HL Deb 13 August 1919 vol 36 cc857-9

VISCOUNT CHAPLIN rose to ask His Majesty's Government why the evidence upon which the Interim Reports of the Coal Commission were based has not already been published in accordance with the promise to that effect given by His Majesty's Government; and to move a Resolution.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I have so worded my Question because this matter has been raised before. It was first raised on May 13, 1919, at one of the executive meetings of the Unionist organisation. Again it was raised on June 24, 1919, and there a Resolution was carried that in the opinion of the Committee the nationalisation of the coal industry would be fatal to the commercial position of this kingdom, and that a copy of this Resolution be at once forwarded to Mr. Bonar Law and other Unionist Members of the present Government. That was done, and a reply was given in the clearest and most specific terms that this evidence should be published, and published at a very early date; yet nothing has been heard of it ever since. I have been told, in consequence of inquiries which I have made, that this was not done because there were a number of maps included in the Reports yet to be sent out, that they were not yet concluded; but so far as the Inquiry was concerned, with regard to which the promise was given, those maps would have been of comparative unimportance. What was wanted to be known was exactly the position at the meetings of the Commission, and that we might have the full evidence before us. That was a demand made generally by the public, whether rightly or wrongly is not for me to say—because it was widely believed that some of the evidence had not been published; and very much in the same way as the evidence referred to by the noble Earl just now, the Daily Herald gave one side of the question and left out the other altogether. That has been the feeling widely spread about some of the evidence given before the Interim Reports were made by Mr. Justice Sankey and others. I think it is very desirable that they should be most effectively contradicted, and after so long a delay I do not think it is unreasonable to ask that instructions might be issued that the evidence which was given before the publication of the Interim Reports should be laid upon the Table, so that everybody may have an opportunity of knowing exactly what was said and what was done. I beg to move for Papers.


My Lords, I am not surprised that this Question has been put, and I am glad of the opportunity of replying to it. I think there is a little misunderstanding in the mind of the noble Viscount with regard to the maps which he mentioned. The delay in publishing the evidence is due to difficulties experienced in connection with the printing of the numerous charts and plans contained in the appendices, and I can assure him that they are necessary for the proper understanding of the evidence and that without them the evidence would itself be liable to be misunderstood. The size of the Blue Book is very considerable. The evidence alone extends over 1,219 pages, and the appendices to 239 pages. In addition there is an extensive index which cannot be completed until the pagination of the rest is known. The pagination is now known, and the index will be completed very speedily, probably in the course of a day or so. In addition, there are very numerous plans and charts which have only recently been received, but all these are now in print, and the final revision is proceeding as speedily as possible. It is estimated that the Blue Book will be ready about the end of this month.

With regard to another point raised by the noble Viscount, I would remind him that the Act constituting the Commission provided for the proceedings to be public, and that being so it was not possible to prevent newspaper reports. It is manifest that the Government cannot influence the nature of those reports, and are not responsible for them in any way. No part of the evidence has been officially published. The noble Lord will, I am sure, appreciate that it is not easy for the many difficult and diverse questions which might be put concerning the present condition of the industry to be answered without careful consideration of all the facts involved. I must therefore trespass on your courtesy to the extent of expressing a hope that notice will be given of such questions, which I will do my best to answer. I trust that this reply will be satisfactory to my noble friend.


I am quite sure that the noble Lord has done all he can to answer the questions which I put, and I am very grateful to him for the courtesy he has shown to me; on the other hand, I cannot help regretting that this evidence, which I should have thought might have been published long before this, is not now to be published until after Parliament is adjourned, and when no further questions can be raised upon the matter. That, I quite understand, is not the fault of the noble Lord, and does not detract from anything that I have said with reference to the courtesy which I have received from him.