HL Deb 24 June 1930 vol 78 cc68-77

Clause 3, page 9, line 6, leave out paragraph (b).

The Commons disagree to the above Amendment for the following Reason:Because in some districts it would make it impossible to bring into force a scheme which would operate fairly.


My Lords, here, I am afraid, my Motion must be different, and I beg to move that this House doth insist upon its Amendment.

Moved, That this House doth insist upon the said Amendment.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)


My Lords, I beg to move on the contrary that the Rouse doth not insist upon this Amendment; and I wish to make a short statement on that point. I confess candidly that when I first considered the question of the district levy I did see many objections to it. What filled me with the most alarm with reference to the district levy was the possibility that in a district where a very low percentage of the coal was for export purposes a levy might be raised—we will say in one of the five counties where the export coal represents 10 to 20 per cent. of the production and where a levy of one shilling per ton might raise 4s. for every ton of coal exported and thereby confer a great advantage upon that particular district in competition with other districts in the country. That and other defects in the district scheme were very apparent to many of us on this side of the House, but I think that after closer examination of the Bill those defects disappear.

In the, first place the district levy in no sense resembles the large national fund which could be raised by a national levy. It is a comparatively small sum of money. The utmost that can be expected of a district levy is the creation of a small fund for purely local defence, but even then supposing that some district did decide to raise this small fund for local purposes, if that action on the part of any particular district caused injustice it could be reviewed by the central council set up under the Bill, and unless the district in question could establish its case to the satisfaction of the majority of the central council the scheme could not apply at all; in other words, the district levy could not be raised. That seems to me to be sufficient safeguard against the abuses that many people apprehended. There is a third point about a district levy which distinguishes it from a national levy, and that is that the proceeds of a district levy can only be used in the district in which it is raised. There is also a fourth point. Those virtues which I have described may perhaps be described as of a negative character, but the fourth point is of a much more positive character. That is that it is expected, and indeed almost certain, that the scheme outlined in this Bill will break down altogether in Scotland unless the district levy is kept in the Bill. It is for those reasons, which I have put as shortly as possible, that it seems to me your Lordships should not insist upon your Amendment.

To give a résumé of the points which I have made, they are that the levy is localised in character; that a strong case must be made out for any district levy before the consent of the central council can be obtained; and that the districts which disagree with the decision of the central council to grant a district levy can appeal to arbitration. It seems to me, therefore, that the safeguards are abundant against any of the evils which are apprehended. In conclusion I would like to say that in the five counties there is already a voluntary district levy, and that cannot be interfered with. It surely is far better to leave the district levy in the Bill with the safeguards that I have ventured to indicate, rather than to cut, out paragraph (b) and jeopardise the fate of the Bill, more especially in Scotland, and generally to leave the whole situation with regard to the coal trade in this country on that particular point in a somewhat confused and chaotic condition. Therefore, I beg to move that this House doth not insist upon this Amendment.


My Lords, I have had some experience in connection with these levies, being chairman of a company in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and the voluntary levy system has on the whole worked satisfactorily. It is perfectly true that certain coal owners have not been prepared to contribute voluntarily to the levy and have abstained, and may have secured contracts which otherwise would not have been theirs, owing to their being able to keep outside an arrangement of that kind. But, on the whole, the levy in West Yorkshire has been successful rather than the reverse. As chairman of another company which has a colliery in South Yorkshire, however, my experience has not been quite so happy, as fair terms do not seem to be afforded to a developing colliery as they are afforded to existing collieries. Whilst Scotland and Wales, from the coal owner's point of view, have expressed themselves quite neutral in connection with this question of levy, I admit that, so far as Scotland is concerned, there are possible means in the Bill to overcome the difficulties to which the noble and gallant Lord who has just spoken has referred.

