified that on the ground—
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I never mentioned the Railway Act. The noble Lord is confusing me with some other noble Marquess.
* LORD LUCAS
I must adhere to what I have said. It is within the recollection of some other noble Lords that the noble Marquess mentioned the Railway Act. I only wish to say that if the noble Marquess justifies the restriction of the hours worked by railwaymen on the grounds of public safety surely that is the best ground you can possibly have for restricting the hours of those men. Surely this is more important in the case of mining, because there is no other trade in the world where other men's lives depend 1501 so much on the caution and care taken by any one individual workman than in the case of coal-mining. Therefore, if you are going to restrict the hours of railway-men because long hours endanger the lives of passengers, surely you should restrict miners working long hours because they endanger the lives of everybody in the pit.
In conclusion, I think I am right in saying that the arguments which have been put forward against this Bill have been put forward a hundred times against other similar measures. Exactly the same line of opposition as that which has been put forward against this particular Bill was put forward in the case of the Factory Acts, the Navigation Laws, Workmen's Compensation Acts, and, finally, Chinese Labour. We are always told that these restrictions placed upon the time which a person works and which are put on in the interests of the worker himself are going to cripple trade. I believe I am right in saying that there is not a single case where legislation has been passed of this kind with the intention of bettering and improving the conditions of the workers which has been unsuccessful or which has crippled the trade to which it was directed in the way predicted at the time the measure was passed. Fortified by that teaching of history, we are perfectly confident that this Bill will have the same effect. It is true we are creating a slight disturbance in the trade, but it is to be extended over a considerable time, and we are allowing ample scope for the scientific development which in similar cases has always replaced and compensated for the shorter hours worked by the men. We are applying this Bill to a trade which has great ingenuity and great scientific ability and capital behind it, and we are confident that it will have the same effect as other humanitarian measures of its kind have had in benefiting the workers without in any way interfering with or crippling the trade.
§ * VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
I cannot pretend to that intimate acquaintance with the working of collieries which is possessed by my noble friend behind me, and by more than one noble Lord who has addressed your Lordships 1502 to-night. I will, however, venture to trespass upon the time of this House for a brief period, feeling as I do that, having regard to the importance of this subject, the time at our disposal is far too brief, because I happen to stand at the present time, and have stood for some time past, in a special relationship to masters and workmen in one of the most important coalfields of this country. The arguments against this Bill appear to me to divide themselves into two classes. There are arguments of principle and arguments as to the effect of the Bill in its present shape which might be met to a more or less extent by alterations in Committee. The arguments against the Bill in principle are those which have been advanced in more than one speech, but notably by the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, and by my noble friend, the Marquess of Londonderry. Lord Cromer twitted the Government with the difference between the proposals of this Bill and their general free trade policy with regard to imports into this country. I am not going to follow the noble Lord into that field. There may be that difference, but if it be so, at any rate it is a difference that has been made for more than a generation in the history of our legislation. Almost as soon as the free trade policy with regard to imports was adopted in this country, the Factory Acts came under consideration, and the first Factory Act which was passed, so far as it went, was in contravention of what Mr. Cobden and Mr. Bright said was the principle of free trade. It is really too late to object in principle to the provisions of this Bill on that ground.
Then my noble friend Lord Londonderry took another ground, that this is a Bill interfering for the first time with the right of the free adult workmen to deal as he chooses with his own labour. There again, my Lord, I am sorry that I differ from my noble friend. I think the whole history of our legislation interfering on the ground of humanity and safety with the conditions of many trades in this country shows that that principle has in practice been surrendered long ago. To my mind this industry of the workers in 1503 coal-mining does present some differences of a very material kind from other industries to which in the judgment of some noble Lords it is possible that this policy may be subsequently extended. Take, for example, the point which has just been alluded to of the peculiar conditions by which it is rendered impossible for a workman to begin or to finish his work at a coal mine at any time he may desire. All the miners have to go down together at some fixed time of the day and all have to come up from that work together at the end of some fixed time. Therefore there is not that individual liberty as to their hours of labour in the case of workmen in the coal mine that there is in most other industries in this country.
Further than that I do think there is something to be said on the ground of humanity. What do the miners say themselves? Much has been said in this debate about the admirable qualities of the coal miners of this country, of their intelligence, the courage and self-sacrifice they show in times of trial, their power of organisation, the ability of their leaders, and the strength of their organisations, when it comes to dealings with employers. I think it has almost been said that the state of the coal industry is such that through these organisations the workmen are rather more the masters of the mines than the employers themselves. That is the position of these men. It is urged sometimes that that being their position, they ought to be able to settle for themselves without the interference of Parliament the hours they should work; but the fact is that they come to Parliament, I will not say unanimously, but at any rate, with the voice of all their organisations, which is not contradicted by any single portion of that organisation.
§ * VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
They come to us and ask to have their hours of work limited by Act of Parliament instead of attempting to do it for themselves. I will not enter into the question as to why they do this. The fact remains that being what they are they have done it, and why do they say they have 1504 done it? They say they do it on the ground of humanity. My noble friend Lord Newton told your Lordships that this ground of humanity has practically been destroyed by the Report of the Departmental Committee.
§ * VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
I cannot agree with my noble friend. I have a very strong feeling that anybody who goes down a coal mine and sees these men at work in a high temperature at the face of the coal, and remembers that they have to work there for nine or ten hours without leaving that spot: anyone who reflects that that work goes on day after day, and that these men are deprived of the benefit to a large extent of that sunlight and fresh air which are so great a thing in our enjoyment of life, will pause before he thinks that those considerations of humanity are of so little importance in this matter as my noble friend Lord Newton seems to consider. I will not enter into questions of health at all. Although it has been suggested in this debate that the life of a coal miner is so agreeable that it should be preferred by a labouring man to any other employment, I do not think it can be contested that the work is most laborious and disagreeable. Barring one industry, namely, that of a sailor, I believe it is the most dangerous work in which men can engage in this country. These are the reasons why the miners come to Parliament and ask for this interference on their behalf. I must say that I think there is adequate ground for your Lordships giving a Second Reading to this Bill, having in mind the source from which this demand comes and the ground upon which it is urged. But I will go further. As has already been stated by my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition, this subject has been before Parliament a very long time. I speak from my experience in another place, which probably has been longer than that of any noble Lord whom I am addressing. I can remember this question years and years ago, and the fact remains that this Bill is not only recommended to us by the fact that it has been passed by the present House of Commons, which is composed of a large majority of gentlemen holding advanced opinions. Not only this, but the principle of the Bill 1505 was accepted by largo majorities in 1893 and 1894, and in 1901 by perhaps the most Conservative House of Commons that ever existed. I can say from my recollection of the feeling of the House of Commons on this matter while I was a Member of it—a feeling which was entertained by many members of the Unionist Party, some of them very distinguished, like Mr. Chamberlain, who were not in the least influenced by the miners' votes in their own constituencies—I can say that I am quite convinced that any House of Commons that is likely to exist would accept the principle of this Bill: and I argue from that that this Bill has a very large measure of support among the constituencies in the country at large. I find in that I single fact a very vital reason, quite apart from what my noble friend Lord Newton has described as a matter of tactics, why your Lordships should give at least a Second Reading to this Bill.
Now I come to the arguments against the Bill, which I venture to describe as arguments on points which can be dealt with in Committee. First of all there is the very great difference between the circumstances of the several coalfields in this country. My noble friend Lord Londonderry has dwelt upon the peculiar characteristics of working in the coal mines of the county of Durham. Everybody admits, and the Government admits, that what he has stated is nothing more than the truth. My noble friend the Earl of Plymouth has dealt with similar facts with regard to the coalfields of South Wales, and I think other noble lords have referred to the coalfields of Lancashire and the special circumstances existing there. I do not think it is quite enough for His Majesty's Government to say in answer to these statements, which are of the most important character, what was said by the noble Lord who has just sat down, that the Government does not dictate to collieries how they should work. What the Government is attempting to do through Parliament is to dictate to collieries the hours of labour within them. I think they are bound to take cognisance of these varying circumstances in the different collieries in the country, and they should attempt, at any rate, so to shape their Bill as to fit it to the peculiar circumstances of each. I think that has been 1506 admitted to some extent. There is to be a special proviso with regard to a certain class of workmen in South Staffordshire. There is a proviso that in the case of Durham and Northumberland twelve months instead of six months delay should be allowed in fixing the time at which this Bill comes into operation. I do not think these provisos are sufficient. My noble friend the Leader of the Opposition suggested that this matter should be dealt with in Committee and I have no doubt some such Amendments will be put down for consideration. I hope that His Majesty's Government, although the time is short, will really devote their attention to this subject, and will see what can be done to meet the varying circumstances in the different coalfields. Then there is another even more important matter, and that is the effect on the consumer. We have heard a great deal both in and out of this House of the probability of a decreased output and an increase of cost to the consumer of coal in consequence of this Bill. I hope my noble friend Lord Newton will pardon me when I say that I cannot at all accept the views which he has put forward on this matter, and which were put forward by the Coal Consumers' League, of which he is the President. He has admitted that the League has gone far beyond anything that was right in suggesting that the price of coal would be increased to the consumer by 5s. a ton under this Bill. The only justification, however, which he has given for the action of the League of which he is President, was this; that similar misstatements—I should call them by a shorter word—had been made with regard to Chinese labour in the Transvaal mines before the last general election. I hope that we on this side of the House at any rate will never imitate those atrocious inventions. I have some reason for doubting seriously the statements that have come from persons interested in the coal trade with regard to a possible rise in the price of coal under the operation of this Bill. It was my fortune, as perhaps your Lordships may remember, to introduce a shilling export duty upon coal. Through deputations, through speeches in the House of Commons, through statements in the Press, as wild and extraordinary prophecies were made of the effect of that little duty as 1507 any that have been made with regard to the operation of this Bill. I was told that coal-pits would be closed, that their owners would be ruined, that workmen would be thrown out of employment, that ships would be laid up, that export cargoes would not be found for steamers trading with foreign countries, that shipbuilding would cease, and prognostications of that kind were made all over the country by those interested in the coal industry, by employers and workmen and also by shipowners. That tax was imposed, and the only harm it ever did was to decrease very slightly the export of coal from the North country to Germany, a decrease which was, I am sure, more than made up by an increase in the export of coal from this country to other markets abroad. Having that before me, I confess that I do not believe the prognostications as to the effect which the passing of this Bill will have upon the price of coal to the consumer in this country. If it was likely to have anything like the effect which is prognosticated it would be so serious a question that no Bill of the sort could be allowed to become law. But as some alarm has been excited by these statements, may I suggest to the Government that it really is their duty to do all they can, by accepting reasonable Amendments, to diminish fears of this kind, however unfounded they may be? What is this Bill? It is a measure to introduce after a brief interval what is practically an eight-hours day in the coal mines of this country, excluding both windings from the period of working. I should have thought that His Majesty's Government might have been content with this for the present. Uncertainty as to the operation of this Bill is evident in every speech of those who defended it in another place. I think it is evident, even in the speeches of those who defended it in this House. It is evident in the Bill itself, for was there ever a measure passed before which contained anything like the provision in Clause 4, enacting that—His Majesty may, in the event of war or of imminent national danger or great emergency, or in the event of any grave economic disturbance due to the demand for coal, exceeding the supply available at the time, by order in Council suspend the operation of this Act, to such extent and for such period, as may be named in the order, either as respects all coal mines or any class of coal mines.1508 Those words show that the Government mistrust the operation of their Bill, at any rate when it is intended to come into full operation. My noble friend who leads the Opposition suggested—and I entirely agree with him—that it is worse than absurd to leave in this Bill any proviso that there shall be any alteration of the hours for which work is limited at the end of five years. I think you ought to deal solely with the present emergency whatever it may be. You ought to give sufficient time before the new conditions begin to operate. You ought to proceed very carefully and try to meet the varying circumstances of the different coalfields, and when all that has been done, when the change you now wish to make has come about, that change ought to remain until Parliament otherwise determines. It is useless to attempt to legislate for circumstances which may or may not occur five years hence, when nobody amongst us can possibly foresee what those circumstances can be. We know that there certainly will be by that time a new House of Commons to deal with legislation, and probably a new Government sitting on the bench opposite.
