I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to insert instead thereof the words,
this House declines to assent to the Second Reading of a Bill which leaves to the consideration of a Commission of Inquiry the principle of the nationalisation of coal mines, and which, by instituting an inquiry to secure information already in the possession of the Government, will incur unnecessary delay in settling the claims of the workers in and about the coal mines for an increase of wages and a reduction in working hours.
I regret very much the necessity for having to move this Amendment. My right hon. Friend below the Gangway has referred to my advice to the miners to vote against the strike. I want to make this personal observation only: That the advice against the strike that I tendered was not to be taken as advice in favour of the setting up of this Commission. I make no doubt about it that on the merits of the claims of the miners I am at one with all the other leaders. I must say I should have much preferred it, and I think that this House would have been in a better position to discuss this question had that ballot not been taken, and were the fears of a strike of all the miners in this country not obsessing us. It obsesses me—I have no hesitation in making that admission at once: the contemplation of a strike of the whole of the miners of the country at this time is to me an appalling one. The Prime Minister devoted the greater part of his excellent speech upon this subject to depicting the calamity that would overtake the country were the miners to cease work. In my opinion, now that this
ballot has been taken, now that the miners are going to do what they have said in the prosecution of their claims, the greater calamity is that this House and the Government are going to permit this stoppage to take place. Hence, I ask the Government, on behalf of my confreres of the Miners' Federation, and all those who are interested in this subject, to at least deal with the question of hours and wages at once. We are quite willing that the subject of the nationalisation of the mines, if the principle is once admitted, shall subsequently have full discussion. I was very much struck by the Prime Minister asking us not to prejudice the case, but let it go fully into the hands of this Commission to be inquired into. I was very much disappointed also to find that practically the whole burden of the Prime Minister's speech was prejudging the situation. He told us in no uncertain terms that he had been informed that the terms the miners were seeking were going to put 8s. per ton on the price of coal, and he also stated that if wages were increased and the hours were reduced as asked for by the miners it would add 10 per cent. to the cost of the production of steel, and he said it would cripple our shipping and our exports and bring national disaster to the country. Where did the right hon. Gentleman get those figures? Where did they come from, and why were they not given to the Miners' Federation so that they might have been dealt with in time? Now we are asked to take a Commission. Perhaps all these statements may be shown to be wrong. Those figures must have been provided by the coal-owners because they could not have been secured from any other source, and they ought to have been given to us if they were in the possession of the Government. Application was made a long time ago for the figures and the Prime Minister has been informed of that application, and we ought to have had them in order to examine them. There is no necessity for us to go before a special Commission to prove that even this 8s. a ton is not going to be so calamitous as the right hon. Gentleman says it is. The right hon. Gentleman has opportunities himself of knowing what will happen if the Government do to-day what I am afraid the Coal Controller did during the War—that is, simply see that the owners of the coal industry are secured their pre-war profits and conditions, and insist upon that being
the bedrock of anything they do. If they do, then these calamities will overtake the nation.
The Prime Minister has told us how this 8s. is to be met. He said the cost of coal at the pithead is 18s. per ton. I have just asked what one of the attendants in the Library was paying for coal in London, and he said 48s. 6d. per ton. I say to the Prime Minister that all those inquiries ought to have been made before, and the difference between the 18s. per ton and the 48s. 6d. ought to have been in the possession of the Government who have set up a Coal Control. I am not at all astonished at the Prime Minister having been led into trotting out that old wheeze about Pocahontas. We have had that story in South Wales for the last twenty years, and I remember a great many years ago Lord Rhondda once treated us to a two hours' oration upon the calamities that were going to overtake the South Wales coal trade because of competition with Pocahontas on the Continent. We were rather startled, and a Commission was set up to inquire into the competition with Pocahontas in Europe. That Commission was set up, and my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. Brace) and myself were upon it. We made our perambulations on the Continent, secured all the information, and we came home. That was in 1892, and from that moment we have not heard the term "Pocahontas" used until I heard it to-day. Really I was very much amused by the Prime Minister being led by his Friends into such a hole as that, for that coal cannot be sold at anything like the price of South Wales coal under ordinary conditions in any part of the world. The Prime Minister warned us not to cite particular colliery companies, and he said we must take the whole trade. I suppose the right hon. Gentleman has come across this interesting paragraph about colliery companies in the Press this morning:
Coal-producing companies' accounts are of special topical interest at the moment. The Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company, which has an issued share capital of nearly £2,500,000 sterling, has earned a net profit of £529,198, against £521,744 for the preceding year. It has to pay on an increased capital, however, owing to the capitalisation of part of its general reserve. The rate of dividend is, therefore, reduced from 20 to 15 per cent., free of tax. Fifteen per cent. is really equivalent to twenty if this capitalisation of reserves be taken into account. The rate of 20 per cent. has been maintained throughout the War. For 1913 a bonus of 50 per cent. was paid in addition.
That concerns not one colliery, but a large group, and I am sure that the colliery-owners who sit behind the Prime Minister would not ask him to cite this kind of case. Nevertheless, it is the kind of case that makes the miner discontented. I have been long enough in this House to hear that in every Debate when better social conditions are asked for we have been told that they depend upon vested capital. I have always heard the poor small investor trotted out and the widow, especially the poor widow with her investments. I want to say quite frankly, as far as I am concerned, that £1,000 invested by a widow or anybody else in the industrial affairs of this country ought not to bring them in the same return as the labour of a man who works from January to December, and that is what this 20 per cent. dividend means. A £1,000 brings to the shareholder as much money as the collier who has gone on from January to December, in face of all the risks he has to endure during the year, and that is a kind of thing that the miners of this country are not prepared to submit to a Commission. The miners say that this money has a false value, and it will have to be changed before you get rid of the unrest amongst the miners.
You may say that 20 per cent. is a small return on capital, but when it is compared with the earnings of the man who earns the capital it is a very great return. We are not prepared, as far as South Wales miners are concerned, to accept £1,000 as being the value of a miner's work from January to December. It means that a man may sit down at home and write a cheque for £l,000 and he gets the same return as the man who works for a whole year. We have these men living side by side in the same street. One man who has £1,000 invested gets £200 interest; the other man has to get up at four or five o'clock every morning and return at five or six o'clock in the evening all the year round in order to produce this wealth, and he only gets the same pay as the other. This country will have to realise that if this unrest is to be allayed that the pay must be for the services rendered to the State and the country. It must be services rendered, and the rates must not be settled differently because one is capital and the other is labour. We are now discussing this question without certain information. The Government themselves chose the method of giving us advances in wages in South Wales. We have had machinery which decided the advances in wages, and they took place after an advance in the selling price of coal, and not as the coal-owners of South Wales have attempted to mislead everybody by saying that the price of coal has been driven up by increases in wages. I have no hesitation whatever in saying that that is a false statement which has been put in print and circulated. Increases in wages have always followed in South Wales, both before and after the War, upon increases in the price of coal, and they have been based upon these prices. You had this question at the time examined both by owners and workmen, and automatically wages were fixed in this way. If it was found there had been an advance in the price of coal, then there was an advance in wages, and if it was found there had been a reduction there was a reduction in wages.
