HL Deb 03 August 1920 vol 41 cc674-711

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, you are probably familiar with sonic of the earlier history of the legislation of the last year or two connected with the coal mines of this country. The general object of this Bill is to provide for the future ordering of the industry on a permanent basis. The Bill which was passed by your Lordships earlier in the year was of a provisional nature. The, secondary object of this Bill is to continue certain powers of control over exports, profits, and home prices that it is necessary to exercise until economic conditions have returned to something more like the normal.

Let me deal first with the general object of the Bill—the future ordering of the coal industry. In the reference given by Parliament to the Coal Commission appointed in February, 1919, was included "the consideration of any scheme that may be submitted to or formulated by the Commissioners for the future organisation of the coal industry, whether on the present basis, on the basis of joint control, nationalisation, or any other basis." Various and somewhat conflicting recommendations were made by that Commission, and reviewing their Report there were apparently three possible courses open to the Government. The first was to adopt the actual nationalisation of the coal mines. The second alternative was some scheme for the amalgamation of the collieries without nationalisation; there was a scheme of that nature connected with the name of Sir Arthur Duckham in the Report signed by him. The third alternative was, after control, a reversion to private enterprise, accompanied by such measures for improving the status of the miners and overcoming obstacles to production as were recommended by various members of the Commission and were not inconsistent with the carrying on of the industry under private enterprise.

The first alternative—nationalisation—was rejected; indeed, the principal contention of the miners, that the industry would go on far more smoothly when under Government than under individual control and that men working for the State would work far harder than for private individuals, received singular lack of confirmation in the great Yorkshire strike of last year and in the railway strike later on, when the railways were practically under the full control of the Government. They rejected also as impracticable, I believe, the second alternative, and decided to adopt the third —that is to say, to go back as far as possible to the private working of the mines. There was another point on which I think all the members of the Commission were agreed, and that was the acquisition by the State of mining royalties. That policy, I understand, is still the policy of the Government, but it was thought better not to include so complicated a matter in the present Bill as it would overload it, and it was necessary that this Bill should become law before August 31 lest something like chaos should be introduced in the industry by the entire cessation at that time of control. Such, then, are the general principles on which the Government acted.

The first part of the Bill mainly deals with the establishment of a Ministry of Mines. The Minister will have a rather peculiar position because he will have, although a Minister, only the status of a Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Trade. He will be subject to general directions from the President of the Board of Trade, but on all matters of administration and detail he will be his own master and will be responsible directly to Parliament. I believe the position of the Ministry of Blockade during the war is considered to be something analogous to that of the new Ministry which is going to be set up.

Now as to the powers which the Minister will have to discharge. First of all, there are a considerable number of new duties and powers conferred upon him under this Bill with which I shall deal presently when I come to the specific clauses. Then there are certain duties and powers which are at present exercised by existing Government Departments; these duties and powers will be transferred to the Ministry of Mines, and will be all concentrated, therefore, under his charge. First of all there comes the administration of the Coal Mines Act of 1911 and all other Acts relating to the safe working of coal mines, metalliferous mines and quarries, including, of course, inspection under these Acts; next the administration of the Coal Mines (Minimum Wages) Act, which is at present administered by the Board of Trade; then the publication of statistics, which is at present shared between the Home Office, the Statistical Department of the Board of Trade, and the Coal Mines Department of the Board of Trade. Then he will have the general supervision over all labour questions connected with these industries, which are at present in the hands of the Coal Mines Department of the Board of Trade. He will also exercise the emergency control, for so long as it is necessary to maintain that control, that is at present in the hands of the Coal Mines Department of the Board of Trade. He will also co-operate with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Medical Research Committee in the initiation and direction of research; and, in addition to all these powers which will be transferred to him, power is taken to transfer by Order in Council any other powers and duties of any other Government Department relating to the mining industry. Therefore one of the objects of the Bill is to bring under the Ministry of Mines all these powers which are at present scattered widely among other Departments.

Noble Lords may ask why this Ministry of Mines should be set up, apart from the obvious necessity of combining these powers together. There is an overwhelming mass of authority or advice favouring the setting up of this Ministry. It has been recommended first of all by Sir Lionel Phillips, Controller of the Mineral Resources Development Department, who in his Report on the working of his Department in 1918 expressed the opinion that "the absence of a properly organised Mines Department in the United Kingdom is most detrimental to the industry." Then in 1918 the Mining Sub-Committee of the Coal Conservation Committee of the Ministry of Reconstruction proposed that "all the functions vested in various Government Departments before the war in the matter of the coal mining industry should be transferred to and administered by a separate Ministry of Mines and Minerals presided over by a Minister with a seat in Parliament." Then the Acquisition and Valuation of Land Committee, presided over by Mr. Leslie Scott, also advised the creation, as a branch of the Home Office or of any Ministry which might be set up, of a Mining Department which should be entrusted "with all powers and duties which are necessary to enable them to supervise and control development of the mineral resources of the United Kingdom." And again this year the Departmental Committee on the Non-Ferrous Mining Industry regarded "the formation of a Mines Department dealing with all minerals, including coal," as "inevitable," and recommended that the various duties relating to the mining of minerals other than coal now entrusted to a number of Departments should be concentrated under one Department. Again, all the members of the Coal industry Commission, however they might differ on other matters, were all agreed in this one respect; and lately a Bill which your Lordships may remember was introduced by Lord Gainford and given a Third Reading in this House also suggested a similar way of dealing with the problem. Therefore I think you could not have a more almost embarrassing amount of agreement upon this question of setting up a separate Coal Mines Department.

Again, if you look at the magnitude of the industry I do not think that the proposal seems at all absurd or impossible. At the present time the coal mining industry, apart from other mines and quarries, employs something like 1,180,000 men. The wages hill at present is about £270,000,000, and the value of the products of the industry is something like £440,000,000; so that if you simply regard the size of the industry it will appear as well worthy as, we will say, the great industry of agriculture, to have its own separate Department looking after its own interests.

Clause 3 is rather regarded by the Government as one of the transitory rather than one of the permanent provisions of this Bill. The object of Clause 3 is to keep certain powers of control over the industry, such powers as are necessary until affairs have returned to something like a more normal condition. As a matter of fact, most of the powers of control at present existing will very soon expire. At the present time prices are regulated under the Price of Coal Limitation Act, 1915, which expires six months after the termination of the war. The export is controlled by the Customs Exportation Prohibition Act of 1914, which remains in operation while a state of war exists. The pooling of profits under the Coal Mines Emergency Act of 1920 expires on August 31, and so does the control of wages under the Defence of the Realm Regulation 9G, and so practically all these different systems of control will very shortly expire, and unfortunately it is necessary to continue some of them, because at the present time the suppply and demand for coal by no means meet. The average price for coal for export is now something like £4, and if you suddenly swept away all control a very large amount of coal would go out of this country and we should be starved, or else those who wanted to buy coal in this country, whether for industrial or household purposes, would have to pay a price in competition with the export price, which would, of course, gravely disturb existing industries. Under the present Bill the powers of control proposed are over the amount of export coal and bunker coal, over the pithead price for home coal, over wages and over profits. Over the first three of these the Bill, as at present, gives complete executive control to the Ministry of Mines. The pooling of profits, however, and the amount of profits is now dealt with by Statute, and any scheme to replace the present scheme will also be subject, as hitherto, to the approval of Parliament as provided in subsection (2). it may be that some new Order will not be made for some time, but it has to have the approval of Parliament, and it is obvious that it could not be made before the Mines Emergency Act expires on August 31. Therefore provision is made in Clause 3 that this Act should be extended until such an Order is made so as to fill up any possible gap that might occur.

