HL Deb 08 March 1922 vol 49 cc354-71

VISCOUNT HALDANE had given Notice to move, "That it is not expedient that the provisions of Part II of the Mining Industry Act, 1920, should cease to have effect." The noble and hearted Viscount said: My Lords, I rise to move this Motion in the form in which it appears on the Paper because it was foreseen that that might happen which did happen. Last night, in another place, a Resolution that Part II of the Act should not cease to have effect failed, and as a Resolution of both Houses is required to keep it alive, even if you pass this Motion in its full technical form, it could not operate; but that does not prevent an expression of opinion upon the situation.

It is a most extraordinary situation. The Government are entirely in agreement, so far as I can judge from the correspondence and declarations of the Minister of Mines, with what I am going to say, but they have been defeated by the use of a technical provision in the Act in a very extraordinary fashion. Your Lordships may remember that the propositions contained in Mr. Justice Sankey's Report. were not carried into effect—that is to say as regards the main body of those provisions. But there was in Mr. Justice Sankey's Report a proposal that there should be set up Conciliation Committees—pit committees, district committees and area committees, and the National Board, which should be consultative, and on each the coal owners should talk with the representatives of the men, and should see whether they could not adjust difficulties.

The Government thought that an excellent plan, for they embodied it in the Mining Industry Act, 1920, which they passed, and there it is. Now that was not a suggestion which was put upon the coal owners by the Sankey Commission. On the contrary, it was proposed by the coal owners themselves. I have here the Sankey Report. and the document embodying what is, in substance, the provisions of Part II of the Act of 1920, signed by Mr. Arthur Balfour, Mr. R. W. Cooper, Sir Adam Nimmo, Sir Allan M. Smith, and Mr. Evan Williams, all of whom—Lord Gainford would, I think, bear me out—are very eminent members of the body which he knows so Well. They said: "Let us meet the men and we can adjust all our difficulties with them." It is not anything compulsory, it is consultation, and accordingly I think the Government very wisely, acting upon their suggestion, put that purely voluntary system into the Act of 1920. These committees, consisting of equal numbers of representatives of the masters and men, were to meet together—one for the pit, one for the district, one for the area—and talk over such matters as safety, health, welfare, maintenance, and increased output, and see whether they could not adjust disputes which might arise.

I should have thought that when these committees were set up we should have a very valuable means of coining to a termination of these disputes which have had such disastrous consequences. But the miners at first did not think this good enough. They said: "No, we do not want to adjust things by districts again; we want to adjust them on a national scale." Your Lordships will remember that there was a proposition for a national scale of wages. The result was a most disastrous strike, which lasted for a long time, and the miners were beaten and were at the mercy of the mine owners. Then the devil, having been sick and having been willing to be saved, recovered himself, and the mine owners, who had proposed this very system of conciliation, suddenly turned round—both parties turned round, in fact.

The miners, not being able to get what they wanted, which, as the result of the battle, had been found to be too much, said: "We shall be very glad to take Part II of the Act and to settle these disputes." But the mine owners thereupon said: "No, we do not want that any more. What we want is to manage our industry perfectly unfettered, and we are not going to consult with anyone. Anything we do we will do of ourselves and we cannot give any recognition to that provision in the Act." What made the situation acute were the very peculiar terms of Section 17. We were not thinking of it much here when the Bill was discussed as a Bill. Otherwise, I should certainly have turned attention to it.


It was a good deal discussed. I was in charge of the Bill myself, and I remember.


