§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (VISCOUNT CECIL CHELWOOD)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill. I have on the command of His Majesty to say that His Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Mining Industry Bill, has given his consent, as far as His Majesty's interest is concerned, that the House may do therein as they shall think fit. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Cecil of Chelwood.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [The EARL of DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ Power to prepare amalgamation and absorption schemes.
§ 1.—(1) Where with a view to the more economical and efficient working, treating, or disposing of coal the owners of two or more undertakings consisting of or comprising coal mines agree to amalgamate their undertakings either wholly or partially, they may prepare and submit to the Board of Trade a scheme (hereinafter referred to as an amalgamation scheme) framed in accordance with the provisions of this Part of this Act.
§ (2) Where the owner of any such undertaking, or where the owners of two or more such undertakings who have agreed to amalgamate, consider that in the interests of the more economical and efficient working, treating, or disposing of coal it is expedient that one or more other such undertakings, the owners of which are unwilling to agree to amalgamate or to agree to the proposed terms of amalgamation, should be absorbed wholly or partially by the first mentioned minder taking, or by the amalgamated undertaking, as the case may be, the owner or owners may prepare and submit to the Board of Trade a scheme (hereinafter referred to as an absorption scheme) framed in accordance with the provisions of this Part of this Act.
§ (3) In this Part of this Act—
- (a) companies whose undertakings are to be amalgamated are referred to as constituent companies;
- (b) a company whose undertaking is to be absorbed is referred to as an absorbed company;
- (c) a company, whether or not an amalgamated company, in which any other company is to be absorbed is referred to as the principal company;
- (d)"partial amalgamation" of undertakings includes the amalgamation of parts of undertakings and arrangements for the joint exercise of powers of working, treating, or disposing of coal, or powers incidental or ancillary thereto, or for the conduct of any business or operations in the common interest of the constituent companies, or the vesting in a separate company of the control of the constituent companies, and "partial absorption" has a corresponding meaning, except that no partial absorption scheme shall, without the consent of the owner of the absorbed company, provide for the separation of the treat-
403 ing or disposing of coal from the working thereof, or, in the case of an undertaking of which the primary object is not coal mining, provide for the separation from the undertaking of any coal mine worked as ancillary to such primary object.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM moved to leave out Clause 1. The noble Lord said: I would first of all point out that the majority of the Amendments which stand in my name are consequential upon this Amendment. I was obliged to put them on the Paper because if I succeeded in leaving out this clause and the other clauses remained in the Bill, they would make nonsense. If I am defeated upon this Clause 1 shall not, of course, move any of the other Amendments, with the exception of one on Clause 5.
§ My noble friend Lord Cecil, in the debate on the Second Reading, rather challenged my statement that though this clause was ostensibly voluntary, as a matter of fact it was a compulsory clause. If your Lordships would look at the Bill, which I have had now more time to examine, you will see that it says that if any particular person is unwilling to agree to a scheme of amalgamation proposed by another mine owner then, if the Board of Trade find there is a primâ facie case, the whole matter goes to the Railway and Canal Commission and it becomes obligatory. Just see what that means. I am the owner of a mine which is in rather poor condition and which does not pay. My noble friend Lord Cecil is in possession of a mine which has all the modern appliances and does pay. I go to him and I say: "I wish to amalgamate with you." He says, not unnaturally: "Certainly not, you have a bad asset and I have a good one; I do not wish to amalgamate with you."
§ Then, under the Bill, I go to the Board of Trade. If the Board of Trade, having been instructed to see whether or not the matter is in the national interest—the interest of Lord Cecil and the interest of myself go by the board; the question is whether or not it is in the national interest—come to the conclusion that there is a primâ facie case that it is in the national interest, because some of Lord Cecil's profits will go to make my mine which does not pay a paying concern, or at any rate a concern which can be worked, they refer the whole matter 404 to the Railway and Canal Commission. The Railway and Canal Commission, also, are only instructed to have regard to the national interest and there is no definition as to what the national interest is. The Railway and Canal Commissioners then decide that Lord Cecil's good mine must be compulsorily amalgamated with my bad one. Does anybody suppose that is going to work? I challenge my noble friend to contradict anything that I have said. I do not see Lord Parmoor here, but on the Second Reading he said he did not agree with me. Had be been here I should have challenged him to contradict anything I have said. Is that really going to conduce to good working of the industry? Is it likely to induce anybody to do what is absolutely essential if the mining industry is to become profitable—that is to say, put more capital into it? Nobody would dream of putting capital into it when it is liable to a situation such as I have outlined.
But the matter does not end there. This is only a preliminary step. I have provided myself with a copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT and during the short time that I have had at my disposal I have read with much interest my noble friend's speech. I find he stated that the Commission said that if after three years the Mines Department are of opinion that sufficient progress has not been made there was to be a power for the Mines Department themselves to take the initiative in the matter. My noble friend went on to say:
The Government have felt that on the whole it would be better not to anticipate what would be the decision of Parliament in two or three years' time… and they accordingly provide that the procedure shall be such as I will describe in a moment, subject to this: That the Mines Department are to make a Report as to the progress of amalgamation and absorption under the Bill at the end of two years and annually after that period so that Parliament can intervene if it thinks that the matter is not proceeding with sufficient rapidity.
What does that mean? It means that you are nominally—as I say, really—introducing compulsion at once. You are nominally allowing voluntary amalgamation but if, in two years time, amalgamation does not take place, or if the trade union headed by Mr. Cook think there is not enough amalgamation,
then Parliament is to intervene and to make amalgamation compulsory. Again, I ask, is that at all likely to achieve the end which we all desire—namely, to make the mines profitable and workable? My noble friend Lord Cecil, also, in his speech, said that he did not see that this is any more Socialism than to compel the railways to amalgamate.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
This is what the noble Viscount said:—I venture very respectfully to say to him that really it is not a bit more Socialism to have compulsory purchase in order to facilitate the working of mines than to have compulsory purchase in order to facilitate the working of railways.I never said compulsory purchase was Socialism; there were other matters with which I was dealing that I said were Socialism. But I will ask my noble friend, does he think that compulsory purchase has facilitated the working of railways? I should have said that compulsory purchase has done the worst possible thing for railways. It has not facilitated their working; it has put them very nearly into the Bankruptcy Court and has destroyed the facilities which the public had before and have not now. With all due deference to my noble friend, whom I used in the old days to follow, It is the very worst analogy that he could possibly bring forward. We do not want any more amalgamations like the railway amalgamations. We want to have everything left so that the ordinary person can manage his own affairs without interference by the Government. I beg to move.
Leave out Clause 1.—(Lord Banbury of Southam.)
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
With regard to the last passage of my noble friend's observations, which perhaps is not very material, the controversy between us on the Second Reading of this Bill was this. The point with which I was dealing was not in 406 reference to amalgamation at all but whether there ought to be power under the facilities clause to insist on working coal which otherwise would not be properly worked, and it was with reference to that that I said it did not seem to me that it was any more Socialism to give power compulsorily to buy coal for the purpose of facilitating the working of coal mines than it was to give power compulsorily to buy land in order to lay out railways. That was what I ought to have said more fully than I did say it; that was the comparison which I had in mind.
My noble friend began Ids observations by saying that a good many of the Amendments of which he has given Notice were really consequential and that if he succeeded in inducing your Lordships to strike out Clause 1 that would, in fact, make nonsense of the greater part of the rest of the Bill without these consequential Amendments. My noble friend is perfectly right. Clause 1 is almost the most essential part of the Bill and I confess that I think his Amendment gives proof of that of which no one needs proof—namely, the political courage of my noble friend. After having tried, unsuccessfully, to induce your Lordships to reject the Second Reading of this Bill, he now comes before your Lordships with a Motion which, on his own showing, is equivalent to a Motion for the defeat of the Second Reading of the Bill.
I do not propose, unless your Lordships desire it, to labour once again after all these many weeks—indeed I may say many months—of discussion, the case for amalgamation of coal mines. Whatever may be said of parts of the Samuel Commission Report, certainly the part which deals with the necessity, the absolute necessity in many cases, for getting rid of the small mines and amalgamating them with larger mines, and the enormous importance for the prosperity of the industry of having larger units than exist in some parts of the country, was put with convincing force. I do not think I should be acting respectfully to your Lordships if I again elaborated that argument. Your Lordships will remember the argument, which is contained in pages 44 to 63 of the Report, and it would ill-become me to try to summarise the very elaborate argument which is contained in nearly twenty pages of print.
407 I will endeavour, however, though I fear I shall be unsuccessful, to diminish the fears of my noble friend. It is not really true to say that the only thing that will be considered in the case of amalgamation is whether it is in the national interest that that amalgamation should take place. The first thing that is to be considered is not, strictly speaking, the national interest, but rather, in the words of the Bill, whether it would conduce tothe more economical and efficient working, treating, or disposing of coal.That is the first thing that the Board of Trade have to be satisfied upon—namely, that this really will make the industry more effective and make the output larger and cheaper than it would be otherwise. Until the Board of Trade are satisfied on that point nothing can be done. Then the matter goes to the Railway and Canal Commission, and they have to be satisfied further, broadly speaking, that the amalgamation is in the national interest.
But that is not the whole of their duty. If the noble Lord will look at Clause 7, subsection (2), paragraphs (a) and (b), he will see that they deal with the power of the Railway and Canal Commission to confirm schemes. Paragraph (a) says that the Commissionshall confirm a scheme if satisfied that it would be in the national interest to do so, and that the terms of the scheme are fair and equitable to all persons affected thereby.Then paragraph (b) says that the Commissionmay in particular if, upon an objection lodged by the holder of any securities in a constituent or absorbed company to whom by the scheme securities in the amalgamated or principal company are allocated in substitution therefor, they are satisfied that the substitution would not be fair in his case,order that he shall be paid. Therefore, it is really quite untrue to say that there has been any neglect of the individual interests of those who are concerned in these schemes. In these circumstances it would be quite impossible for me to suggest that the Government could accept this Amendment. It would destroy the whole purpose of the Bill and really, if I may say so respectfully, would be to go in the teeth of the decision which your Lordships arrived at by a majority of close upon three to one.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
The noble Viscount has said, truly, that this is an Amendment which goes to the very root and principle of the Bill. It is not an Amendment dealing with compulsory powers. It is an Amendment dealing with a perfectly innocent clause—innocent taken by itself—which enables those concerned in the ownership of mines to agree and then to present a scheme before the Board of Trade. Subsequently it may be sent to the Railway and Canal Commission. If the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, desires to restrict the powers of the Railway and Canal Commission, whose assent is required for any exercise of compulsion, then the clause which gives them the power, which occurs a long way further on in the Bill, is the appropriate place in which to do it. As the noble Viscount truly said, it is an objection which goes to the very root of the Bill. It is reviving the Second Reading discussion which we disposed of. And I notice that the noble Lord has put down an Amendment to every clause of the Bill irrespective of whether it involves compulsion or does not involve compulsion.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
There is a long list of Amendments. If the noble Lord has an objection in the abstract to compulsion I would remind him that during the long tenure of his distinguished connection with the Great Northern Railway many Bills were brought before Parliament which involved this principle. For the noble Lord to say compulsion is not a right thing in the case, above all, of the railway companies is to belie the distinguished service which he rendered to that great company.
§ LORD JOICEY
I confess I have a good deal of sympathy with the noble Lord who moved this Amendment. I happen to be one who has a very poor opinion indeed of the Bill as a whole and I should not be sorry to see it destroyed. Therefore I have not the same hesitation in opposing this clause that the noble and learned Viscount below me has. I do not know any case in which Parliament has given power to any particular industry 409 to compel amalgamation. I have some experience of amalgamation. I have been connected with a good many additions to the concern which I represent and I have some pretty good experience with regard to the value of amalgamation. I think the importance of these amalgamations has been very much exaggerated. I question whether very much good will result from any compulsory amalgamation in any part of the coalfields. In one or two cases we have had advantages where coal has been lying near an adjoining colliery which did not belong to us. In cases where we have amalgamated, of course, we have been able to work that coal, after getting the consent of the lessors, who have never objected, because the lessor is just as anxious to facilitate the working of coal as anybody else. In one case of that kind we have been able to get a large electric power station which, of course, could be applied to more collieries owing to the amalgamation that took place.
But I do not think that the advantages which I have seen offset at all the disadvantages. Of course, everybody who has a bad colliery which he will never be able to make pay would only be too glad if he could get connected with a colliery which does pay. But what does that mean? It simply means a certain amount of unification. That is, you take the profits of the good concern and you apply some of them to the losses of the poor concerns. Consequently, the general profit of the whole concern is merely reduced. I cannot see why these compulsory amalgamations should take place. If any of the various owners of the mines wish to amalgamate there is no difficulty whatever in doing so. I have always found that where it was really an advantage to adjoining mines to amalgamate there was never any difficulty whatever in bringing amalgamation about. I am bound to say that if this Amendment goes to a Division I shall be obliged to support it, but I shall do so because I feel that the whole Bill is not going to have the result that many people expect. I think that it would be a failure, when you consider the number of Bills connected with the mining industry that have been passed during the last twenty years. We have been harassed and hampered in every way, 410 and it is a wonder to me that we have done as well as we have done. I look upon this Bill simply as an additional burden to be placed upon the coal industry. It will not settle the difficulties that we have to contend with. I feel quite sure that it will add to them. I am bound to say that I support the noble Lord who has moved the omission of this clause.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
I do not propose to put your Lordships to the trouble of a Division unless some other noble Lord desires it, but I should like to say, in reply to the noble and learned Viscount, that there are twenty-six clauses in the Bill and I put down fourteen Amendments. Accordingly I have not put down an Amendment to every clause, because fourteen is less than twenty-six. I have already said that a good number of my Amendments are consequential. I will not withdraw the Amendment, but I do not propose to go to a Division.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2:
§ Contents of total amalgamation schemes.