Further than that, in reference to these being purely transitory or temporary powers, and in order to show the intense desire of the Government to get rid of this control, I would point out that the maximum period for which the powers of this section can run is for one year. They can be extended up to March 22 by Resolution of both Houses of Parliament, but if they are to be extended beyond that a further Bill will be required. Nor does it follow that all these powers will be exercised until that period arrives; and they will not, of course, be exercised one moment longer than is absolutely necessary.

In Clause 4 we have the setting-up of advisory committees. Your Lordships may remember that in the case of new Ministries it is almost common form that advisory committees should be set up. We have in subsection (3) set out how the advisory committee is to be constituted. I will only make one comment upon it, and that is that the committee is, as your Lordships will see, not wholly composed of the mining industry, because it has been brought home to us very forcibly during the last few years that the vast interests of the consumer must be sometimes vigorously maintained against the combined industry. Therefore various persons not connected with the industry are placed upon this committee. They will represent the consumer so that the immense interests of the consumer may besafeguarded. There are, for instance, three representatives of employers in other industries, three representatives of workers in other industries, and three persons with expert knowledge of medical or other science. Other committees also may be set up to advise the Ministry. One other committee whose constitution is not set out in the Bill must be set up, and that committee is to advise the Minister as to the metalliferous mining industry. I need not dwell on Clauses 5, 6, and 7, because they are really the common form necessary for the setting up of any new Ministry. I will just allude to the fact that the man who takes the office of Minister of Mines, if he is a Member of Parliament, is not to be incapable of being elected or voting as a Member.

Having dealt shortly with Part I, I come to the question of the regulation of coal mines. There is a very elaborate system brought into operation—a sort of hierarchy of committees reaching up from the pit committee to the National Board. The principal object of Part II of the Bill to set up, by means of joint committees composed of owners and men, machinery which, so far as is consistent with the principle of private enterprise and the responsibility laid on managers, will give effect to the recommendation of Mr. Justice Sankey, which I should like to quote to your Lordships— The collicry worker shall in the future have an effective voice in the direction of the mine. For a generation the colliery worker has been educated socially and technically. The result is a great national asset. Why not use it? Many other suggestions, both by owners and Commissions, have been made for the establishment of these various committees, but I do not think I need dwell upon the provisions, although I will draw your Lordships' attention later to the marked distinctions between the suggestions made and the proposals in the Bill.

I will deal at once with the committees which are set up. First of all, there are no less than four grades of committees. There is a pit committee for every mine employing more than thirty persons underground, provided always that a majority of those employed in the mine vote in favour of establishing such a committee. Then there is a district committee for each of twenty-six districts, an area board for each of the larger divisions called areas, and a National Board. As to constitution, the pit committees consist of an equal number of representatives of workers and of owners and the management. District committees, area boards, and the National Board are also to consist of representatives of the management and of the men Other details will be prescribed by Regulation.

What are the functions of these committees? The committees are supposed to assist and not to dictate to the manager. They can discuss matters relating to safety, welfare, and output, and deal with disputes, and they are given certain facilities for inspection in addition to those which are already possessed under the Coal Mines Act. Their powers are confined in the case of pit committees solely to making recommendations, whether those recommendations are made to the management or the men. The Regulations provide for the reference to the district committee—the committee higher up in the hierarchy—of matters which cannot he satisfactorily disposed of by pit committees, matters which affect other mines and therefore can be better dealt with by district committees, and disputes about wages, which have to go to the district committees if they cannot be settled at the pit. Matters relating to safety and other questions dealt with by the Coal Mines Act must be referred to the Inspector of the Division, as at present. The pit committee will also take over certain duties in connection with baths and drying of clothes, provided for under the Coal Mines Act, 1911. These duties are at present carried out by an ad hoc committee for the purpose.

In regard to the district committees, the area boards and the National Board, the subjects to be discussed are substantially the same as those discussed by the pit committee, though, of course, their scope is very much larger. District area boards will also take over the functions of existing minimum wage boards and conciliation boards. But there is a provision to which I should particularly like to call your lordships' attention. When these boards become, for the purpose of settling wages, conciliation boards, it is provided that independent chairmen shall not be appointed except in pursuance of an agreement to that effect. This provision was inserted in order to do away with the idea that compulsory conciliation or arbitration might be introduced into the industry. There is one great difference between the recommendations of pit committees and those of other committees in regard to giving effect to those recommendations, because the higher bodies may apply to the Minister, who -may give directions enforcing compliance frith their recommendations.

There are, therefore, two considerable differences between the proposals that have been made by the Commission or by owners, and so on, as regards the formation and functions of the committees. The first is that you have a gradation of four sets of committees in the hierarchy instead of three, and it has been found that that fits in must more with the present organisation and gives more conveniently sized districts than if you have only three grades of committees. The second difference is the power, to which I have alluded, of the Minister to enforce those recommendations which are brought up to him from these district areas committees or the National Board. But the Minister is very well protected, because it is left entirely within his competence as to whether or not he shall give effect to those recommendations. If he thinks, let us say, that the recommendations a little beyond the scope of the district committees, he can refer them, if he chooses, to area committees or the National Board, and if the recommendations affect, or might affect, the work of other Department, he is not able to give effect to them until he has consulted those other Departments. There are, of course, penalties. Noncompliance with these directions is an offence against the Coal Mines Act, 1911. Merely for drafting purposes, and to make it unnecessary to drag in the complicated Regulations of the Act of 1911, it is settled that it should not be an offence against this Act. There is one further point to which I should like to allude in reference to the committees. It is a most important one as exemplifying the desire of the Government that harmony and good will should pervade the industry itself. These recommendations must not be put forward unless they have the substantial support of the majority both of the owners and the men. They must be in the nature of a joint recommendation from both sides of the table as it were.

That covers, I think, most of the clauses from Clause 11 to Clause 15, but I must call your Lordships' special attention to subsection (3) of Clause 11, which is a very important provision. It refers to the way in which wages shall be settled. Before control was established during the war, it was the custom that each Conciliation Board area should periodically revise the general rates of wage within that area, having regard to such consideration as, among others, the selling price of coal. These adjustments were always made in the same way—namely, by adding a percentage to the standard rates, such rates being based on the conditions prevailing in the particular area when the standard was fixed, and the standard, I understand, was fixed in most districts in 1879. Since the industry was controlled this particular procedure was superseded and wages have been adjusted, not with reference to the selling price in particular areas or districts, but over the country as a whole—nationally—and with reference to the cost of living. Clause 11 subsection (3) provides that when control is ended there will be a reversion to the older system of settling wages by areas, but with this important change—that in order to arrive at the ability of owners in the particular areas to pay the wages which may be settled the area board, acting as a conciliation board, may appoint independent accountants to ascertain the profits realised in the area as a whole and strike an average.

I understand that this scheme is actually based upon a scheme which was placed before the Royal Commission by the noble Lord opposite, Lord Gainford, on behalf of the owners. His scheme was that wages should be regulated with reference to the profits resulting from the industry in a district, after providing the minimum or standard rate of wages. Other items of cost should be included in the cost of production as determined by a qualified accountant, and also the standard rate per ton to provide a minimum return for time owner's capital as determined by accountants, and the balance should be divided between labour and capital in proportions to be agreed; with the proviso that if the owners were required to pay the standard rates of wages when not receiving the standard return the deficiency might be made up in a subsequent period. Your Lordships will see that this scheme is not laid down in detail, but it really only secures for the workers the concession offered by the representatives of the owners before the Sankey Commission. The general principles under subsection (3) are to be prescribed by the National Board and the area board has to formulate schemes at such intervals and on such principles as may be determined by that Board.