The point that I wish to make against the levy is on behalf of Durham and Northumberland, which to a very large extent are exporting counties: in Durham about 50 per cent. of coal is exported, in Northumberland nearly 80 per cent. For Northumberland and Durham, which have not access to markets at home upon which they could raise a subsidy, to try to raise a small amount to subsidise their large export trade would be an impossibility: whilst districts like Yorkshire and the Midland Counties, which produce about 42 per cent. of the whole output of the United Kingdom, can by raising a levy upon the coal that they sell inland produce a very large sum, which will enable them to subsidise their export trade. It seems to us in Northumberland and Durham most unfair that a large district like the central counties could raise a big levy from the general public to subsidise an export trade, and deprive Durham and Northumberland of their customers.

I know that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Thomson, has alluded to certain safeguards in the Bill. Neither the men in the exporting districts, nor especially the owners in Durham and Northumberland, on whose behalf I am speaking, feel that those safeguards are at all adequate. In the interests of fair treatment, quite apart from the principle of raising a levy from inland consumers in order to help the foreigner, we object to a levy being allowed to be forced upon a whole district to the prejudice of some other district. It is for these reasons that I hope there will be no district levy in the Bill. I moved an Amendment on the Committee stage that would have given power to raise a central levy. If that had been accepted I should not have objected to a district levy, but a district levy without a central levy will work inequitably as between district and district.


My Lords, in order to regularise the matter, may I say that the Question will be that this Amendment be insisted upon?


My Lords, I can quite confirm every word of the speech of my noble friend Lord Gainford. The levy is one of those matters which interfere with the business of the country and create difficulties which would not exist if matters were left alone by Governments. But what is the position of Durham and Northumberland in this matter? Yorkshire exports only about 10 per cent. of its production. It is enabled to place a levy on 90 per cent. of its production, so that a levy of 3d. per ton would produce about 2s. 3d. a ton on its export coal, which the Yorkshire collieries would have, to compete, not with the foreign producer only, but with Durham and Northumberland—and, I should think, Scotland too. I am doubtful whether Scotland realises the true situation. But, so far as Durham and Northumberland are con- cerned, I think this levy would be disastrous if the Yorkshire collieries make use of it.

This Bill is supposed to prevent competition. Surely there could be no worse form of competition than that which will take place when you give to a district which produces 42 per cent. of the whole production of this country a levy in order to enable it to compete against Durham and Northumberland. Durham and Northumberland have collieries which to a large extent are old collieries. They have valuable coal, I admit, and they have splendid workmen, who can hold their own in competition with any men in any part of the country. But I do think that if a levy is allowed, as is intended at present, it will have very serious results on Durham and Northumberland. I should like to see what the Prime Minister will have to say when he goes down to Durham, and is accused of favouring Yorkshire instead of the district which he represents—putting on a levy which, I feel quite sure, will be almost disastrous to Durham; but I leave that to be dealt with between himself and his constituents. I hope your Lordships will give effect to the view that my noble friend Lord Gainford has put before you.


My Lords, I only desire to say a few words, because I approach the consideration of these Amendments from a somewhat different angle from that which necessarily inspires my noble friends Lord Gainford and Lord Joicey. They have given reasons why this district levy would operate unjustly as between different districts, and as between the coal owners in different districts. I look at the levy from the point of view of the consumer, and it is on behalf of the consumer that I object to the district levy. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Thomson, finished his speech by saying that if we eliminated the district levy we should leave the coal industry in a confused and chaotic condition. But the exact contrary is the truth. Once you had eliminated the central levy, then the only logical thing was to eliminate the district levy too; and the confusion and chaos is created if you keep in the district levy, which can be used in the oppressive manner which has been indicated by the noble Lords, Lord Gainford and Lord Joicey, instead of eliminating it, as your Lordships propose to do.