I do not intend to detain your Lordships longer, but there is one other thing I wish to say. It has been urged more than once in the course of this debate by noble Lords who have opposed the Bill that the miners desire this measure solely with the view of obtaining increased wages for the same work or even for less work than they are doing now, I do not think that is quite a fair charge. I believe from my knowledge of the coal miners, and I have come across them a good deal, that like other people they desire to improve their condition in this way, but I believe what they really want in this Bill is not increased wages; they have aspirations for a more civilised and leisurely life; they desire to have more time above ground in the free air of heaven and in their homes—time which they may devote to purposes other and higher than those of their great industry, and I trust that your Lordships, having in mind that feeling on the part of the men, will not refuse a Second Reading to this Bill.
* LORD BELHAVEN AND STENTON
The noble Viscount has touched upon one 1509 point upon which I wish to address your Lordships, but with all deference to his great experience I wish to make a few remarks upon what he has said with regard to a decreased output of coal, I am not going so much into the question of an increase in price through reduced hours of working, which on all hands is expected as the result of the passing of this Bill. That increase may only be 1s. per ton or 1s. 6d., but that is not the point which will have the greatest effect on the general increase in the future in the price of coal. The shortage may be 10,000,000 tons per annum, and is more likely to be 20,000,000 tons of coal under the arrangements proposed for the next five years. We all know that in regard to the price of any commodity the principal element is not the shortage of the supply, but the character of the demand. An imperative demand for coal has frequently caused a sudden and enormous increase in the price, as was mentioned by the Marquess of Londonderry when, at certain periods, the price of coal went up to three times its normal value. A considerable shortage of coal production in this country would very likely produce a much greater increase than the mere extra cost from working shorter hours. I remember the great boom in coal which took place in the year 1900, and that was caused by the sudden and rapid increase in the demand for coal from France and Germany. At that time the price of coal went up to two and three times its ordinary price, and when that demand ceased it fell down again to its usual price. Of course, anything of that sort was only temporary, but supposing the output of coal in this country is 20,000,000 tons less than we have been accustomed to, that will increase competition to get the coal, and it may produce a very high price. Living as I do, in the midst of the collieries and the ironworks of the West of Scotland, I know how very important it is to the ironworks that there should not be any great rise in the price of coal. I know from my own knowledge of steelworks in the town in which I live, where pig-iron has been bought from Belgium when there were blast furnaces within 200 yards of those works lying idle, because they could not produce pig-iron as cheaply as it was being produced in Belgium. If the price of coal went up 1s. or 2s. per ton 1510 to say nothing of its going up more than that on account of shortage, a serious state of things would be produced, because for every ton of steel produced from three to four tons of coal are required. Under these circumstances your Lordships can imagine what an enormous difference it would make, and how entirely the works and the production of that part of Scotland and any other part of the United Kingdom would suffer by the importation from abroad of iron and steel cheaper than we can produce it ourselves using our own coal. Therefore, I feel bound to follow my noble friend who proposed this Amendment into the Lobby and vote against the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ * THE EARL OF DURHAM
I desire to join in the complaint which has been made of the short time we have been allowed for the discussion of such an important subject as this. I have heard many interesting speeches to-night, but from a psychological point of view to me the most interesting was that made by the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition, whose speech represented a very delicately balanced see-saw, upon which one looks with suspense to see which end will finally tip up. I derived very little more encouragement from the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, who indulged in philanthropic expressions which came from his heart, and he advised your Lordships to pay attention to the wishes of the miners of the United Kingdom. I look upon this Bill from another standpoint. I look upon it from the standpoint of an inhabitant of the county of Durham. The noble Lord, the Marquess of Londonderry, has spoken to you on the subject of Durham and has pointed out what very serious effects in his opinion will befall that county if this Bill becomes law in its present form. I can fully corroborate what the noble Marquess has stated, and I wish to add a few further observations to clinch the arguments which my noble friend has advanced. In the first place, we have all heard a good deal about the protectionist character of this measure, but I will not discuss that question. It is a protectionist Bill in my opinion, which has been advocated 1511 by the Miners' Federation. For many years the miners of the North were bitterly opposed to the Miners' Federation, and to any idea of an Eight Hours Bill. They were also opposed to any idea of interference with their old established customs of mining in the counties of Durham and Northumberland. For some reason or other not connected in the least with philanthropy, they at last consented to join the Miners' Federation. The Miners' Federation felt that they were bound to enrol Durham and Northumberland, because without them it was utterly impossible to attain their object, and, in spite of what the noble Viscount has just suggested, I maintain that the chief object of the Miners' Federation for many years past has been less work and higher wages. They knew it was impossible for them to persuade Parliament or the country to grant an eight-hours day unless they could induce Durham and Northumberland to acquiesce, or, at any rate, not actively to oppose this wish. I could prove that to your Lordships with the greatest ease. I have just said that they could not get this Bill without the consent of the Durham and Northumberland miners. I am very sorry that from this side of the House I have heard no mention of Northumberland and Durham, and yet those counties are to be accorded a period of six months longer in which to make their arrangements than any other coalfields in Great Britain. Why are they allowed six months more than other counties? Simply because the arrangements in Northumberland and Durham are so perfect that it will take six months longer to upset them and make fresh ones. What was said only last night on the Third Reading of this Bill in another place? Mr. Markham, a colliery owner, or, at any rate, a gentleman interested in collieries in the Midland counties, read a telegram to the House of Commons from the manager of a Midland colliery, stating that six months preference to the North of England meant absolute ruin to the Yorkshire and Derbyshire trade next year. Therefore you have the opinion of a colliery manager that if you give this extra six months to Northumberland and Durham the economic conditions are such that you will absolutely 1512 ruin the trade of Yorkshire and Derbyshire. And why? Because they will be able to produce coal cheaper in the North of England than it car be produced under this Bill. Those noble Lords who pretend that the cost of production will not be increased by this Bill are absolutely contradicting Mr. Markham and the view of the manager of one of his Midland collieries. All experts know that this Bill will cause a rise in the price of coal, and it is in order to raise the price of coal that the Miners' Federation are so anxious to see the Bill carried into law.