But in Clause 13 it will be seen that the door is open for the negotiation of wages on a national basis in certain cases, because under that clause the National Board may take into consideration questions, including wages questions, affecting the coal mining industry as a whole. That, I think, is one of the most important provisions in the Bill as regards wages. Clause 16 deals with the question of fees for attendance, the cost to be borne by the industry itself. Clause 17 provides that Regulations under Part 11 shall be laid on the Table of Parliament. Clause 18 is a rather remarkable one, because, in view of the declarations that have been made by the Miners' Federation that they will refuse to co-operate in the working of the measure, it was inserted in Committee in another place in order to secure that the scheme is either worked as a whole or is dropped. It would not be possible, of course, to put it into merely partial operation, nor do the Government think the offer to the miners of a share of the control in the industry should remain open indefinitely. It is hoped, however, that it may not be necessary to put Clause 18 into operation.

Now I come to Part III of the Bill entitled "General." As to Clause 19 a great many Commissions and Committees have drawn attention to certain defects in the business of the industry which are due to too much individualism and competition in the enterprise itself, and they recommend certain remedies. Those recommendations have always followed two lines—either the grant to the State, or to some independent sanctioning authority, of the power to make compulsory Orders to overcome these difficulties, or the acquisition by the State of the rights in the mineral itself. As I stated, that proposition is not included in the Bill, and no doubt when it has been brought into operation—though that might not be for some little time—these difficulties will tend to disappear. This clause attacks only one of the most urgent defects, and interferes only where colliery owners are reluctant to establish a general drainage scheme. I understand there are at present two or three cases where a good deal of damage is being done to the industry and to the production of coal because the owners in particular districts cannot agree together to make a common drainage scheme.

Clause 20 was inserted in another place because the Bill was criticised on the ground that it dealt only with the coal industry and with no other mines but coal mines. Sections 86 and 87 of the Coal Mines Act are extended by this clause to metalliferous mines, and the general effect is to permit the making of such— general regulations for the conduct and guidance of the persons acting in the management of mines or employed in or about mines as may appear best calculated to prevent dangerous accidents, and to provide for the safety, health, convenience, and proper discipline of the persons employed in or about mines, and for the care and treatment of horses and other animals used therein. It is thought that the application of these provisions to metalliferous mines will be of very great value. I may say that the extension of these provisions is not a mere after-thought of the Government, but was already recommended by the Royal Commission on Metalliferous Mines in the year 1914.

Clause 21 is a very important one, and I understand that it is chiefly based on an interim Report of the Royal Commission, signed by Mr. Justice Sankey, Mr. Arthur Balfour, Sir Arthur Duckham, and Sir Thomas Boyden, which stated that— It is a matter for careful consideration whether 1d. per ton should not be at once collected on coal raised, and applied to improved housing and amenities of each particular colliery district. The effect of this clause is that the fund is to be raised in five years by placing 1d. per ton on every ton of coal raised. That will produce something like £5,000,000 in the course of five years. It is to be used for purposes connected with the well being, the recreation, and the conditions of workers in or about coal mines, and with mining education and research, as the Minister of Mines may think fit in consultation with the Department and with the Board of Trade. It will therefore be seen that this fund will be used for a very large number of purposes connected with the amenities and life of the miners in their different villages. As to management, this fund will be managed by a committee of five persons appointed by the Minister of Mines, one of them after consultation with the Mining Association and one after consultation with the Miners' Association: as to the other three, the Minister will have a free hand, but there will be associated with them representatives of the Board of Education and the Ministry of Health in case some of the schemes that they make should overlap with schemes already existing, or to be designed, by the Board of Education and the Ministry of Health.

Clause 22 gives the Minister power to call for statistics, and Clause 23 to hold inquiries: Clause 24 merely deals with inter-Departmental arrangements about the exchange of officials. Clause 25 repeals the Price of Coal (Limitation) Act, 1915, which will be superseded by the power of regulating prices given to the Minister of Mines under Clause 3. Then follow the definitions.

This is the shortest summary I have been able to give of the Bill. I should like to add only one point. Your Lordships are always interested in the cost of these new Ministries. I think I can give some reassuring figures on that point. Your Lordships will see from Clause 5 (3) that the total amount of such salaries and expenses will not in any year exceed £250,000. I understand that about £74,000 of that represents the officials who will be taken over from the existing Coal Mines Department. AS your Lordships know, there will be a very large reduction both in the expense and in the number of the officials of that Department, because the rationing and the retail distribution of coal is no longer managed or controlled by the State, and therefore a very large amount of provincial organisation will be entirely dispensed with. The balance, to the amount of £74,000, will come over to the new Coal Mines Ministry. In addition to that, there is something like £125,000 representing officials coming over from those different Departments whose work is taken over by the new Department. The balance of £50,000 represents, with a certain allowance for contingencies, officials who are now lent by other Departments to the Mines Departments, and therefore whose salaries will no longer appear in the Estimates of those particular Departments I understand that really the only new charge falling on the State by the setting up of this Ministry will be the salary—£2,000 a year, I believe—of the Minister of Mines himself. I do not think, therefore, that your Lordships will be able to bring against this new Ministry the charge that it is in its inception an extravagant Department. If it costs £250,000 a year I do not think your Lordships will consider, if the aims of the Bill are to any extent fulfilled, and if harmony is introduced into the great coal mining industry, that the money will be badly expended.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.— (Viscount Peel.)


My Lords, we have listened to a very lucid explanation of a somewhat complicated Bill. I take no exception to anything that the noble Viscount has said in his exposition. I do not propose to follow him in dealing clause by clause with the Bill, for there will be an opportunity in Committee to deal with any points in the clauses. I should, however, like to say a few words in regard to the general situation of the coal industry which it is intended by this Bill to meet.

One of the alleged purposes of this Bill is, as the noble Viscount said, to promote harmony in the industry. Another is to secure a definite period when the control of the industry by the Government shall be terminated. But speaking on behalf of the coal trade I am authorised to say that there is very little in these elaborate bureaucratic provisions which recommends them as a whole to the industry. It is true that Part I deals with the Ministry of Mines very much on the same lines as the Bill which I have already introduced connected with the production of coal, and which has passed through your Lordships' House. Part II deals compulsorily with a system of organisation between pit committees and district committees, and district boards and national boards, very much on the lines which the coal trade in recent years has advocated, to be voluntarily entered into between the miners and the mine owners.

Part III of the Bill mainly deals with a provision for improving the welfare of those employed in or about the mines, and when looked at from that point of view there seems to be very little to criticise. But when we look at the various provisions of the Bill in detail we long for the period when we shall be free from Government control and when the industry shall be handed back to those who created it and did so much to build it up in previous years. The industry has been hampered for a very long period, and it was only when it was unhampered by State control that it was carried on efficiently and to the general satisfaction of the community.

We therefore regard the Bill without enthusiasm, and, whilst a large number of individual coal owners take strong exception to the Bill as a whole, yet as the Coal Trade we have come to the conclusion that we must, reluctantly, tacitly acquiesce in the Bill in the hope that we may secure sufficient Amendments in Committee to make it workable, with a view of reaching the period when those abnormal conditions which have been left by the war shall cease.

As compared with other industries, the coal trade has had already more than its fair share of State control. Under the Finance Act of 1915 we were only permitted, after paying Income Tax, to retain 14 per cent. of our excess profits, if they were made, over and above those which were secured before the war. Under the Coal Mines (Control Agreement) Act, in some cases from the end of December, 1916, and in other eases from the 1st of March, 1917, until April 1, 1919—a period of two years—we were only permitted to retain, if we made them, 3 per cent. of our excess profits after paying income Tax, whilst everyone else carrying on industries was allowed to retain 40 per cent. of his excess profits, subject, of course, to Income Tax. Then came a third enactment, the Coal Mines (Emergency) Act, which again limited our profits, and we were only permitted to retain our profits made in the year prior to the war and one-tenth of any excess profits, if they were made, or, in the event of the Government making an order which reduced our profits, we were guaranteed a sum equal to nine-tenths of our pre-war profits, but no more.