§ 2.—(1) A total amalgamation scheme under this Part of this Act may contain such provisions as may be necessary or expedient for giving effect to the objects of the scheme, and in particular, but without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provision—
- (a) may provide either for the constitution and incorporation of a new company, or companies, under the Companies Acts, 1908 to 1917, with or without the dissolution of all or any of the constituent companies, and the transfer to the new company of the undertakings of the constituent companies, or the distribution thereof amongst the new companies and such of the constituent companies as are not dissolved, or for the continuance (with or without change of name) of one or more of the constituent companies, and the dissolution ca the other constituent companies, and the transfer of their undertakings to the continued company or the distribution thereof amongst the continued companies;
- (b) may provide for vesting in the new or continued company or any of the new or continued companies any or all of the property, rights, powers, duties and liabilities of the constituent companies;
- (c) may provide generally as to the terms and conditions of amalgamation, and for the winding up of the constituent companies or such of them as are to be dissolved, including the allocation to holders of securities of the constitutent companies, in substitution therefor and in satisfaction of all claims arising thereunder, of such securities of the new or continued company or any of the new or continued companies and of such amounts as may be specified in the scheme;
- (d) may make such provision as may be necessary with regard to the share and loan capital of the new or continued company or companies, including provision for increasing all or any of the existing classes of loan or share capital of any such company, or creating new classes of loan or share capital of any such company, with such rights, priorities, and conditions as may be specified in the scheme;
- (e) may provide for any of the matters for which provision is made by Part V. of the Railways Clauses Act, 1863;
- (f) may make such incidental, consequential and supplemental provisions as appear necessary or expedient in order to give full effect to the purposes of the scheme.
EARL BUXTON moved, after paragraph (e), to insert as a new paragraph:—
(f) Shall provide for the annual publication of the accounts of a new or continued company, including particulars as to the amount of coal used for the purpose of any business or operations carried on in the interest of a constituent company and the price charged therefor, and particulars as to the number of persons employed in each grade or class by the new or continued company, and the aggregate wages paid to each grade or class, such accounts to be published in a form to be prescribed by the Board of Trade.
§ The noble Earl said: When the noble Viscount who is in charge of the Bill made his speech on the Second Reading he based this measure, apart from the financial part of it, on the ground that a great proportion of its provisions would assist to bring about better relations between employers and men, would encourage a greater feeling of confidence in the mining industry and would reduce the suspicion and antagonism which, unfortunately, exist at present. My Amendment, if he will allow me to say so, is entirely in accord with the spirit of the Bill and, far from being in any sense a hostile Amendment, I think that, if the noble Viscount will look into it, he will see 412 that it is an additional step in the direction that he indicated on the Second Reading.
§ Everyone who has had anything to do with the mining industry has noticed the intricacies and obscurities of the system of calculating the wages that are paid in that industry. I had the honour for a time, under the old agreement that is now at an end, of being the independent Chairman of the South Wales and Monmouthshire coal district, and I confess that when the first cases came before me I was astonished at the complexity which was to be found in the various mines and the difficulty of ascertaining what wages the miners were receiving and what wages they would be likely to receive in the future. I think it was Mrs. Poyser who once said that anybody could turn up Genesis but that it took an able-bodied man to find Hosea. Anybody in the ordinary trades of the country can recognise and appreciate what the wages are in that particular industry, but in the case of the miners it takes a chartered accountant to arrive at any conclusion as to what the miners are getting and what they are likely to get in the future. In an ordinary trade, apart from piece work, wages rule which are fairly well known. They are ordinary weekly wages and the men, the masters and people outside know what the amount is. In the mining industry there is, in the first place, the basic wage, and upon that there are percentages, up and down, of various sorts, the sustentation wage, the minimum wage, and allowances for coal and housing; and, finally, there is the ascertainment of profits, under which 87 per cent. of the receipts go to wages and 13 per cent. to profits and the employers.
§ I think the complications of this matter provide one of the reasons why, in this unfortunate dispute that is still going on, the public are very much puzzled to know what are the rights and wrongs in regard to the wages of the miners. On the one hand, we are told that the wages are starvation wages and that it is quite impossible that they can be further reduced. On the other side, we are told that a number of the men earn £4, £5 and £6 a week, that their wages are very high indeed. I think that, from the public point of view and especially from the point of view of the miners themselves, we ought to have further information and 413 that such information should be given in a public form, so that there can be no doubt as to its accuracy and as to the justice of the wages that are being received. I think that the miners are entitled to know the numbers employed, the wages paid and the profits made, not only in the aggregate, but in each separate concern.
§ Further—and this is really the main point of my Amendment—there are, as noble Lords know, ancillary industries which depend upon the coal trade, such as steel works, iron works, coke plants and others, all of which are supplied from the mining industry and involve the consumption of very large quantities of coal, which are not sold in the open market, but transferred to these industries from the mines themselves. Unfortunately, there is a lurking suspicion in the minds of the miners and of other people that the amount, the prices and other particulars are sometimes to a certain extent manipulated to the advantage of the mine owners and to the disadvantage of the miners, because these transfers of coal come into the quarterly assignment which is carried out by chartered accountants who, by going through these figures, arrive at what the wage ought to be in the coming quarter.
§ I think that it is difficult to deny that, in the first place, those who are employed in the mining industry are entitled to know the exact amount that is so transferred, the exact price at which it is transferred and whether profits which ought to go to the total amount involved are deducted or are included. It may be said that this information is already at the disposal of the miners, because all these questions are gone into by chartered accountants and the miners as well as the employers have their representatives on the board. That may be so, but unfortunately it does not give full confidence and they do not get full particulars, because the chartered accountants in their report give only the aggregate amount of the wage of the whole trade, and do not have regard to separate concerns. Further, they are sworn to secrecy in regard to the information obtained. I believe that a noble friend behind me will raise that particular point, and accordingly I need not dwell on it now.
§ The mining trade is practically a profit-sharing industry, but unfortunately it is not based upon the proper basis of a 414 profit-sharing industry. All the partners in such a concern ought to have the fullest possible means of ascertaining the actual output, the cost of output, the wages and the profits, they should have the fullest possible information annually as to the amount of profits and they should have some voice in the method by which they are distributed. That, unfortunately, has not obtained in profit-sharing in the mines, and in every case, instead of having good will and confidence, we have this deplorable antagonism and suspicion which prevail in the mining trade. This Amendment, if accepted by the Government, gives an opportunity to dispel that feeling, at all events as regards these new companies which will be formed under amalgamation or under combination.
§ It would undoubtedly be an advantage if this proposal could be applied to the trade as a whole, but we are of course confined this afternoon to the four corners of this Bill and my Amendment can therefore only deal with the new companies created under Clause 1 and Clause 2. As far as they are concerned, I would urge the Government to accept, and I would press your Lordships to support, my Amendment on the ground that it will do much, if accepted, to dispel this suspicion which now exists and therefore to bring greater satisfaction and greater good will to the coal trade as a whole. I cannot see what possible objection there can be to particulars of wages and profits being published in the form approved by the Board of Trade. If there is anything concealed or to be concealed, surely that is an irresistible argument in favour of publicity. If there is nothing to conceal, no harm can be done in publishing these figures and it will have the advantage of removing this suspicion.
§ There is one other point to which perhaps the noble Lord in charge of the Bill will allow me to refer, although it is a delicate one. It is this. It is useless to disguise the fact that at the present moment with this dispute on the miners are under the strong impression, amounting in some cases in their view to certainty, that the Government throughout this matter have thrown their weight on the side of the employers and against the miners. That is, in my opinion, entirely unfounded, but the suspicion exists and if in any way that suspicion 415 could be diminished surely it would be an advantage. If the Government could see their way to accept this Amendment they would have taken one step at least which, while no disadvantage to the mine owners, would be a step which the miners themselves would appreciate, and which would do something to alter the view that they hold at the present moment. On the other hand, if they do not accept this Amendment, the suspicion will be further deepened that they look at these matters from the side of the employers instead of the side of the miners.
§ The general view at the present moment in regard to all industrial disputes is that there ought to be much greater co-operation between employers and employed, that the employed ought to have much more opportunity of taking part in a share of the business, and that they ought to have greater publicity and the greatest possible amount of information. The proposal of this Amendment which I have put down would help in that direction, as regards this Bill. I would therefore very earnestly press upon the Government, for the reasons I have given, to look favourably on this proposal, to which no objection can be taken in principle, and which, if accepted, would, I believe, have some advantage. I would like to say this also in order that there may be no prejudice on the matter. This Amendment in no way affects the deplorable strike that is going on at present. I hold a very strong view, in regard to that particular dispute, that the men's leaders have unfortunately carried out a deplorable policy of refusing to suggest anything and of turning down all proposals that are made to them. This Amendment has nothing whatever to do with the present strike, but, if accepted, it may to a certain extent help to bring about better relations and better confidence. While it may not affect the present strike, it may do something to prevent future strikes.
Page 4, line 3, at end insert the said new paragraph.—(Earl Buxton.)
§ LORD THOMSON
I desire to associate myself with every word that has fallen from the noble Earl who has just sat down. In fact, his speech is the speech I would like to have made on my own Amendment which comes later on. Since this stoppage began I have been at pains 416 to consult with very many of the miners' leaders, whom I know to be honest, decent fellows, moderate in every respect. There is no question that the Amendment would to some extent meet their views and soften the resistance, which, unfortunately, in the case Of these moderate men is getting more bitter every day. I have been told stories by men of very high character about the transfer prices of coal transferred to ancillary undertakings. They profess to know details which are certainly very unsavoury and disagreeable. I do not attach any importance to it, but, if there are no suspicious circumstances of that kind going on, I cannot see what objection there is to furnishing the information proposed by the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Buxton. I propose to move my own Amendment on another point, but to begin with I wish to associate myself with this one.
§ LORD HYLTON
May I suggest to the noble Earl who has moved this Amendment that after the word "wages" the words "and allowances" ought to be added if his purpose that the public should become fully acquainted with the real wages or value of wages received by coalminers is to be carried into effect? Your Lordships are well aware that in the payment of wages by collieries—certainly, in nearly all the coalfields with which I am familiar—there are such things as coal and free houses available to the miners. In order to enable the public to ascertain the real, value of those figures that the noble Earl desires to obtain under his Amendment, the words "and allowances or the value of allowances" ought to be inserted after the word "wages" I venture to suggest that to the noble Earl.
§ EARL BUXTON
Perhaps my noble-friend will move that, for I would be very glad to accept it. That Amendment would make it much clearer.
§ LORD TREOWEN
I should like, as one closely associated with the South Wales coalfield, to welcome the Amendment that my noble friend has proposed. In the speech to which we have just listened from him he has got more closely to the heart of the real difficulty that exists down there and that has caused so much trouble than all the speakers I have 417 heard during the recent debates on this question. It is a constant complaint and difficulty there that a man never knows what he is entitled to or what he is going to get. The complication of accounting and of calculating the wage of workers in the coal mines is of untold complexity. I have not had the experience of my noble friend and I do not pretend, without such experience as that, to be able to give a distinct explanation of it myself, yet I have heard it talked of a great deal during the years I have been associated with the industry. I sincerely hope that His Majesty's Government will accept this Amendment in the spirit in which it is put forward. I am certain that it will considerably strengthen their Bill, and will do more than anything else to help that which we all desire, a happier condition of things in the mines.
§ LORD JOICEY
I confess that, so far as the Amendment goes, personally I have no objection to it, but I am not representing the coal trade in this discussion; the views I give are entirely my own. I have always gone on the principle of giving as much information to our workmen as we could when any difficulty arose. I had a most striking case a few months ago. There was a difficulty about costs, and we were losing a great deal of money. I thought it was best to see the representatives of the pit, or rather two pits, for two were concerned. They came with the checkweighman, and there was one of the principal delegates of the Durham Miners' Association there. I explained the whole position, the costs, prices realised, and everything, pointing out the difference there was between the amount received from our produce and the costs we had to face. I said: "you can have your accountant to go into all these figures, so as to be sure it is quite right" What was he answer? The answer was: "If you say so, my Lord, it is quite enough for us" They took that, but ultimately a pit had to be closed because there was no means of reducing the cost to anything like a possible figure at which the pit could be carried on.
I think it is wise to give as much information as you can to the workmen. I would do much to avoid suspicions, but, whatever care you take, you cannot always avoid that, either in connection with mines or anything else, because 418 sometimes suspicion has very little behind it, and it is very difficult to deal with. So far as Durham and Northumberland are concerned, I believe it is the custom for each workman at the end of the week, when he gets his wages, to hand a small paper which he gets from the office to the union, so that they can know what wages the man in the mine earns. The objection which many coal owners have is that they do not care for everybody to know whether they are making profits or losses. If you are making heavy losses it tends to affect the credit of the concern, and if you are making heavy profits the men, of course, think they must have an extra share of them. You cannot blame them for that.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I have the very greatest sympathy with much that fell from my noble friend Lord Buxton in moving this Amendment. I particularly sympathise with his lament over the extraordinary financial complications which seem to prevail right through the coal industry. That is quite true, but he will remember that probably in no industry in the country has more been done in order to elucidate these very complicated transactions, and as he is well aware—indeed, as he mentioned in his speech—the miners have a right to appoint their own accountant to see that all these elaborate calculations are fully and fairly carried out. Therefore that must be recollected in approaching the whole question.