Since the appointment of the Coal Controller—if I am in order I would like to say that I deeply regret his death, because I think he performed a very difficult task in a very able manner—we were surprised to find that 4s. per ton had been taken by the Government for the purpose of paying more wages, and that was all right so far as it went. We were told that that 4s. had been taken by the Government to meet the expenses and pay increased wages on account of the War. That was all right so far as it went, but we thought that we were entitled to know how that 4s. was distributed. I myself wrote an application to the President of the Board of Trade telling him that we had been informed that 4s. had been taken by the Government, and that we wanted to know what they were doing with it, because we had never asked for any increase unless there had been an increase in price. We were politely referred to the Coal Controller, and that is all we know. All that information respecting the 4s. ought to have been in the hands of the miners when they were formulating their claim. It would have enabled them to know how far their claim for a 30 per cent. increase was justified in the circumstances. I want to urge upon the Government at least to remove this question of hours and wages from the scope of this Commission, and I want to urge the Prime Minister not to be frightened by alarmists who have in vested their capital in this concern. We have heard all this before. We have heard it every time that there has been any improvement suggested. I have listened to the speeches of my hon. Friend opposite many times. Was it compensation? Was it the Eight Hours Act? It was always said that any improvement in the mines was going to bring calamity and destruction to the coal trade.
Unfortunately, I did not hear my hon. Friend's speech to-day, and I do not know what attitude he took up, but I withdraw anything that I have said referring to him personally. I move this Amendment because I believe whatever evil will ensue from the granting of these conditions to the miners—there will no doubt be difficulties in changing from eight hours to six, and as the result of an increase of 30 per cent. in wages—the difficulties will be very much less than the difficulties that will exist if we get a stoppage of the mines of the country. The Prime Minister told us that they had made an exception of the miners in demobilisation. Yes, and that exception has created the difficulty. The miners were faced with that fact, and they were obliged to go to the Government and ask for some better conditions for the men. The men were demobilised at a much faster rate than the colliery owners were prepared to give them employment. It is not our fault. Miners were sent home, and scores and hundreds assembled at the pits every day asking for work. These men who had been fighting our battles so graphically described by the Prime Minister, who had been fighting to save our country, were demobilised because an increased quantity of coal was wanted, and day after day they were told by the colliery manager that there was no work for them. When we complained to the colliery owners they blamed the Government. I do not think either the Government or the Coal Controller are to blame. They had to exert all their energies and to use all the men at their disposal to get the coal. But a colliery is not like a factory or a shop, where you can lock up any department and unlock it when you are ready to start again. If you reduce your area of working in a colliery, it takes a considerable time to restart working that area. Hence the difficulty. We were faced with the fact that large bodies of men had come home and could not get work and were entitled to better conditions. Even if it meant depriving us of some luxury in life we thought that these men ought to be given decent wages while waiting for employment.
The other day the Leader of the House told us that working men were thinking because we were able to spend £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 per day on the prosecution of the War that there was plenty of money for everybody in the country. I do not think that the working people think that at all. He said: "You must remember that it was borrowed money." We do remember that it was borrowed money, and the astonishment of the working people of this country is that it was there to borrow. They say: "How has that money accumulated? It has accumulated because of bad conditions of employment, because of low wages, because of rack rents for slums. That is how these great sums of money have accumulated. The Prime Minister and everybody else tells us that we have fought and beaten the Germans, that the men who performed that great task have an interest and a stake in the country, and that the country now is to be made fit for heroes to live in. This is the translation of the miners of that promise into fact. They say: "If you are going to make it fit for us to live in, you must reduce our hours to six per day, and you must give us wages which will not only keep our families and wives in. decency while we are working, but which will enable us to put by a small amount for the days when we shall be unable to work at all. I move this Amendment in the hope that the Prime Minister will reconsider taking this question of hours and wages out of the scope of the Commission. By all means set up your Commission to consider what is to be done with this great national industry, and take it out of the hands of people who have no more right to it than either I or the Prime Minister.
My only excuse as a new Member for rising so early in this Session to address the House is that I cannot admit the claim of hon. Gentlemen opposite to be the sole representatives of Welsh miners. I have been sent here by a very large section of Welsh miners to represent them in this House. I had as my opponent no less a personage than the secretary of the North Wales Miners' Federation. The programme of my opponent included nationalisation of the mines and rushing the Government into extreme measures without giving them a proper chance to consider what those measures should be, not only in the interests of the miners but also in the interests of the community at large. My standpoint was that I should come here to support a Coalition Government to adopt moderate measures of reconstruction, and to give the Government a chance to consider the work of reconstruction in all its aspects. The verdict of the North Wales Miners' Federation was absolutely in favour of the recommendations which I placed before them. I wax returned here with a majority of no less than 14,000. I received a poll of 20,000, and 95 per cent. were working men, the large proportion of that 95 per cent. being North Wales coal-miners. I say—and I shall be brought to account if I am misrepresenting the views of my Constituents—that the miners of North Wales are in favour of the proposals put forward by the Prime Minister. I am perfectly certain, if I went down to my Constituents and asked for a vote, that I should have an overwhelming majority again to come here and support the Government on that issue.
I am not prepared to say that the lot of the miner is a happy one. I know from personal contact with them that their lot is a very unhappy one, and I am perfectly convinced that the Commission which is about to be set up will find that the demands of the miners which are now being put forward, as far as wages and hours are concerned, are just demands. Having studied the question in North Wales, I am personally in favour of a six-hours' day for the miners, and of a 30 per cent. increase in their wages; but I do say, and I am perfectly certain that I am speaking for the North Wales miner, that they believe it is only reasonable for this matter to be thoroughly investigated. It is only reasonable to give the Government, who have had such heavy responsibilities in carrying on this War, a fair chance to investigate the claims of these miners from every possible standpoint. I submit that it is monstrous for hon. Gentlemen opposite to come here and say that these poor wretched miners, who have suffered injustices for all these years, cannot wait another fortnight. It is really ludicrous, and I say on behalf of the North Wales miners—I am entitled to echo their voice—that they are in favour of giving the present Government every possible facility to inquire into their case, because they know, and I know, that the demands which they put forward are just and reasonable demands.
