HL Deb 04 March 1912 vol 11 cc284-6

I beg to ask the noble Marquess who leads the House a Question of which I have given him private notice. I should like to know whether he is able to add anything to the information which we already possess as to the progress of the strike in the coal trade. I may say that in asking this Question I imply, of course, that we should be glad of any information which the noble Marquess is able to give us as to the further action which may be contemplated by His Majesty's Government. At the same time the noble Marquess is aware that nothing could be further from our thoughts than to press for any information which it would be undesirable in the public interest should be made known at present.


Before the noble Marquess replies, I also have a Question to ask of which I have given him private notice. It is whether his attention has been drawn to a speech delivered at Ebbw Vale by Mr. George Davies, one of the delegates at the Miners' Conference, in which he is reported to have declared that Mr. Asquith said something in his speech to the miners last week which had not yet appeared in the Press, to the effect that "the day was not far distant when His Majesty's Government would make themselves responsible for getting a minimum wage for all workers in the country"; whether Mr. Asquith's speech on the occasion referred to has been fully and accurately reported, or whether any part of it has been deleted from the official report.


My Lords, I am much obliged to both of the noble Marquesses opposite for giving me notice of the Questions which they desired to put. With reference to the Question asked by the noble Marquess who has just sat down, it is quite clear that there has been complete misunderstanding on this matter. There is no foundation whatever for the statement that the Prime Minister in his speech made any statement with reference to a general minimum wage. The story is altogether without foundation. As regards the latter part of Lord Londonderry's Question, the speech was reported in the ordinary way and was subjected to the kind of general correction which speeches of that sort receive, but no material deletion of any kind was made and the substance of the speech was accurately reported in the daily Press.

With reference to the more general Question asked by the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition, it is clearly not necessary for me to go into any detail with regard to what has passed, because all the circumstances are quite familiar to your Lordships through the means of ordinary information up to the time when the deadlock occurred. It would be, I am sure, a mistake to speak of the deadlock as necessarily involving a permanent stoppage of negotiations, because the differences so far as they relate to facts are by no means necessarily insuperable. But the deadlock has occurred, and in the meantime the Government are not taking any active steps as between the two parties. But that is not to say that the Government are idle. They are taking such steps as are possible to form an independent opinion on the figures which have been put forward with reference to a possible minimum wage in various districts in order to see how far those figures as published form a basis for possible agreement between the two parties. That is all that I am able to tell your Lordships at present. I under- stand that the Prime Minister is making a statement in another place, and though he may, perhaps, develop his reply somewhat more fully as regards matters of which he has special cognisance he will not be able to make any statement with regard to the future of a fuller character than I have been able to make.


Am I then to understand that the statement made by Mr. Davies, which I quoted, and the statement made by Mr. Hartshorn of a similar character, are without foundation?


So far as I am aware, on the Prime Minister's authority, there is no foundation whatever for the statement.