HL Deb 27 March 1934 vol 91 cc439-44

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2:

Reduction of sums payable to fund and recovery thereof.

2.—(1) The sum payable into the fund under the principal section as respects the output of any coal mine during the year nineteen hundred and thirty-two and subsequent years shall be a sum equal to one halfpenny a ton (instead of one penny a ton) of the output of the mine.

LORD MARLEY moved, in subsection (1), to substitute "three farthings" for "one halfpenny." The noble Lord said: I desire to move this Amendment on behalf of the Socialist Party. The reasons for it have already been given by my noble friend Lord Strabolgi during the Second Reading debate. We realise that with this type of Government there is very little chance of getting the Amendment accepted. Nevertheless I should like to give the general reasons for it. The reduction from a penny to a halfpenny does mean a serious blow to the whole of the welfare work of the mining industry, and we feel that if we could mitigate that blow by reducing the amount of the reduction to a farthing, instead of a halfpenny, it would make less difficult the task of those engaged in organising the welfare of the mining industry. It should be realised that virtually the whole of this cut will fall upon the district funds, because the General Fund is able to secure a continuation of its grants by taking from the district funds the £116,000 odd necessary for keeping the pit-head bath funds going. That means that the district funds are going to suffer a very serious loss.

In the current Report of the Mining Industry Welfare Fund we find, looking at the amounts received by the district funds, that, while they varied from £800,000 to £400,000 and £340,000 in 1932, they faded away nearly altogether in 1933 and only £92 was received. It is quite clear that, as the total amount derivable from the welfare subsidy is going to be reduced by about £450,000 it is the district funds which, in fact, are going to suffer. These aspects of the work of the district funds which are bound to be hit are, curiously enough, aspects which have been directly supported by the Report of the Departmental Committee of Inquiry in 1931. For instance, under "Recreation," which is bound to lose most of the money available, we find that one of the items most likely to be hit will be playgrounds for children, and it is curious that playgrounds for children are strongly supported in the very Report under consideration. They say: We have no hesitation in saying that in our opinion first consideration in the matter of outdoor recreation should be given to the children. In the larger urban areas the local authorities have, in many cases, provided facilities for children's recreation, though these are not always adequate for the number of children in the neighbourhood, but in the greater part of the places where miners live there is little or nothing and the children have hitherto had nowhere to play except the streets.

Under this Bill the children will continue to play in the streets because the provision of playgrounds for children will be interfered with.

Similarly, the development of boys' clubs, which I remember was so strongly supported in your Lordships' House two or three years ago, will be hit, and recreation grounds for adults. Again the Departmental Committee strongly supports recreation grounds for adults. They say, on page 32: There would appear therefore to be a good deal yet to be done in respect of outdoor recreation, though we feel that the purposes of the Mining Industry Act, 1920, cannot be said to have been met as long as there is not some provision, with due regard to local needs and existing local facilities, for outdoor recreation in every mining community of appreciable size, both for children and adults.

So that recreation grounds will also have to be reduced and the development of them postponed because of the Rill now under discussion. So, of course, with swimming baths, which are perhaps less important, libraries, and the provision of halls. Again, the Report, dealing with the provision of halls, says: There should he adequate facilities for indoor recreation and social intercourse at every place where an appreciable number of miners live, before the intentions of the 1920 Act in respect of these matters can he said to have been met, and it is clear that there is still a good deal of work to be clone in this direction.

In the same way we are going to have a hold-up of the development of convalescent homes, of hospitals, and of education and research generally.

It is true that under the arrangements made with regard to the disposal of the proceeds of the halfpenny levy the development of pit-head baths will only be interfered with to a very minor extent, to an extent of something under £120,000 a year less than the amount regularly estimated as necessary; but that is unfortunate because still to-day, despite the fact that other nations are so very far ahead in the provision of pithead baths, in Great Britain only one miner out of every three works in a mine where pit-head baths are provided. It is unfortunate that instead of pressing on with the development arid construction of pit-head baths we should now be making any increase in the rate of providing these baths quite impossible and, in fact, limiting the comparatively small expenditure. It is because we want the recreation, playgrounds, health, convalescent homes, education and research work continued to the utmost possible extent that I beg leave to move the Amendment standing in my name.

Amendment moved— Page 1. line 17, leave out ("one halfpenny") and insert ("three farthings")—(Lord Marley.)