I am not in favour of nationalisation. I do not believe that it would be for the good of the country or for the miners. I do not believe in handing over the interests of the miners to a State Department, which has no soul. I deprecate State control of anything. As a business man, I advocate joint control by miners and capitalists. The root of all this evil of labour unrest is the suspicion that the miners have that they are not getting a fair share of the profits of the industry. What we want to do is to be perfectly honest and straight with the workpeople. Let the employers and the capitalists put their cards on the table. Let the workmen really see what the profits are. I have never yet come across an honest British working man who is not in favour of allowing capital a fair return. I have never heard a working man outside the Bolshevists saying that capital must not have a fair return. But what they do say, and what they are justified in saying, is "We cannot live on a pittance of £2 per week year in and year out, and go on increasing the output for the benefit of the Chinese and Japanese. What we want is to have some of these good things for our own use." If you want increased production in this country you must give the working man in this country an inducement for increased production. You must let him feel that if he puts his back and energy into his work at the end of twelve months he will be better off than he was at the beginning. Every capitalist feels that he ought to be better off at the end of twelve months than at the beginning. But how many working men are better off? It is the humdrum existence, the sameness, the same wage week in week out, month in and month out, without any change and regardless of the work the man puts in. In conclusion may I urge that the miners of Wales are not unanimous in support of the demands put forward by hon. Members opposite, and, speaking for the North Wales miners, I assert that they are fully and completely in sympathy with giving the Government every possible facility for inquiry into their case.
I ask the indulgence of the House towards me in my maiden speech like everybody else. I want to support the nationalisation of the mines. We have got a mandate from our people for that. I do not put it forward from any selfish standpoint, but I claim that it would be in the best and highest interests of the nation. If the mines were nationalised it would do away with the system now in operation of leaving what we call, in mining language, barrier coal.
I have a colliery in my mind now where there are 21 feet of coal in six seams—21 feet in depth and about 15 feet across—and all that coal has to be left in for a distance of four miles. We have got something like eighty collieries where similar barriers have to be left in in the county of Northumberland. Yet we have the present Prime Minister lecturing us about the saving of coal. It has been estimated that in Northumberland alone no less than 20 millions of tons of coal is thus lost, and in other counties there are even larger quantities, and this coal will be absolutely lost, although it is the richest of our mineral products and better than gold mines. It is, in fact, the life of this nation. But under the present system it is being lost.
Now I come to the question of the six-hour day. In the 70's we had a six-hour day in the counties of Northumberland and Durham. The average net price of coal then was 12s. 6d., and of the best qualities 18s. To-day our best qualities are quoted on the market at 90s., or five times as much, and yet we are told we cannot have a six-hour day! I was pleased to hear the hon. Member opposite say that he was in favour of the six-hour day. Twenty-five per cent. of the colliers in Northumberland to-day have a seven-hour day. Think of the conditions under which the men work. Why, if a miner were to appear in the public streets in the condition in which he has to do his work, divested of all his clothing except a small portion, he would at once be arrested. Can anyone begrudge these men a six-hour day. No sane man would do it. When you sit at home on such cold winter nights as we have re- cently had and inhale the genial warmth sent out by the coal fire, do you ever remember the men who are finding that coal for you? Some are being killed, some are being maimed for life, and how are they being treated by the richest country in the world? I am not a Bolshevist. I did some recruiting during the War. I am a constitutionalist. I do not want a strike. But I do want these things remedied. There are some men who can work a full day on their jobs on which it is only possible to work four hours at a time. The man at the crossings on duty four hours at a time cannot stand it much longer. The man at work on the coal face cannot stand it longer. The best of coal hewers die or are broken down at forty-five years of age. The best man to-day may be among the worst to-morrow.
The Premier told us he had been informed that the miners were earning £4 a week. I am financial secretary to the Northumberland miners, and the wages are sent in to me of some forty thousand miners. Remember that the coal-getters represent only about one-fourth of the mining community. Their wages come out at 14s. per day, plus 3s. war bonus. But they do not get that to take home to their wives. There are deductions made in respect of some twenty-two items of expenditure. In regard to the support of charitable institutions the miners are among the most generous men in the world. Deductions are made from their wages for that purpose; also for the maintenance of their trade unions. Remember how many Northumberland miners went to the front. There were forty-nine battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers, who were well known on the battlefield. Among them were a hundred of my own blood relations. They have nearly all come back. I wish all had. But let it be remembered that some 50,000 or 60,000 of our men are lying dead on the battlefield. Why should not those who have come back be in as good a position as those who have remained at home earning good wages? It has been my business to deal with the wages of miners during a period of twenty-five years. I can give the cases of men who have to work in 2 ft. of coal. Which of you could do if? Do you begrudge such men £1 a day fox doing work such as that—for working in a seam with the rain percolating through upon them. I support the full programme which has been put forward on their behalf. I support the 30 per cent. rise. Do not run away with the idea that all the men are getting these high wages. There are classes who get 4s. per day, plus 120 per cent., which means 8s. 9d. Others have 3s. a day, which with the added percentage is brought up to 7s. 1d. The great bulk are by no means getting 16s., 17s., or £1 a day. I do not know who has given the Prime Minister the information. At any rate, I would welcome an inquiry on that point. In such an inquiry we should have something we never had before. Many times we have demanded to be told the selling prices and the profits of the coal industry. That information has always been refused. I know there are some mines which have been paying 50 per cent. during the War. That means that they paid 45 per cent. before the War, and the Government have allowed them the extra 5 per cent. I am grateful to the House for having given me the opportunity of addressing it on this occasion and for having listened to me so patiently.
May I intrude for a few minutes on the attention of the House in order to refer to another point of view? We have been given the points of view of the Government and of the miners. May I say a word on behalf of the general public outside? Will the House recollect that the whole community is threatened with a most serious position—perhaps the most difficult position—our mercantile position? We are threatened with a stoppage of coal, which would have results upon our trade and upon our national prosperity which are quite incalculable. The hon. Member who last spoke (Mr. Cairns)—and I desire to congratulate him on his maiden speech—talked just now of our sitting round the warm fire and not thinking of the coal-getter. I wonder if it is realised that during the winter there have been many homes without any fires because of the shortage of coal, and that there are thousands upon thousands of people who are paying 120 per cent. increase upon their food but whose income has decreased instead of increased, because they have got a fixed income?