As I understand it, the noble Earl's Amendment has two main purposes. In the first place, he desires a general publication of accounts, and not only accounts but statistics, as one may say, of the undertaking. In the second place, he particularly desires that precautions should be taken to remove the suspicion which undoubtedly exists that, by manœuvring the transfer prices, the mine owners conceal some of their profits and are therefore able to pay lower wages. As to the second, I really do not think that practically there is any danger of that, because of the accountants' procedure, and as far as the mine owners are concerned, they have more than once given quite formal undertakings that they are ready to meet the miners and try to devise adequate and satisfactory plans which shall remove altogether the suspicion which at present exists. There 419 remains the broad question of publication. My whole sympathies are with the noble Earl on that point. I believe this fetish of secrecy, which exists not only, or even chiefly, in the mining industry, but right through the industrial world, is pure nonsense and does infinite harm. It does not exist in America. There is no such feeling at all there, and I believe that it would be of enormous advantage to the smooth working of the industry without doing anyone any harm if, I will not say the whole of the secrecy were swept away, but all such parts of it as could really give rise to suspicion between employers and employed were removed.
But this Amendment raises the question in a very difficult form, if I may say so to the noble Earl. He does not propose an Amendment dealing with the whole of the coal industry. He thinks that he could not do so as a matter of order. I am not sure whether he is right in that, but whether he is or not, we must take the thing as it is. He proposes to apply this rule with regard to publication only to those mines which are amalgamated or absorbed, the "new or continued companies" in the wording of the Bill. The Government and their advisers are extremely afraid that if they were to put these particular coal undertakings under a different régime from that which applied to all the other coal undertakings, they would be weighting the scales against the adoption of this Part of the Bill, to which they attach so very much importance. I cannot help thinking that it would be better not to put this Amendment into this Part of the Bill. The matter was very fully discussed in the other House. There was a good deal of opinion expressed in favour of it, but, on the whole, both in Standing Committee and in the House itself, the majority of members were clearly against it.
I will only make two further observations. In the first place, the noble Earl said the Government are accused of favouring the owners in the whole of these transactions. No one who has listened to the debates in this House would think that that is an accusation which can very plausibly be alleged. The whole attack on the Government's policy has come from noble Lords who cannot be regarded as altogether out of sympathy with the coal owners' position. 420 I do not think one must pay too much attention to these charges. They are always made in times of political excitement, and I think your Lordships would do well to put that aspect of it altogether aside, and decide what, on the whole, is the best thing to be done with this Amendment, quite apart from any supposed or anticipated effect it may have on this or that section of public opinion.
I suggest to your Lordships that you cannot make this regulation with respect to one section of the mining industry and not apply it to the whole. That would be altogether an unreasonable position, and I venture to direct my noble friend's attention to the clause of the Bill which establishes pit committees. It depends on how that is applied and it depends on a great many things of that kind, but undoubtedly a great deal may be done under that clause in order to remove suspicion by free discussion—indeed, that is the purpose of the clause—between the representatives of the miners and the representatives of the employers. It seems to me that it would be wiser to await the operation of that clause to see whether under Regulations made in pursuance of the clause the broad objects which the noble Earl has in view—I do not say the specific terms of his Amendment—might not be carried out. It would have this enormous advantage—that if anything of that kind could be done reasonably under that clause, as I think it could, it would apply not to amalgamated mines only, but to all the mining industry of the country.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
I cannot characterise the speech of the noble Viscount as anything but disappointing. He made a speech so much in favour of the proposal on the merits that I ventured to think that had it been made in the other House before they came to a decision on the point it probably would have carried the bulk of those who seem to have doubted. What is the situation here? Lord Hylton, who is intimately acquainted with the large coalfields in Somersetshire, Lord Joicey, whose experience is unrivalled in dealing with miners, and Lord Treowen, who knows South Wales, have all told your Lordships that on balance this clause is a highly desirable one in the respect that it will give information which will tend to allay suspicion and which is, indeed, in- 421 formation which every good coal owner wishes to give. The noble Viscount admits that. But what is his answer? The Amendment is only to apply to new combinations and amalgamations, and it ought to apply to the whole coal mining industry. I agree with him; but whether or no it would have been technically wrong to put such a clause into this Bill, it was at least outside the general scope of the Bill. What difficulty does that occasion? Coal mining Bills occur every second year, and all you have to do on a subsequent occasion is to insert a very short clause saying that the clause now proposed shall apply to all coal mines instead of merely to new amalgamations, and then you will have served your purpose. What difficulty can the whole matter occasion?
The noble Viscount has said: "Ah, but this may handicap amalgamation and the disposition of people to move against the existing state of things." In face of the testimony that has come from those who have given us the benefit of their experience in dealing with coal mines that does not go for much, because they apparently would say: "This information is what every good coal owner wishes to give," and although there are some who will not, in the main it is information which ought to be given. I cannot think that the prejudice against giving that kind of information will survive for long if the paragraph is put into this Bill. It seems to me that the argument in favour of the Amendment enormously preponderates over the argument the other way, and I should entertain the hope that if the Bill goes back to the other House with this provision in it, illuminated by the discussion we have had to-day in which there has been so far unanimity against the Government, the other House will accept it as an improvement of the Bill. I shall feel bound, speaking as a person who has tried to give reasonable support to the Government in the difficult questions which this Bill raises whenever he can, to vote with my noble friend if he goes to a Division on his Amendment.
§ EARL BUXTON
I am very much obliged to my noble friend Lord Cecil for his speech. He made a much more powerful speech than I was able to make on behalf of my Amendment, and I am distinctly obliged to him for making it obvious to noble Lords on both sides of 422 the House that the Amendment ought to be in the Bill. His only objection to it was that it did not go far enough. I mentioned that in my observations, because one is obviously restricted, in dealing with a Bill of this sort, to Amendments within the scope of the Bill. That was the only reason why I did not propose to extend my Amendment to the whole industry. My noble friend who has just spoken said that if the House is prepared to accept my Amendment and insert it in the Bill the proposal can be extended by some future measure in a comparatively short time to the whole of the industry. I trust that your Lordships were impressed by the fact that three or four representatives of the owners in different portions of the coal industry not only offered no objection to the Amendment but were strongly in favour of it. That shows, as it seems to me, that if the Government give a lead in this matter by accepting the Amendment it will be accepted generally and will soon be adopted throughout the trade.
I am afraid, however, after the speech of the noble Viscount that the position is this. It has often occurred in your Lordships' House that a Bill has been brought in at such a late stage that it has to be passed in a few hours. I notice that it is suggested that Standing Orders should be suspended so as to pass this Bill, and I believe the only reason why the noble Viscount was not able to accept my Amendment is that he was afraid that if it was put into the Bill and the Bill went back to another place, it might imperil the passing of the Bill. He did not mention that. The only argument he used was that the Amendment was not wide enough in scope, which does not seem to me to be a very strong argument. If, on the other hand, the Amendment is accepted in principle now, undoubtedly it will very soon be applied to the whole industry.
§ LORD DARLING
Before it is too late for anyone to say a word on this Amendment I should like to say that the reason put forward by the noble Earl opposite is not the one, it seems to me, which actuates the Government. I had intended to be a long way from here to-day but on receipt of an urgent summons I came here. I would not have come here had I thought that I should only be here 423 to register the decrees of anybody. We come here to debate as it seems to me, and it would be useless to expect members of your Lordships' House to come here to debate if the noble Earl opposite is right and it is already determined that no Amendment whatever, no matter how needful, is to be put into this Bill at this stage.
Your Lordships may think I have no right to intervene in this debate, but long ago I had a very considerable interest in collieries which were left to me. When I knew that I was to be appointed to the Bench I got rid of them, but I did not then get rid of all the knowledge I had when I was a director of those collieries. I hope it is not too late for the Government to accept this Amendment and to amend it, of course, in the manner suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, because it would be most misleading to apply it simply to wages which the miners get week by week and not to tell the public what they receive besides. In many cases what the noble Lord calls "allowances" are very considerable indeed. I think there is no argument against this Amendment. Really only one has been submitted and that was that it did not cover the whole ground. That is true, but it seems to me that that is not reason enough for rejecting it. If there were applied to the newly-created amalgamated collieries certain beneficial provisions, they could easily be applied to all necessary collieries afterwards. I hope the Government who have brought us here to support this Bill will not say to us, "You must not swallow this gnat, because presently we have to offer you a camel.'
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
Before the House goes to a Division I should like to say two things. In the first place, I would like to say to my noble friend Lord Darling that if the Government have brought him here for the purpose he stated then they have prepared for themselves a woeful disappointment. I think the noble Earl a little under-rated the importance of one argument which I ventured to urge upon him and I will therefore repeat it—namely, if you make a distinction in this respect between the amalgamated concerns and the non-amalgamated concerns you will, I am assured, hamper the process of amalgamation and that is a very serious matter in view of the immense importance that we all attach to that object at the present time.
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
I understand that the noble Earl desires to move the Amendment printed on the Paper with the addition of two words after "wages" in line 9.
On Question, Whether the following new paragraph shall be there inserted?—
(f) Shall provide for the annual publication of the accounts of a new or continued company, including particulars as to the amount of coal used for the purpose of any business or operations carried on in the interest of a constituent company and the price charged therefor, and particulars as to the number of persons employed in each grade or class by the new or continued company, and the aggregate wages and allowances paid to each grade or class, such accounts to be published in a form to be prescribed by the Board of Trade.
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 35; Not-contents, 57.425
|Northumberland, D.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Joicey, L.|
|Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain.)||Leconfield, L.|
|Southwark, L. Bp.||Monkswell, L.|
|Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Armstrong, L.||Muir Mackenzie, L.|
|Buxton, E.||Arnold, L.||Olivier, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Ashton of Hyde, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Morton, E.||Braye, L.||St. John of Bletso, L.|
|Northbrook, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (L. Clanwilliam.)||Sandhurst, L.|
|Sondes, E.||Shandon, L.|
|Darling, L.||Stanmore, L. [Teller.]|
|Allendale, V. [Teller.]||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Thomson, L.|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Treowen, L.|
|Haldane, V.||Emmott, L.|
|Cave, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Balfour, E. (L. President.)||Argyll, D.|
|Wellington, D.||Onslow, E.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)|
|Stanhope, E.||Desborough, L.|
|Bute, M.||Ernle, L.|
|Cecil of Chelwood, V.||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)|
|Cromer, E. (L. Chamberlain.)||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Faringdon, L.|
|Novar, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.) [Teller.]|
|Airlie, E.||Peel, V.||Hampton, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Sidmouth, V.||Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Heneage, L.|
|Annesley, L. (V. Valentia.)||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)|
|Eldon, E.||Atkinson, L.||Knaresborough, L.|
|Grey, E.||Avebury, L.||Lamington, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Banbury of Southam, L.||Merthyr, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Biddulph, L.||Methuen, L.|
|Howe, E.||Bledisloe, L.||Mildmay of Flete, L.|
|Iveagh, E.||Castlemaine, L.||Sumner, L.|
|Lovelace, E.||Colwyn, L.||Trevor, L.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Cottesloe, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Macclesfield, E.||Cranworth, L.||Wittenham, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Daryngton, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the negative and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
LORD THOMSON moved to insert the following new subsection at the end of the clause:—
(2) When any question arises in the course of wages' ascertainments in the mining industry, the authorised representatives of the miners in the district concerned shall have the right to receive information regarding the selling price of coal transferred to ancillary undertakings.
The noble Lord said: This Amendment, I admit, bears a strong family resemblance to the one moved by my noble friend Earl Buxton. I persist with it because it does raise a new point and provides a certain amount of machinery for expressing the desire of the men in the coalfields. While I agree with everything that the noble Earl said I would also add on behalf of my own Amendment that it does carry out the recommendations of the Report. On page 140 of that document the following words are to befound—
We are inclined to think that the only real solution of the difficulty is to leave out of account the transfer prices which the individual employer may enter in his books, and to declare officially and publicly from time to time, through some impartial authority in each district, what shall be taken as the market price at that period of every kind of coal sold in the district.
That is really the motive behind my Amendment, because the Bill itself does not contemplate any such impartial authority and, as a matter of fact, in no coalfield does such an impartial authority exist at the present time.
§ I would like, if I could, to persuade the noble Viscount to have this matter con- 426 sidered before the Report stage to-morrow if that can be done. If he would agree to do that I would not waste your Lordships' time with a Division. It does seem to me to be an important point and he was very sympathetic to the noble Earl's Amendment. This is a less comprehensive and less detailed Amendment, but it has this solitary virtue that it involves a new point which is clearly laid down on page 140 of the Report.
Page 4, line 7, at end to insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Thomson.)
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
Of course I will consider the Amendment. If any noble Lord asks me to consider an Amendment before the Report stage I very gladly undertake to do so and to take care that it is properly considered by the authorised advisers of the Government. But at the same time I could not possibly accept it for the moment. It seems to me to be the same point raised in rather a different way and, if I may say so, in not quite so attractive a way. This merely suggests a particular method of getting rid of a particular grievance—namely, the transfer prices grievance. I have grave doubts whether that, particular grievance would be removed by the Amendment as it stands.
I would like to remind the noble Lord of the present position in regard to this matter. The owners have expressed an undertaking over and over again—two or three times, at any rate—that they will do their very utmost in concert with the men to arrive at some solution of this admitted difficulty. I think we ought, as prudent men of business, to give an opportunity for that, consultation and for 427 that effort to reach an agreement. Undoubtedly it will be far better if it can be done by agreement than by any amendment, however ingeniously contrived, and even backed up by a paragraph of the Samuel Report. Therefore I hope the noble Lord will not press the Amendment. I gladly give him an under taking that the matter will be further considered, though I must say in perfect frankness that as at present advised I do not think the Government can accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
§ Clause 5:
§ Supplementary provisions as to schemes.