From a philanthropic point of view I should like to say a few words about the county of Durham. I wish to point out that none of the leaders of miners in Durham or Northumberland have spoken in favour of this Bill in the House of Commons. As a matter of fact, they have maintained a discreet silence, because they are in a difficult position owing to the fact that they have joined the Miners' Federation, and because they really do not know what view the miners of Northumberland and Durham will take of the Bill when they have studied it. Very few of us have had much time to study the Bill. I know some of the miners' leaders, and I have the greatest respect for them. I admire their loyalty to their own class, and I have the greatest confidence in their dealings with employers. In Durham there is a joint committee of owners and miners' representatives, and the leaders of the miners always act with the greatest consideration and good feeling and tact towards the employers, and I know they have averted many strikes and difficulties and smoothed down all sorts of things which, without their tact and good feeling towards employers, would have caused a great deal of trouble in the coal trade. Not one of these men has spoken in favour of this Bill, and not one of them has ventured to advocate it on behalf of the Northern miners; still less have any of them made humanitarian speeches. None of the miners' leaders have talked about the overworked condition of the unfortunate boys in the county of Durham. They have not done so because they are far too sensible men to talk such nonsense. I should like to draw 1513 your Lordships' attention to what the effect of this Bill will be on the miners in the North of England in regard to their hours of work. I do not think noble Lords quite realise that 25 per cent. out of the whole number employed in the pit will have shorter hours. No less than 50 per cent. of the men now at work will work longer hours, and 25 per cent. will work the same number of hours. Those 50 per cent. who will have to work longer hours are the most important men in the mine. They are the hewers who do the most arduous work and are the best paid. These men work actually six hours and forty minutes per day, but under this Bill these hewers will not be allowed to work six hours forty minutes, because the employers will not be able to afford to allow them to do so, and they will have to enforce eight hours per day. Now, will those hewers in Northumberland and Durham consent willingly to change their working hours from six hours forty minutes per day to eight hours? I certainly think they will not. If they do not it is obvious that their wages will have to be reduced. Therefore, I think there is every probability of friction, and as the Marquess of Londonderry said, of a strike in the county of Durham. I am assured of this by people who know what they are talking about, by managers of important collieries, who have told me that there is almost certain to be a strike if employers insist upon carrying out this Bill strictly. I hear from one of the most important collieries in Durham that the output will be reduced by 20 per cent., and that the price of coal will go up from 1s. 8d. to 2s. per ton. I agree with the noble Lord who said we must not indulge too much in statistics, but what I have said is the opinion of an honest man as to what will occur in his colliery. I have already pointed out what the hewers will have to do under this Bill. The persons who will have a reduction of hours are the putters and the boys in general. These putters work ten hours per day on the average, and they are employed upon much less serious and arduous work than the hewers. I should just like to tell your Lordships what they do. They are boys of thirteen to sixteen and upwards and they work 1514 ten hours a day, but they only work fifty-two hours in the week. Their duties consist of opening and closing the ventilation doors, coupling up the tubs for the trains; they act as drivers, and they travel from point to point in the pit. These youths sit on the limbers, and their ponies do the rest. The pay of these boys from the age of thirteen to sixteen is from 9s. to 12s. per week; and from seventeen to twenty years of age they get from 18s. to 30s. per week. I will read to the House one or two typical cases of the wages paid to boys. In October and November last a return was made to the Coal Trade Association in Newcastle, which showed that a boy of eighteen was receiving 31s. per week; a boy of fourteen 14s., a lad of seventeen 19s.2d., another boy of eighteen, 36s. 2d., a lad of seventeen 15s. 10d., another boy 33s. 1d., and in another case a lad of eighteen was getting 17s. 1d. I do not need to trouble your Lordships with further figures. All I wish to point out is that these youths are to be bound hard and fast by the rigid rules contained in this ridiculous Bill. I should like these boys to have more time in the open air, but I may tell the House that when above ground they spend most of their time playing football and cricket. From an economic point of view was it better that these toys should for five years work say ten hours a day at not very arduous work or fiat they should work an hour more for the rest of their lives than the hewers were doing at present? As a rule they are the sons of hewers and men who have been in the colliery themselves. I do not believe agricultural labourers will flock into the pits. At any rate they do not do so in my county. These boys are brought up to the life; they are serving an apprenticeship, working ten hours a day, and they get very good wages for it. Under this Bill those boys will have to work eight hours all their lives, whereas now after having served an apprenticeship of five years they rise to the rank of hewers, and then they only work six hours and forty-eight minutes per day. There are about 95,000 miners in Durham and 44,000 of them are hewers, so that practically half the workmen will have their hours of work raised from six hours forty minutes per day to 1515 eight hours. I should like to show your Lordships some of those fine healthy boys; some of them in my parish belong to the Church Lads Brigade. They are not picked boys at all, but they work in the pit. They belong to the Church of England, but I do not think that Church claims a monopoly of vigour as well as of virtue. They are very good boys, neither aggressive nor servile, and they have enormous appetites. They come once a year to my home to be inspected by me. I really cannot remember my rank, but I think it is an Honorary Commandant. No doubt my house is more luxurious than their own homes; they take an enormous interest in certain sporting trophies, and they have an almost irresistible temptation to put their heads into a certain tiger's jaw. They are as good boys as you can find, and they are typical of the class in the county of Durham, when properly looked after. It is futile to say that these boys deserve consideration from a philanthropic point of view, or that they are overworked or ill-treated. Their fathers would not tolerate that for a moment. My noble friend knows very well they would not stand that sort of thing, because they are independent and good-hearted people.