Well, we did not appreciate what a curious position it would create. The section states— If at the expiration of one year from the passing of this Act it appears to the Board of Trade that the scheme of this Part of the Act has been rendered abortive by reason of the failure on the part of those entitled to appoint representatives as members of the pit and district committees, area boards, and the National Board to avail themselves of such right— That, your Lordships observe, includes both masters and men— the Board of Trade shall issue a report of the circumstances— That is to say, if they cannot both agree—— and that report shall be laid before Parliament, and at the expiration of thirty days during the session of Parliament from the date when it is so laid all the provisions of this Act shall cease to have effect, unless in the meantime a resolution to the contrary is passed by both Houses of Parliament. That is very extraordinary, because here is a voluntary system for inviting negotiation and agreement which the Government itself apparently judge most advantageous. It is put into the Pill on the suggestion of the coal owners, and these words are added, according to which, if the parties do not agree, not merely do you not set up the committees, but you never can set them up again; that part of the Act lapses. It is repealed by the temporary failure, it may be, of the two parties to come to an agreement. That is why I say that if I had appreciated what this clause meant I should have offered very strenuous opposition to its introduction into the Bill.

Now, what has happened? As I have told your. Lordships, the miners, having been beaten, said: "Very well, let us see what arrangement we can make under Part II. We will appoint our representatives on the pit and district and area committees." But then came the mine owners who said: "We will have nothing to do with this." And, really, I have, seldom read a more pathetic document than that which records the observations of the Minister of Mines on what they did. Mr. Bridgeman seems to have acted most sensibly and most sympathetically. The mine owners flatly refused to carry out their own proposals by appointing their own representatives.

After much correspondence they sent a deputation to Mr. Bridgeman, and this is what he said on August 24 last (I am reading from page 10 of a Parliamentary Paper laid on the Table)— You have spoken frankly to me and I hope you won't mind my speaking rather plainly to you on this point. It has been urged that if the Miners' Federation could hold up the working of this part of the Act for a year, that was a sufficient reason for the Owners Association, who had already agreed to work it to go back on that agreement and now say they would have nothing to do with it. It rather reminds me of the parable of the man who had two sons and told each to go on an errand. One said 'I go not' but went, and the other said 'I go' but went not. In this case you said I 'go' in favour of working this part of the Act, but according to the attitude of the present moment it appears you are not going to do so. On the other hand the miners said they would not go, and now are going. I think public opinion would be, as in the case of the parable, on the side of those who formed a bad resolution at first and thought better of it later. I entirely agree with what Mr. Bridgeman did, and I do not think he had any alternative but to report that the mine owners refused to agree, and therefore there was no chalice of putting Part II of the Act into operation, with the conciliation provisions which it contained.

What I think he ought to have done, however, or rather what the Government to which he belonged ought to have done, was to have moved in the House of Commons and in this House identical Resolutions to say that it was not expedient that Part II should come to an end. Where such a very unreasonable attitude (for do not hesitate to call it so) was taken up by people who had originally proposed the very plan—a plan, not lot compulsion, but for appointing bodies which could negotiate and meet—I think it was the duty of the Government to move those Resolutions. Last night they did not move any Resolution, but I gather that they would not put on their Whips against it. By a comparatively small majority, for these days, the Resolution was lost. That prevents any Resolution your Lordships may pass to-day from being effective, but it does not prevent the subject from being discussed.

This is not a matter which concerns only the miners. There is an agreement in existence which, after a little time, will come to an end. If the circumstances of the coal trade improve at all it is extremely likely, with the state of feeling which this kind of action beings about, that you will have another dispute and another strike. I am not one of those who think that the coal owners are in such a very powerful position that they can afford to speculate upon the future. Just now they are in possession of the field—the stricken field. They have beaten the miners. They are in a position to refuse to do anything. But in a matter of this kind, where the Government has a policy—a policy which the Government has pressed., a policy not of interfering with their business but of bringing about that kind of conciliation which we have in the Whitley Committees, and which is the order of the day—that the mine owners should refuse, and should lead the Government to a position in which, without a Resolution of each House. Part II cannot be kept alive, seems to me to be a very disastrous situation.

It is inviting misery for the country generally, a misery which arises from the kind of dispute which almost inevitably terminates in a great strike. I am not afraid of that just now. The miners have been too heavily beaten; but that time will pass. Human nature is human nature, and the bitterness will assert itself again, and all because the mine owners do not choose to take advantage of the proposition which they themselves made, and which, at their request, was embodied in this Act of Parliament, but which they now refuse to put into operation. I move the Resolution which stands in my name.

