§ 1. In subsection (2) of Section five, after the words "Board of Trade" there shall be inserted the words following—"the person to be appointed as chairman shall be a member of the legal profession,".
2. For subsection (3) of Section five there shall be substituted" the following subsections:—
(3C) The chairman shall be present at every meeting of a committee of investigation. Any such committee may take evidence on oath, and for that purpose the chairman shall have power to administer an oath. Any evidence taken by a committee shall, except in so far as it relates to any particular business or under-taking or unless the committee for any special reason otherwise decide, be taken in public, and the decision of the committee upon every complaint shall be delivered in public. Subject to the foregoing provisions of this subsection, the meetings and procedure of every committee of investigation shall be regulated in accordance with rules made by the Board of Trade for the purpose.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH moved, at the beginning, to insert:
1. After subsection (1) of Section five there shall be inserted the following new subsection:
'(1A) If it appears to the Board of Trade to be expedient that more than one district committee of investigation should be constituted for any district with a view to the investigation of complaints relating to different matters or to different localities by different committees, two or more such committees may be constituted therefor and shall be charged respectively with the duty of investigating any complaint with respect to the operation of the district scheme for that district made in relation to such matters or to such localities as the Board may direct.'
The noble Lord said: I need not take up much time in moving this Amendment, because I understand that the Government are prepared to accept it. It provides for the further protection of consumers. The districts are to be very large, and the Bill only provides for one
committee of investigation in one district. This Amendment gives a discretion to the Board of Trade to appoint additional committees of investigation in cases where they think it is desirable.
Page 88, line 4, at the beginning, insert the said words.—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ VISCOUNT HORNE OF SLAMANNAN moved, in the substituted subsection (3C) in paragraph 2, after "investigation" at the end of the first sentence, to insert "and any question at such meeting shall if the votes of all the members present and voting thereon are not unanimous be determined by the chairman." The noble Viscount said: The object of this Amendment is to bring the Government back to their original ideas upon the subject of committees of investigation. I indeed hope they will do something to recapture in this matter their first fine careless rapture. If your Lordships will remember, committees of investigation are set up, before which consumers are allowed to appear and state their complaints. You have both a National Committee of Investigation, and district committees of investigation. With regard to district committees of investigation, with which alone my Amendment is concerned, they are composed of five persons—namely, a chairman, two people representative of the consumers, and two others representative of the coal interest. One of the last represents the colliery proprietors and the other the coal miners. The Government originally, in making this provision, altered the composition of the committee under the previous Statute to provide that there should be a compulsory chairman, and that he should be a person expert in the law. The rest of the committee remained as it was.
In this sub-paragraph it is provided that the chairman should be present at every meeting of the committee of investigation, and then I propose to re-insert what the Government, under some duress in another place, left out from the Bill as presented to this House, namely:
and any question at such meeting shall, if the votes of all the members present and voting therein are not unanimious, be determined by the chairman.
I think in the interests of everybody it would be wise to regard the representatives of the conflicting interests as really
assessors in these committees, and that the ultimate decision should be taken by the chairman alone. It is quite conceivable that you have clashes of interest taking place which may bring about a quite untoward result.
§ Indeed in another place Captain Osbert Peake gave illustrations of what happened before such a committee. The representatives of the coal interest always stood with a well-established and formidable front, whereas you found a difference of opinion always continuing between the representatives of the consumers. One of those representatives was appointed by the large consuming interest, and the other by the small consuming interest, and the rivalry between these two elements on the committee very often resulted in one or other going over to the coal side. I think in circumstances of that kind it would be much more proper, and lead to much better conclusions, if these people were to be regarded simply as advisers or assessors of the committee, and that the ultimate decision should rest with the entirely independent legal expert, the chairman. I beg to move.
Page 88, line 39, after ("investigation"), insert the said words.—(Viscount Horne of Slamannan.)
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
It is perfectly true, as the noble Viscount has said, that this Bill when originally introduced did provide that if the members of these committees were not unanimous the vote of the independent chairman should prevail. Where there was no appeal from the committee's decision there was a good deal to be said for giving the independent chairman a deciding vote, but where, as the Bill stands at the present moment, there is being set up an Appeal Tribunal to which all these cases can be taken from these committees of investigation, anybody who is aggrieved by the decision of one of these committees may appeal, and we think the existence of this tribunal does away with the necessity of giving to the chairman of the committee dictatorial powers. I think, if I may be so brave as to offer a few words of advice to my noble friend, he would be well advised to leave the Bill as it stands and as it came to us amended by the Government in another place.