This Bill will do immense harm to Durham, because it will put up the price of coal. I do not care what other noble Lords may say, but I am perfectly convinced of that, and if it does that it will cause serious injury to the other industries in the county of Durham. In Durham 80 per cent. of the coal drawn is employed for the purposes of local industries, and, therefore, to that extent other industries will suffer. In Northumberland 80 per cent. of the coal is sea-borne, sold in foreign markets. There, again, if the price is permanently put up Northumberland will lose its foreign trade in coil. We do not agree with the noble Viscount about that 1s. tax on coal, but if the increased price caused by this Bill should reach 2s., I think the noble Viscount will admit in bad times with keen competition with Germany, France and Belgium, Durham might lose some of its markets owing to the artificial price put upon coal by this Bill. I have 1516 spoken on behalf of Durham and Northumberland, because I do not believe that the miners of those counties want this Bill. I am not inimical to the interests of the miners, but I am hostile to this Bill, because I believe it will do an injury to my county. I speak with some responsibility because my family has been for generations connected with the coal trade, and we have employed tens of thousands of men during that period. While that has tended to develop the district it has been done with mutual good will and respect between employer and employed. I like the men, and I think I can say without a blush that they like me. At any rate, I know they show a touching loyalty, though often a mistaken one, by backing my colours on the turf. I have been with them during a sad disaster in one of my own collieries, and amongst the managers and agents and all persons connected with the pit there was deep sorrow at the calamity. None of us thought of the cost at the time or of the laying idle of the pit, and there was a general feeling of goodwill and sympathy amongst all classes. I have had further experience of them, because I have known what their conduct has been during a prolonged strike which cost me thousands of pounds. They cut off my agent's gas supply, and then they told him they were extremely sorry to put him to such personal inconvenience. They refused to allow me to pump water out of a pit and thus deprived their own wives and children of a wholesome water supply. When the distress was very great, and when everyday of the strike was costing me large sums of money, they sent a deputation to ask me to head a subscription list to maintain the families of those who were out on strike. How can I help liking such men? It is because I honestly and conscientiously believe that this Bill will not be a boon but a curse to the miners of the North that I oppose it. I shall vote for the rejection of the Bill because I think it will do injury to all classes in that part of the country in which I live.
§ * THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (The Earl of CREWE)
My Lords, my noble friend who has just 1517 sat down seemed to indicate that scarcely sufficient time had been given to your Lordships for the discussion of this important subject. I hope that is not so. I can only say, so far as we are concerned on this side of the House, that, if noble Lords opposite or in any part of the House had shown a desire to adjourn the debate till to-morrow, we should have been fully prepared to meet their wishes.
It is perfectly true that this subject has been before the country for a very long time. The year of 1888 was mentioned as the date of the first occasion on which an Eight Hours Bill was brought into Parliament. But, as I think one noble Lord said, years before that the matter had aroused no little interest in the mining districts. I was a candidate for Parliament myself in one of the principal mining constituencies in the years 1884 and 1885, and at that time the question of eight hours was undoubtedly one which interested the miners more than any other, even more, I think, than the question of what ought to be the precise powers of your Lordships' House, which was at that time, as now, one of prime interest to the country. This certainly cannot be described as a party question. The noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill told us that, although he had sat for a Lancashire constituency containing many miners, yet he had always expressed himself as adverse to the Bill. That, I think, was not the case with most of the Unionist candidates for mining constituencies. So far as I am aware, almost to a man for the last five and twenty years they have expressed themselves strongly in favour of the principle of eight hours, and I think, therefore, we are entitled to say, because it is clear that those cannot be the only members of the party who are in favour of the Bill, that it does receive a very considerable degree of support from the party of noble Lords opposite.
The Bill seems, however, to have some effect in dividing the political action of families. In another place its rejection was, I think, moved or seconded by Lord Castlereagh. Here, on the contrary, the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, although, as he has told us, he does not 1518 much like the Bill, is not going to vote against it. On the other hand, there is a noble Earl, one of our most eminent Members, whom we do not hear often enough in the House—I mean Lord Crawford—who, I gather from his speech, is going to vote against the Bill. Well, his distinguished son has, I believe, invariably supported it; and this, at any rate, entitles us to say that the question is one which, although it may occasionally divide a household, is not one of a party character. And then also, as we know, it has been carried in the House of Commons when both sides have been in power. I think it was said by Mr. Balfour that that was, after all, only a Friday, and too much attention must not be paid to a Friday. I am inclined to think that those Friday chickens have a way of coming home to roost, and I believe that if it had been the case that those who were then in office were seriously opposed to the Bill, or ventured to declare themselves seriously opposed to the Bill, they would have taken care that it did not get a Second Reading, even on a Friday afternoon.
It is certainly true that during all these years the matter has not been sufficiently thought out by either side, and that there were, no doubt, a certain number of people who spoke of a bank-to-bank eight hours as though it were a matter which could be arranged by a stroke of the pen and was likely to be perfectly simple in its operation. On the other hand, the great mass of the public, regarding the measure with favour as a humane one, undoubtedly did not consider what effect, if any, it might have on the price of coal. But after this period of peace we have had a singular period of disturbance among consumers, and a regular consumers' panic has been, I will not say engineered, because I think that is not a, pleasant word, but has been somehow brought about. I do not know if your Lordships are all as sick of leagues and their documents as I am. Documents from all manner of leagues are snowed upon me day by day until I have had to add extra storeys to my waste-paper baskets, and my private secretaries are kept at work, not in docketing them, but in preventing my being smothered by them; and among these leagues the Coal Consumers' 1519 League has been particularly prominent of late.