Sir R. WILLIAMS:
I am not talking about the fault, but about the fact. I do not impute fault to anybody, but I want that fact remembered. Anybody who takes an interest—not merely a sectional interest in the well-being of the country—knows it is perfectly true that people were brought very nearly to starvation, and in many houses to a fire a week. Remember this, the coal-miners have always had their full supply of coal all through the War, but I know many houses in London that have had a fire a week; not even once a day, but once a week, because there was a shortage of coal I want these facts to be borne in mind, that is all. That is something of the view of the public. We are threatened with this. The miners go to the Government with a certain statement. The Government have met them with what seems to the outside public to be a perfectly fair proposition. The public does not want ex parte statements on the side of the Government or of the miners; it can take the statements on both sides. But it does want an opportunity of coming to a fair judgment and of knowing just what the real state of the case is. Take nationalisation. It is the public which has got to settle the question of nationalisation; it is the people who will pay for it. And to ask that the people of the country should give nationalisation of the mines on the demand of one section of the community—I quite grant that that section of the community will include a great many people besides the miners—without a real, full, open discussion is—I do not like to say monstrous—but it really is not common sense to think that you can ask a great business nation to take a great business step of that sort without fair information.
The position is this: that the miners want their demand granted by the 15th of March. The Government say, "Let us have a tribunal to get the fullest information we can obtain by the 31st of March." I understand there are hon. Members in this House who are prepared to vote against that, and to put the country to all the horrors of a strike which the miners, in honour to themselves, are bound to bring forward after the threat that they have made, and who are prepared, for the sake of a fortnight, to put the public to inconvenience, to place many invalids and aged people in great danger, and to put the nation generally into a very serious commercial position. I do not believe that that can be the case, and it is hard to believe, when we remember that every section of this House has been returned pledged up to the hilt to support the Prime Minister's programme in regard to housing and health. We are now keeping the Ministry of Health Bill out of the way. This measure might very well have taken the whole of this evening, and the time would have been profitably spent upon a real item of national reform. Yet we cannot get this Bill through its stages—we have been three hours on it—to enable the Prime Minister to keep the pledge he made to the miners. I do hope that both the Government and the representatives of the party opposite, and the House generally, will agree that we might really let this Bill go through, with all its consequences, and get on to the work we want to do.
Mr. Speaker, unlike most people, I am not so very well pleased that I have caught your eye, but I was bound to get up and voice the opinions of Scottish miners, and I was the more bound to get up because of the first note of acrimony which was introduced into the Debate by an hon. Member who is not now present, but who sat in a corner below the Gangway. He asked us: Were we honest? and by implication he said that the leaders of the miners were not trying to keep back the catastrophe that is about to overtake the country, but were rather inciting them to strike. Now, anybody who has followed closely the history of our country during the last four and a half years is bound to admit that the leaders of the miners did everything in their power to keep every man at work during a time of stress and storm to the nation. I am not going to repeat, what everybody knows, how many men were sent, and how many of our kith and kin, the very nearest of them, he watering or enriching the battlefields of Flanders and of France. I am not going to recount anything of these things, because every hon. Members knows them; but I want to say to the House that the miners' leaders have done everything that is consistent as men, as leaders, and as responsible citizens of the nation. This is not a new thing. The question was asked as to what was done to bring about this vote. I should have thought that the hon. Member who spoke, coming, as I understand, from a coal district, would have known all about the procedure which occurred before we arrived at a stage such as this. Why, as far back as last August, at our Scottish annual meeting in Edinburgh, we did not ask for a 30 per cent., but we asked, for a 50 per cent. It was a 50 per cent. that our Scottish miners said we required in order that we might be in the same position as we were prior to the War. That was discussed long before it came to Edinburgh in the county board meetings, and even before it reached the county board it had to be discussed, at what we in Scotland call our branch meetings. Every one of our men was determined that the time had arrived when a large increase was due to them, because not only of the increased cost of living, but because of the kind of work they were performing, and that they were entitled to some recognition from the State. The hon. Member opposite (Sir R. Thomas) says that he comes here as representing a large number of Welsh miners. I am afraid if he had told the miners that he was going to vote against an immediate decision on the 30 per cent. increase and on the six hours a day he would not have been a Member of this House to-night.
I beg to point out that I never did say that I was going to vote against six hours or against the 30 per cent. I distinctly said I was in favour of that, but that I was going to support the Government over this inquiry, which I think is only perfectly fair and which my Constituents think is perfectly fair.
Which will practically mean the same thing as far as the catastrophe is concerned. What most Members won the election on was the promise to us of a new Heaven and a new earth, and very much better conditions under the earth. We, who work under the earth, are going to try to claim those better conditions now that they are coming before this honourable House. Let the House think what the miner has to undergo. The Prime Minister has already stated the adverse conditions under which he works and lives, and he admits that those conditions have given cause for a great deal of the discontent which has arisen throughout the country. I think we are entitled to claim this 30 per cent. and six hours a day. If the country and this House knew what a six hours working day really meant, I am perfectly sure that they would need no inquiry whatever. In Scotland, it will mean, in a great many instances, eight hours a day, and if we had gone to the country and said that we were claiming an eight hours day from bank to bank, I dare say every Member of this House tonight would have said it was a fair and a reasonable proposition. That is all we are claiming. A six hours working day means that men may be underground from seven to eight hours per day. That is to say, we get the six hours on the same method that we got our eight hours, and you must not imagine that it is so easy for a miner, as soon as he has got down the pit, to got to his work as it is for an ordinary tradesman travelling to his occupation. For men getting on in life, for a man like myself, who has not so long ago left the mine, it was the worst part of the day's work to get to the workings. If hon. Members will remember that, I do not think there will be any difficulty at all in their at once supporting this Amendment to eliminate the wages and the hours question from the Resolution before the House.