Moved, "That it is not expedient that, the provisions of Part II of the Mining Industry Act, 1920, should cease to have effect."—(Viscount Haldane.)


My Lords, I listened with some interest to the speech of the noble and learned Viscount and. I was surprised at the way in which he reflected upon the coal owners of this country. He indicated in his speech that the miners and the coal owners are, as it were, at arms length; that we have had a fight; that the men have been worsted in that fight, and that now the coal owners have the miners at their mercy. The true facts of the case are quite different. We certainly had a difference with the miners which arose very largely out of the long period of Government control of the industry during the war.

Reference has been made to Mr. Justice Sankey's Commission. It is true that at a time when the coal industry was under the control of the Government, Mr. Justice Sankey and some of his colleagues reported in favour of certain alterations in the law, such as those to which the noble Viscount has referred. But after the Sankey Commission had reported it became obvious to those interested in the trade, as well as to the whole country, and then to the Government, that it was necessary that the trade should be freed from Government control. After the Government had released the industry from control we found we were in such a condition that we could not carry on our collieries and continue to pay the wages which the Government- had ordered us to pay during the period of control. It was due to that situation that a difference arose between the miners and ourselves—between the Miners' Federation of Great Britain and the Mining Association of Great Britain—as to whether matters connected with the industry should be settled in the districts or whether they should be dealt with on a national basis. Upon that we had our difference, and a strike occurred.

It is true that in the end we came to a general agreement amongst ourselves that, instead of ascertaining prices nationally, we would ascertain the prices which had been realised in the districts, and also that joint accountants should take out what the costs in each district were, and that we should co-operate under an agreement to share the profits in the industry. As a result of that agreement the whole situation has changed, and there never was a period in the history of the coal trade in which employers and employed worked so unitedly together to secure economy in the industry and avoid waste. The result of this system of co-operation, and of sharing of profits by ascertaining month by month what the profits are in each district, has been to alter entirely the attitude of a great number of the employers to their men, and I know that a great number of the men are working whole-heartedly in the interests of the industry.

The men have accepted the proposition that the wages which are payable in the industry are those which the industry can afford. We have come to an agreement which cannot be terminated before the end of this year, but which I believe both sides are anxious shall be continued for many months, if not years, to come. It is possible that it might be amended by agreement. Under that agreement we have set up by voluntary action, not only a National Board but district boards to which all questions of difference arising in the industry are referred. These boards, which are conciliation boards, and on which any question of difference arising is referred to an umpire, have removed all friction which existed in our collieries. If there is any question connected with a pit committee—and there are many places where there are pit committees—and a settlement is not arrived at, it is referred to one of these district boards and is there discussed. If in any particular colliery where there is not a pit committee a group of men have any grievance whatsoever they send a deputation to see the mine manager, and if they cannot settle whatever difference of opinion there may be, it is referred to their leaders and is considered by the methods of conciliation which exist now in every district.

Under this voluntary arrangement I am glad to say that things are working in the right direction, and, as I say, at no period in the history of the coal trade have things worked more smoothly between employers and employed than they do at the present time. It might be understood from the noble Viscount's speech that the coal owners have changed their attitude n regard to this matter. When the Act to which he referred was before your Lordships' House on August 3, 1920, I addressed your Lordships upon this very point of the pit committees, and I explained exactly what the view of the coal owners then was. There is one paragraph in my speech which is so applicable to the present situation that I think I cannot. do better than read it to show your Lordships what was the attitude of the coal owners at the time of the passage of the Ministry of Mines Bill. These are my words— 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 have entered into voluntary arrangements. We see now in front of us a period when we can co-operate together as we have never done before.