We have had something like this before on a great many occasions. There are very few in this House now who will remember the passing of the Factory Acts, but I see here at least two noble Lords who will remember the discussions which took place when they were brought in. I should like to ask my noble friend the noble Marquess (Lord Ripon) whether it was not the case that when the Ten Hours Bill for children was brought in precisely the same kind of prognostications of general ruin of all industry were freely uttered as are uttered on this occasion. We have had plenty of instances in our time. When workmen's compensation was first talked of we were told it was going to bring every trade down to the ground. The cost would be so prohibitive that it could not possibly be borne when trade was bad. Then Lord Newton mentioned Chinese labour in the African mines as a subject on which exaggerated statements had been made, but he might also have mentioned it as a subject about which prophecies had been incorrect. How often we were told, in and out of this House, that if Chinese labour were interfered with in any way the gold industry in the Johannesburg mines would be absolutely ruined? Now we have the testimony of the mine-owners themselves, quite apart from the figures of production, which sufficiently proves what I say, that the industry has prospered more since Chinese labour began to depart. Then, if you want another instance, we had one yesterday. Two or three noble Lords made prophecies of a most blood-curdling character as to the effect on every industry in London of the proposals of the Government in the Port of London Bill. So little attention did your Lordships opposite pay to those prophecies that those noble Lords knew they could not get sufficient support to make it worth their while to divide the House. Therefore, although I shall deal in a few moments with this question of the rise of price, it is, I think, absolutely fair to draw the attention of the House to the extreme case with which a panic of this kind is raised. It is not so easily dropped, and unfortunately such a panic may do a great 1520 deal of mischief even though the supposed facts on which it is founded are not facts at all. I prote t, therefore, that when noble Lords and others elsewhere make statements as to the immense damage likely to be done by this Bill without being absolutely certain that they are speaking by the card, they are undertaking a somewhat serious responsibility.
It has been said: "Why bring in the Bill at all? Here you have this enormously strong union, probably the strongest and the best organised of any; why cannot you trust it to arrange with the coal owners its own terms as to hours in the same way as it is able to come to terms about wages?" If that were done, either the men could get the eight hours or they could not. If they could not, that, of course, is a sufficient answer to the question. But supposing they did get it, they would get it in one of two ways. They might get it by collusion with the coal owners. If they got it in that way, I think there would be some reasonable fear that the interests of the consumer might not be specially regarded. It is surely infinitely more advantageous if it is to be got at all, that it should be got by a Bill of this kind, surrounded by every kind of safeguard. On the other hand, if the owners did not agree and the men got it by means of a strike, the dislocation of trade, the probable rise in the price of coal, and all the mischief would be infinitely greater than anything which is claimed even by the strongest opponents of this Bill to form any part of its possible consequences.
The argument which, I think, has to be relied on throughout for this Bill is what has been spoken of as the human argument. I quite agree that this argument must be the mainstay of anybody who supports a Bill of this kind, and it is undoubtedly the argument which the Government wish to adopt in bringing in this Bill. It has been, I think, sufficiently shown by previous speakers that to judge of the healthiness of mining as a trade by mortality figures is to mislead oneself. As has been said more than once, in an industry of this kind, the number of people who die when actively engaged in it cannot be an index of the healthiness or otherwise 1521 of the industry, because no miner can be an invalid and no invalid can be a miner; but it will be found that the number of men who live to a considerable age after they have had to give up mining is not very great.
Then we come to the question which was raised by my noble friend behind me and also by the noble Marquess—that of boys' hours. My noble friend gave a most captivating account of the life of the boys, putters and others, in the Durham mines. He said that they were well paid. I have never heard anybody deny that they were well paid. I do not think the question of their wages has ever been considered as relevant one way or the other; but undoubtedly their hours have been considered relevant; and I confess, in spite of the entrancing picture drawn by my noble friend, I am not personally convinced that it is proper for a boy of sixteen and onwards to spend ten hours a day for five days and a half, at any rate, underground. My noble friend said they came up and played football. That would be no doubt, once a week. I have no doubt that is so, but if a boy is ten hours in a mine he is not likely to be able to do very much else on that day, and surely it must occur to many of us, when we talk of continuation schools and higher education, that anything of that kind is absolutely incompatible with ten hours work a day below the surface. It is absurd to speak as though these boys were cruelly treated. I have never heard anybody say they were; yet at the same time it would take more than either of the noble Lords have said to convince me that ten hours is a proper time for those boys to be below ground.
Then there is the general question of the conditions underground. I need not labour that, because the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition and the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, both dwelt with great force on this aspect of the question. I entirely agree, having been familiar with collieries all my life, that anybody who goes down a pit and spends some time at the face of the coal cannot fail to appreciate that the work is unlike any other kind of work which one has ever seen done; 1522 and I should sometimes like some of those people who talk so lightly about the life of a miner, the case of it and the high wages, to spend a few hours down a pit, and then be asked how they would like to spend between nine and ten hours a day there, even for four or five days in the week. As mines go on getting deeper and deeper the conditions get harder. The deeper mines are generally the hotter mines, and the number of men who have to work at very high temperatures undoubtedly tends to increase. I do not propose to dwell on the question of danger or to what extent long hours may either cause or lessen danger. The question of the second winding is, of course, another matter altogether.