During this latter period of the two Acts of Parliament, the coal owners were unable to regulate their costs or their selling prices, nor had they a voice in the distribution of the output of their collieries. The wages paid to their workmen were paid by the State under arrangements made over their heads, the hours of work were reduced, and they had no control over the creation of their profits. As a result of the action of Parliament, whilst in the year 1913 we made 1s. 5d. a ton profit on the average throughout the United Kingdom after a reduction of 1s. 2d. for Income Tax, leaving 1s. 4d. net to the shareholders, during the present year we are making 1s. 8½d. per ton with a reduction of 6s. Income Tax, which nets to the shareholders 1s. 2½d. per ton as against 1s. 4d. before the war. In other words, the shareholders, many of whom are comparatively poor people, have been hit by legislation to a much greater extent than the shareholders in any other industry in the country. At the present time higher rates prevail in all other industries, and we are still expected out of these profits to be able to develop the coalfields of the country. We have been subjected at the same time to innumerable Departmental Orders, which have added enormously to the cost of production and the complexity of administration. Is it to be wondered at that we look forward to the day when the industry may be handed back to those who claim that they met public requirements before the war and have built up a magnificent export trade which has been greatly interfered with in recent months?

The most notable abnormal condition is the inflated value of export coal, which is due to two causes—first of all, to the world-shortage. But we ought not to hide from ourselves the fact that it is also due to the diminished output of the miners. The number of tons worked per man employed in the mines in 1913 was 259; in 1919 it was only 204 tons. The two periods in 1919 ought, however, to be separated, because during the first period to July 16th eight hours a day were worked; subsequently, owing to the action of the Government, only seven hours a day were worked underground, and the reduction of hours so affected the output that, it fell from 213 tons per man employed per annum to 191 tons per man employed. We have passed through two quarters of this year, and the number of tons per man in the first quarter averaged 53. Then the Government came along and gave the miners a considerable increase in their wages, amounting to 2s. 10d. per ton, with the result that there was a fall from 53 tons per man to 48 tons per man—in other words, from an average of 212 tons per man per year to an average of 192 tons per man per year. That may be largely due to the increase in wages, but I think it is only fair to the miners to say that it might also be due partly to the longer days in the summer, and the greater inclination of the men not to go so frequently or to remain so long at work as in the winter months. The output, however, has fallen in the average of May 1st to July 17th—if I exclude the holiday-week Of Whitsuntide—compared with the output to April 24th (excluding Easter) before the increase in wages, from an output per week averaging 4,852,000 tons to an average of 4,732,000 tons. In other words, after the increase of wages, there has been an average drop per week of 120,000 tons.

I recognise, and the coal trade recognise, that there is a basic significance of our industry to other industries, and that there should be some guarantee to the home consumer of an adequate supply of coal. We are, as an industry, quite content for the moment to be denied the right to enjoy a free market for our coal in the export foreign market. I think, however, that the Government have pursued the wrong course. Instead of restricting thee amount of coal going abroad until the home supply is satisfied and then allowing the trade to export all the coal tiny can, they have limited the quantity of coal which may be exported with a view of securing an adequate home supply. The result of their policy has been to create a good deal of unemployment. I think Parliament should realise that a policy of restricting the export of coal should not be lightly entered upon. Whenever a Government interferes with an industry it requires very delicate handling: especially so in the cord trade, where the various factors are both complex and contending. Were it possible I am quite sure that Sir Robert Horne and Mr. Duncan, the Coal Controller, would be able to meet the situation, but in my judgment it is quite impossible for any individuals centred in London to deal with the complexities of the coal trade.

It is essential in the interest of the nation that there should be as far as possible a free supply of raw materials coming into this country, and cheap food: and it is a matter for consideration whether, by limiting the export of coal, you are not doing far more to raise the cost of living and prevent industries flourishing than you would gain by allowing the export trade to be freer than it is. May I give an illustration? Take the case of Fife, which before the war exported 10,500,000 tons per year. The Coal Controller and the President of the Board of Trade limited the export of coal from Fife to 780,000 tons per year. The result is that, as one industry depends upon another, the marmalade trade in Dundee has been hard hit. Fife used to send the better quality of coal abroad and the unscreened coal used to go to the various industries in Dundee and the neighbouring towns. With a view of saving labour mechanical stoking apparatus was used in all these industrial towns for this dross, as it is called, and the result of diminishing the exports is directly to hit the industries in many of the towns on the East, of Scotland. I could quote other illustrations, but I give that to indicate how a restraint of trade in one direction hits and injures trade in other directions.

I believe that the boom in the price of export coal is likely to continue for some little time. Although Governments cannot look ahead, those who represent the shareholders must do so, and we are quite satisfied that before long the export price will drop and the normal state of affairs recur. Prior to the war there was always an oscillation between the price of export coal and home coal but it was very seldom more than 1s. or 2s. one way or the other. Australia is developing her coalfields, and the Norwegians and Scandinavians are contracting for Australian coal instead of taking English coal; Europe before long will recover the coal which was destroyed in the devastated countries, and through the ingenuity of man liquid fuel and other methods of raising power will supplant the demand for British coal. Therefore, before many months are over we shall see once again established the oscillation of only a few shillings between the prices of home coal and export coal.

The present conditions at home are that we require about 200,000,000 tons to meet our requirements. It has been suggested that the Government have been 'foolish in restoring the 10s. per ton to the trade which was taken off during the winter months in order to subsidise the domestic consumer. The public at large have not grasped the point that during the winter months nearly every colliery in this country which was supplying coal for domestic use was doing so at an economic loss, and it was only by putting back the 10s. and adding 4s. 2d. in order to meet the 2s. 10d. additional wages, thus creating a margin of profit, that the trade has been placed in the proper economic position of being able to supply coal for domestic purposes, if not at a profit at any rate not at an average loss.

The profit made in the coal trade has been derived almost exclusively in recent months from exported coal; and it has been limited practically to the two districts of South Wales and Northumberland and Durham. It is only in those two areas that substantial profits have been made, due to exceptional circumstances arising out of the war. As a trade we have never asked that these exceptional profits should be retained in the coal trade. We have been prepared that they should be acquired by the State as exceptional profits, and are prepared that the State shall retain them under the proposals of this Bill. We take no exception to that; but we do take exception to the men grasping at this "pool," created out of export profits, with a view to further increasing their wages when they already are receiving 25s. 1½d;. per ton sold, as against 6s. 10½d. per ton sold which they were getting in 1913. Their wages have gone up 265.5 per cent., and it does seem to me that they have no case when they are asking for a division of profits by increased wages at the present time. There is nothing generous in this Bill towards the coal trade, and I know that most coal owners are doing their best to look forward to a better period and to developing their properties as best they may with the money they will have in hand.

In regard to the pit committees I should like to say that when the miners have asked for industrial democracy with a view to freeing the condition of the miners we have endeavoured voluntarily to enter into arrangements with them. Pit committees have been established already voluntarily in many districts, and in some have worked well. We have conciliation boards by which to-day we are adjusting wages in the localities according to the different circumstances which arise, and so far as I know cordial relations exist in the various districts between ourselves and our men. It is proposed by this Bill to establish this machinery compulsorily. In my evidence before the Coal Commission I had not compulsion in my mind but a voluntary arrangement, because I believe that voluntary arrangements between employers and employed are far better than compulsion used by the State in connection with the promotion of harmonious working. It is because I believe that voluntary arrangements can and will be entered into that I see a prospect of industrial peace in the future. We shall have difficulties under the provisions of this Bill if they are adopted, but we all intend as coalowners to do our part and work these provisions honourably, and I can only hope that the men on their part will endeavour to do the same. In resuming my seat, all I desire to say is that the coal trade takes no responsibility in connection with this Bill, but we look forward under its provisions to being again entrusted with the control of an industry to which in the past we believe we have not been unfaithful.