§ 5.—(1) A scheme under this Part of this Act shall not provide for the allocation to any person of securities subjecting the holder thereof to any liability for calls in excess of the liability (if any) to which he was subject as the holder of the securities for which the allocated securities are to be substituted.
§ (2) No stamp duty shall be payable in respect of any amalgamation or absorption scheme, or on any debentures, or in respect of any share or loan capital of any company issued in pursuance of such a scheme, or on any conveyance, assignment, or transfer of any of the property of any constituent or absorbed company made in pursuance of any such scheme as aforesaid.
§ (3) The provisions of this Part of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything in the memorandum or articles of association of any company, and no action taken for the purposes of or in connection with the preparation or submission of a scheme under this Part of this Act shall give rise to a right on the part of the holders of any debentures or other securities of a company, or of any persons on their behalf, to enforce the security.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD moved, in subsection (2), after "property," to insert "or securities.' The noble Viscount said: This Amendment is a pure matter of drafting. The word in the clause is "property," but it is suggested that "property" may not include "securities." As, evidently, securities ought to be included it is proposed that these words should be inserted.428
Page 5, line 38, after ("property") insert ("or securities").—(Viscount Cecil of Chelwood.)
VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD moved, in subsection (3), to leave out all words from the beginning down to the second "Act" and to insert:
(3) Any action taken for the purposes of or in connection with the preparation or submission of a scheme under this Part of this Act shall be deemed to be within the powers of any company, and no such action.
The noble Viscount said: This Amendment is, perhaps, rather more than drafting. It is to cure an omission in the Bill. The Bill already provides that where the memorandum or articles of association are contrary to such a proposal they can be overruled, but the Bill does not provide that in a case where they are silent about it the power can be conferred. This Amendment is intended to correct that mistake.
Page 5, line 40, leave out from the beginning to ("shall") in line 3 of page 6 and insert:
(3) Any action taken for the purposes of or in connection with the preparation or submission of a scheme under this Part of this Act shall be deemed to be within the powers of any company, and no such action").—(Viscount Cecil of Chelwood.)
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
When I saw this Amendment I thought there was something to be said for it, and that it would meet the objection which was raised by my noble friend the Earl of Crawford last Thursday. But on comparing the Amendment with the Bill I think if it does anything at all it makes this clause rather worse. The subsection as it stands says:—The provisions of this Part of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything in the memorandum or articles of association of any company.What the noble Viscount wants to do is to put into the Bill these words:Any action taken for the purposes of or in connection with the preparation or submission of a scheme under this Part of this Act shall be deemed to be within the powers of any company, and no such action,and then the clause goes on: 429shall give rise to a right on the part of the holders of any debentures or other securities of a company, or of any persons on their behalf, to enforce the security.Therefore the Amendment makes the clause worse, because it will prevent either the Board of Trade or the Railway and Canal Commissioners doing anything to secure for a person his security.
If I have advanced money to a company on certain securities and it is found on amalgamation that my securities will be depreciated, or if I desire—as I have the power to do—to call in my money, I cannot do that because by so doing I shall interfere with the scheme. It is true that Clause 7 of the Bill provides that the Railway and Canal Commission, if they are satisfied that a substitution of fresh securities is not fair, may order that a man's existing securitiesshall be purchased at a price to be determined in such manner as the Commission may direct.I have managed to save a little money, and I have invested the fruits of my hard work in a certain way, under certain security, with the power to realise that security in case certain things are not done. My noble friend takes it all away from me and puts it into the hands of a Commission. He first of all says that any security that I may have must be taken away if it in any way interferes with the amalgamation, and he puts it into the hands of the Commission to say what price I am to receive for my depreciated security.
Supposing that I were a Railway and Canal Commissioner and such a case came before me, I should consider myself bound to say: "Your security is injured because, under the Act, you cannot enforce it, and therefore it is not so valuable as it was before this Act came into operation. I think that the securities that are proposed to be given you are not fair." It may be that, in lieu of a debenture, the new scheme offers a preference. "I do not think that this is fair, and therefore I shall fix the price at which you are to be bought out. But, since your security has depreciated, I must take that into account in fixing the price, and therefore I fix the price"—I merely give this as an illustration—"at £90 instead of £100." I cannot conceive how anybody with any business experience, acting in a fair and honour- 430 able way, could do anything else. I should certainly do that if I were a Commissioner. I should do it with great regret, but I should consider that I was bound by the Act to take that line.
I do not think that my noble friend can really have considered this. I do not want to weary your Lordships by repeating my arguments, but, as I have said before, any person who has a debenture in a company may Lind that he is offered a preference instead. There is nothing whatever in this Act to prevent it, and, if he does not accept that preference, then he is to be bought out at a price that three gentlemen may choose to fix. The three gentlemen at the present moment happen to be lawyers, but they need not be, and even if they were lawyers, they might perhaps be tinged with the sentiments that pervade the Front Bench opposite and I should be very sorry if I had to come before them to justify my security. Again, if I were a banker and had lent money on a certain security, repayable within a certain time and on the condition that if it were not repaid I could foreclose, this Act, as I read it, would take away my security. I hope that my noble friend will consider this point and will accept my Amendment to leave out this subsection. It really has nothing whatever to do with the Bill. It will not have any effect upon the amalgamations taking place, if they are fair and proper amalgamations, but, like most of the Bill, it will prevent any sane person lending any money to any coal owner or any colliery undertaking.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
Much as I admire the ingenuity of my noble friend opposite, I think that on this occasion he has been too ingenious. The only purpose of the clause is to enable persons representing a company of which it is proposed that the powers should be extended by the joint action of the Board of Trade and of the Railway and Canal Commission, to make an application for that purpose. That seems a very simple thing, but it is not. As regards the actual doing of the thing, when it is once before these bodies, it can be done, and the debenture holders or shareholders can protect themselves by making representations; but until they get there, while they are merely in the stage of making a representation or presenting a petition, 431 for instance, they are at the mercy of anybody who likes to proceed in the name of the company.
In my unregenerate days, when I was at the Bar, I more than once got an injunction and made people pay the costs who were applying to Parliament for the enlargement of the powers of the companies to which they belonged. I am not sure that I ever appeared for the noble Lord, but I may have done so. The unfortunate people were not even allowed to put forward an application, because it was said that it was not within the powers of the company to do these things and accordingly they must not ask that they should be done. Of course, they may go forward and take the risk, but the point is that they may be caught in the early stage of the application. All that the Amendment of the noble Viscount proposes is to enable them to do this without being convicted of putting forward an ultra vires application. Since the days of which I speak the Companies Act has been amended and the Court now has power to enlarge the memorandum of articles of association and the powers contained in it. This is a highly technical Amendment, directed to getting rid of an oppressive technicality, and I trust that your Lordships will not listen to the objections of the noble Lord opposite.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I never liked this clause but the interpretation put upon it by the noble and learned Viscount makes it, it seems to me, very much more serious than I had anticipated. He contends that the only object of the earlier part of the clause is to enable two or more companies to make an application to the proper authorities. He went on to say that, once an application is being prepared, nobody can enforce their security against any one of the proposed constituents. I beg your Lordships to consider how far that goes It means that once two companies choose to make a preliminary application to the Board of Trade, then, until the Board of Trade and, it may be, the Railway and Canal Commissioners also—I am not sure upon that point—have given their judgment, no security—for instance, a loan or an overdraft on a banker—can be enforced. That is what Lord Haldane said.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
I was not dealing with that point. What I said was that, if you go to the Board of Trade and to the Railway and Canal Commissioners and get their sanction, then you can do all these things, but the law as it now stands prevents, you from even going and asking them in the name of the company. The injunction must stand if the law is not put straight preventing the question even being considered on its merits. It is the merest technicality.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
Does Lord Haldane mean that to-day two companies can take steps to amalgamate themselves and thereby prevent a security against them being enforced? Of course not. This confers a new power, and I wish to point out to your Lordships that it will operate against the colliery companies and not in their favour. I want it left out in the interests of amalgamation and of good finance in colliery concerns. If this sort of thing, as Lord Haldane interprets it, is put into the Bill, it will become more than ever difficult for the colliery industry to obtain advances for its development.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I hope that my noble friend Lord Crawford will forgive me for saying that he has, I hope, a little misunderstood the effect of the clause. Let me first remind your Lordships that there are two points: there is the Amendment of which I have given Notice, and there is the subsection itself. The Amendment of which I have given Notice, as I tried to explain in my first observations, is really nothing more than a drafting Amendment. It merely provides more effectively for that which is already provided for in the subsection, and accordingly I do not propose to weary your Lordships with a further defence of that Amendment. But my noble friend Lord Banbury of Southam has, in effect, raised the question concerning which he has put down an Amendment—namely, the question whether subsection (3) ought to be there at all.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
Let me remind your Lordships what the conception of this Bill is. The proposal for amalgamation or absorption—in this case 433 it does not matter which—comes forward. We assume that it is in the public interest and that it is important for facilitating the economical working of the colliery. The scheme provides that the terms are fair and equitable to all persons affected thereby in the opinion of the Railway and Canal Commissioners—that means that the scheme is of that class—and the other conditions of the Act are complied with. None the less, under the memorandum or articles of association of the particular company, amalgamation in any form is ultra vires. That is the case. Apart from this Act, or anything we put into it, any debenture holder can go to a Court and say, "You must not go on with this scheme or make your application to the Board of Trade or the Railway and Canal Commissioners because if you do you are acting ultra vires and I have the right, since I am a debenture holder, to insist that you shall stick closely to the terms of the memorandum and articles."
It is evident that, if the law was left in that condition, the whole policy of that part of the measure could be upset if a single debenture holder, who might be a wholly unreasonable man or a man who took a violent view against, the Bill, like my noble friend, could hold up the whole scheme and, merely by making an application to the Court, prevent the scheme even being launched. It is merely to prevent that that the subsection exists. My noble friend Lord Crawford is under the impression that when it says that, no action taken in connection with a scheme under the Billshall give rise to a right on the part of the holders of any debentures or other securities of a company, or of any persons on their behalf, to enforce the security,it takes away his right to enforce it for debt or any other cause outside the Act. That is not so. It only takes it away so far as it is affected by proceedings under this Bill. It is only an action under this Bill, which affects the security, which he is not allowed to thwart by action in the Courts. I can assure my noble friend that I went very carefully into this matter with those who are specially skilled in it. I think he is under a misapprehension and that there is no danger here of any injustice or impropriety taking place. I hope that he and Lord Banbury will not think it necessary to divide the House on this particular point.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
I would point out to my noble friend that if the Bill only did what my noble friend says it does, there would not be any great objection to it, but it does much more than that. It says that they cannot enforce their security. It says, later, that the Commission may, upon an objection lodged by the holder of any securities in a constituent or absorbed company, to whom by the scheme securities are allocated in substitution of his securities, if they are satisfied that the substitution would not be fair in this case, order that his existing securities shall be purchased at a price to be determined in such manner as the Commission may direct. That surely contemplates the substitution of an inferior kind of security, or a security of another class, for the kind of security which a man has at the present moment. It goes further than that because it says what is to take place in that event. I do not think there is any particular harm in the Amendment of my noble friend, and I shall not object to it. I do not want to make a second speech on my next Amendment.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
had given Notice to move to leave out subsection (3). The noble Lord said: I shall not make a speech again on this Amendment. I understand from my noble friend Lord Sumner that I am mistaken and that my noble friend is right. If that is so I will certainly not go on.
§ LORD SUMNER
I have already said it sitting down and I shall say it again standing. I am quite satisfied that, when the clause says that no action taken of a certain kind shall give rise to a right on the part of holders of debentures, it does not mean that anything else shall give them no right of action. It means that simply preparing a scheme will not give them a right.
§ Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.435
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
I understand that Lord Banbury of Southam does not move the rejection of the next nine clauses, of which he had given Notice.
§ Clauses 6 to 12 agreed to.
§ Clause 13:
§ Amendment of 13 and 14 Geo. 5. c. 20, Part I.
§ 13.—(1) Any person who is desirous of searching for or working, either by himself or through a lessee, any coal may, under and in accordance with Part I of the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act, 1923 (in this part of this Act referred to as the principal Act), make an application to search for or work the coal, and on such an application being referred to the Railway and Canal Commission under the principal Act the Commission may, subject to the provisions of the principal Act, grant the right if they consider that it is expedient in the national interest that the right should be granted to the applicant.
§ (2) Where the working of any coal, or the working of any coal in the most efficient and economical manner, is impeded by any restrictions terms or conditions contained in a mining lease, or otherwise binding on the person entitled to work the coal, a right to work the coal freed wholly or partially from such restrictions or conditions, or to work the coal on other terms and conditions, may, on an application for the purpose being made and referred to the Railway and Canal Commission under the principal Act, be granted by the Commission in any case where the Commission consider that it is expedient in the national interest that the right applied for should be granted to the applicant.
§ (3) An ancillary right may be granted to a person to whom a right of working coal is granted in pursuance of this Part of this Act at the time when such last-mentioned right is granted or at any subsequent time.
§ (4) The principal Act shall, as respects coal, have effect as if in Section five the words "having an interest in any minerals," and "those minerals or any adjacent," and in Section six the wards "in virtue of which he is entitled to make the application" were omitted therefrom.
§ (5) For the purposes of this Part of this Act "coal "shall not include lignite or brown coal, but save as aforesaid shall include bituminous coal, cannel coal, anthracite, and all other minerals worked or to be worked therewith.
§ (6) This Part of this Act shall be construed as one with Part I of the principal Act, and references in that Part of that Act to a right to work minerals shall include references to any right granted under this Part of this Act.