§ VISCOUNT HORNE OF SLAMANNAN
If the Government disdain their own original wisdom it is not for me to force it upon them. I beg leave to withdraw.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
LORD MIDDLETON moved to insert after paragraph 2:
3. At the end of subsection (5) of the said Section five the following words shall be added:
and the complainant also shall furnish the committee with such returns, accounts and other information as the committee considers relevant to the investigation
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment is not one of major importance, but it is considered that it will improve the Bill, and I understand that the Government accept that view. I beg to move.
Page 89, line 6, at end insert the said new paragraph.—(Lord Middleton.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
VISCOUNT ELIBANK moved, after paragraph 7, to insert the following new paragraph:
8. In Section six of the said Act, at the end of the section, there shall be inserted the words 'The Board of Trade may require the executive board of any district to keep an accurate list of the permit prices current for the time being in their district, and to allow any consumer who satisfies the executive board that he has a bona-fide interest in the matter to inspect such list at all reasonable hours.'
§ The noble Viscount said: I am moving this Amendment on behalf of the consumers. The consumers really have been rather a Cinderella during the past few days and nights, and the royalty owners and colliery owners have perhaps been uppermost in the thoughts of your Lordships. This Amendment is really put forward on behalf of a very large body of consumers, the National Union of Manufacturers, and other consumers who think like them. An Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, has certainly eased the position in which those consumers will be placed by securing additional investigating committees. But that does not go so far as this Amendment. Under the selling schemes which will be set up it will be necessary for consumers to apply for a price for the particular coal which they require. They will 786 then be given that price, but they will not have available at the same time the prices of other types of coal that may be competing with it. If they desire to obtain those other prices, under the Bill as it stands they have to go to an investigating committee to obtain that information, if they can, and that means time and expense.
§ This Amendment merely asks that the various collieries shall send to the executive boards lists of prices of the different coals they supply, and that these lists should be brought up to date from time to time, and be available for consumers who wish to purchase coal through the central selling scheme. The collieries may say that that means more clerical labour, but to-day they have to provide for the manufacturers the prices of all the different types of coal which they are able to supply, and I do not see why, when this Bill is passed, they should not be in the same position. The manufacturers will be under great disabilities if this Amendment is not agreed to. I am aware that there is a good deal of opposition to it on behalf of the colliery owners and others, but I hope that the Government on this occasion will side with the consumers, instead of the colliery owners, as they have done so often in these debates.
Page 90, line 44, at end insert the said new paragraph.—(Viscount Elibank.)
§ VISCOUNT HORNE OF SLAMANNAN
I would venture to support my noble friend. The consumer undoubtedly is placed under great disabilities under this measure, and the setting up of district committees and a Central Committee for the selling of coal imposes upon a consumer the obligation of disclosing why it is, for example, that he wishes to change his supply of coal. He is not allowed to make a complaint if his sole reason for changing the supply is because of the price. That puts him in great difficulty, because very often he wants to get a cheaper coal which is of a different grade. His object is not to get a cheaper price for a coal of the same grade, but to get something cheaper for his purpose in a different grade. It is obvious, therefore, that it is highly important for him to have a list of those prices in the various grades, and I think it would not impose a very severe burden on the colliery proprietors if they were to have a list of those prices 787 in the various grades to which the ordinary consumer could have access. I do not say it is a matter of immense importance, but it is a point which the colliery proprietors might concede, and which the Government in the interests of the consumers at large might support.
§ THE EARL OF DUDLEY
It is on very rare occasions that I find myself in disagreement with my noble friend, but I hope the Government will resist this Amendment. It would be impracticable, and indeed impossible, for an executive board to keep an accurate list of permit prices current in the district, for the simple reason that there are no such things as fixed permit prices for various classes of coal in any district. These permit prices are settled in individual inquiries having regard to all the circumstances affecting the particular contract, such as the amount of tonnage involved, the period of the proposed contract, the state of the market at that particular time, and the relative state of demand for the various classes and sizes of coal. It would really be quite impossible to keep from time to time permit prices in respect of all these various classes of coal, just like the catalogue of a store.