My Lords, before Lord Joicey addresses your Lordships, I gather, from much the same point of view as that from which Lord Gainford has spoken, there are some observations which should be made at this stage from another point of view—observations which I desire to make very briefly. This Bill can only be justified if it is likely to bring about an improved state of matters and to produce something like industrial peace. Let me remind your Lordships of what happened in the other House. Not only did the coal owners oppose the Bill much more definitely than they have so far in your Lordships' House, but the representatives of the miners refused to have anything to do with the Bill in any shape or form. They intimated that they would not work it, and that it was impossible for them to reconcile it with either what was desirable in their own interests or with good faith on the part of the Government.

Now, what was the reason for that? It is a very simple reason. For some years past we have been working under what is called a unified system. That does not mean nationalisation, nor does nationalisation enter into this system I am very far from certain myself that we have reached a stage when nationalisation is practicable; but whether that be so or not is not the point. Unification means this, that the industry is treated as a whole, and the meaning of that for the workman is that his minimum wage is a standard wage and is as good in one part of the country as in the other—the minimum wage which he and his union regard as essential for the preservation of a sufficient standard of life. The standard of life is rising very fast just now, and there is a great diminution of the difference between the classes. Lord Cainford spoke as it he thought the miners were somewhat unreasonable in asking as much as they do, but they do ask and will continue to ask for it, and it is not only to spend on luxury. I went the other day to inspect one of the new secondary schools which are springing up everywhere. I found it full of children of the workmen, who were only there because wages at the rates they are now, even with the increased cost of food, enabled the workmen to send their sons and daughters to these schools to get such education as their fathers never had. The workmen are making the utmost use of these opportunities. That is only an example of the rise in the standard of life everywhere, and if you think there is any likelihood of reverting to the old prewar conditions all I can say is that my own observation does not bear out that conclusion. That was what underlay the desire of the miners in this country to have a minimum or standard wage, and the advantage of the system which obtains and hi eh is called the system of control, in whatever form it is adopted, was that it secured that uniformity of standard.

In moving the Second Reading Lord Peel referred to the first of the two Sankey Reports. People are apt to forget that there were two Sankey Reports, one at the moment when the nation was threatened with a coal strike of the most terrific dimensions, and the other when the Commission was appointed and made its first Report, which was signed not only by Mt. Justice Sankey but by the three members to whom Lord Peel alluded, being members who were not coal owners but representative of what we may call time Capitalist interest. They agreed in this. They said in that first Report— It is impossible to return to the old state of things. It is either nationalisation, about which there is great disagreement and difference of opinion, or some form of preservation of unified control. That the industry must be treated as a unit, if the aspirations of the working classes were to be satisfied, they had no doubt. They presented that Report, and on March 20 of last year it came before the House of Commons, and the Government said this about it. Speaking in Parliament Mr. Bonar Law said— In regard to this whole Report we have had it discussed at the Cabinet this afternoon, and I say now on behalf of the Government that we are prepared to adopt the Report in the spirit as well as in the letter, and to take all the necessary steps to carry out its recommendations without delay. My observation upon that is that they bound themselves to carry out reform within the limits so prescribed—not nationalisation, which was not at all necessary, but a continuation of a unified industry, by which a guarantee was given to the working classes of a general standard wage. Because they did not do that, this Bill has been repudiated by the Miners' Federation, representing 900,000 miners. Colliery owners number 1,500 and are very important people in this country; but so are the 900,000 miners, and if when this Bill comes into operation you find them refusing to work it, the difficulties of the Government will be very great indeed. For my part I do not believe that a Bill of this kind can be carried in a practicable form unless with good will and general assent. You have put the miners into a thoroughly bad temper when you need not have done so, and the result is that you have prejudiced to a great extent the prospects of your Bill.

Very briefly, what are the points in the Bill? The first is that, so far from doing anything to preserve that general standard of which I have spoken, the Bill destroys the machinery by which it has been maintained during the war. If your Lordships turn to Clause 11, subsection (3), you will see how that takes place. The Bill divides the country into areas, and in those areas there are committees, the purpose of which is to perform certain functions which are specified. One of those functions is this. The area board shall formulate, at such intervals and on such principles as may be described by the National Board, schemes for adjusting the remuneration of the workers within the area, having regard, among other considerations, to the profits of the industry within the area. At present, governed by a national minimum, a rich district helps a poor district. The Forest of Dean is very poor, and it is helped from South Wales. Somerset is helped by the richer places in the district, and Lancashire is helped out of the profits from Durham, which is a rich district. This Clause 11 destroys all that. It destroys the very principle upon which you have been working during this time. And can you wonder that you have had a bitter denunciation of the Bill from the repre- sentatives of the workmen? I am quite aware of the great difficulty of dealing with this problem. I sympathise with the Government in the problem which has confronted them, but it seems to me that a Bill that pleases neither the coal owners nor the miners, that sets them both in antagonism, is not a Bill which presents a promising solution of the problem which was before the President of the Board of Trade.

Passing from that, I will touch upon another point very briefly indeed. Throughout this Bill the trade unions are hardly mentioned at all. It seems to be thought that it will be possible to negotiate with the miners in the different areas isolatedly. It seems to be thought that the principle of collective bargaining, for which they have been fighting all these years, is to go by the board. I know that many of your Lordships do not like the trade unions, thinking that they have been unreasonable. I myself think that they have been unreasonable at times. But they are a fact. You have to face the fact that the 900,000 members of the Miners' Federation are a part of the situation to-day. You cannot go back on them. You cannot get rid of them. You have just extended their moral and their political power by the Representation of the People Act, and the result is they are a most formidable factor. The Whitley Report proceeded upon the recognition of the trade unions. The name of trade union is in the Whitley Report, and the trade unions are taken into account in negotiating. But in this Bill there is nothing of the kind. It is the Minister. He is predominant everywhere. It is interests other than trade union interests which everywhere have the superior influence. I know quite well that on the pit committees men are to elect representatives. But at every turn there is the capacity for over-ruling that; and when you get to the National Council practically all power is in the hands of the Minister. There is no taking into account of the organised interests of the men, or of the collective bargaining principle which underlies trade unionism.


Has the noble and learned Viscount forgotten Clause 13 (2), (a)?


No, I have read through this Bill. Clause 13 (2) says that the National Board shall also determine, subject to the approval of the Minister of Mines, the principles on which schemes by area boards under this Part of this Act for adjusting the remuneration of workers are to be framed, and shall consider all such schemes when submitted to them for their approval.


Questions, including wages questions, affecting the coal mining industry as a whole, can be dealt with by the National Board as well as recommendations made by a district board.


Yes, but look at the National Board. It is to consist of such number of members as may be prescribed by the Regulations, and shall comprise representatives of the owners and management of coal mines throughout the United Kingdom, and an equal number of representatives of workers employed in or about such mines—that is, equal to the representatives of the coal owners. It is also to contain a great many other people. And the Minister is not to be bound by it. He can do what he pleases. What I should have thought would he a plan very likely to keep the peace would have been, as in the Whitley Councils, to recognise the position of the Miners' Federation, which is mentioned in another part of the Bill. Here you have only the National Board, a body which does not represent in the least the Miners' Federation, and over which that Federation would not be able to exercise any influence.


They can deal with wages as a whole. That is the point I was making.


They can deal—that is to say, the Minister can deal on their advice. They are an advisory body and not a body which is representative of the general interests of the miners. The miners are only the minority.


An "equal number of representatives of workers employed in or about the mines."


Equal to the representatives of the coal owners surely?


And the management.


Look at those who are to be upon the National Board.


That is to be prescribed.