LORD TREOWEN moved, after subsection (2), to insert the following new subsection:—
(3) Where the working of any coal or the working of any coal in the most efficient
and economical manner is impeded by the same being included in a mining lease, or by any restrictions, terms, or conditions contained in a mining lease, or otherwise binding on the lessor or by the absence of any such restrictions, terms, or conditions, a right to withdraw the minerals from the mining lease and to re-lease the same to parties other than the lessee, or to work the same, or otherwise to vary the terms of the mining lease, may, on an application for the purpose being made by the lessor and referred to the Railway and Canal Commission under the principal Act, be granted by the Commission in any case where the Commission consider that it is expedient in the national interest that the right applied for should be granted to the applicant.
§ The noble Lord said: The subsection which I have included in my Amendment is intended to make good what appears to be an omission, possibly accidental, from the Bill. Subsection (2) creates, as your Lordships will see, a new power whereby a right is given to work minerals free from all restrictions contained in a lease, on application by a lessee to the Railway and Canal Commissioners, it being the duty of the applicant to prove that the case comes under one of those contemplated as contrary to the free working of minerals. The most frequent cause would be the one which I have noted down here as coming under Section 4 (1) (d) of the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act, 1923, that of a person, having the power to grant the right, who unreasonably refuses to grant it or demands terms which having regard to the circumstances are unreasonable. I hope your Lordships will take notice of that particular subsection of that Act because it is very pertinent to the Amendment which I have moved. The subsection which I move to insert is the corollary of the one which already exists in the Bill and gives to the lessor as well as to the lessee the right of making application to the Commission. At present it is a one-sided privilege which is given. The lessee is entitled to make application if he can show certain cause, but the lessor is debarred under similar circumstances from making such an application.
§ The reason why I think this is necessary I shall give to your Lordships in an example, which is not a hypothetical example, but one actually occurring in a district which I know well. A mineral owner, A, lets, or has let, a certain area of coal to a company, B. The company 437 finds on working that they strike a fault that is much more serious than they anticipated from their previous knowledge of the district and which practically cuts off a considerable area of coal beyond the line of this fault. The lessor, A, goes to B and says, "This coal is no use to you. I have other coal on the other side of the fault. I am now negotiating to get some of that coal taken up by another company. Will you surrender your coal?" Company B say: "No, we do not see why we should. We do not want anybody to come and develop that coal." This is an actual case. The result is that this position is created. The coal is let for a considerable area: it cannot be developed beyond the line of this fault. The mineral owner A may get some of the coal taken which is lying further on, but that new company which he wants to act naturally wishes to acquire as much of the coal as possible, and not to leave an intervening section of coal which would not be developed at all. In a case like that the lessor clearly would be acting in the public interest in going to the Commissioners and saying: "These people who have the right to work this coal are acting unreasonably, and we apply to you to give us relief."
§ When this point was raised in another place I do not think it, was clearly understood, for the learned Solicitor-General, who replied on behalf of the Government, said that it could be dealt with under sub sections (1) and (2) of the clause as it stands. If you read those subsections I think you will see clearly that the case which I have quoted cannot be dealt with under them. The Solicitor-General said the policy of the Bill was not to enable a mineral owner to re-shuffle his leases—that was his expression, by no means a pleasing expression—but he should be acting with the lessee and then the lessee could make the application. Here is a case in which the lessee refuses to act in that reasonable manner. But surely then, in the interests not merely of the lessor but of the public, in order to prevent a considerable area of coal being let which could not be developed, he ought to have the same right to apply as the lessee
§ A good deal might be said on the question of the principle created under this clause of allowing an authority to step in and over-ride the conditions in a 438 lease, but I do not propose to say anything on that subject. That principle has been adopted already in an Act which has now been in force for some time, and this clause in the present Bill is merely an extension of the powers granted under the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act. What I ask, therefore, is simply that that extension should be made a logical one. As you desire that every facility should be given for the development of coal, you should grant to the owner of the coal the same power that you give to the lessee of the coal to apply for a variation to be made. The matter is a small one, but I think the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill will clearly see the point which I am raising. On the question of the re-shuffling of leases, which was referred to by the Solicitor-General, really that could not arise, because that lessor, if he wanted to get this power, could not apply for the power except in a case of public necessity, and he would be obliged to prove that the person having the power to grant the right, that is to say the lessee, was unreasonably withholding his consent, or was demanding terms which were unreasonable.
Clause 13, page 9, line 28, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Treowen.)
§ LORD JOICEY
I think it would be a rather dangerous thing to accept this Amendment. When any one takes a royalty he calculates what coal is likely to be in the land, and he provides machinery to deal with it, very often with large capital. In the course of development they came across a fault, which cuts off a certain amount of the coal. I have never yet come in contact with a fault which could not be got over—of course it is expensive to do it. To give power to the lessor to take a portion of the coal, upon which the scale of expenditure in relation to the whole capital of the company was based, would be, I think, most unfair and unjust. It might be also that the coal on the other side was very cheaply worked coal, and naturally the adjoining lessee would be only too glad to get hold of that if he could. But I do not think it is a wise thing to give such a power to the lessor—practically to break his lease, and to insist on the lessee giving up a portion 439 of the coal upon which he calculated to work, and upon which he had had to spend very large sums indeed. I have had some experience of this sort of thing. I have never yet known a case where any one acted unreasonably in a matter of that kind. I have known cases where the lessee refused to give up coal, but it has always been because he wished to work the coal himself as soon as he was in a position to do so.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I am afraid the Government could not accept this Amendment, partly for the reasons given by my noble friend Lord Joicey and also because I do not think it really touches the point which is intended to be dealt with by this clause. There are really two cases dealt with in this clause. One is where coal, to the public detriment, is not being worked, and subsection (1) gives the power to work it if the Board of Trade and the Railway Commissioners are of opinion that that is a desirable course to take. The other is where there are restrictions in the lease which impede the working of the coal. In that case, subject to certain safeguards and with the assent of the same body the lessee can go and get himself liberated from these restrictions, which are, in fact, not carrying out the general purpose of the lease, which was to get the coal.
Merely to say to the lessor that he should be entitled to use the same proceedings in order to rearrange the arrangement he has made with his lessee would be going a considerable degree further. If it is a case of two lessees, with properties adjoining one another, and one lessee is not working his coal properly, and the other lessee comes to the landowner and says: "Let me work this coal which the neighbouring lessee is unable and unwilling to work", then the landowner can utilise this clause and get any restrictions removed, if it be really necessary. I do not think you can go further than that. It does not appear to me that the noble Lord has made out any real case for dealing with this matter, and as for the particular illustration he gave, if it were really an unreasonable and improper refusal to work the coal at the other side of the fault, 440 then I should have thought it could be dealt with under Clause 13 (1) of the Bill as it stands.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
I quite appreciate the difficulty which the noble Viscount has pointed out in the view that this proposal goes too far. But I draw his attention to this—that the matter is one for the Railway and Canal Commission and they are debarred from assenting to an application unless they find it to be in the national interest that it should be granted. I should have thought with that restriction that the powers sought to be inserted would meet a class of cases for which it was desirable to provide and that the Amendment of Lord Treowen was, therefore, not open to all the objections which the noble Viscount has made to it.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
One does not want unnecessarily to add complications to the arrangements for working the coal and to create the kind of doubt and hesitation which this Amendment has evidently created in the mind of so experienced a coal owner as my noble friend Lord Joicey.
§ LORD TREOWEN
After what has fallen from the noble Viscount opposite and from Lord Joicey I do not propose to put your Lordships to the trouble of dividing on this Amendment. But before dismissing the question altogether I must offer my congratulations to Lord Joicey in that through a very long and successful life he has had the good fortune never to meet any one who was unreasonable.
§ LORD TREOWEN
I think that is one of the most remarkable records I have ever heard of in connection with coal. The noble Viscount in charge of the Bill seems to think it is possible that persons may be unreasonable, and I can assure him that not only is it possible, but of very frequent occurrence. However, with your Lordships' permission, I will withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 13 agreed to.441
§ Clause 14:
§ Royalties welfare levy.
§ 14.—(1) Every person liable to pay mineral rights duty on the rental value of rights to work coal and of mineral wayleaves in connection with coal, or who would be so liable but for any exception by common law or statute, shall be liable to pay for the financial year ending the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and twenty- seven, and for every subsequent financial year a levy (hereinafter referred to as "the royalties welfare levy") at the rate in each case of one shilling for every twenty shillings of that rental value:
§ Provided that no person shall be liable to pay the royalties welfare levy in respect of any coal worked, or to be worked, by means of any mine of which the principal object is the getting of fire-clay, ganister, ironstone, or other similar minerals.
§ (2) The provisions of the Finance (1909–10) Act, 1910, relating to the assessment, collection and recovery of mineral rights duty and matters incidental thereto, as set out and adapted in the schedule to this Act, shall apply to the royalties welfare levy, and in cases where the proprietor of the coal, or the person to whom rent is paid in respect of a right to work coal or a mineral wayleave in connection with coal, is liable to the payment of mineral rights duty, the royalties welfare levy shall be collected at the same time as and together with that duty, and in every other case the royalties welfare levy shall be payable on the first day of January in each year.
(3) For the purposes of this section and the said schedule—
Coal" shall not include lignite or brown coal, but save as aforesaid shall include bituminous coal, cannel coal, anthracite, and all other minerals worked therewith other than minerals exempt from mineral rights duty;
Rental value shall be determined in accordance wiith the provisions of the Finance (1909–10) Act, 1910, relating to mineral rights duty, as amended by any subsequent enactment;
Other expressions shall have the same meaning as in the said provisions as so amended.
§ (4) This section binds the Crown.
§ LORD TREOWEN moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "and for every subsequent financial year" and insert "and for each of the subsequent four financial years." The noble Lord said: This, again, seems to me to be an inadvertent omission from the Bill. The Bill says that this welfare levy shall be made for the financial year ending March 31, 1927, "and for every subsequent financial year." That seems to give it an indefinite existence, so that it would go on for ever unless something 442 was done to repeal it. On the other hand, the Fund to which the levy is to go comes under review at the end of five years from the time it was created, that is to say, in 1931. I submit that the levy which is made on the mineral rights owners for the benefit of the Welfare Fund should be limited in the same way to five years. The point is such a simple one that I do not think many words are needed to commend it to your Lordships. The noble Viscount will remember that not only does the whole machinery of the Welfare Fund come under review at the end of the financial year 1931, five years hence, but that the Eight-Hour Act which was lately passed by your Lordships is also limited to a period of five years. It would seem that the whole question should be brought into one purview at the end of that time. As it stands now the Miners' Welfare Fund might be abolished or completely altered at the end of five years, but the liability to contribute would remain though the Fund might possibly have ceased to exist. I beg to move.
Page 10, lines 14 and 15, leave out ("and for every subsequent financial year") and insert ("and for each of the subsequent four financial years").—(Lord Treowen.)
§ LORD DYNEV0R
On behalf of the Mineral Owners Association, I most heartily support this Amendment, which I had also placed on the Paper. The object of the Amendment is to enable the levy of one shilling in the pound on royalties to come up for review at the end of five years, in 1931. There are several reasons why it should come up for review. I would remind your Lordships that the Miners' Wedfare Fund comes up for review in 1931, and the Eight-Hour Act which has just become law also comes to an end in the year 1931. It is only fair, therefore, that this levy on royalties should be placed on the same footing. Strong arguments could be brought forward as to why there should be no levy at all. Most of the royalty owners have to pay Income Tax at the rate of four shillings in the pound at the present time and Super Tax at varying rates up to six shillings in the pound. Then they have to pay another shilling for Mineral Rights Duty, and it is now suggested that another shilling in the pound should be levied upon them. Nobody else 443 is called upon to contribute anything like that sum out of his income. Many royalty owners are small people of slender means, but whatever their means may be they will have to pay this new levy.
As a matter of fact this levy on royalties ought not to be put in this Bill at all, but in the Finance Act. It is collected by the Inland Revenue authorities and is then paid over to the Board of Trade. All kinds of intricate questions ought to have been raised in connection with this levy—questions of deduction of Income Tax and of Mineral Rights Duty, before the levy is paid, and a deduction from Super Tax. I have read very carefully the Report of the Coal Mines Commission and there is no doubt that miners and mine owners are asked to contribute something temporarily in order to put the industry on an economic footing. They are asked to make sacrifices. Then the Commissioners say that it is their firm conviction that the mining industry, with the aid of science, will certainly recover and even surpass its former prosperity. Therefore, there may be some argument as to why the royalty owner should be asked also to contribute something temporarily, although his contribution has nothing whatever to do with the economic position, as the levy is to go to the provision of baths at the pit-head. But there is no reason at all why the royalty owner alone should be called upon to contribute for all time, while all the other matters to which I have referred are to come up again for revision in 1931.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
I heartily associate myself with the two speeches to which we have just listened upon this Amendment. This levy will be particularly severe in the case of royalty owners in Scotland, where mining royalties are subject to pay half the rates levied in the parish or district. This levy is for emergency purposes—that is, for the provision of pit-head baths. It is only reasonable and equitable that there should be a limit of time, as Lord Dynevor has just remarked, in accordance with the other provisions affecting the question of the levy. I hope the Government will see their way to accept this Amendment and to give a limit so that there shall not be a distinct case of spoliation at the expense of a very small class of people.
THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
I hope this Amendment will be accepted. The effect of this clause will be almost wholly mischievous and this Amendment will at least tend to mitigate that evil effect. I suppose this clause is intended to carry out the recommendations of the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission said there was a moral obligation on mineral owners to provide for the men who work their minerals in the same way as there was a moral obligation on the landowner to provide for the population that works on his estate. That was a most unfortunate analogy, because, as a matter of fact, the landowner is not responsible for the whole population working on his estate. He is responsible for his tenants and for his employees, but not for the employees of his tenants. Therefore the attempt to draw such an analogy breaks down altogether.
However, no one would wish to oppose the statement that there is a moral obligation on the mineral owner to provide for the well-being of the miner in so far as he can, though in strict logic there is no obligation at all. He sells the coal to another man who employs the miner to work it. There is no contract of any kind between the royalty owner and the miner, but no one would wish in a case like this to be strictly logical. Let us admit the moral obligation. Now a moral obligation is a thing which every man must decide for himself. Every man must discharge that obligation according to the dictates of his own conscience and to endeavour to define it by law as meaning five per cent. is perfectly ridiculous. Five per cent. might be far too large in some cases and might not be nearly enough in others. I can imagine a case where a very wealthy royalty owner is living in a district where the miners are ill-housed, where they have no pit-head baths, no recreation grounds, etc.; in his case five per cent. would be a very small contribution. On the other hand, as my noble friend Lord Dynevor has pointed out, five per cent. from the smaller and poorer royalty owners, who after all form the bulk of the royalty owners, would be too much. A man has, perhaps, £300 or £400 a year and probably that is almost his sole source of income. To make him pay a Mineral Rights Duty of five per cent. and put on another shilling in the pound for this levy is, I think, a gross injustice and in these circumstances it 445 means forcing upon him something which he is quite incapable of bearing.
One would really suppose, from the language which has been used by the Royal Commission and even, I regret to say, by my noble friend Lord Cecil the other day in the House, that nobody had ever discovered that there was a moral obligation on the part of the mineral owner to do anything at all for the miners. The Royal Commission never mentioned that the mineral owner had ever done anything and one would infer from the Report that these gentlemen who were upon the Royal Commission had just discovered this obligation for the first time. The other day, in this House, the noble Viscount remarked, in answer to Lord Gainford, that he saw no reason why royalty owners should object to providing baths for miners seeing that the miners got dirty in providing them with their wealth. According to the point of view of the Royal Commission and of the Government, apparently, royalty owners are merely a class of property owners who are quite content to batten upon the mining industry, getting every penny they can out of it and even grudging the miner the consolation of a bath when he comes up from the mine. That is not a very fair picture to draw.
There is another point of view, the point of view, for instance, of the royalty owner whose family for many generations has recognised this obligation. There is the point of view of the royalty owner whose family for generations has done all it can for the miners. The outward and visible signs of these endeavours can be seen in churches and in schools which he has built and endowed, in the provision of recreation grounds and charitable institutions, and all sorts of things. He has taken every kind of active interest in the welfare of the population among which he resides. I know one royalty owner who has provided twelve miles of fishing for miners at a merely nominal rent of a few shillings a year. Notwithstanding that, the Government come along and say in so many words: "You have never recognised any moral obligation and we are going to impose upon you an extra five per cent." But what really does matter is the actual effect of this kind of legislation. If you are mulcted of 11s in the pound and the Government choose to put 446 on another 1s. in the pound you cannot do all that you have been doing up to now, and all this active interest which has been taken in the welfare of the miners will cease altogether, or almost cease altogether. Although a most pernicious agitation has been conducted by the Labour Party against the mineral owner, I believe that in a great majority of cases there is a fellow-feeling between the miners and the mineral owner where the latter has done his duty in the manner I have indicated.
What will happen when this Bill passes? All this fountain of charity will be dried up altogether and the mineral owner will have the consolation of knowing, not that in the future he will be able to provide for the men who actually get out his coal and provide him with his wealth, but that he will have to contribute to this levy to provide pit-head baths for people he has never seen, who have no connection with him at all and who probably live at the other end of England. We hear so much about the soulless relations between Capital and Labour that I really wonder whether this Bill is purposely designed to embitter those relations and to render them still more soulless, because that certainly will be the effect. The miner who is working the royalty owner's coal will not know that the royalty owner is contributing to this levy. All that he will see is that what the royalty owner has been doing for him in the past he is now ceasing to do, and that the royalty owner is not taking the same interest in him that he has done up to the present. The only result will be that it will exacerbate the relations between Capital and Labour which, I should have thought, would be the one thing the Government would wish to avoid. I believe that is going to be the main effect of this legislation.
I do not want to keep the House, but there is just one other matter to which I should like to refer. It is equally serious, or even more serious, and it is this. This Bill will form a very serious precedent for future legislation. It will form a very serious precedent for imposing similar burdens upon other property owners who are an infinitely more suitable objective for attack than the mineral owners. Let us take, for instance, the landowner and his labourer. Why is not the agricultural labourer equally deserving with the miner? His industry has 447 suffered from a similar or even worse depression. Numbers of agricultural labourers have been thrown out of work and their wages are even less than those of the miner. Why not impose a compulsory levy upon all landowners to provide for all agricultural labourers? Again, what about the shareholders in industrial concerns. Why not mulct them to the extent of 1s. in the pound? Alter all, the mineral owner has recognised his obligations. There may be a few exceptions, but in the great majority of cases he has recognised his obligations. What is the shareholder in railways doing for the wellbeing of the railway worker? He never gives the railway worker a thought. He is content to pocket his dividends and never thinks of the welfare of the railway men.
There is one phrase which is constantly on the lips of members of the Labour Party. They are always talking about the useless shareholder. That phrase has been constantly used by no less a person than Mr. Snowden, an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer. When the Labour Party come into power, which may not be a very long time hence, I suppose they will introduce legislation and this will form a very useful precedent for them. Every single argument which has been used for this Bill will no doubt he used by them. When that time comes I have no doubt that I shall get a Whip from those who form His Majesty's present Government asking me to vote against the proposed legislation, and I shall do so. But we shall be deprived of every single argument that might be used against it. This being the case it seems advisable that the Government should accept this Amendment. At any rate, it will give them some excuse for not passing this kind of legislation and for saying that it should not be made a precedent for similar levies upon property owners in the future, because this was only adopted as an exceptional measure which was thought proper for a special contingency and for exceptional circumstances and therefore it should not be applied to every industry. I do not say that would be a good excuse, but when you embark on legislation which is fundamentally and radically unsound you have to be content with bad excuses.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I am sorry that my noble friend the Duke 448 of Northumberland takes so gloomy a view of this Bill. He regards it as a revolutionary measure and, as I understand it, as one likely to do infinite harm and to dry up the fountain of charity—I think that was his phrase—which at present flows, as I know it does, from royalty owners, and that it will exacerbate relations between employers and employed. I suppose the noble Duke was referring to the particular clause which we are now discussing, and therefore it is his opinion—and he asks your Lordships to share it—that the imposition of this levy will have all these grievous effects. I cannot help hoping that he is mistaken. The levy amounts, as I ventured to tell your Lordships, to a sum which, taking the average royalty at 6d. per ton, amounts to rather less than one-third of a penny per ton. I shall be very much surprised to hear that that would have the terrible results which my noble friend thinks. He complained very much of a phrase which I used, or rather which he thought I used, in the debate on the Second Reading. I do not know from what report he was quoting.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I am surprised that my noble friend with his experience should think that that is a satisfactory source from which to quote.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
They gave a very fair report of what I said generally but if my noble friend will turn to the OFFICIAL. REPORT he will see the actual wording of what I said. I was quoting an observation which had been made by somebody that it did not matter to the royalty owner whether the miners were clean or dirty. That was not what I said. What I said was:—I think that was rather an unfortunate thing to say. The royalty owner, after all, obtains his profit by the work of the miners and the capital of the mine owners and it is surely right that he should make a reasonable contribution to the welfare of those engaged in the industry.I do not think that I should be exposed to the criticism of my noble friend when 449 I was merely quoting an observation made in the debate, but I am sure he will agree that I was in no way—
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I am only anxious that it should not be thought that I was guilty of such a rather cheap attack on the royalty owners, which was far from my mind. The case for this levy is simply this. A Welfare Fund was created by the Act of 1920—I think that was the date. That Welfare Fund was formed by a contribution of 1d. per ton of coal raised and is paid by the lessors, the actual workers of the coal, and the mineowners in proportion. I am told that as thing have actually gone it works out about half and half. It is now suggested that the action of this Welfare Fund, which is already applied to pit-head baths and things of that kind, should be accelerated with regard to pit-head baths. For that purpose evidently more money is required. I cannot for the life of me see that it is unreasonable in these circumstances to ask the third party interested in coal operations—namely, the royalty owners—also to make a small contribution for that purpose. You may say that all these things ought to be left entirely to private charity and ought not to be the work of compulsion or assisted in any way by the State. That is a point of view which I quite admit has a great deal to be said for it in principle and it may be, for all I know, that it would have been wiser—I do not think myself that it would have been—for us to have framed our legislation on that principle. But for a great many years we have abandoned that as a theory and, particularly in this case, we have definitely accepted a view that things of this kind may be provided at the direction of the State and that the money that is required should be obtained by a levy from the industry concerned. That is the broad case for this proposal.
I agree with my noble friend that if we were resting this purely on a theoretical, moral obligation—which, as we all know, is very fully recognised in the case of the royalty owners—it would be a very objectionable proposition to try to translate a moral obligation into legislation. But that is not really the 450 case. We have got beyond that. We have got the principle accepted that this kind of amenity should be provided for the miners, that it should be provided by compulsory levies, and the only question that seems to me to remain is whether, in the circumstances, it is just or unjust that we should ask the royalty owners to make this relatively small contribution. Even when that contribution has been made it is not contemplated by the Government, as was explained both in the other House and by the Commission itself, that it will provide the whole of the money needed. Additional money will have to be provided out of the existing Welfare Fund. That being so I venture to think that there is nothing so iniquitous in this proposal that it would be right for your Lordships to cut it down in any way that you could in obedience to any Amendment that might be moved because, if I may say so, that is really the main argument that the noble Duke has put before us.
He rests his case on the theory that this is an iniquitous and improper proposal, and that, therefore, it is no doubt better to be iniquitous, and improper for four years than in perpetuity. Therefore he says: "Cut it down to four years." I submit that, that part of the case is not sound and that it is not so iniquitous a proposal as he urged. He said that this would form a very improper precedent. I am not so much afraid of improper precedents as some people. I think the British people are perfectly capable of saying what is a reasonable thing to do or what is an unreasonable thing to do, whatever may be the precedents on one side or the other, and I believe that, if any future proposal is made for making a levy on any particular form of property, the argument that will weigh in considering whether it shall be adopted or not is, not whether three-tenths of a penny should be raised out of each sixpence from the royalty owners, but whether the proposal in itself is found, when it comes to be examined, to be a reasonable and just one.
As regards the actual proposal to make this a temporary grant, I confess that it seems to me very difficult to defend. It is said that we ought to make it a temporary grant because the Eight-Hour Act is going to come to an end in five years. But the whole case for the Eight- 451 Hour Act, whether it was right or wrong, was that it was to be a temporary and not a permanent arrangement. That was the case that was put forward to justify it from the very outset. But the provision of pit-head baths, whether it is right or wrong, is evidently not a temporary measure. If it is a thing that ought to be done, then it ought to be done in all cases and without exception. Then it is said that the Welfare Fund will come up for reconsideration in 1931. Even if that is so, I very much doubt whether my noble friends are wise in expressly saying, as apparently they want us to say, that when it comes up for reconsideration the question of what contribution, if any, should be made by the royalty owners should be again considered. I should have thought that from their own point of view, this was an unwise thing to do. It would be inviting the Parliament of the day to review the question of whether three-tenths of a penny was enough. I should have thought that this was quite as likely to work adversely to the interests of the royalty owners as to work in their favour.
For these reasons I trust that your Lordships will reject this Amendment, though I regret to have to ask your Lordships to do so. I believe that the general principle of a levy on royalties is in this case, on the whole, justified, and it is not made less justifiable on account of the nature of the Mineral Rights Duty, to the imposition of which I was always vehemently opposed and which I still think quite wrong. That is quite a different matter. I say that this is a levy which is actually imposed in order to assist in the provision of amenities which have already been sanctioned, as it were, by Parliament as proper things to provide by measures of this kind. I think that in the circum-stances it would be right to ask the royalty owners to make this contribution, and, if it is right to ask them to make it, I do not see any ground, either in justice or expediency, for limiting the grant to five years.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
My noble friend made no reference to the very unfair case of the royalty owners in Scotland. He spoke of one-third of a penny, or three-tenths of a penny, per ton, but that is quite a fallacious way of stating his case. 452 The point is that there is practically nothing left to the royalty owner under the existing forms of taxation. The burden is so heavy that in many cases another 5 per cent. will practically leave nothing. May I add, since the noble Viscount says that there is no reason for limiting it to five years, that surely the whole strength of the case is that this is an emergency proposal for the provision of pit-head baths. When the pit-head baths have been constructed, presumably within five years, it is only reasonable that this levy should cease. It is not a small levy, but a very heavy levy indeed.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
With regard to the last point, I am afraid that my noble friend is too sanguine in thinking that it would be possible to supply pit-head bathe in five years. It will take much longer than that.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
What about all these new houses that are being built for the miners, and the baths that are being supplied in the houses?
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I am afraid that I cannot pretend to a personal expert knowledge of this matter, but I am sure that if it is done in ten years or even sixteen years that will be the very earliest that we can hope for under this Bill. With regard to the Scottish question, I will certainly look into that and see if there is a special case. From the debates that took place in the House of Commons I had formed the opinion that those who are supposed to know the state of the law in Scotland did not take so gloomy a view of the situation as does my noble friend.