I want to impress upon the House that we are not willing to take the blame for anything that may occur from the refusal of this reasonable Amendment. We have heard of the horrors that will accrue from a national stoppage of the coal pits. I perfectly agree that there will probably be disaster following a na-nional stoppage of the coal miners, but we do not want to take that blame. If, on the one hand, it is said, "Why not wait a fortnight?" we say, on the other hand, "Why not concede these two points, and give yourselves leisure to examine the question of the nationalisation of the mines and the question regarding the demobilised men and the wages they are to get?" On every count, I think the Mover of the Amendment has made out his case. I think, taking the willingness of the miners all through the War, even to allow themselves to be set aside occasionally so that the country might not be embarrassed by stoppages of any kind; taking into account that we gave the men, and that very often, against the wishes of the men, we kept them at work in order that the Government might defeat our enemies—taking all these things into account, I think it would be unreasonable not to expect this House to accept this Amendment to get rid of the hours and wages question and to give the Leader of the Opposition the promise that the principle of nationalisation will be conceded. Then everyone of us will be quite willing, and indeed happy, to have this investigation set on foot as quickly as possible. I would plead with all right hon. and hon. Gentlemen of this House to think once and twice before they refuse this Amendment, because this is not a leader's movement; it is a men's movement. After the last conference at Southport, when I reached my home in Ayrshire, I discovered that some thousands of men had been idle the day previously, and when I asked the reason they said they stopped "to protest against the undue delay which you leaders are putting upon us." I also ask the House to remember that during the unhappy trouble in Glasgow a short time ago—I am a constitutionalist, and I wish everything to be done constitutionally, and have no desire to see my country in any danger at all; I would rather forego anything that would cause trouble to my country—we had unconstitutional methods thrust upon us. We refused to accept those methods, and we issued manifestoes warning our men that they were to keep at work, because we would not tolerate any unconstitutional methods. But we did that, and the men obeyed us, knowing that this claim had been before the country so long, and in the faith that, seeing that the cost of living had risen so much, and that the miners were entitled to a fuller, higher, better, and a more leisured life, and that they were entitled to a shorter working day, there would be very little doubt when the time came that large concessions would be given to us. That was the reason we were able to keep these men at work. I trust that this Amendment will be accepted by the House so that all difficulty may vanish for the time being, and that then this Commission may be set to work to investigate the highly important matters of nationalisation and demobilisation. I hope they will accept this Amendment, because I am afraid—I am not threatening at all—that, in spite of anything we might do, the strike will occur. The figures speak for themselves. The figures are there, and they prove to this House and to me that nothing short of this concession from the Government will be able to prevent what, in the opinion of all of us, will be a calamity for the nation.
I am sure the House will desire to congratulate the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down on his very able maiden contribution to our Debates. The view expressed by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for West Dorset (Colonel Sir R. Williams) should be emphasised. I have listened very carefully to the speeches made, on the one hand, by the Government, and, on the other hand, by representatives of the miners. Hon. Gentlemen sitting above the Gangway have put before the House a very moving appeal regarding the hours, wages, and conditions of labour under which the miners of this country work. I do not wish in any way to combat the arguments they have put forward. There may be every justification for the appeal they have made, but it seems to me that the very special conditions under which the Debate is taking place have been forgotten. Hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway suggest that, if the demands they make are not met by the Government, on the 15th March there will be a national miners' strike. Surely there are special reasons why that strike should not take place. There are reasons which to-day are quite different from those which obtained in peace why they should be willing at least to delay the strike until the Commission which the Government propose to set up has made its inquiry into the question of wages, hours, and so on. At the present moment prices are high. War conditions still obtain. We have won the War, but we have not yet won the Peace. The fear of strikes prevents trade resuming its ordinary channels, and there seems to be every reason why the miners should continue to show what they have done during the War that sense of patriotism which has led them to put forth their whole effort into the War during the last four and a half years. As a member of the public and as representing a constituency which views this matter solely from the consumers' standpoint, I feel that the public will say that the Miners' Association has put forward no reason to-night why this strike should take place before the Commission of Inquiry is set up. I submit that view very strongly to the House, and I would suggest to hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway that, in view of the special War conditions, from which we have not yet emerged, they should reconsider the attitude they have taken up and grant the Bill which is necessary in order that this inquiry should take place.
The last appeal made by my hon. and gallant Friend (Lieutenant-Colonel A. C. Murray) only shows how difficult it is for hon. Members to appreciate our situation. If this issue had to be determined merely by the vote of the House or the speeches or decisions of anyone sitting in the House, then the problem would be much more simple than unfortunately it is to-day. The House must realise, whatever its view of the ballot vote may be, that that ballot vote is to-day a mandate to the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. No speeches of any kind will get over the fact that at the moment the situation is that in the clear deliberate view of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain they have a mandate that on the 15th March they will order the whole of the miners to cease work, unless their demands are conceded. That shortly is the situation. But it would be deceiving the House—I have node sire to do that—if I did not also make it perfectly clear that there are other complications. The transport workers have definitely rejected the latest offer made to them. They have definitely—I am not now arguing the wisdom of their decision, I am merely stating a fact—refused to allow the offer of forty-eight hours to go to arbitration, and my own union are at the moment in negotiation. To-morrow the triple alliance, which is composed of these three bodies, meets to determine their action. No one can minimise the seriousness of that situation. I frankly recognise that the issue as it appears to me is this: If we have on the one hand a strike of these three great bodies, it will not only paralyse industry and may not only easily ruin the country, but even if we succeed by a strike we shall have defeated the State, and that is, after all, a very serious thing which I do not minimise for a moment. On the other hand, if we lose there may easily be a period of reaction and oppression for many years to come. I know that all too well, and anyone placed in my position will not want telling that we feel very responsible in the matter.
I am not taking part in this Debate merely to make a debating point, but I want to appeal to the Government to see whether it is not possible, even now, to find some way out. The Miners' Federation, so far as their appeal is concerned, say this: "When the last strike took place we asked this House of Parliament to put into the Bill a figure which would guarantee us a definite wage. The Government said "No." Although the strike had then proceeded for weeks, let it be observed—I well remember the all-night sitting on this very point, because I took part in the Debate—the considered judgment of the Government, in which I believe the Prime Minister took part, was that it would be unwise for Parliament by legislation to fix any wage. We remember the Division we had on what was called the five and two. My point is that on that occasion the clear decision of the Government was that the adjustment of these differences by this House by legislation was the wrong method. What the miners say to-day to you is that since coal-mining has been an industry there have been means for regulating the conditions of wages, sometimes by conciliation, sometimes by arbitration, or by whatever other means may have been in existence, and we say—this is the miners'claim—that to-day, with the power of our organisation, with the organised position of the employers, and with the experience of forty years behind us, we are far better able to settle these questions than any independent body set up by this Government. That shortly is their case. I would ask the Prime Minister to remember that at the moment, and for the past eighteen months since the Coal Controller has been in power, he himself has not settled the question. Surely with the information, with the statistics and knowledge already in their possession it ought not to be impossible for the Government to say," Yes, the same machinery that for thirty years has been able to settle this question shall even settle it to-day." That is the wage question. That is the first point.