There you come to the Minister again.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble and learned Viscount, but is he not confusing these various people? The power of the advisory committee is set out.


What power is there? Do the trade unions obtain any really valuable influence? There is the body to which the noble Viscount has just referred me. The National Board is to consist of such number of members as may be prescribed by the Regulations, and is to comprise representatives of the owners and management of coal mines and an equal number of representatives of workers. It may be of any size; it may contain all sorts of people, representing all sorts of other interests; and it may have only a mere fraction representing the coal owners and managers.


I do not think so. I think that they will represent half the members.


Where does the noble Viscount get that?


The words are "and shall comprise representatives of the owners and management . ... and an equal number of representatives of workers."


That is, equal to the representatives of the owners and management.


That is all there are.


Order, order.


I am sorry to interrupt.


The noble Viscount is quite right, but the Board is to consist of such number as may be prescribed by the Regulations. The number stated here is not to exhaust it.


I am afraid I do not read it in the same way. The numbers are to be prescribed, and they are to consist on the one side of owners and management of the coal mines, and on the other side of the workers—an equal number.


I am sorry to say I read it differently. The National Board shall consist of such numbers as may be prescribed by Regulations, and shall include an equal number of representatives of the coal owners and of the men. It is very unfortunate that it should not have been made clear. There is an obscurity which has given rise to a great attack in the other House. The impression is that the Government intended what I have described. I have good reason for thinking that.

There is one other point before I sit down. The noble Viscount spoke of the transfer to the Ministry of Mines of the other powers, besides those connected with production, with regard to check-weighing, justice, generally as to questions between the men and the employers and as regards health matters, at present supervised in the main by the Horne Office, which will come more and more to be supervised by the Ministry of Health. He spoke of these being transferred. One of the things upon which miners lay great stress at the present time is that the productive control—that is to say, the control of those whose object is to get as much as possible out of the pit—is control in the interests of health and of justice by inspectors under an independent Department who look after the observance of the provisions of the Cheekweighing Act, and by the inspectors who look after the health of the miners. To some extent they are the same; they overlap; but more and more the health side is being developed. For instance, there are various very serious diseases which arise among miners, such as miners' nystagmus of the eyes and ankylostomiasis, which, in some of the pits, is very serious indeed. It was found that these were not sufficiently detected or observed by the class of people who were merely representative of either the inspection of production or the inspection of check-weighing and other things, and steps have of late been taken for improvement in that respect. Great stress is laid upon it.

The Minister of Health and the Home Secretary, by tradition, attend—it is their business to attend—to the industry from that point of view, but you are now going to transfer everything to a single Minister who is to be concerned from the point of view of a Department of production—the Board of Trade—whose interest is not in these things and whose contemplations are not in these things. It is a backward step. I am entirely in favour of the Ministry of Mines. I agree with the noble Viscount in what he said about that, but when you transfer powers you must transfer them under safeguards. These have been indicated in Reports to which the noble Viscount did not refer. It is possible to transfer them in such a fashion that justice is done to the considerations which must obtain if the health powers of inspection, and the check-weighing powers of inspection, and the other powers of inspection which are required in connection with the industry, are to be made efficient. This Bill ignores all recommendations which have been made on that subject.

I have not exhausted all the points that I could make upon this Bill, but, I have exhausted all that I think it necessary to put before your Lordships now. Of course, the Government will carry their Bill, but I feel that I should not have been doing my duty had I not pointed out that this Bill appears to have been pushed forward without sufficient consideration of the very grave prospect which its reception in the other House seems to render probable—a prospect which, I think, might have been averted if, in shaping the Bill, more attention had been paid to the limitations within which action was confined by the pledge given by the Government on March 20, 1919, and to those more general considerations, which are independent of any pledge, relating to the status of the miner's homes to which I have already referred.


My Lords, after the speech of my noble friend Lord Gainford I do not think it necessary to go into any detail with regard to this Bill. I listened td the opening speech of the noble Viscount who described the Bill, and I agree with my noble friend Lord Gainford that he gave a most lucid description of the various clauses. I listened, too, with interest to the speech of the noble and learned Viscount who has just sat down. I cannot agree with him that in the event of the Bill becoming law the trade unions will have no power in the matter. They will have all the power the trade unions have enjoyed in connection with any matter. I cannot understand why he should think that if the Bill becomes law the trade unions will not look after their own interests and will not advise their members as to what action they shall take. I quite recognise that they say they are not going to take any part in the Bill. Well, if that be so, we shall just have to work it to the best of our ability, and I feel quite sure, whether they take part or not, that when we have to deal with questions of wages and local matters in connection with our methods of carrying on our work in the various districts, we shall find the representatives of the trade unions there to look after the interests of their men.

This is nothing new. The arrangements which are put into this Bill have been, to a large extent, in operation in various districts. Before the Government took hold of the coal trade we used to settle all wages locally. We had our different districts where we used to meet together—the men and the masters—to discuss various questions and come to an agreement in regard to wages. We had our conciliation boards which were guided largely by the price of coal. Sometimes advances were definitely fixed. Sometimes the miners gave notice to abolish the sliding scale; sometimes the owners did the same; and then matters were discussed without the sliding scale and, whether the sliding scale was in operation practically or not, we always found that the price realised was the real matter which affected the amount of wages to be paid. In our own local district, for local matters in connection with the various pits, we had our joint committees which are exactly the same as the Whitley Committees. All questions which affected particular pits were brought before the committees, consisting of six representatives of the men and six representatives of the owners, with an independent chairman. Our late chairman was the present Home Secretary and we found that things went on admirably then. These negotiations and these questions have been dealt with for rears, and we have found no difficulty. There was always the best of feeling between the owners and the men, and I cannot help thinking that, whether this Bill is passed or not, the trade unions will continue to look after the interests of their men.

I must confess that I support what has bean said by my noble friend Lord Gainford with regard to the special conditions which have been attached to the coal industry. I cannot tell why the coal trade has been selected for this special legislation and this special taxation to which it has had to submit during the war. I think other industries are just in the same position, and I cannot understand why our industry should have been chosen to be dealt with in this particular way. The only reason I can see is that the Miners' Federation is a strong body which has great political power and has been able to bring political pressure to bear upon the Government. When you consider that this coal trade has been perhaps the best organised trade in the country it is hard to understand why it should have been specially dealt with in this way. For forty years the organisation in connection with the coal trade between the mine owners and the miners has been excellent: the feeling has been very good, and it is very rare indeed for any serious strike to take place. You may have what Bill you like and what arrangements you like: you may have your compulsory arbitration, but you may rest assured of this, that it will not settle all difficulties. Industrial war is just as difficult to avoid as international war. You may have the League of Nations for the world, you may have compulsory arbitration between countries, but, depend upon it, there comes a time when it is most difficult to avoid a world war, as it is to avoid an industrial war.

I confess that I do not quite like this Bill myself. I cannot see why there should be a Minister of Mines any more than a Minister for any other industry. I do not object to a Minister of Mines, but, after all, the question is, What are to be his powers? Under this Bill I think the coal industry is practically put into his hands. He can do what he likes with it, and I am rather afraid that it will cause great difficulty and friction, because when a man has to deal with these important questions who has no practical knowledge of them it very often leads to friction and difficulty. We have at the present time a Coal Controller—a most excellent Coal Controller. He is a shrewd, capable man, a man who is approachable, a man who will listen to all arguments; and if ever anybody tried to come to a decision that was fair to all interests concerned when appealed to I think our present Controller, Mr. Duncan, is that man. If he was the Minister of Mines it is quite possible that this Bill might work very much better. But Ministers come and go, and who may be the next Minister of Mines? We may have a Labour Government in office. Supposing we got Mr. Smillie as the Minister of Mines. I wonder what chance the coal owners would have in dealing with these matters under this Bill. We should have none whatever, And if this Bill were a permanent Bill, instead of the mine owners being content to allow it to pass I feel sure it would meet with their most strenuous opposition. But I realise that it is only to last for a short time, that it is to go on only till August, 1922, when the whole thing may come up again for consideration, by which time we shall have had an opportunity of seeing how the Bill works, and it is quite possible we may then be able to deal with the matter in a different way.