Will the noble Earl say what the exact practice is now, because prices have to be supplied by collieries all the time?
§ THE EARL OF DUDLEY
That is what I have already attempted to do. Each permit price is settled in each case in individual inquiries and in regard to the particular contract, and all the factors that enter into it. Apart from that objection, there are over a large part of the industry central selling schemes which have been set up under previous Acts, and in such cases there are no such things as permit prices, for the body administering the scheme is itself the seller of the coal. Indeed, as matters stand at present, the committees of investigation have power to call upon the body administering the scheme for such information as to prices as they may require in order to enable them to deal with complaints.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
I am informed that the proposed Amendment of my noble friend makes a general departture from the principle which has been followed with regard to the 1930 Act schemes since that Act was passed. 788 Amendments of the schemes and the duties of the boards under the schemes are not imposed upon the industry except by consent, and apparently, from what my noble friend Lord Dudley has said, there is no consent on the part of the coal industry to this Amendment. Further, it would be impossible to comply with the request of the noble Viscount which is contained in his Amendment. He asks that a list of prices should be brought up to date from time to time, but prices vary frequently, and constant and frequent alterations would be necessary in any such proposal. The Amendment is quite unacceptable to the Government, and it is not acceptable in any way to the Mining Association either.
I do not propose to press this Amendment, but I did hope it would have been possible to make this position a little more elastic than it will be when the Bill becomes law. At the present moment there are very few selling schemes in force in the country, but when the country becomes permeated with selling schemes I can see the consumer, in the respects of which the noble Viscount, Lord Horne, and I have spoken, in a difficult position very often. It is not a question of complaint, as the noble Earl, Lord Dudley, has said. It is a question of the ordinary flow of business to enable a man to compete with the manufacturer alongside him and the manufacturer overseas. I beg leave to withdraw.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Eighth Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 12, the further consideration of which had been postponed till after the consideration of the Schedules:
§ Right of freeholder in possession of coal to lease thereof.
12.—(1) A person carrying on the business of coal-mining immediately before the vesting date, who is then beneficially entitled (whether or not subject to a mortgage) to the entire fee simple in coal or a mine of coal that is not subject at that date to any coalmining lease, shall have the right, if he has made an application in writing in that behalf to the Commission before the vesting date, to a grant from the Commission of a coalmining lease comprising any coal or mine of coal specified in his application to which he is so entitled and any property and rights that vest in the Commission therewith:
Provided that a person shall not be entitled under this section to a lease the grant of which would interfere with the exercise of
a right granted by a working facilities order, or with the use or exercise under a coalmining lease of any poperty or right comprised therein.
§ (2) A lease granted, under this section shall be granted for such a term, commencing on the vesting date, as the person entitled to the lease may require, not being longer as regards the coal comprised therein than may be reasonably requisite for enabling that coal to be worked out, and subject to conditions with respect to rent and otherwise not more onerous to the lessee than the conditions customary in the district or, where there are no customary conditions or the customary conditions are not applicable, than the conditions to which a person not entitled to the benefit of this section might reasonably have been expected to agree, and the Commission may grant a lease to the person entitled on conditions less onerous than the conditions aforesaid where it appears to them that the situation of that person in respect of the business of coal-mining carried on by him would otherwise lie unduly unfavourable as compared with his situation in that respect as owner of the fee simple in the premises.
§ VISCOUNT HORNE OF SLAMANNAN moved, in subsection (1), after "entitled," to insert "and was so entitled before the tenth day of November nineteen hundred and thirty-seven." The noble Viscount said: The Amendments which have been put upon the Paper were put forward in more or less general terms in the speech I previously made in Committee. As your Lordships know, Clause 12 was postponed for consideration until the end of the Schedules on the indication that the Government recognised that a considerable injustice was being perpetrated on what are known as the freehold owners of coal if the Bill was carried through in the shape in which it then stood. Since then conversations have taken place between the noble Earl who leads the House and several of those concerned in moving the Amendments, including myself, with the result, as I understand it, that the Government and those who proposed the Amendments are really more or less at one in the general principle which ought to be carried out.
