HL Deb 26 June 1934 vol 93 cc136-8

My Lords, with reference to the Central (Coal Mines) Scheme (Amendment) Order I beg to move that the Special Order, as reported from the Special Orders Committee on Tuesday last, be approved.

Moved, That the Special Order, as reported from the Special Orders Committee on Tuesday last, be approved.—(The Earl of Munster.)


My Lords, in view of the great importance of this Order I should have thought the noble Earl could have given your Lordships some account of it. It deals with what is still, I suppose, our second most important industry, that of coal milling, and it has a profound effect on the working of the 1930 Act. It certainly gives great powers to the Central Council and it does affect the livelihoods of many hundreds of thousands of workmen. If the noble Earl can give some word of explanation—and of course this part was not dealt with by the Standing Committee—of what is expected to be the effect of this Order, firstly, upon the men's wages in the mining industry, and secondly, on employment, I think it would be welcomed by your Lordships. I would only remind your Lordships that since the 1930 Act was passed there are 100,000 fewer miners employed. This is partly due to the greater use of machinery in the pits, it is true; still the effect of the Act has not helped employment in this very important industry. Moreover, your Lordships will be aware that the wages have not gone up. For example, in the County of Durham, there are still 40,000 miners earning only 6s. 6½d. a day at very arduous work.

As to prices, we were told it was hoped that prices would be raised by the original Act. I would like to ask the noble Earl whether this Order is expected to affect prices. The great inconvenience of the quota, which the prosperous mines have felt very adversely, has not had the effect of keeping up prices. When the Act was passed, the all-round price, I believe I am right in saying, was about 14s. 3d. a ton, and in the first quarter of this year the average price was 13s. 8d.—a very substantial reduction. In Lancashire the price has gone down from 17s. 1d. in the last quarter of 1930 to 16s. 6d. in the first quarter of 1934, and altogether the situation has not improved as we were led to suppose and to hope that it would improve. What effect is this Order going to have on employment, on wages, and on prices? I submit that this is a very important matter, and as it affects a very large number of people in a most important industry any comfort the noble Earl can give us would, I am sure, be most welcome in your Lordships' House.


My Lords, I will endeavour to answer the questions which the noble Lord has addressed to me. With regard to wages and unemployment, all I can tell the noble Lord, without giving any definite assurance or prophesying as to the future, is that it is hoped the result of this Order will be to improve the conditions both in regard to wages and unemployment. As to the question of prices, I can only add here that I understand that it is also hoped and believed that there will be, as a result of this Order being passed by your Lordships' House, no further evasion of prices, such as there has been in the past. I think that answers the questions of the noble Lord. It is of course very difficult for me to give any indication as to what the result on wages and unemployment will be before the Order has come into effect, but all I can say is that it is believed, and certainly is hoped, that it will be most beneficial to the industry as a whole.

On Question, Motion agreed to.