The second is the question of hours. Here, again, let the House differentiate between the claim of the miner and any other worker. Forty-eight hours is to-day the established basis in practically every industry. It is generally recognised that forty-eight hours is a fair thing. A Noble Lord, who was once a Member of this House, and is recognised as one of the captains of industry, is going round to my branches. I understand that he was at one of my branch meetings last night—Lord Leverhulme—explaining how it was that six hours was necessary. I want you to try to visualise the minds of the working classes when they hear a great employer of labour explaining to them how even in their industry six hours is sufficient for them to work. [An Hon. Member: "Three shifts!"] My hon. Friend must know perfectly well that so far as Lord Leverhulme is concerned he has not dealt with it in shifts, because he deals with it in a general way—with all industries that do not work at night at all. No one knows better than my hon. Friend the kind of effect this has on the minds of the workers. Mere arguing as to whether the leaders are wrong is not going to get us out of this difficulty. I am more anxious to get out of the difficulty than to score in debate. If people in this position can go about saying that six hours is enough for any industry, can you for a moment conceive the position of a miner who says "At least about everyone else I am entitled to six hours."
But look at his claim from another standpoint. When oven seventy-two, sixty-six, and fifty-four were the established hours in other industries, this House recognised that eight hours were sufficient. Let the House keep clearly in mind that although you talk of six hours a day, I am informed by my mining friends that six hours actually means seven in the pit in the overwhelming number of cases. I put it to the Prime Minister whether it is not possible, even now, with the information at the Government's disposal, to say to the Miners' Federation, "Let us meet together and see whether we cannot adjust the wage difference." It may be that they will be able to give figures and facts which may destroy the claim of 30 per cent., because I am empowered to say this. In the discussion with the Triple Alliance, so far as Mr. Smillie and the whole of the leaders are concerned, they are not putting forward this claim with the ulterior motive of considering the miners alone. They are firmly convinced that their claim can only be justified on the ground of consideration to all other interests and not the miners alone. I would put that to the Prime Minister and see, even between now and March, whether there could not be, and ought not to be, a further opportunity of discussing and seeing whether on the wages and hours claim some arrangement could be made to bridge the difficulty. If that were done, there would be no need for this aspect of the question to be considered as part of the Bill.
With regard to nationalisation, I believe the Prime Minister is committed right up to the eyes. His previous speeches on what he called these monopolies, at least indicate that his view is very clear. But the miners themselves frankly admit that there must be an investigation prior to nationalisation. Of course, no Government can be asked to boldly declare in favour of State purchase without the facts. I fully recognise that. I do not put forward a claim for nationalisation of the railways and assume that the terms that I suggest must be the terms the Government would accept. No one in his senses would do it. We have to recognise that the mere phrase "nationalisation" is not everything, because nationalisation could be made a very good thing for the owners and a very bad thing for the State. Everyone recognises that on both sides. There must be a case for investigation on that, but I am quite sure that if the Prime Minister would say clearly what his views on the question are it may tend to help the situation. In any case I think it will be a mistake to say, "Will the miners of the country, who only a few months ago fought so nobly, and they did fight nobly, risk all for sixteen days?" [An Hon. Member: "So did everyone!"] I know everyone did. I do not suggest that they fought better than anyone else. I do not think in this War there was a monopoly of virtue or courage in any class. I was rather putting the position that these men at least have proved that they are not unmindful of their responsibility to the country. Therefore, I would ask the Prime Minister not merely to say that sixteen days is the only issue between us. I would rather let him put it to us, "So far as the Government is concerned we are again prepared to meet the Miners Federation. We are going to take out of the purview of Parliament this question of hours and labour. We are open to the principle of nationalisation," and I believe whatever else this Debate will have done, if it has enabled, as it has enabled both the House and the country to hear the miners' case stated frankly and openly before the crisis comes, I think Parliament will have further opportunities of deciding before the plunge for war is made on such a great and important issue.
I rise at once in response to the appeal made by my right hon. Friend. I agree with him that it is a great advantage to the House and to the country to hear the miners' case presented by their leaders with very great ability and with great moderation, as will be acknowledged by everyone. But having listened to, I think I may say most of the speeches, if not all, the conviction has been impressed more and more upon me that the case they have made out is not a case for a decision, but a case for inquiry. Let my right hon. Friend consider the appeal he has now made to me. It is this. Do not inquire into wages, do not inquire into hours of labour, do not even inquire into what he calls the "principle of nationalisation." Make no mistake about what that means. It means that, if you accept the principle, you are committed to it. My right hon. Friend asks me what is my view? My view is that nationalisation must be considered purely as a business proposition. If as a business proposition it be better for the State, which means the community, which means everyone—if it be better for this and all other industries we ought to commit ourselves to nationalisation. But, to do it without discovering first of all whether it be good for the State on a careful investigation—no Government has a right to commit the State, not even to avert a strike, serious as it may be. A strike is temporary. If a mistake were made and we committed the State to a big undertaking of that kind, it would not be temporary. I am not prejudging; I am not speaking for it or against it. It would be unfair to do so, when you are appointing a Commission, to inquire into the matter. But that is the view of the Government.
I come now to hours and wages. My right hon. Friend says, "Meet the miners. Discuss it with them." How discuss it with them? First of all, there is no agreement as to the fundamental figures which are the basis of the negotiations. The miners say, "We have not got the figures. They are not in a position to supply us with them; the Government refuses to supply us with the figures." The Government has not the figures. The Government cannot get the figures without this inquiry.
But there is this difference. Up to the present the mine-owners and the miners have met and have discussed the matter. Between them they have full command of the figures. That is not the case now. This is a case where the State is meeting the miners. The miners have not the figures. The State has not the figures. Now the State says, "We mean to get the figures and to present them to the miners and the mine-owners, and we mean to get them, ourselves."
We submit that the State has them, that they are actually in the Coal Controller's Department, and when we asked for them the Coal Controller submitted the question to the Law Officers as to whether he could let us have them. He does not deny that he is in possession of the information.
My hon. Friend is quite wrong. The Coal Controller's Department has not the whole of the figures. The only question put to the Law Officer, as far as I understand, was whether he had the means of forcing the coal-owners to supply these figures, but as a matter of fact he has not. A good deal of this information undoubtedly is in the possession of the Inland Revenue, but that is not put at the disposal of the Government, and never has been.