§ The Government have suggested in the clause they have put forward certain terms in which they would be prepared to amend Clause 12, and these terms are now before the Committee in the subsequent Amendments to be moved by my noble friend the Leader of the House. At this moment I am not prepared entirely to accept the phraseology adopted by the Government as being the best form of 790 words in which the views both of the Government and of those who moved the Amendments can be expressed, but in principle undoubtedly they meet the point which we had urged. Accordingly, if my noble friend Lord Stanhope is willing to allow us to move on the Report stage any Amendments that we choose to the form of words which he has adopted in his Amendment, I will be willing to withdraw the Amendments which stand in my name, amongst others, on the Paper.
Page 14, line 18, after ("entitled") insert ("and was so entitled before the tenth day of November nineteen hundred and thirty seven").—(Viscount Horne of Slamannan.)
§ EARL STANHOPE
I entirely accept what my noble friend said. I think we are agreed in regard to the principle of the matter, and it is merely a question of finding words. We hoped on both sides we had found suitable words, but my noble friend says he is not quite sure that they go far enough. I am not quite sure that they do not go a shade too far, and therefore both of us will be free, on the further stages of the Bill, to make such Amendments as we consider necessary and desirable. The noble Viscount is quite correct in saying we are all agreed as to what we wish to arrive at, and it is merely a question of words to carry out that principle. So far as I am concerned, I am quite prepared to move the Amendments standing in my name on the full understanding that I or the noble Viscount will have full liberty to amend the wording later on, if necessary.
If I may be so bold, I should like to ask for a little more information about this arrangement which apparently has been made between the noble Viscount, Lord Horne, and his friends and the Government. Do I understand that all these Amendments are more or less agreed for the time being—all the remaining Amendments on the Paper?
Do I understand the Government are accepting the two Amendments in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Horne?
These are not being accepted, but the two standing in the name of the Leader of the House are, I understand, for the time being acceptable to the noble Viscount and his friends. I am very glad to see this harmony amongst the Government supporters restored. It has saved us perhaps another late sitting, but I hope, when the noble Earl moves his Amendments, we can have just a word of explanation, particularly as to the effect on the financial provisions of the Bill.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
EARL STANHOPE had given Notice of two Amendments to subsection (2)—namely, to leave out "not" ["not more onerous"] and insert "which shall not in any case be" and to leave out all words from, and including "Commission" in order to insert:
conditions of the lease shall, where the person entitled thereto acquired the fee simple in the coal before the tenth day of November nineteen hundred and thirty-seven, be so framed as to secure that his financial position in respect of his business of working the coal shall not be adversely affected by the operation of this Part of this Act.
§ The noble Earl said: I do not know if your Lordships would like me to take both Amendments together. They deal with the same subject. Briefly they leave the situation in regard to freehold coal exactly as it was before this Bill came into operation. It will be left in the same financial position in regard to the amount the owners pay in the matter of rent, taking into consideration the amount they have paid for the coal in the first instance. As regards the finance of the Bill, the Amendments will have no effect whatever. The freehold coal will be valued with other coal and in exactly the same way. Then the amount that will be paid in rent will come in on the other side, and it will not affect the finance of the Bill one way or the other. The whole valuation will come into the £66,450,000, and therefore the finance of the scheme is not affected.
Page 14, line 39, leave out ("not") and insert ("which shall not in any case be").—(Earl Stanhope.)
I only want to say I feel a very heavy responsibility in 792 this matter. As your Lordships know, my noble friends and I make no pretence of speaking for any one on this question other than the Miners' Federation who are members of our Party and are, after all, those most nearly affected. In all the Amendments we have moved and all the discussions in which we have engaged we have been acting openly and, I hope, honestly on behalf of this great organisation. We have been trying to speak for the 700,000 or 800,000 workers in the coal industry. I am not in a position to say what their views are on this particular Amendment. I recognise that it is an important one. I know it meets a genuinely felt grievance, and I am not going to say it is not in the national interest, but I am afraid it will have to remain where I leave it, as far as we are concerned, until there has been time to consider it.
§ LORD CROMWELL
I do not propose to oppose the Amendments to this clause which appear on the Paper in the name of my noble friend the Leader of the House, but I am afraid I am unable to give silent assent to them, and as briefly as possible wish to make my position clear. Throughout the debates it has been agreed from all quarters of the House that an owner of coal has an undisputed right to the same, both legally and morally, and therefore it cannot be claimed that any particular section had more right than any other. It is true to say that this clause, as amended, will not draw any distinction in so far as the compensation goes, but no one can deny that it implies that one section of the royalty owners is not getting a fair deal, and obviously, if this is true, then it is equally true of all of them.