I pass for a few moments to what has been said on the economic difficulty. Noble Lords opposite taunt us with our abandonment of the Manchester theory of cheapness. We are, in our turn, I think, entitled to taunt them with the sudden worship which they have developed for cheapness considered alone. We hope that some day, if ever a Corn Consumers' League has to be instituted, some noble Lords opposite will join it. As everybody knows, the fluctuation of prices in the coal trade is a very singular feature of that business, paralleled, so far as I know, by no other industry in the world. There are some collieries—not many—which are almost habitually worked at a loss. I refer to some of the very thin seam collieries. They make a fair profit during the two or three better years which come with a kind of apparent regularity in every decade, and when a first-rate year comes are able to make enough in a short period to make the business profitable. The fluctuations of price in this particular trade are, as I say, astonishing. I say frankly that if I believed that this measure was going permanently to increase the price of coal to the consumer I, for one, could take no part in advocating it. It is not merely, as has been very truly said, that the vast majority of our industries depend upon coal. What I think appeals even more to most of us is the thought of the poor man's coal, and also, I may add, of the difference which the price of gas makes to a large number of poor householders. All those things 1523 must not be forgotten. But what is the evidence that the price of coal will be either at once or permanently increased to any serious extent?
But it has been said: "Think of unemployment! If you are going to increase the price of coal even by a shilling, think what you will do in the way of causing extra unemployment." In the last quarter the price of coal has fallen 3s. Railway contracts have been made all over England for from 2s. 6d. to 3s. less than last year. It is, I think, true to say that the price generally has fallen 2s. or 3s. at the pit's mouth. You do not observe, from that fall in price, an astonishing outburst of prosperity in the country. That being so, whatever may be the objections to a small rise caused by this measure in the price of coal, it is, I think, very difficult to argue that it is going to have anything approaching that effect on the industries of the country which noble Lords opposite have tried to suggest. The industries of the country are carried on with 7s. and 8s. rises in coal. Those facts have to be borne in mind when you consider what the effect of this particular measure will be. The noble Lord opposite, astonished at his own moderation, named 1s. as a likely average rise in the price of coal, and stated, with his usual humour, his reasons for not accepting the 5s. estimate which I am sorry to say has been sown broadcast about the country. I should very much dislike to prophesy, but I should be inclined to think that there are a great many coalowners who, if they could get a contract at 3d. or 6d. more in respect of this Bill having been passed, would be perfectly pleased to take it. I know I shall not be followed by any noble Lord interested in the coal trade but, if I were, I should like to hear his views or that subject.
One argument is pretty clear. If this measure were going to produce a coal famine the mine-owners would undoubtedly regret it, but I do not think we should find them opposing the measure, because, as everybody knows, the profits which accrue in a period of high prices to a coal-owner are so enormous, in some cases almost fabulous, that I can hardly believe we should find the mine-owners as a class, or, indeed, any 1524 great number of them, opposing the Bill. To say that they do now oppose it as a class would not, I think, be the fact. I think there are some mine-owners who are afraid that the cost of production may be in some degree increased to an extent which they may not be able to get back from the consumer, but that is another question altogether. That is a matter as between mine-owner and miner, or, more often, as between mine and mine. If that be so, it is obvious that the theory of the increased cost to the consumer falls to the ground. Much has been said as to how this increase is likely to be avoided. We have heard about various improved methods which may be employed to reduce the liability. I think there can be no dispute that in a great many parts of England large sums of money have been laid out in improving both winding arrangements and hauling arrangements in view of the fact that this Bill was likely to become law. That is one of the facts which will tend to diminish the dislocation. Then undoubtedly in some cases shafts have been sunk. The noble Marquess opposite mentioned a very important shaft on his property which, as he said, had taken nine years to sink and which had cost a great deal of money, but the noble Marquess will not pretend, I know, that all shafts take as long as that to sink or cost anything like that sum.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I do not think it could be done cheaper if you had to find coal at a great depth.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
I quite agree that under the same circumstances the cost would undoubtedly be the same, but there are a great number of collieries in which shafts can be sunk, and are being sunk, in very much shorter time and at very much less cost, than mentioned by the noble Marquess. Then coal-cutters were referred to. The noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill asked if we supposed that all coal-owners were fools, and said that if these improvements in machinery and methods would really reduce the cost of production they would in all cases be employed. But surely it is the fact that changes 1525 of that kind are introduced under pressure of some sort or another, either under pressure of trade competition or such legislation as this. Everything of that kind stimulates invention, and it is on that account, as the noble Lord very well knows from his familiarity with the tariff controversy, that one of the objections which we make to a protective system is that it fails to stimulate that freedom of invention on which we rely to some extent in this case.
Then it is said—and I think very truly said—that the passing of this Bill will lead to greater regularity of employment. I believe it to be true, as Lord Newton has said, that the miner is almost the only man who goes to work practically when he pleases, and there are no effective means of making him come in at any particular moment if he does not desire to do so. The idea which the noble Lord conveyed, that the work is so hard that you cannot expect a man to work at it more than the number of days he works now, seems to be something of a contradiction as regards the extreme charm and healthiness of the employment. But, passing from that, it is the fact, I think, that among the younger men engaged in mining there is a greater desire to work regularly, and I know that this is very much welcomed by the wiser heads who control the miners' organisation. What has so often happened in the past when there has been a rise in wages is that the men have not taken it in the form of money, but in the form of leisure. I believe there is a tendency for irregularity of working, which I regard as an unfortunate trait, to diminish; and to that greater regularity of employment which we believe will be helped by this Bill we must look as a considerable element in meeting the difficulty of a possible reduction of output.
Then noble Lords rather pooh-poohed the idea of other labour coming into the mines. I will not go into figures, but, as a matter of fact, the number of people engaged in the industry is increasing at a very remarkable rate. Whether they are agricultural labourers or who I they may be I do not know, but they do increase by many thousands a year, and with time, such as is given by this 1526 Bill, I should hope that in a great many districts there is every prospect that the extra supply of men necessary for a double shift system, where it is to be employed, will be forthcoming. The noble Viscount said it was hardly fair, and I quite agree with him, to charge the miners with only caring for this measure because it might reduce output and thereby raise their wages. I believe a great many of them think it would to some degree steady output and the general conditions of the market, and I have no doubt that we should all welcome this.