I should like your Lordships for a moment to consider why it is that the consumer is damnified by the district levy. Its object—it has been admitted in another place, and it is patent on the face of it—is to provide a subsidy which can be used to enable export coal to be sold, not at a lower price, but at no increase of price, in spite of the heavy increased cost of production which this unfortunate Bill is going to impose on the industry. The levy is going to be raised, then, at the expense of the home consumer in order to subsidise the export coal. That means that every consumer of coal in this country in addition to bearing the burden, which this Bill will impose on us all, of an increased cost of coal, is to bear that proportion of the increased cost which otherwise would have fallen in part at least upon our export trade. That means in turn that our home producers who require our coal for their own heavy industries which are already competing under the greatest possible handicap by reason of the burden of taxation, are going to be yet further handicapped by being told that they must pay more for their coal so that their competitors abroad can get it more cheaply. It seems to me that that is a most illogical and unjust provision, and it is because it is unjust that I hope your Lordships will reject it.


My Lords, I would like to say a word in answer to the noble and learned Viscount opposite. I do not think he really can have read paragraph (b) with which we are dealing. It is for the purpose of facilitating the sale of any class of coal produced in the district. It has been pointed out more than once that it is not merely for export; it is for the very purposes of the basic manufactures to which the noble and learned Viscount has referred, which may get the benefit and are intended to get the benefit of this provision. I only want to protest against his view that this is against the consumer. It is greatly in favour of these great basic consumers and is intended to be so. It is not in any way restricted to export coal. That is not the provision which is made in paragraph (b).


My Lords, I find myself in a very great difficulty regarding this Amendment. I agree wholly with what has been said by the noble Lord who sits beside me about the merits of the Amendment. All through the discussions upon this Bill in another place my friends insisted that the district levy was a bad measure, and when once the general levy had been got rid of it was certainly desirable that the district levy should be got rid of too. But I confess that I find myself in some difficulty in the matter. His Majesty's Government have told us that to insist upon this Amendment might imperil the Bill. I was sorry that the original discussion which began this afternoon was not proceeded with. We had, if I may say so, what we always have from the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition—a very lair and temperate statement of the case from his point of view. I rather hoped that we should have had from His Majesty's Government sonic definite answer as to which of the Amendments they regarded as vital in respect to this Bill. For my own part, I want this Bill. This Bill, like almost every other measure which passes through Parliament, is bad in patches; there are some parts which none of us like and there are some parts which some of us, most of us, I think, are very anxious to see passed into law.

The question then arises what action should we take? I must confess that the thought passed through my mind as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Thomson, was speaking, that there was some possibility of accommodation. He said more than once that this Bill would be unworkable in Scotland if this Amendment were insisted upon. Though I have no authority to say so, I cannot help hoping that with the aid of their national genius for compromise it might be possible to invent some sort of Amendment by which in those parts of the country where it is necessary to have the district levy that levy might be part of this Bill, but that it should not be insisted upon in places like those for which my noble friend beside me spoke, Northumberland and Durham, where, with their export trade, it would have a very bad effect indeed. Whether anything is possible in that direction or not I do not know. With regard to this particular Amendment, I would venture to say to His Majesty's Government that unless we hear from them something very much more definite concerning the future of this Bill if this Amendment is passed, my noble friends and I do not feel that we can accept any responsibility in the matter.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be insisted upon?

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 208; Not-Contents, 13.