There is one thing we must avoid. We must avoid too much interference with the management of the pit. The noble Viscount seems to think that miners would be very good managers, and that they should have a larger control than is represented by one-half of the various committees. My experience of miners is that they always oppose the introduction of machinery to save labour. When we introduce our coal cutters we have always the very greatest difficulty in order to get the coal cutters working at their full capacity. A striking case occurred in the north of England three or four weeks ago. A large new steel works had been put up and equipped on the most scientific principles, all electrically driven, and because they would not appoint the managers from the old mills, who are thoroughly incompetent to deal with this scientific machinery, a strike took place. I was glad to find that the trade union leaders would not support that strike, and I believe that when the trade union leaders are appealed to on questions of machinery you generally find that they are willing to listen to the arguments of the owners, and, if possible, try to bring about some reasonable settlement or compromise.

I am very much afraid that this Bill will lead to great difficulties with regard to the management. My noble friend Lord Gainford has told you how the profits of our trade have been apportioned during the war. These profits have usually gone to develop the mines, but we are not allowed to retain these profits; we are not allowed even to pay a dividend without the sanction of the Controller; we are not allowed to deal with out own reserve funds—funds that we put aside for the development of the mines or for other purposes for any emergency that may arise—unless we have the sanction of the Coal Controller. Surely no industry has ever been put under such conditions as these, and I cannot understand it. After all, who has developed the mines? The people who own them. They have worked for years; they have given both their money and their brains to them. And why should the Government come in and take complete control out of their hands? Is it for the benefit of the country? I cannot think so.

Wherever the Government takes the control it always leads to trouble and difficulty, and nothing is profitable if Government has the control. Look at the committees that are created under this Bill. How are we ever to get to the bottom of questions? You go to a pit committee, then to a district committee; from a district committee you go to an area committee; and from an area committee to a national committee. How in the world are we ever to get a decision when we have this sort of thing to put up with? —and even then it has to go to the Minister of Mines. It is a perfect farce to put any industry under such conditions as these, and, depend upon it, the industry will not succeed. There will be constant delay instead of the quick decisions which are absolutely necessary in business matters. If you want to make any industry successful you must give a quick decision; you must have somebody at the head who can say "Yes" or "No" at once. But when the matter has to go to the Government it takes weeks and weeks to get the simplest reply. What is it going to he like when you have all these committees?

I look upon this Bill as an experiment. It is an experiment which, I feel sure, will not succeed without very great alteration, though I am convinced that the coal owners will do their best to work it if it becomes an Act. Our managers at the present time are fully occupied in running up to London, spending all their time on committees. What will it be when they have four more committees added to them? Personally I have just had to appoint a deputy manager because my head manager is occupied in dealing with all these various committees. These are the men who are responsible for the safety of the mines. If an accident happens and negligence is shown, they will be tried for manslaughter. And yet these committees take away these men from their proper duties. What the condition of the mines is to be, if these men are not able to attend to the matter, I cannot tell.

The noble Viscount has spoken about health. I have not the same fear of the duties of the Home Office being transferred to the Ministry of Mines. I think myself that the Ministry of Mines will take proper precautions to preserve the health of miners. But you cannot get away from this fact, notwithstanding the dreadful diseases to which the noble Viscount has alluded, like nystagmus, that after all, the condition of our mines with regard to health is good, and there is no class of workmen who are healthier than the coal miners of Great Britain. I believe that the highest class is the clergy, the next is the agricultural labourer, and then comes the coal miner. It is one of the healthiest occupations in the country, and I feel quite sure that not only the Minister of Mines but the employer will do his best to prevent disease and preserve his mines in as healthy a condition as possible. If this Bill becomes law I feel quite sure that we will try to do our best to work it and see how it works as time goes on. Were it not that this Bill is a temporary measure it would certainly meet with my strongest opposition. I do not like to see a business which has been built up for years by men who have given the whole of their time, the whole of their brain-power, and the whole of their capital taken over and controlled by people who really do not understand the question with which they are dealing. I hope, when we come to the Committee stage, that your Lordships will accept such Amendments as, to the best of our judgment, will make the Bill more workable and more reasonably adapted to its purpose.


My Lords, I am afraid the noble Viscount will realise that this Bill has not been received with any very great enthusiasm by this House, for the reason that it is so penetrated with that spirit of State control which most of us are desirous of bringing to an end. I do not think there is a very large body of opinion left in this country which is not impatient of this system of State control, necessarily imposed during the war but prolonged after the war in a manner which most of us profoundly regret. I do not mean to say that it is possible to get rid of it altogether, but I do not see any sign of its diminution in the Bill which is before your Lordships this afternoon.

There is one part of the Bill, however, the spirit of which I, for one, certainly welcome—I mean that part of it which provides for joint committees of employers and employed to control or share in the management of the industry. I believe that is a good principle. I do not deny for a moment that the anticipations of Lord Joicey and Lord Gainford, who spoke with great expert knowledge of the subject, that there may be difficulties in the working of the industry under these committees may not be justified. I think there probably will be difficulties. But the difficulties must be faced if we are to find some solution of the big labour problem, How are we to restore industrial peace? I believe that industrial peace can only be restored by a system of partnership between all those who are interested in an industry, employers and employed, so that it may be successfully carried out by their joint endeavours. The noble Lord, Lord Joicey, is absolutely right in saying that nothing can be done without good will, and it is my earnest hope, as I believe it is your Lordships', that these committees will be worked with good will on both sides so that good results may be achieved.

I cannot help regretting, however, that the machinery of the Bill is so elaborate. I think the Government would have been wiser had they been content with much more modest proposals. This vast scheme of committees, not merely at the pits but also in the districts and the areas, with a national body at the head, is so elaborate that I am a little afraid, when they come to work it, they will find that their system is topheavy and will break down. I should have thought it would have been wiser to begin modestly with committees at the pits and in the districts, and then, if those succeeded, to have elaborated them in a larger system at a later period. But that is a minor criticism. On the whole the committee system seems to be one which we ought to welcome. I am afraid, however, that this is not the view of all those who are interested. I understand that it has been intimated in another place that the workmen will not consent to work these committees. If so, no doubt the committees will break down, but I hope when they come to face the situation the men will be better advised. When the question arises I hope also that no decision will be taken by the Government as to putting an end to this Part of the Bill without taking Parliament into their confidence.

I am bound to enter a protest against the provisions of Clause 18 of the Bill which was introduced in another place to give power to a Minister—I think it is the President of the Board of Trade—of his own motion, to put an end to the whole of a large number of provisions in an Act of Parliament. It is a most astonishing proposal. Why should it lie with a Minister to settle whether elaborate clauses affecting a vast industry, passed, I will not say with due attention by Parliament, but by both Houses of Parliament, shall suddenly come to an end? Of course, if the miners absolutely refuse to work the Bill in any shape or form it will be impossible to go on with Part II, and one need not stick upon a technicality. It will probably happen that a very difficult question will have to be decided as to whether the miners absolutely refuse or not, and this is to be decided by a Minister without any reference to Parliament. Surely, my Lords, that is an impossible provision, and I suggest to your Lordships that an Amendment ought to be introduced under which this Part of the Act can only be put an end to by a Resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament. Let the President of the Board of Trade lay a Report before both Houses of Parliament, say upon the 31st of July next year, and if, upon his Report, both Houses of Parliament, as representing the people of this country, see fit to put an end to this Part of the Act, then the responsibility will be borne by those upon whom it ought to lie.