The noble Marquess opposite indicated that there were two sets of points on which he proposed to ask your Lordships to amend the Bill. The first had relation to the inequality of the operation, of the Bill as it stands under different conditions. The noble Marquess, I have no doubt on purpose, and very properly, did not indicate in any way what form his Amendment in that direction would take, and therefore I do not inquire at this moment whether he desires that something of the kind should be brought about through different arrangements in different localities or through different arrangements in different classes of mines—whether a distinction should be made between elder and newer mines, or on what line the Amendment will work. I pass from that to the second set of Amendments which the noble Marquess indicated, dealing with the second winding. I understand that the argument which the noble Marquess and others use is that as far as possible this Bill ought to be made final as regards its provisions; that is to say, that the change proposed by us at the end of five years is an undesirable thing, because it would unsettle the industry again and cause dislocation at the end of that period. I do not know whether it is necessary to explain that it was in order to avoid that very dislocation that my right hon. friend the Home Secretary inserted this prevision in the Bill. He, I have no doubt, thought that if the second winning had to, be included some years hence, there might be a demand for doing so under hurried conditions, and that it would thus be infinitely more inconvenient to the trade than if done with five years' notice. It is a pure matter of opinion whether my 1527 right hon. friend was right or not. But it is perfectly clear that his object in including this provision was that the matter should be settled once for all, not in point of time, but in point of legislation, on the ground, as I say, that if fresh legislation is proposed at some future time there might not be the same full notice as is provided under the Bill as it stands.
You have, on the one hand, this strong, I do not say universal, demand on the part of the miners, a demand which at any rate shows no dissentient voice, though I do not say that all the miners are equally enthusiastic about it. It is quite clear from the speeches that have been made by noble Lords from the County of Durham that a Durham hewer, at any rate, cannot regard this Bill with any very marked enthusiasm. Miners from other districts might tell you that the Durham hewer has been rather the spoilt child of the trade, and that this is not very much to ask of him, even if he has to work half an hour longer in consideration that the hours of many of his fellows in various parts of England and Wales may thereby be proportionately reduced. But I do say that the demand does come from those who work in mines as a class, and, as I have had every reason to know for many years past, it is a very strong, genuine, and deeply-felt demand. On the other hand we say that the economic objections have been enormously exaggerated. We doubt if it is possible to prove—I do not know that anybody has claimed to have proved it, although they may say they
§ are sure of it—that any considerable rise in the price of coal in any district is likely to be the consequence of the Bill, and I think noble Lords must admit that we have tried to safeguard the measure in every way we could from the risk of that disturbance.
§ My own belief is that, after the Bill has been law for a few years, perhaps within the five years we have named—the controversies which have ranged about it elsewhere and to-night will be forgotten, just as so many controversies arousing strong feeling have been before. Everybody, I think, to-night must have heard with pleasure the testimony from every quarter of the House of the character of the men who work in the mines—testimony which is unanimous on the part of everyone who has been brought into close association with them, whatever their views of this particular Bill. I have had many personal friends among them, and I value them highly. I can assure your Lordships that if you had rejected this Bill there would have been a very bitter disappointment among that admirable class of men, and I also firmly believe that consequences night have followed infinitely more dislocating to the coal trade than any which are likely to follow from the Bill itself.
§ On Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the clause,"—
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents 121; Not-contents, 44.1529
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Carrington, E.||Orford, E.|
|Cawdor, E.||Plymouth, E.|
|Wolverhampton, V. (L. President.)||Chesterfield, E.||Radnor, E.|
|Clarendon, E.||Russell, E.|
|Craven, E.||Shaftesbury, E.|
|Crewe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Dartmouth, E.||Waldegrave, E.|
|De La Warr, E.||Westmeath, E.|
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal)||Derby, E.|
|Devonshire, D.||Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Althorp, V. (L. Chamberlain.)|
|Marlborough, D.||Falmouth, V.|
|Fitzwilliam, E.||Goschen, V.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Fortescue, E.||Hardinge, V.|
|Bath, M.||Harewood, E.||Hood, V.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Howe, E.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)|
|Ripon, M.||Kimberley, E.|
|Salisbury, M.||Liverpool, E.||Iveagh, V.|
|Winchester, M.||Morley, E.||Milner, V.|
|Morton, E.||St. Aldwyn, V.|
|Beauchamp, E. (L. Steward.)||Nelson, E.|
|Camperdown, E.||Onslow, E.||Bangor, L. Bp.|
|Southwark, L. Bp.||Crawshaw, L.||Marchamley, L.|
|Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Mendip, L. (V. Clifden.)|
|Abinger, L.||Denman, L. [Teller]||Monson, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Eversley, L.||Newlands, L.|
|Allendale, L.||Faber, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Alverstone, L.||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Fitzmaurice, L.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Armitstead, L.||Hamilton of Dalzell, L.||Poltimore, L.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Haversham, L.||Reay, L.|
|Atkinson, L.||Hemphill, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Barrymore, L.||Herschell, L.||St. Davids, L.|
|Belper, L.||Hindlip, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Hothfield, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Boston, L.||Hylton, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Brassey, L.||Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Braye, L.||Seaton, L.|
|Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Kenyon, L.||Shuttleworth, L.|
|Carew, L.||Killanin, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)||Kinnaird, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)||Lawrence, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Lochee, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Lucas, L.||Weardale, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Lyveden, L.||Welby, L.|
|Colchester, L.||MacDonnell, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Colebrooke, L. [Teller.]||Manners, L.|
|Ailsa, M.||Wilton, E.||Lamington, L.|
|Bristol, M.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Hertford, M.||Cobham, V.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Mowbray, L.|
|Carnwath, E.||Newton, L. [Teller.]|
|Cathcart, E.||Allerton, L.||Northbourne, L.|
|Cromer, E. [Teller.]||Armstrong, L.||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Dartrey, E.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Sherborne, L.|
|Dundonald, E.||Forester, L.||Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)|
|Durham, E.||Grenfell, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Hastings, L.||Stalbridge, L.|
|Lovelace, E.||Heneage, L.||Stewart, of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Rosslyn, E.||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Scarbrough, E.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Wharncliffe, E.||Knaresborough, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.