§ LORD TREOWEN
I rise to reply to the noble Viscount, if he will allow me to do so. In the very interesting speech to which we have listened he totally passed by the question raised by my Amendment. He elaborated the argument that he used on the Second Reading in support of the welfare levy. He used an argument which is very old and very familiar when he said that this contribution was "a very little one." We know that this argument has frequently been used before as an excuse for various things, but to-day he elaborated it. I agree with him entirely that there is a primâ facie reason why 453 the mineral rights owners should contribute. But that was not the point of my Amendment. My point was that this contribution should be put on the same footing as the contribution that is taken from the other parties interested. The Amendment also, if I may use the noble Viscount's argument, is a very small one. I am not raising the principle that he has defended with such vigour, and other matters may have been raised during the course of the debate which are not raised by the Amendment. If I ask your Lordships to give an opinion on the Amendment that I have submitted, it is not that
§ Resolved in the affirmative and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ LORD LAMINGTON moved, in subsection (1), after "rental value," immediately before the proviso, to insert "save that Mineral Rights Duty shall be deducted therefrom." The noble Lord said: The Amendment which stands in454
§ I wish for a decision upon the principle as to whether the contribution should be made or not. I want your Lordships to decide whether the contribution should be put on the same footing as the contribution from the mine owners and the miners. That is a very different thing. It is that issue, and that alone, that is raised in my Amendment. In those circumstances I really cannot withdraw the Amendment.
§ On Question, Whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the clause?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 57; Not-Contents, 35.453
|Cave, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Burnham, V.||Desborough, L.|
|Cecil of Chelwood, V.||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)|
|Balfour, E. (L. President.)||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.|
|Haldane, V.||Emmott, L.|
|Sutherland, D.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Ernle, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)|
|Peel, V.||Faringdon, L.|
|Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain.)||Gage, L. (V. Gage.) [Teller.]|
|Southwark, L. Bp.||Hampton, L.|
|Airlie, E.||Annesley, L. (V. Valentia.)||Kilmaine, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Arnold, L.||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)|
|Buxton, E.||Atkinson, L.||Muir Mackenzie, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Biddluph, L.||Olivier, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Bledisloe, L.||Shandon, L.|
|Howe, E.||Braye, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Iveagh, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Sumner, L.|
|Lovelace, E.||Teynham, L.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Cottesloe, L.||Thomson, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Cranworth, L.||Tweeddale, L. (M. Tweeddale.)|
|Onslow, E.||Darling, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Daryngton, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Wharncliffe, E.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)|
|Argyll, D.||Allendale, V.||Knaresborough, L.|
|Northumberland, D.||Bertie of Thame, V.||Lamington, L.|
|Novar, V.||Leconfield, L.|
|Bute, M.||Sidmouth, V.||Merthyr, L.|
|Mildmay of Flete, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Armstrong, L.||Monkswell, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Ashton of Hyde, L.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Avebury, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Grey, E.||Banbury of Southam, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Dynevor, L. [Teller.]||St. John of Bletso, L.|
|Macclesfield, E.||Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)||Treowen, L. [Teller.]|
|Morton, E.||Hylton, L.||Trevor, L.|
|Northbrook, E.||Joicey, L.||Wittenham, L.|
§ my name is a very simple one. It is to safeguard the mineral royalty owner from being assessed on 20s. when he has only received 19s., the odd shilling having been already deducted owing to the Mineral Rights Duty. It is only fair that the Government, having already taken off a twentieth part of his income, he should only be assessed on the remain- 455 ing nineteen parts and not on the whole twenty parts. I think it is a very reasonable request to ask the Government to accept the Amendment. The noble Viscount, who was very polite in the last Division when he asked the royalty owners to do something, will, I hope, support my Amendment which is only to secure that the levy shall be paid on the money actually received and not on what the Government have taken away from the royalty owner. It is done in the case of Income Tax and I cannot see why it should not be done in this case.
Page 10, line 17, at end insert ("save that Mineral Rights Duty shall be deducted therefrom.")—(Lord Lamington.)
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
This point was raised and discussed in the House of Commons. I am very much surprised to hear my noble friend say that this levy is paid after Income Tax is deducted. I do not think that that is so.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I do not think that is so. I think my noble friend has mis-read it. I have his words here. What he says is this:—It may be some satisfaction to my hon. friend to know that, at any rate, half of this Amendment is not required. It has long been the law that Income Tax and rates, in the case of lessors of minerals in Scotland, may be deducted before the Mineral Rights Duty is computed.That will also apply to the new tax. I do not know whether my hon. friend wants me to explain why that is so, but I think I can do so quite shortly. The 1s. is to be paid on the rental value which is defined as the rent that is paid to the landlord, and it was decided some 13 or 14 years ago that what is paid to the landlord is that which the landlord receives after Income Tax has been deducted. So far as rates are concerned, it was provided, by a special clause in the Finance Act of 1912 that rates may be deducted. Therefore, the Amendment before the House comes down to a proposal that the Mineral Rights Duty shall be deducted before the 1s. or the 5 per cent. is computed.But that all appears to be with reference to Scotland. However, the broad argument seems to me to be that this depends on the recommendation of the Royal Commission, who made certain calculations, and arrived at the conclusion that a sum of £250,000 a year 456 was what might reasonably be required for this purpose. If you alter the basis of that calculation it seems to me you will also have to alter the basis of your 5 per cent. I think it is better to leave it as the Royal Commission fixed it. After all, the Amendment really involves an extremely small sum of money one way or the other, from the point of view of the payer of the tax, and it may throw out the whole of the calculations on which this sum is based. I hope the noble Lord will not think it necessary to proceed with an Amendment which was withdrawn, after being proposed, in another place.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
The principle which is so bad is that you are asking a very small section of the public to be arbitrarily taxed upon something which they have not received, the Government having already taken that portion of their income away from them. You are asking that they should be assessed on that 1s. in the pound which they have already paid to the Exchequer. The principle seems to be wrong; therefore, if I get any support I shall go to a Division.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
May I intervene, as chairman of a colliery company? This matter was brought up in the Courts by the Inland Revenue Department about thirteen or fourteen years ago, and it was contended that the Mineral Rights Duty should not be levied on the total sum paid, but on that sum after the deduction of other taxation. That was accepted by the Courts. Surely it would be fair in this case for the Government to say whether this deduction is to be made before or after the other taxation has been deducted think we should have a declaration on that point, because it would save a great deal of litigation later on, and it is a perfectly good point. It cannot affect the yield of the total sum by more than a few thousand pounds, but it makes a great deal of difference to the ordinary shareholder, because, unlike the case of the Income Tax, such a tax cannot be deducted from the preference and debenture interest, as the Income Tax can be. If Income Tax is put up, then it is deducted equally from all classes of shareholders, but this tax falls entirely on the ordinary shareholder or the individual proprietor. I think we should have from the Govern- 457 ment a distinct understanding, one way or the other, whether this is to be levied on the total sum paid to the lessor by the company working the minerals, or on the net sum which remains when the Income Tax and Mineral Rights Duty have been deducted.
THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH
There is another point I should like to raise. As far as I can see from the Bill, when this levy has been made the royalty owner will have to pay Income Tax and Super-Tax on it in spite of having paid his levy. I may be wrong; perhaps my noble friend will clear that up.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I am afraid I cannot clear up the point put by the noble Duke. Income Tax law is very difficult, but I quite recognise the force of a good deal that he said. If my noble friend will leave this over till to-morrow I will look into it again. I am afraid the difficulty I shall meet will be the difficulty of throwing out the whole scheme of the finance of the Bill at this very late stage of its career.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM moved to leave out Clause 14. The noble Lord said: After the Division which we had a short time ago it is no use dividing the House on this Amendment, but I should not like a clause which I regard as a most iniquitous clause to pass without protest. The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, in speaking a short time ago on the last Amendment, said that it was the custom now not to leave charity to the good feelings of the persons concerned, but to enact that those persons should contribute something by law. I do not know where that has been the case. This is the first time, as far as I know, that anybody has been compelled by law to provide baths or anything else for other people. This is the first time that a tax has been imposed on an individual class for the benefit of another class. In addition to that, one must not forget that you are here depreciating the property of the royalty owner on the ground that, because the miner gets the coal out of the ground, 458 the royalty owner should pay something towards the work of that miner.
§ What is the real position of a royalty owner? He gets nothing more if the coal is got out at a cheap rate and the mine is prosperous. He gets a fixed rate, and the owner and the miner between them share the profits. It has nothing to do with the royalty owner, who is no more responsible for the welfare of the working miner than I am who have never in my life, fortunately, had anything to do either with collieries or with royalties. The Royal Commission recommended the purchase of the royalties. Their reasons seem to me to be very poor, but as a matter of fact they did recommend it. My noble friend said on Thursday that, the Government having appointed the Royal Commission, if they did not carry out their suggestions they would lay themselves open to ridicule. It is therefore quite possible that this Government, or at any rate another Government, may bring in a Bill to acquire the royalties, and they will acquire them on a depreciated basis. It is the worst possible kind of legislation. You want to buy something, and before you buy it you put a tax on the person whose property you are going to buy, and thus depreciate the value of his property, and get it more cheaply. It is quite possible that that may be the effect of this clause. I do not propose to go to a Division, but I will not withdraw my Amendment; I will have it negatived.
Leave out Clause 14.—(Lord Banbury of Southam.)
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 15:
§ Increase in number of welfare committee.
§ 15. The number of the committee constituted under Section twenty of the Mining Industry Act, 1920, as amended by the Mining Industry (Welfare Fund) Act, 1925 (hereinafter referred to as "the miners' welfare committee"), shall be increased by the addition of a member appointed by the Board of Trade after consultation with such associations or bodies as may appear to the Board to represent persons liable to pay the royalties welfare levy, and the said Section twenty shall have effect accordingly.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD moved to leave out "a member appointed by the Board of Trade," and to insert "two members appointed by the Board of Trade, of whom one shall be appointed after consultation with the Miners' 459 Federation of Great Britain, and one." The noble Viscount said: This is an Amendment with reference to the composition of the Miners' Welfare Committee. In the course of the discussion in the other House the Government agreed to add another member who would represent the owners. The miners' representatives complained that by doing so they had spoilt the balance of the Committee, and the Government thereupon undertook that they would ask for the insertion of another member in order to restore the balance.
Page 11, lines 12 and 13, leave out ("a member appointed by the Board of Trade") and insert ("two members appointed by the Board of Trade, of whom one shall be appointed after consultation with the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, and one").—(Viscount Cecil of Chelwood.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 15, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 16 agreed to.
§ Clause 17:
§ Provision of washing and drying accommodation.
§ 17.—(1) It shall be the duty of the miners welfare committee to secure as far as reasonably practicable the provision at all coal mines, to the satisfaction of the committee, of accommodation and facilities for workmen taking baths and drying clothes.
§ (2) The committee shall in each year appropriate out of the welfare fund for the purposes aforesaid until the Board of Trade otherwise direct, the whole of the proceeds of the royalties welfare levy paid into the welfare fund in each financial year.
VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD moved to add the following new subsection:
(3) Subsection (5) of Section twenty of the Mining Industry Act, 1920, is hereby repealed.
The noble Viscount said: This is an Amendment of rather more than a drafting character. Under Section 20 of the Mining Industry Act, 1920, certain rather troublesome and onerous conditions were attached to the construction of pit-head baths because they had survived from an earlier set of legislative provisions in a previous Mines Act. It is now proposed that in the new circumstances it would be unnecessary to insist on those conditions, and the purport of the Amendment is to repeal so much of the previous Act as made those conditions imperative. I beg to move.
Page 11, line 43, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Viscount Cecil of Chelwood.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 17, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 18:
§ 18.—(1) The Minister of Labour may, after consultation with associations representing respectively employers and persons employed in the coal mining industry, make Regulations for securing that in the recruitment of persons over the age of eighteen years for employment to which this section applies preference is given, while this section is in force, to persons who were employed in such employment during the period of seven days ending on the thirtieth day of April, nineteen hundred and twenty-six, or when last before that date in regular employment, and in particular such Regulations may impose restrictions on the engagement of persons for employment to which this section applies, and on the employment of persons engaged in contravention of the Regulations, and may provide for requiring the owners, agents and managers of coal mines and persons employed in or seeking such employment to furnish the Minister of Labour with such information as he may require for the purpose of securing compliance with the Regulations: Provided that no such Regulations shall impose restrictions on the engagement for employment of any person in actual receipt of a pension granted out of moneys provided by Parliament in respect of a disability arising out of his service with His Majesty's Forces during the War.
§ (2) This section applies to any employment in or about a coal mine in the getting, handling, hauling, preparation and despatch of coal, being employment such as to make the person employed an employed person within the meaning of the Unemployment Insurance Acts, 1920 to 1925, except employment of any class which by the regulations may be excluded from the application of this section. Any question as to whether employment is employment to which this section applies shall be determined by the Minister of Labour.
§ (3) If any person contravenes or fails to comply with any regulation made under this section he shall be guilty of an offence and shall, in respect of every such offence, be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding ten pounds, or, in the case of a continuing offence, not exceeding five pounds for each day on which the offence continues.
§ (4) If for the purpose of obtaining employment either for himself or for any other person in contravention of any regulation made under this section any person knowingly makes any false statement or false representation, or if any person required under the regulations to furnish information to the Minister of Labour knowingly 461 furnishes any false information, he shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months.