I do not think that is so. There would be no object in having a special Bill to compel witnesses to attend and to produce documents if the Government could do it without a Bill. That is the whole object of the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the Bill, he will see that we have put in a special Clause in order to compel parties to produce documents and account-books, because we want information just as much as they do. It is impossible to come to a decision on a matter of such vital moment, not merely to the coal industry but to the whole of the industries of the country, unless you get these facts. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Thomas) says, "Let us renew the negotiations on imperfect knowledge." What do you gain by that? Is it not very much better that you should first of all obtain the information? My right hon. Friend says we can get it early in March. We have not said that you cannot get it before the 31st March. That is not the view we have indicated. It may very well be that when Mr. Justice Sankey has looked into the matter, and seen the dimensions of the problem what figures are available, and how long it would take to get other figures that are relevant—he might be able to give an interim Report before the 31st March.
Hon. Members may depend upon it that it is to the interest of the Government, representing the community, to have this matter out of the way as soon as possible. The mere fact of there being an impending strike, or the possibility of such a strike, especially if it is going to be complicated by another strike, is in itself a disturbing element in trade. It is impossible to get business going until these disputes are out of the way. Therefore, my hon. Friend may depend upon it that we shall do all in our power to get the Report in, not by the 31st March, but before the 31st March if that be possible. The House can depend upon it that Mr. Justice Sankey, a man of great energy as well as of great ability, will also see the importance of getting this matter settled as soon as possible. We have indicated the 31st March as the very last date. That does not mean that you will not get it before the 31st March. I am hopeful that the moment this Bill is through Mr. Justice Sankey will be able to give his attention to the matter, and when he has investigated it I shall ask him what is his view in regard to the date. Neither he nor I will be in a position to state at the present moment what is the view.
May I say how cordially I agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale in all that he has said about the Coal Controller (Sir Guy Calthorp). It was with the deepest regret that I heard of his death to-day. He is undoubtedly the first victim of this trouble. There is no doubt at all that it was the worry which surrounded all this trouble, and the fact that he insisted upon going on after his first attack of illness, that made it impossible for him to struggle successfully against it. I am sure the House will agree with me that his death is a direct loss to the country.
My right hon. Friend (Mr. Thomas) said there is other trouble coming. Well, it is trouble very largely of the same kind. It is a refusal to submit a dispute to any arbitrament. That is a very serious position, and the country has to face it. The country will gain nothing by purchasing temporary immunity by giving way, and the determination of the Government is to see right done as far as it can. One hon. Gentleman said that we had promised a new heaven and a new earth. If we did, we did not promise it by the 15th of March.
After all, peace has not been made yet, and I am sorry to say that we are proceeding in these disputes on the assumption that all conflict is over—that it is something in the dim past. It is not. Every day questions are remitted to me from Paris which indicate that things are by no means settled. Yet, here is an insistence upon demands of a very grave character. They may be right. Mr. Justice Sankey's Commission may prove that they are right; but no one can deny that they represent an increase upon the burdens of the community, and industry will have to adapt itself to them. And all this is demanded with the threat of a strike, when we have not yet made peace with the most formidable enemy that has ever menaced the life of this country—an enemy the miners themselves made the greatest sacrifice in order to defeat. I make an appeal to the miners for patience, when the community is really doing its best to meet them. I really entreat them not to throw away in a moment of impatience the fruits of the victory which their brothers and their sons have done so much to win. I beg them above all, when this country has through its sacrifice won such a position in the world, not to destroy its influence, not to destroy its power, not to destroy its prosperity, and not to precipitate it into a great disaster purely because they cannot wait a few days for a decision by an impartial tribunal.
No one could fail to be influenced by the powerful appeal made by my right hon. Friend. I would have him and the House to believe that the Miners' Federation of Great Britain are not averse to submitting their case to arbitration conditional on its being made clear as to what the inquiry really means. Upon the question of wages, in fairness to the Miners Federation, it must be remembered that this application was made so far back of 9th January. Therefore, to charge the miners with impatience is really to forget the period of delay between 9th January and now. What advantage would it be to the Government to have an inquiry upon this question of 30 per cent.? No inquiry can take away the broad fact that the miners are asking for an improvement in their standard, not upon prices of cost of living, and, therefore, if the Miners Federation agree that the Government should submit this matter to a tribunal there is no data upon which the matter can be considered or tested. If it is going to be argued by the Government that the determining factor in any such inquiry is to be the effect it will have upon other industries—
This is really so important that I must have it clear. I do not say that if it were discovered it would increase the price of coal, that that would involve a verdict against the miners; but I do say that if it be proved that it means substantial increased cost, and that it will destroy important industries and throw hundreds of thousands of other people out of employment, that surely is a most important element.
The right hon. Gentleman must know that the executive council of the Miners' Federation had the declaration made quite clearly to them that the Coal Controller was in possession of facts as to the price, and the other really vital points affecting the industry, but that he was unable to disclose them because it would be illegal to do so. While the Coal Controller could not disclose to the executive council of the Miners' Federation the real vital facts upon which this application will have to be determined, the Government now have in their possession, or a Department under the control of the Government, now have in their possession the full complete facts upon which this question of 30 per cent. can be settled now. We feel that the Government has sufficient information to come to a decision as to whether this 30 per cent. is an application which ought to be granted and the Federation cannot submit to any tribunal the fundamental principles as to whether their standard of life should or should not be improved. Indeed the Federation feels that they would be guilty of a serious error of judgment, if not a betrayal of their movement, if they submitted to a tribunal the determination as to whether they should have this 30 per cent advance in their wages. Having surveyed and explored the whole situation, in their judgment they say that the 30 per cent. advance is a reasonable advance to seek, and is not too high a standard of life for these people who, as my right hon. Friend said so eloquently and powerfully: "Live lives of so grave and so dangerous a character." I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will not press the submission of the question of the 30 per cent. to any tribunal. As to the distinguished judge who is to be the president of the tribunal, I believe I am echoing the sentiments of all my colleagues when I say that if the nomination lay with them, they would have selected Sir John Sankey as soon as any man in this country. He is a man in whom they have the fullest confidence. Not only is he a man of high integrity, but of very great ability.
And knowledge of the subject. We do feel that to submit this 30 per cent. to the tribunal will be to lay ourselves open to a defeat upon a fundamental principle which can only be decided upon the righteousness of our claim.
