HL Deb 06 June 1923 vol 54 cc431-4

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name.

Moved, That a Committee of four Lords be appointed to join with a Committee of the House of Commons to consider the said Bill, and that the Lords following be named of the Committee:

—(The Marguess of Salisbury.)


My Lords, I represent here not only the Mining Association of Great Britain but the British Coal Exporters' Federation, and it has been a matter of great surprise to us that it has become necessary at all for a Bill of this character to be referred to a Joint Committee. A very important point has arisen, and, by an Amendment which I placed on the Notice Paper, we thought all opposition to the Bill would have been arranged and the Government would at once have accepted it. It appears that in September, 1921, representatives of various nations met together and considered questions connected with ocean-borne traffic, and in the course of the proceedings Sir Henry Duke, who presided, admitted that certain words were to be inserted in the Rules which were then under discussion. It is recorded in the Proceedings that The question is that after the words 'bill of lading' there be inserted these words: 'issued in respect of all goods other than goods shipped in bulk, as in those Rules defined.' "Is it the pleasure of the Committee that these words be inserted? Agreed. That is an extract from the Report of the Proceedings.

Those of us who are interested in the exportation of coal were under the impression that any legislation which was introduced into Parliament would have exempted bulk cargoes from the operation of this Bill. But the Board of Trade, which is the Department which is expected to look after the interests of traders, instead of inviting into consultation either the British Coal Exporters' Federation or the Mining Association of Great Britain, introduced this measure, in which no reference whatsoever is made to the exemption of bulk cargoes. And, if this Bill had gone through as it was introduced the other day by the Government, the whole of our great export coal trade, which is of the greatest value to this nation, would have been upset, and we should have been compelled to accept the weights of coal delivered abroad, instead of the weights of coal as it is shipped in this country. Thus, the whole export trade would have been disorganised and a great blow would have been struck at one of the most vital interests of our trade.

I think noble Lords will realise how impossible it would be to expect us as a nation to accept, we will say, the weights of an individual at Genoa who carries the coal in a basket on his back and puts it on a dump there and to permit weights of that character to replace those upon which the workmen, the railway companies and the dock dues are paid in this country. Had the Government seen their way to accept the Amendment which I placed upon the Paper in accordance with the arrangement which was made in 1921 I believe that this Bill might have passed without further opposition. I am not, of course, opposing the consideration of this Bill by a Joint Committee of both Houses. But the matter is of such vital interest to the coal industry of the country as well as to the nation that I thought I ought to ask at once why it is that this Bill has now to be considered by a Joint Committee instead of passing through the usual procedure in Committee of your Lordships' House. However, I take no exception to the procedure.


My Lords, I am sorry that I did not explain to your Lordships just now the reason for the appointment of this Committee. The noble Lord may, perhaps, remember that I tried on a previous occasion to explain why it was that the Government proposed that this Bill should be sent to a Joint Select Committee. I do not know whether he was present or not.


I beg the noble Marquess's pardon; I was not present.


The noble Lord is a very constant attendant and, therefore, it was only by a very rare exception that he was not present on that occasion; but the reason is that there was a criticism delivered against this Bill not merely from the point of view from which he has approached the subject—namely, the point of view of those interested in shipping—but also from the legal point of view. A rather strong criticism was delivered against some of the provisions of the Bill by my noble and learned friend Lord Sumner, who speaks, of course, upon legal matters with very great authority. When the Government found that the Bill, which they hoped would have passed as a non-contentious measure, was criticised not merely from the point of view of the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, but from the legal point of view as well, they thought the best plan would be to see that the Bill was very carefully considered by a strong Committee before they asked Parliament to assent to it. They were very gratified to be able to announce, as I did on the last occasion, that the Master of the Rolls himself had undertaken to be the Chairman of the Committee. I think the noble Lord may rest assured that before such a Committee as this will be—a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament, presided over by the Master of the Rolls—all the matters which he has so strongly urged upon your Lordships will be duly considered.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Ordered, that such Committee have power to agree with the Committee of the House of Commons in the appointment of a Chairman: Then a Message was ordered to be sent to the House of Commons to acquaint them with the Motion, and to request them to appoint four Members of that House to be joined with the said Committee.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before five o'clock.