It has been argued that colliery companies owning coal should be treated differently to private individuals also owning coal because, in fact, the former have risked their capital and the latter have not. The fallacy of this is obvious, and, if I may say so without offence, even the Government see through it, but at the same time they are anxious to placate an influential body of people providing they do no actual material injury to the despised and unimportant private royalty owners. It is true that no actual damage 793 is being done to the royalty owners but the Government certainly cannot escape from their dilemma, and I challenge them to deny that Clause 12, as amended, is an admission that the £66,000,000 for which they propose to acquire all the coal in the country is a totally inadequate figure.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I do not rise to challenge the principle of this Amendment, but only to ask the noble Leader of the House if he could give a little further elucidation in regard to the financial aspect. The coal in question is about one-eighth of the whole of the coal in the country; therefore, presumably, about one-eighth of the value of the whole of the coal in the country. The owners of this coal, the freehold owners who are also working the coal, will now not pay anything under this Bill and will not receive anything, so I gather, and when the valuation is made they will have no special interest to secure that their value is as high a one as the circumstances of the case require. My point is whether under this new arrangement the noble Earl, the Leader of the House, is sure that the valuation will really be adequate and will represent the sum which this coal is really worth, because if not, then the other royalty owners will be receiving something up to one-eighth more than they would otherwise receive. I have no doubt that would be very welcome to them.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I should like to know whether that is so, because if it is we ought to know just what we are doing. It may be said that this does not matter to anybody, because it will all come out of the £66,000,000 and the State will not be required to find any more money, but if there is some ultimate residue conceivable for general purposes, or if it is desired to use this money in some way beneficial to the industry, the position will have been altered. I do not want to go into that; I only want to know whether in any respect the finances of the Bill as regards the valuation of this great property and the use of the proceeds are in any way affected by the Amendment which we are now asked to accept.
THE EARL OF LINDSAY
I should like to say, speaking as one interested in the question of freehold coal, that I do not think it is wise to look a gift horse in 794 the mouth. I think those colliery companies possessing freehold coal should be grateful to the noble Earl and the Government for the clause he proposes to insert. It must be borne in mind that in many cases colliery companies have paid more than fifteen years' purchase for their coal, so that there should be no complaints about what they are getting. Moreover, the fact remains that they may have paid for the coal several years back and at the same time have stood out of the interest on the money so expended. I mention these facts to show that the owners of freehold coal are not getting any special privilege at the expense of other royalty owners.
§ LORD HASTINGS
But what the noble Viscount suggested was that other royalty owners were going to get money at the expense of the general fund. I have a vivid recollection of about three days ago supporting the noble Viscount on a financial point, and now that I have that in front of me I say: "Never again; never again!" The noble Viscount may be absolutely certain that whoever gets anything out of this it will not be the royalty owners, but we shall not forget that the noble Viscount did try to prevent it.
§ EARL STANHOPE
I do not know if the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, was here during the earlier part of the proceedings. If he had been he would—
§ EARL STANHOPE
I am sorry, but I must not have made myself clear in moving some Amendments to the Third Schedule which dealt with this particular point.
§ EARL STANHOPE
I think I can state their effect very shortly. The point was this, that we recognised that there was really nothing which would cause the freehold owner of coal to see that a proper valuation of coal was put in and, therefore, we thought it necessary to insert Amendments to safeguard that position and see that full particulars were for- 795 warded, so that the valuation should be put on a proper basis. If the Coal Commission thought that that was not being done then, under the first Amendment, they would have a right to appear before the Regional Committee and make their case that the valuation should be reconsidered. The second Amendment dealt with the matter before a referee. There again the Coal Commission have a right to intervene in all these cases of freehold coal. Thus a provision was inserted to safeguard the position and to see that the valuation was done on proper lines and that the freehold owners did not get away with a very small value of coal so that other coalowners should get more than they were entitled to.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.796
Page 15, line 2, leave out from ("the") to the end of the subsection and insert ("conditions of the lease shall, where the person entitled thereto acquired the fee simple in the coal before the tenth day of November nineteen hundred and thirty-seven, be so framed as to secure that his financial position in respect of his business of working the coal shall not be adversely affected by the operation of this Part of this Act.")—(Earl Stanhope.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 12, as amended, agreed to.
§ House resumed.