The miners had ample opportunity during last year, if they so desired, to ask us to appoint these pit committees voluntarily if they wanted them. Not once in any single district, during the course of this and the past year, have they asked us even to confer with them on the question of establishing these pit committees. If they had wanted them they could have come to us, and we would have discussed it freely with them in a voluntary way. But we have objected to a hard and fast compulsory measure which will tend to create friction, and which may divide the responsibility between the manager and the men in connection with the working underground. That ought to be the sole duty of the mine manager. The mine managers are all against these compulsory powers. They realise that they are in charge of a colliery, and are responsible for the lives of the men underground. They are not prepared, by statutory enactment, to share with the men responsibility for the underground operations, but they are prepared voluntarily to enter into conversations with the men with a view to trying to improve anything which can be improved by the ordinary voluntary processes of conciliation through tile district board, and, if necessary, the National Board.

To set up these pit committees compulsorily under an Act of Parliament means the appointment of a large additional number of inspectors. It means, I believe, great additional expense in working the Coal Mines Act, and this is not the time when such expenditure can be wisely undertaken, if ever it can be undertaken. I believe the safety of the men was never better looked after than it is at the present time, and there is no advantage whatsoever in the compulsory application of this Act for the creation of pit committees. It would limit possibly the opportunities which now exist for the men to make suggestions, and, instead of having that elasticity which you always get under a voluntary system, there would be, under a compulsory system, a hard and fast watertight arrangement which could only lead to friction.

May I also say that the colliery engine men and the mechanics, who are a very important section of the workmen employed in the colliery, are opposed to Part II on the ground that their independence would be menaced. Their union, which is composed of the most highly skilled of our workmen, has been compelled to sever its connection with the Miners' Federation, and it is not willing to acquiesce in any proposal of this character. You have the mine managers opposed to this compulsory enactment, and you have the further fact that we have voluntarily entered into arrangements with the men which are working satisfactorily. In these circumstances, I think it would be a great misfortune to the country if we were driven back upon compulsory methods—which mean additional expense to the nation—when all is well with the industry. Allow us voluntarily to arrange things in the way that we are doing at present and it will be best for the country, and for all concerned.


My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount moves, "That it is not expedient that the provisions of Part II of the Mining Industry Act of 1920 shall cease to have effect." The noble and learned Viscount, as he was quite justified in doing, went into the previous history of this question. He went back to the Sankey Commission, and to the Act of 1920. Probably the proposals of the Sankey Commission are still fresh in the minds of your Lordships. The noble and learned Viscount stated that the particular proposals which are embodied in this debatable ground—Part II of the Act of 1920—were suggested by the owners themselves in Part C of the Report. I think it is quite true that the committees were so suggested, with the exception of the area boards which were not, I think, in Part C of the Report. The only contention on that point between the noble and learned Viscount and the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, is that Lord Gainford maintains that the owners' report in favour meant that voluntary committees were to he appointed, and not compulsory committees under Statute.

Though that no doubt is so, I think the attitude of the owners went a little further than was stated by the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, in the speech he has just made. As it is relevant to this discussion I desire, if your Lordships will allow me, to give some quotations—because one wants to be fair to both sides— showing the attitude taken up by the miners when this Bill was introduced. This had some influence possibly on the attitude taken up by the owners at a later stage. During the passage of the Bill all the miners' representatives expressed themselves as strongly opposed to this measure. Mr. Hartshorn, a very well-known representative of the miners, said in another place on June 30:— This Bill cannot be operated except with the whole-hearted co-operation of owners and miners. I do not think there is a ghost of a chance of securing that co-operation for a Bill containing such principles…. This Bill does not settle or solve a single problem with which the industry is faced at the moment. It simply defers it, and proposes to set up a lot of machinery which is going to irritate all the men employed in the industry from John o' Groats to Land's End. At the Miners' Conference Mr. Robert Smillie was no less emphatic. He said— The Government ought to have given the Bill the title of the 'Enslavement of the Miners Mr. Hartshorn, at the same Conference, on July 8, 1920, said— The Executive Committee has examined the Bill, and it has come to the conclusion that a more reactionary Bill could not possibly have been conceived by the biggest enemy of our movement. The Government cannot set this Bill in motion unless the miners co-operate in setting up the machinery of the pit committees, the district committees, the area boards, the national committee, and the advisory committee, and in the absence of that machinery the Bill becomes a dead letter. This conference ought to make the pronouncement, so that the Government should know that if they go on with the Bill the Federation has pledged itself to have nothing whatever to do with it if it ever becomes law. The Conference passed a resolution to that effect.