I have a word to say to your Lordships upon another very interesting clause in the Bill—Clause 21, which provides for the establishment of an improvement fund. I do not object to it in principle. I think there is a good case to be made out for throwing upon an industry the responsibility of providing all that is necessary for what is called the social well-being of those who work in the industry. For example, it has always seemed to me, and I believe to those who have thought of the matter, that if an industry establishes works of any kind, whether it be a mine or anything else, in a particular locality, it ought to be responsible for seeing that the workmen are properly housed. I do not think it is fair that the ordinary local authority should bear the whole of the burden of housing workmen who are very legitimately introduced for the profit of a particular industry and whose well-being ought to be the care of that industry. That seems to me to be a perfectly sound principle, but I confess the words of the clause appear to be very wide. Your Lordships will observe that this fund may be applied not only to purposes connected with the social well-being of the miners but with their recreation as well. It certainly seems a very strong provision. Your Lordships will not suspect me of grudging the miners their proper recreation—I do not see how anybody can get on without proper recreation—but it is rather a strong measure to tax the industry for the recreation of the miners. And what kind of recreation? Is it to be applied to cinemas?

A NOBLE LORD: Flying pigeons.


I do not know; but I suggest that the wording of the clause is a rather extreme application of the doctrine to which I have respectfully given my adhesion. As I understand it, the fund is to be applied all over the country; wherever it is raised it is to be one fund, applicable in any part of the country. The noble Viscount, in moving the Second Reading, quoted in support of this provision the Report of the Sankey Commission, and he said it recommended that there should be such a fund to look after the social well-being of miners in each particular colliery district. That is not the provision in the Bill. The Sankey Commission conceived the raising of a fund in each district which could be applied for the social well-being of the workers in the district. That is a far more defensible proposal than the one in the Bill. You ought to encourage a sense of local responsibility, the feeling that an industry is responsible for the well-being of its workers. If you once spread such a fund all over the country it is little better than a tax. No one will feel much responsibility about it. It will be considered more of an imposition, and will therefore lose a certain portion of its value. I suggest to the Government that this provision is worth consideration.

Let me say a word about the Minister of Mines. I was unfortunate not to hear the opening remarks of the noble Viscount, and I am not quite sure what he said on this point. I confess that the provisions establishing a Minister of Mines seems to me most astonishing. What is this Minister of Mines? Is he to be a Minister such as we have hitherto been acquainted with—a Minister like the Secretary of State for the Home Department, or the Minister of Health, or the President of the Board of Trade? No. He is not a Minister of that description. He is a sort of subordinate Minister. He is not actually an Under-Secretary; he seems to be more than an Under-Secretary, but something less than a Secretary of State.


Like the Minister of Blockade.


I know nothing about him. But apart from any precedent which may have been set during the war, I should like the responsibility of the Minister of Mines to be exactly described. The whole theory and value of Ministerial responsibility is that a man is appointed over a Department under such conditions that if anything wrong is done by the Department you have a Minister whom you can call to account. That is the whole theory of Ministerial responsibility. If anything goes wrong in the administration of the Home Office the Secretary of State who is responsible, unless he can explain and defend himself adequately, has to resign. But supposing something goes wrong with the administration of the Mines Department? You go to the President of the Board of Trade and ask how it is that things have gone wrong. He will say, "The Minister of Mines has done it. It is quite true he is subject to my Regulations, when I make them; but I do not make them every day." You then go to the Minister of Mines. He will say, "I should have done it all right, but the President of the Board of Trade made Regulations. I was not free." The whole sense of Ministerial responsibility is lost. It is because those who framed this Bill could not make up their minds what they really wanted. They wanted to make the Minister of Mines as gorgeous as they could in order to impress the public, but they could not trust him unless he was in leading-strings held by the President of the Board of Trade. They therefore combine the two and call him a Minister, as if he was a great swell, and say that by virtue of his office—a most amazing phrase—he shall be an additional Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. That is extremely bad legislation. If the Minister is going to be a subordinate of the President of the Board of Trade, make him a Secretary of the Board of Trade. That is what he ought to be. If he is to be independent, call him a Minister of Mines and we shall know where we are. I hope that your Lordships will give your attention to this particular point in Committee.

I regret very much that I am not able to deal more adequately and thoroughly with this Bill. It is a very elaborate and important measure, but, like nearly all the Bills of the Government, it has been inadequately submitted to Parliament. There were complaints in another place that there was no time to discuss it. There will be similar complaints in your Lordships' House. It is "all of a piece" with the way both Houses of Parliament are treated, and though we shall do our best in what time is afforded to us we cannot be responsible if the result is not as perfect as it ought to be.


My Lords, I should like to make two or three observations as it may save fresh points being raised. The noble Marquess has declared that the Bill was not received with enthusiasm by your Lordships' House. I have never introduced a Bill that was received with any sort of enthusiasm. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Haldane, complained about the constitution and functions of the National Board.


It was the noble Viscount himself who brought in the National Board. I spoke of the Bill generally. My criticism applied not only to the National Board but also the Advisory Board.


I do not think the noble Viscount criticised the Advisory Board quite so much. He suggested that there would not be an equal number of representatives of the workers and of the owners in the management of the National Beard; that there would be other people who would "tip the balance." That certainly is not the intention of the clause at all, and if the noble Viscount thinks there might be other persons who would upset the balance and prevent the equal number of workers and employers being represented, perhaps he will move an Amendment.

The other objection which he raised was this. He said that you would have persons representing workers on the Board but not persons representing the Miners' Federation. The clause was drawn particularly that these gentlemen might be represented. It was not drawn so that the workers should be taken necessarily from persons working in the mines, but was drawn generally in order that the president and secretary of the Miners' Federation might, if desired, sit upon the Board. I think that, to some extent, meets the point raised by the noble Viscount.

Then there was another point about health protection. The noble Viscount suggested that if you take away these officials from other Ministries, like the Home Office, and brought them into the Mines Department, you would have less efficient criticism. I do not know whether that is so or not, but I am able to say that I they would be an entirely separate department in the Ministry of Mines, and I should have thought that criticism by one department of another department in the same Ministry was just as keen as criticism of one Ministry by another. I do not think it is possible to suggest that the Ministry of Mines will be so absorbed by the necessity of production in the mines that it would ignore or do anything to lessen the protection given to the health of the workers in the mines.

Lord Gainford rather criticised the establishment of these committees as being compulsory. I understood that it was the general desire of the industry that the committees should be set up, and under this Bill there is to be set up a reasonable number of committees and machinery is to be provided which the voluntary desire of the people can fill. It puts them in this stronger position, that their recommendations will not be in the air but will be made operative by the action of the Minister, if he thinks fit.

The only other point is that raised by the noble Marquess, as to the position of the Minister. He said he would be subject to the Regulations of the President of the Board of Trade, and therefore there would be a sort of tossing of responsibility from one Minister to another. I do not think that is quite so. He would be subject to directions given by the President of the Board of Trade, which is, I think, a rather different thing from Regulations, which deal rather more with detail, while Instructions deal more with general principles. Therefore he would be responsible for anything that went wrong in the working of the Ministry. I am bound to say that, supposing the Government had brought forward a proposal—


Will my noble friend explain why the Government insist upon there being Instructions from the President of the Board of Trade, if they can trust their Ministry of Mines?


Had the Government brought down a Bill for establishing an entirely separate full-blooded Minister of Mines, with a salary not of £2,000 but of £5,000 a year, I think the noble Marquess's criticism would be much more severe than it is at present, and he would have dwelt upon the waste of public money involved in setting up a new Ministry. Those are the minor points on which I wished to say something in order to clear up the position.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.