Argyll, D. Stradbroke, E. Dynevor, L.
Beaufort, D. Strafford, E. Doverdale, L.
Bedford, D. Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.) Dulverton, L.
Marlborough, D. Wicklow, E. Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)
Portland, D. Yarborough, E.
Rutland, D. Ypres, E. Elphinstone, L.
Sutherland, D. Ernle, L.
Wellington, D. Astor, V. Erskine, L.
Bertie of Thame, V. Fairfax of Cameron, L.
Abergavenny, M. Brentford, V. Fairhaven, L.
Ailesbury, M. Chaplin, Y. Faringdon, L.
Camden, M. Churchill, V. FitzWalter, L.
Lansdowne, M. De Vesci, V. Forester, L.
Linlithgow, M. Devonport, V. Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)
Normanby, M. Elibank, V. Gage, L. (V. Gage.) [Teller.]
Reading, M. Falkland, V. Gainford, L.
Salisbury, M. FitzAlan of Derwent, V. Gifford, L.
Winchester, M. Goschen, V. Glentanar, L.
Zetland, M. Hailsham, V. Green way, L.
Hambleden, V. Greville, L.
Abingdon, E. Hill, V. Hampton, L.
Albemarle, E. Hood, V. Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)
Ancaster, E. Mersey, V. Harlech, L.
Bathurst, E. Novar, V. Harris, L.
Beatty, E. Sidmouth, V. Hastings, L.
Beauchamp, E. Sumner, V. Hawke, L.
Bradford, E. Ullswater, V. Heneage, L.
Clarendon, E. Howard of Glossop, L.
Cranbrook, E. Aberdare, L. Hunsdon of Hunsdon, L.
Dartmouth, E. Alvingham, L. Illingworth, L.
Denbigh, E. Ampthill, L. Joicey, L.
Doneaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) Annaly, L. Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)
Annesley, L. (V. Valentia.) Lawrence, L.
Dudley, E. Armstrong, L. Leconfield, L.
Feversham, E. Arundell of Wardour, L. Leigh, L.
Fitzwilliam, E. Ashton of Hyde, L. Lloyd, L.
Fortescue, E. Askwith, L. Luke, L.
Grey, E. Auckland, L. Melchett, L.
Halsbury, E. Balfour of Burleigh, L. Methuen, L.
Iddesleigh, E. Banbury of Southam, L. Mildmay of Flete, L.
Ilchester, E. Bayford, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Inchcape, E. Berwick, L. Monkswell, L.
Iveagh, E. Biddulph, L. Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)
Jellicoe, E. Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.) Mountgarret, L. (V. Mountgarret.)
Lauderdale, E. Brownlow, L.
Lindsey, E. Carson, L. Mowbray, L.
Lucan, E. [Teller.] Cawley, L. O'Hagan, L.
Lytton, E. Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.) Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)
Macclesfield, E. Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)
Malmesbury, E. Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)
Mar and Kellie, E. Clinton, L.
Midleton, E. Clwyd, L. Rayleigh, L.
Minto, E. Conyers, L. Pedesdale, L.
Morton, E. Cornwallis, L. Remnant, L.
Mount Edgcumbe, E. Cottesloe, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Onslow, E. Cozens-Hardy, L. Rossmore, L.
Peel, E. Cusbendun, L. Roundway, L.
Plymouth, E. Danesfort, L. Russell of Liverpool, L.
Powis, E. Darling, L. Sackville, L.
Rosslyn, E. Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.) St. John of Bletso, L.
Sandwich, E. Denman, L. Saltoun, L.
Scarbrough, E. Deramore, L. Sandys, L.
Selborne, E. Desart, L. (E. Desart.) Sempill, L.
Spencer, E. Desborough, L. Shandon, L.
Stanhope, E. Digby, L. Sherborne, L.
Sinclair, L. Sudeley, L. Vernon, L.
Somerleyton, L. Sndley, L. (E. Arran.) Vivian, L.
Southampton, L. Swansea, L. Waleran, L.
Stafford, L. Sydenham of Combe, L. Wargrave, L.
Stanmore, L. Templemore, L. Wavertree, L.
Strachie, L. Thurlow, L. Weir, L.
Stratheden, L. Trenchard, L. Wharton, L.
Wraxall, L.
Sankey, L. (L. Chancellor.) Russell, E. Hay, L. (E. Kinnoull.)
Marley, L. [Teller.]
Parmoor, L. (L. President.) Aberconway, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Amulree, L.
De La Warr, E. Arnold, L. Thomson, L.
Lindsay, E. Buckmaster, L.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Resolved in the affirmative agreed to accordingly.