Again, Mr. Hartshorn, on June 30 in another place, said— No scheme will be acceptable to the miners —and when I say that I mean that it will not be worked—no scheme will be operated by the miners which destroys the national basis upon which wages are to he regulated. That is fundamental. Your Lordships, therefore, will see that while the Bill was in progress through another place the most unqualified condemnation was expressed for Part II generally by the miners' representatives. Miners' representatives used very vigorous language. I do not think it would be possible to use language of more thorough and absolute condemnation than was used by these gentlemen outside and, during the passage of the Bill, in another place.

At that time the attitude of the owners was very different. The noble Lord, Lord Gainford, has given us a very interesting account of their attitude all through, and has told us how their representatives on the Commission supported proposals which, he said, were to be entirely voluntary and not enforced by Act of Parliament. But when the Act was going through the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, used these words in this House: We shall have difficulties under the provisions of this Bill, if they are adopted, but we all intend as coal owners to do our part and work these provisions honourably…. 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. The noble Lord, Lord Joicey, spoke very much to the same effect.

That was the situation. You had the coal owners prepared honourably to work the Bill though they did not take any responsibility for it. You had the most emphatic condemnation of the Bill on the part of the miners themselves. As a result, the rather remarkable clause, Section 17, to which the noble and learned Viscount has referred, was passed. I understood him to say that it was passed on the suggestion of the coal owners.


No. What I said was that I did not really appreciate what an extraordinary clause it was when we debated it, otherwise I should have said more about it.


Then I can only suggest, most respectfully, that when I make a, speech he should listen carefully to what I say. I have looked up what I said on that occasion and I find that I called die attention of the House particularly to that clause. I said it was a most peculiar and extraordinary clause and one which I had never seen in an Act of Parliament before. No doubt that was forgotten. The clause was passed, and passed simply because of the attitude of the miners.

The whole idea and basis of the Act was that these pit committees and area committees should be worked on a voluntary basis. Without voluntary co-operation it would be of no use at all. If one side or the other stood out, the Act became perfectly futile. Then followed the coal strike and its lamentable consequences. The result of all this was that although the Minister of Mines was under statutory obligation to bring out Regulations setting up the organisation of these committees he did not do so, because he felt it would be impossible whilst there was so much disturbance in the trade itself. Neither side would be able to pay proper attention to the Regulations, and it might be that discussions later between both sides would probably make changes in the draft Regulations necessary. He, therefore, felt, it advisable to wait until a later stage.

Then we come to an interesting point in the history of these proceedings. The negotiations were brought to an end on August 12, 1921; and I ask your Lordships to pay particular attention to the dates of subsequent events. In a letter dated August 12, the very day when these proceedings were brought to an end and the settlement made, the Miners' Federation notified the Minister that they were now prepared to co-operate in carrying the Act into effect. There was a very rapid change, apparently, in the attitude of the Miners' Federation. They had made the attempt to nationalise the mines and have wages on a national basis, and had failed. They altered their tactics at once. Having failed for the higher stakes, they decided to try for the lower stakes in the Act. It looked as if the whole thing was settled, that the Regulations might be issued and the operation of the Act take place.