§ (5) All regulations made under this section shall be laid before each House of Parliament as soon as may be after they are made, and it an Address is presented to His Majesty by either House of Parliament within the next subsequent twenty days on which that House has sat next after any such regulation is laid before it, praying that the regulation may be annulled, it shall thenceforth be void, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder or to the making of any new regulation:
§ (6) This section shall continue in force until the thirty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and twenty-nine and no longer unless Parliament otherwise determines.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM moved to leave out Clause 18. The noble Lord said: The only advantage I can see in this clause is that it is proposed that it shall only be in existence for three and a half years. But we must remember that if the present Government is still in office at the end of that time and my noble friend is still a member of the Government, he may come down to the use and say: "Perhaps four or five years ago we should not have consented to this sort of legislation, but, after all, we have changed and adopted the principle. We adopted it three and a half years ago and, therefore, we may extend it and make it perpetual." What does this clause do? It gives a monopoly to the men who are now on strike. They have put the nation to a very great deal of inconvenience, they have caused the nation to lose vast sums of money, and instead of telling them that, they have behaved badly, that they had better mend their ways and go to work on the best terms they can get, the Government creates a monopoly for them. It not only creates a monopoly for them but it puts into the hands of the Minister of Labour—I had hoped that Ministry would have been done away with when a Conservative Government came into office—power to make Regulations. It says that while this clause is in force preference is to be given to persons who were employed in such employment during the period of seven days ending 462 on April 30, 1926. So that a man who may have been working for a week before April 30, 1926, now gets a monopoly.
§ The clause goes on to say that the Minister of Labour may, in particular, "impose restrictions on the engagement of persons for employment to which this section applies." That is what I call Socialism. The Minister of Labour may say to a mine owner: "These are the rules and restrictions which I have made under this Act concerning the people whom you may employ." I do not know what those rules and restrictions are. As far as I know they may be anything that a Minister of Labour may impose, and presuming a Labour Government was in office and one of the more extreme members in another place was Labour Minister, it is impossible to foretell what he might or might not impose. I see that all Regulations made under Clause 18 shall be laid before each House of Parliament as soon as may be after they are made. That is a perfectly illusory safeguard so far as another place is concerned. Such Regulations will come up after eleven o'clock, and nobody will be there to take any interest in them. It is undoubtedly different with regard to your Lordships' House, if you take the trouble to find out what, is going on and read through all sorts of Regulations which are being constantly made. I must admit that when I first became a member of your Lordships' House I obtained all these documents and read them carefully. But there was such an enormous number of them that at last I got tired of it. You have to read the whole of them before you find out what is actually happening, and if you do find out what is happening, what chance have you here? Of course, if a Labour Government was in power I should have my noble friend with me; but so long as a Conservative Government is in power I do not think you would have any chance.
§ I see no chance under this particular clause of any end being brought to the particular strike that is going on now. These clauses encourage the miners and their leaders to remain out in the hope that at last the Government will be compelled to do something for them. The leaders can point to all the various clauses that are being brought in and can say: "See what effect the pressure is having upon the Government. Though 463 we still refuse to alter our demands and though we are still out, you see that the Government are bringing in all these provisions." The result will be, not to bring the dispute to a speedy end, but to continue it. I beg to move.
Leave out Clause 18.—(Lord Banbury of Southam.)
THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH
I do not know what is the case in England, but in Scotland of late years a very large number of Irishmen have come into the country, chiefly from Southern Ireland, which, I suppose, we may regard as a foreign country or something like it. These men, I am told, are sometimes employed in the mines instead of the sons of Scottish and English miners. It seems to me that under this clause preference ought to be given to these sons of Scotsmen and Englishmen in the matter of employment in the mines—it is obviously the right thing to do—and that these Irishmen should be sent back to their own country.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I hope my noble friend Lord Cecil will give a rather fuller explanation of this clause than he has given about some that we have passed already. It is a very striking thing that we are laying down law that a Minister of State may impose restrictions on the engagement of persons—restrictions on the engagement of able-bodied men—and make it difficult for able-bodied men to get work. It is, as I say, an extraordinary proposition, and something more than the casual explanation we have seen in the Samuel Report ought to be afforded. You may impose restrictions: is there any limit to what those restrictions are? It is no defined in the Act. Where Socialist gentlemen obtain control of town councils now they impose such regulations on employment that nobody is allowed to get work with the municipality unless he is a member of a trade union. Can the Minister of Labour in this case say that no new man shall be able to work in a coal pit unless he joins a trade union? Is that within the ambit of the word "restriction"? It is being done already and there is no reason why it should not be done to-morrow if a person who shares the views of those who say nobody shall get employment in town 464 council work if he is not a trade unionist should in turn be Minister of Labour.
These clauses have been obviously prepared with the very greatest haste. This Bill is half dealing with the Companies Acts and another great portion of it ought to be treated in the Finance Act. Here is a restriction of employment clause which seems to me to have very, very grave import. The idea that Parliament may pass a solemn Resolution against these Regulations is good as far as it goes, but we know very well that once Regulations reach the point of having been prepared by a Department and accepted by the Government it is often virtually impossible even to make the smallest amendment to them. I want to know if Lord Cecil would be good enough to tell me whether under the restriction contemplated in Clause 18 it might be said, "No man shall be employed unless he belong to a trade union" or, per contra, "Every man ceasing to pay his contributions to a trade union shall lose his appointment"?
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I venture to rise in this House as quite a lay Peer knowing nothing about the coal trade; I can only deal with general principles. When I see a clause put in a Bill containing a complicated piece of machinery which has been carefully prepared by the Government I shrink from the idea of taking out a big part of that machinery, for this reason: the machine may not work This Bill has been thought out by His Majesty's Government after careful consideration by a Commission. I do not like Clause 18; I hate Clause 18; but when I was young I hated Gregory's powder and it is no good not taking the medicine because you do not like the taste of it. The evil is here and the Government have proposed a measure to alter it and, if possible, to alleviate it. I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, that we ought to say the miners have behaved very badly and are still behaving badly and that they ought to go back to work. I do not know enough to say that, but I do know that His Majesty's Government have thought out the question and have produced this rather delicate and complicated machinery to deal with it. That being so, I do not feel justified, much as I dislike 465 this particular clause, in voting against the Government, if the noble Lord goes to a Division.
§ LORD JOICEY
This is the first time that I have known the owners and managers of an industry to be prohibited from choosing the man that they thought best adapted to the particular work they require to be done. I think it is extremely unwise to limit the choice to those who have been in a mine before. During the War we had miners going to fight and others coming into the mines who had had no previous practical experience in mines, and, of course, they were generally the first to go when we got our men back from the War. I know from my own experience that there was a very strong feeling amongst the miners who went to the War against the men whom they found in the mines when came back. However, I think it is an extraordinary thing that any Government should prohibit a manager or an owner of a mine from employing the man who is likely to do his work best. If you begin to make these privileged persons in connection with the mining industry, do you think that this privilege is likely to be limited to that industry? The next thing you will have will be a Bill brought in to prevent anybody being employed upon a farm who has not been upon one before, or being employed in a machine shop who has not worked in a machine shop before. I think the principle is a bad one and a dangerous one for Parliament to adopt. I hope the noble Viscount will reconsider this question before the Report stage and, if possible, give up the idea of limiting the engagement of men in this manner.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I can assure my noble friend Lord Joicey that the moment I saw this Clause 1 asked about it, because, on the face of it, it seemed to me open to the same kind of objections as those which he and others have developed during the course of this discussion. The objections which have been raised are those which would immediately occur as reasonable objections to those reading this clause, but I venture to think that the clause has been a good deal misunderstood. My noble friend Lord Banbury thinks that the object of this clause is to provide that strikers should be re-employed. That is 466 not the object. I am informed and I believe—indeed, it seems quite obvious—that that is not the way the question will arise. When the strike comes to an end the strikers will necessarily go back, at all events skilled strikers will do so, because they are skilled men. Coal mining, as nobody knows better than the noble Lord, is very difficult and you cannot supply at a moment's notice men who can best do the work, at any rate, the work required in the most difficult parts of the industry. But that is not the case here. The case that was under consideration by the Commission and has been very much under the consideration of everybody is this.
Granted, as a result of economic causes, it will be impossible for all mines that now exist to go on, some, whatever arrangements you make, will certainly have to be closed down. In that event there is likely to be, particularly in the present condition of the labour market, a great addition to the unemployed and It was thought that it would ease that situation if you could say to the people who are opening up new mines: "At any rate give the preference to those who have been thrown out of work owing to economic causes." That is the purpose of this clause. It is not a clause which requires necessarily that every man who has been at work will have a monopoly, as my noble friend put it. That is not so. The men will have a preference—that is to say, other things being equal, they will be employed before people who were not so employed before this crisis took place. I do not think that is an unreasonable provision, understood in that way.
My noble friend Lord Crawford said that one of the restrictions made under a Labour Government might be that no one should be re-engaged who was not a member of a trade union. I do not think any such restriction could be put in legitimately under this clause. The Regulations arefor securing that in the recruitment of persons over the age of eighteen years for employment to which this section appliesit is only for that purpose—preference is given, while this section is in force, to persons who were employed in such employment during the period.…You could not twist that into giving a preference to trade unionists over people who are not trade unionists.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
But you must read them subject to that which goes before. The earlier part is the operative part and you must read line 13 as having been subject to that general proposition—that it is for the purpose of dealing with this particular economic difficulty. Apart from that, the provision as to laying the Regulations on the Table of your Lordships' House is a very considerable security. Nobody knows that that is so better than my noble friend Lord Banbury, who has often struggled in the House of Commons, as I can personally remember, for the insertion into Bills of this very clause on the ground that it is a considerable safeguard. It is so particularly in a matter of this kind where there are a great many people interested who are watching exactly what is being done by His Majesty's Government. They are sure to find out if a real injustice or impropriety is being done and they will come to my noble friend Lord Banbury, or some other equally patriotic and energetic member of your Lordships' House, and ask him to raise, much as he would dislike doing so, an objection to what the Government are doing under the Regulations. One other point was raised by my noble friend the Duke of Buccleuch. He suggested—I thought with great force—that it was very unfortunate if the effect was to exclude from the mines sons of miners.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
That matter has been considered and that is the reason why it is not to apply to youths under the age of eighteen years. That is in order to enable these boys to go to work and become workers in the mine. They can be moved up to any position they are able to fill. I think that will answer the difficulty expressed by the noble Duke. For those reasons I trust your Lordships will not reject this clause. To do so would be, I think, a very serious step to take at this stage of the discussion.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I should like to ask the noble Viscount to con- 468 sider before Report stage the exclusion of words which he says are practically meaningless. The words occur in lines 12, 13 and 14:—and in particular such regulations may impose restrictions on the engagement of persons for employment to which this section applies.If it is only to ensure that persons over eighteen years of age shall have worked in coal mines previous to the strike, and that preference shall be given to them, what is the object of putting in these words "may impose restrictions on the engagement of persons"? It is quite indefinite, and I have no doubt in my mind that a Socialist. Minister of Labour would act upon these words in the same way as Socialist municipalities act who are throwing men off their books if they do not join a trade union. There is grave danger that this clause may make a close trade of the mining industry, and if you make a close trade of the mining industry you will do as much harm as has been done by making a close trade of the building industry. Half the disease in this country is due to the fact that we have a close trade in the building industry and now you are going to apply it to the mining industry.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
My noble friend may rest assured that I will consider the point he has raised, and he may like to know that the Lord Chancellor has been good enough to say that possibly some words might be inserted to make it clear.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 18 agreed to.
§ Clauses 19 and 20 agreed to.
§ Clause 21 [Establishment of joint committees for coal mines]:
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM, who had given Notice to move the rejection of the clause, said: This is a very bad clause, but I do not think it is so bad as some of the others and in view of what my noble friend has said, that he will consider some Amendment on the point raised by the Earl of Crawford, I will not move my Amendment.
§ LORD DARLING
On this clause I desire to call the attention of the noble Viscount to what he said in the discus- 469 sion on the Amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Buxton, that he thought hat the noble Earl desired might be time under Clause 21 which deals with the establishment and operation of joint committees. I hope he will be able to accentuate that. I have looked carefully at Clause 21 and I see that under it the Board of Trade may make Regulations and these committees may exercise such functions as may be prescribed by the Regulations. It seems to me important to notice that it is provided in paragraph (b) of subsection (2) thatno powers in relation to the control or management of a mine shall be incanted among the functions of any such joint committee.I have considered and I am sure my noble and learned friend has also considered, whether the words in the Amendment moved by the noble Earl would be kept out by reason of paragraph (b) It does not seem to me that they could be. I am very glad to think that the effect of what the noble Earl desired to have in the Bill when moving his Amendment is already possible under the hill as it stands.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF OHELWOOD
I should hesitate on the spur of the moment to attempt a, construction of the clauses of this Bill which would be in any way authoritative. I can only say that I think the general purpose of this clause is on the lines of the Amendment proposed by my noble friend Earl Buxton. The power to make Regulations is to come into operation ifno adequate opportunity has been afforded by the owner, agent and manager of the mine for the establishment of machinery—these are the important words, I think—for mutual discussion between representatives of the management of the mine and 470 representatives of workers employed in or about the mine, of matters of common interest in regard to the working of the mine.That seems to me a very wide phrase which would include such matters as we were discussing earlier in the afternoon. I think it only right to remind your Lordships, however, that in an earlier Act there is a provision that particulars of this kind are not to be published. Therefore, though they might be given to the pit committee for the satisfaction of the representatives of the men I should think it would be doubtful whether any Regulations could be made setting aside express statutory provision against publication.
§ LORD DARLING
It seems to me that what the noble Viscount has said ought to be very consoling to the noble Earl when he reads it in the Report of the debate. He is not now here, and I regret that he contented himself with a Parthian shot.
§ Clause 21 agreed to.
§ Remaining Clauses agreed to.
§ Schedule agreed to.