The object of the Amendment which the noble Lord has presented to your Lordships is to increase the levy on the output of coal from one halfpenny to three farthings, but it is a suggestion which I cannot accept. This particular point was very fully debated in another place. A great deal of discussion took place on it, and various answers were given as to why the proposal could not be accepted. The noble Lord has dealt at length with practically all the points which were made by the Departmental Committee of Inquiry. He will see on page 72 that they state quite clearly that: In all the circumstances we do not feel able to recommend 6e continuation of the levy at a figure less than one halfpenny per ton of coal, and …. we think that in view of the present position of the coal-mining industry and of the fact that this sum will provide in the next twenty years for all the more urgent needs of the mining community the sum of one halfpenny per ton is as much as the industry should be asked to pay. As I mentioned to your Lordships on the Second Reading of this Bill, the object is to reduce the levy from one penny to a halfpenny and spread the continuation over a period of twenty years until such time as the industry reaches normal prosperity. The noble Lord will remember that there were one or two Minority Reports in the Departmental. Committee's Report, and one by Mr. Smith himself recommends that the output levy should be reduced from one penny to a halfpenny.

His Majesty's Government gave very sympathetic consideration to the whole question before they introduced this Bill, and they came to the conclusion that a halfpenny per ton on the output was all that the industry should be asked to pay. It will have the advantage—this is a very important point which the noble Lord appears to have forgotten—that, although the levy is being reduced, the extension is being carried over a period of twenty years, and it will therefore enable the various district committees to plan their local expenditure with the full knowledge that their plans will in no way be interfered with. That point is made quite plain in she Departmental Committee's Report when they say: We think that in view of the present position of the coal-mining industry and of the fact that this sum will provide in the next twenty years for all the more urgent needs of the mining community…. That point, as the noble Lord will notice, is made in the Departmental Committee's Report. The sum of 292, which the noble Lord mentioned, is not a payment for 1932 at all; it was an odd amount paid in advance in respect of the levy. There is one further point I would like to impress on the noble Lord, and it is this, that while the districts are working on the minimum the whole of this levy is, in fact, paid by the owners, and until the districts come off the minimum that part of the levy will not fall on the mining community.


Did the noble Earl say it is paid by the owners?


I said that while the districts are working on the minimum the greater portion of this levy will be paid by the owners.


By the consumers.


By the consumers, if the noble Lord wishes. When the districts come off the minimum then the miners will have to pay a certain share, but at the moment that is not done to any great extent. I think I have dealt with all the points made by the noble Lord. As regards the question as to how the districts will be able to spend the money, it will be spread over a period of twenty years, which, in my opinion and in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, is far better than leaving the Fund in the position in which it was before, when money could be expended over a period of five years with the fear that it might be reduced or increased, as the case may be, at the end of that period. I am sorry that the Government are unable to accept the noble Lord's Amendment.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Purposes for which Fund to be applied]:


There is one small point, which I ought to have raised on Second Reading, on which I should like now to ask the noble Earl a question. That question is whether the Fund can be applied to the maintenance of schemes. My experience is that schemes which were started with enthusiasm in locality cannot be properly carried on after the capital has been expended. There are cases where recreation grounds and reading rooms have been established, but there is no money to keep them up, though there is still revenue going to the Welfare Fund from the locality. It seems to me a great pity to allow these schemes to fall into ruin from want of help in the matter of maintenance. I do not know whether an Amendment would be necessary to enable the Welfare Fund to contribute to the adequate maintenance of schemes, but it seems to me that it would be a very reasonable thing, when spending capital upon a scheme, to acid a certain sum for maintenance—say, half the amount required for maintenance, leaving the locality to provide the other half. That would enable a great many playing fields and reading rooms to carry on whereas they are now in great danger of breaking down because there is no money to maintain them. I should be obliged if the noble Earl would tell me whether there is power to use the Welfare Fund for maintenance grants and, if not, whether he would accept an Amendment on Report giving power to do so.


I regret that the noble Lord did not put down an Amendment covering this point because the Bill will be put through its remaining stages this afternoon. I will, however, endeavour to answer his question. The answer is that the Welfare Fund as a general rule cannot be used for maintenance purposes. If the noble Lord had given notice of an Amendment I could have gone more fully into the matter, but I hope that he will accept that reply.


I must apologise for not putting down an Amendment. It is entirely my fault. I shall be glad if the noble Earl would pass my question on to the Department, and if there is any power of making maintenance grants hope they will be made.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment.

Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended, Bill read 3a, and passed.