But four days afterwards, on August 16, a letter was received from the mine owners who, apparently, had gone through some internal change. They said that by reason of the failure of those entitled to appoint representatives of the workers on the various boards and committees, they had decided not to co-operate in working the Act. It was pointed out to them by the Minister of Mines that their letter was based on a complete misunderstanding, because it was obvious that until the Regulations had been issued it was impossible for either side to appoint members to committees which were not yet set up. Long discussions proceeded between the owners and the Minister of Mines. The attitude of the Minister was urgent that the owners should still stand by what they had said two years before, that they intended honourably to abide by the Act and carry it into force, and although, two years before and up to rather a late date, the men had taken up an opposite attitude, that they should not, take advantage of that but in the interests of the industry itself agree to co-operate. The noble and learned Viscount has commended the action of the Minister of Mines, but the Minister of Mines failed entirely to persuade the owners.

The, owners have stated their views this afternoon through Lord Gainford and given us the reasons why they do not wish to co-operate any longer. I do not want to add very much to that except on two points. They have stated—,I have taken this from the correspondence—that during the long negotiations no mention was made of Part II of the Act and they therefore rather assumed that its provisions were no longer operative. They further considered that the settlement arrived at on August 12 rendered Part II of the Act unnecessary. The Minister of Mines proceeded calmly on his way. He issued the. Regulations, and when no notice was taken by the owners and he received a letter saying that they were not going to act upon them, he made a report to Parliament to that effect. There the matter stands, and I can only say, on behalf of the Minister of Mines, that he deeply regrets that owing to this double volte face it seems impossible to enforce provisions which he thinks would be of great value to the industry.

The only question which remains for me to deal with is whether the Government ought to proceed and try to enforce, if possible, arrangements which are really of an entirely voluntary nature. The view of the Government is that as all this elaborate organisation—pit committees, area committees, National Board—depends upon friendly co-operation between the two parties it is almost a contradiction in terms to say that it shall be compulsory, and to try to enforce this form of co-operation would probably create fresh disturbances in the industry. It would be a great mistake to attempt any such action.

It has been suggested—I do not think the noble and learned Viscount suggested it—that Part II should remain on the Statute Book and not be put into operation; that at some future time it may be possible to put all this machinery into action. The Government attitude is that if the Act is not operative it is much better to put an end to it. If it is contended that in the trade itself they are able to manage their own affairs by arrangements as to wages, etc., then probably the maintenance of this particular provision, inoperative, on the Statute Book would have a bad effect on those voluntary proceedings, and it is better that the matter should be wiped right away from the Statute Book and the State take no more direct responsibility for arrangements which should be left to the trade itself. That, very shortly, is the attitude of the Government, and the noble and learned Viscount will see, therefore, that on behalf of the Government I cannot accept the Motion that he has made.


My Lords, I confess that any of your Lordships might be a little bewildered at the situation, because it appears that whereas when this Act was passing through Parliament the miners were in favour of one course and the mine owners of another, they have now exactly changed about, and the miners are now in favour of the course which the mine owners then supported, while the owners are in favour of the course which the miners previously advocated. It also appears that His Majesty's Government, who are responsible for the clause which now stands as part of the Act of Parliament, are no longer anxious that it should remain part of the law of the land.


Under the circumstances.


Quite so. I do not altogether quarrel with the attitude which the Government have adopted, and I say so, not because I have at all weakened in my belief that conciliation by means of some instrument of organisation as between employers and employed is the proper remedy for our industrial difficulties, but because of the speech which was delivered a few minutes ago by my noble friend, Lord Gainford. Lord Gainford gave a very good account of the situation to your Lordships, and I am sure that every one of us must have listened to him with the keenest satisfaction, because he showed that the condition of things in the coal trade is very smooth as between employers and employed, that all the ferment of a few months ago has entirely died down; and that matters are working on a perfectly friendly footing.

He also showed that the mine owners appreciated what had been said in Parliament and outside as to the necessity of taking the men into their confidence, and had, as I understand him—he will correct me if I am wrong—adopted a method of communicating financial results from time to time, so that the men received a complete assurance that they knew exactly how things stood, and that upon the strength of the figures so revealed no difficulty was experienced in coining to an arrangement as between the parties. He also showed that in a great number of cases voluntary pit committees and voluntary district committees have been set up; that they are working perfectly smoothly; and that the employers are quite willing, in every case where an application has been made to that effect, to treat the men upon a footing of complete confidence. That is the temper under which industry ought to be carried on, and we should be very unwise to do anything to interfere with that temper. I agree, of course, with Lord Gainford and others that if these things can be clone on a voluntary basis it is far preferable to their being done on a compulsory basis. Compulsion is not sympathetic to the English temperament, and it certainly involves friction which a voluntary agreement avoids. We may rest content, I think, that the coal trade, at any rate, is on the right path. I do not mean to say that they have completely created the necessary machinery on a voluntary basis, but they are on the right way to do so, and all we can do is to wish them God-speed in their work.

Before I sit down, I should like to say, as I did when this Bill was going through Parliament, that I believe in this machinery of committees between employers and employed. The actual clause which we are discussing is unnecessarily cumbrous, if I may say so—indeed, I think I said so on that occasion—but the system of committees is the right one. I do not believe we shall ever come to the end of our industrial troubles in this country—I am not speaking only of the coal trade, but of industry generally—until the employers show themselves quite willing to take their men into their full confidence as to the conduct of the industry. It is true that they may apparently lose a little by communicating matters which they would prefer to keep private to a number of men who may not be able absolutely to keep secret what they know. But they will gain a great deal more than they will lose, thanks to the smoothness with which the industry will work. I am sure that until it is recognised that the men are partners in the industry, and essential partners, we shall never really achieve industrial peace; but if this can be done through a voluntary machinery, and by the agreement of all parties, without friction, it is of course far better than any compulsory Statute. In all these circumstances, I need not say that, so far as I ace concerned. I shall not support the noble Viscount in his Motion. It is academic in arty case, because it cannot have any effect, the House of Commons having refused to take the same course. I ant glad, however, that we are not going to apply the principle of compulsion where the voluntary principle will do equally well.


Can the noble Viscount tell us whether the possibility of amending the Act and producing an arrangement satisfactory to both parties, has been considered or discussed with either party?


I think the question addressed to me really concerns the views of the mine owners and the miners, and I do not think that, as representing the Government, I can very well give an answer on that point.


All you had to do was to pass the Resolution.


My Lords, after the discussion that has taken place, I would venture to make an appeal to the noble Viscount who introduced this Motion. We owe him a debt of gratitude for having evoked the speeches which we have heard, especially that of Lord Gainford, which has really destroyed his case and cut the ground from under his feet. I want to add just one consideration to those which have been advanced. Not merely would this proposal dislocate the whole arrangement in the coal industry, which is now proceeding on so satisfactory a basis, but it would cause gigantic expenditure. I do not know if the noble Viscount remembers that we saw the expenses connected with the Coal Mines Department of the Board of Trade go up from £60,000 in 1913 to £211,000 in 1921. I understand that if this proposal were put in force, there being some 3,000 pits, committees would be set up in each pit under the Bill, to which we objected at the time on that ground. There are, I believe, twelve members of each committee who are to be paid. There must also be a Government member attached to each of these committees, and I am given to believe that there would be 3,000 places at once filled for the purpose, not of improving the relations between employers and employed, but of disturbing the arrangement which has been reached in the interval.

We all of us now recognise that the Sankey Commission was a terrible blunder and that it delivered a panic-stricken verdict. 'But it did one good thing. It broke down for ever the principle of putting men who are already committed and thoroughly partial into a Committee of that kind with instructions to report within a very short period. This proposal would bring forward again one of those close approaches to nationalisation at the very moment when it has been shown that the whole business can be satisfactorily carried out by private endeavour between those concerned without that intervention of the State which we all deprecate. In those circumstances, I earnestly hope the noble Viscount will not put the House to the trouble of dividing.

On Question, Motion negatived.