No. The Commission will make their Report to the Government and the Government will make their decision. My hon. Friend knows what the position of the Prime Minister would be in this House if he proposed giving to the miners the 30 per cent. if it is declared by the tribunal that the 30 per cent. is not a justifiable demand to make. It is because we feel that we should be on a slippery slope and upon entirely unsafe ground that we ask the Prime Minister not to submit this application for 30 per cent. increase to the decision of any tribunal or that the tribunal should give a Report which would influence the decision. We make our application upon the broad ground that the industry must be advanced. I noted with very great interest that my right hon. Friend said that the 31st March is not a hard date. Is he prepared to make it the 12th of March? That is more than a fortnight away. We have our conference on Wednesday. Assuming that they will not be able to make a complete Report upon all the matters that will be referred to them, could we not have an interim Report by the 12th of March dealing with this question of wages?
I am most anxious to meet my right hon. Friend. I know what a disaster it would be for the country to precipitate matters, but he must not be unreasonable. I am sure that he is the last man to be so. Let him reflect what it means. You must get all these accounts. The miners will have the power to demand the production of certain documents. They have asked for certain documents and they have not had them. Now they can get them. Those documents must be produced. They must be examined and collated. When you are dealing with a gigantic industry like this, it is an impossibility to think that it can be done so quickly. The Commission cannot be appointed until Thursday, and barely then, because we cannot make up our minds until we hear what the miners say. That will be on Wednesday. If we have got our men ready, as we shall have, it will be with difficulty that you will get a meeting of the Commission this week. How can you get all these figures examined by the Commission by the 12th of March? I am willing to do anything within reason, but when you are dealing with a concern of this magnitude you really must give fair time.
I feel the weight of the arguments of my right hon. Friend to the utmost, but side by side with that I must ask him and the Government to realise that the 15th March is the day they have fixed as being the determining day. If we can go to our Conference on Wednesday and say to them that it is the intention of the Government to have an Interim Report upon the question of wages and hours in time to have that Report considered by a conference that must be held probably on the 13th or 14th March, that will help us to get the Conference to see the desirability of forming part of this Commission. The Miners' Federation with all its power and strength is made up of a reasonable and conciliatory body of men, and if they find in practice through their members upon the Commission that it is physically impossible to make the inquiry and have the Report in time at which it is the intention of the Government, that would be a very good reason for the miners' representatives upon that Commission to come to the Miners' Federation Conference itself and say that it was physically impossible for it to be done. We are anxious, as my right hon. Friend said, to find a way out of this difficulty. He can be no more anxious than my colleagues and myself, and it is in order that we shall be able to report to the Conference on Wednesday that I am really asking him to enter into an undertaking to make it the 12th March. I quite understand that there may be some reason why the date should be pushed a little further off if it is physically impossible, but we should then depend upon the reports of our representatives who are members of the Commission as to the necessity of advancing the date from the 15th to some other day.
The inquiry into wages is a very simple business. The main part of the 30 per cent. is a matter than can be determined upon its merits without inquiry into figures. If it was 30 per cent. based upon the cost of living or based upon the increase in the price of coal or upon an increase in profit, that is not only an arguable matter but it is a discoverable matter. But inasmuch as it is based upon the right of these people to an uplifting of their standard of life that is a matter that needs very small inquiry and which must be determined apart from figures altogether. The question of hours is largely the same question. Is it right for miners to have a six hours day? If my right hon. Friend puts to us the proposition, "We grant you the six hour day, but we must have an inquiry for the re-organisation of the industry to meet the new order of things." I could understand that inquiry. But if the inquiry into hours is to determine whether the principle is right, then I must call to mind the fact that the miners' case for the shortening of hours must really be considered upon an entirely different standard, and that they are in an entirely different category from any other section of the country. If that be so, where is the difficulty in giving an undertaking to have an Amendment of the Eight Hours Act by making it six instead of eight hours?
If it is a fair proposition for people who are working on the surface at less dangerous trades to have a working day of eight hours, their working day, let it not be forgotten, commences from the time they are at the factory or other place of work, whereas the miners' working day is not six but really seven. When a man goes into the pit his work does not commence from the time he takes his lamp or gets into the cage. Not at all. These men sometimes have to walk two or three or four miles. I have never understood why miners should not be paid for walking to their work in the same way as plumbers and other craftsmen are paid. If there is any hard work in the world it is walking underground, slipping over rails, tumbling over obstacles, half bent, burdened often with tools in his arms. I know of no more exhausting occupation when a man has passed fifty years of age than to have to walk three or four miles underground to his working place. As his work does not commence at the top of the shaft, he would really be working a seven hours' day on a six hours' shift, just as he is working nine or more hours on an eight hours' shift at the present time. Inasmuch as there has been a general improvement in the hours system in the case of other trades, it seems to me that the miners have an irresistible case far a six hours' day, which would mean a seven hours' working day as against an eight hours' working day on the surface. If my right hon. Friend would say, "I am prepared to concede the principle of the six hours' shift, but there must be an inquiry by a Commission for a reorganisation of the industries to meet the new system of hours," then I am certain that the Miners' Federation would take an entirely different view of an inquiry than if they were asked to submit to the inquiry of a Commission the whole principle of a six hours' day.
That is a question to be inquired into. If my right hon. Friend proposes to inquire into that matter, the Miners' Federation would be prepared to take part in such an inquiry. Allwe want is the granting of the principle. I say the same about the nationalisation of the mines. Grant the principle of nationalisation, and we will agree with him to have an inquiry into the reorganisation of mines. [Laughter.] Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen may laugh, but, as one of my hon. Friends said in the early part of the discussion, the nation will be driven to this, not as a Socialistic proposition but as a business proposition Under what system other than nationalisation is the Government to be in a position to deal with the mines of this country? Suppose you have a system of control, under what power and by what right are you going to interfere with what, after all, is the property of others? But if the Government wants to have the right to interfere with the control of mines in this land, then they must put themselves right by taking possession of the mines of this land, not by confiscation but by fair purchase. If my right hon. Friend says to the House of Commons, "I think the time has come when we must nationalise the mines of this country, but there remains the question of the basis on which they are to be organised with all the ramifications of this industry, and that is a matter for inquiry," I will agree and my hon. Friend will agree that that is a reasonable proposition; but when the Miners' Federation come and ask that the 30 per cent. shall be granted, if my right hon. Friend says, "No; I cannot grant that without an inquiry," then that inquiry need not be a long one. I am asking him to fix the 12th of March as the date on which an interim Report shall be presented. Then I come to the question of hours. The question is not an involved question requiring a great inquiry or long investigation. Therefore I say to him again if you cannot agree to-night to give the Miners' Federation an undertaking that we shall have a six hours' day, but that there must be an inquiry, which must be a short one, then I would ask my right hon. Friend to let us have a Report to give to the miners by the 12th of March.
We like to get as much of our own way as we can and we have been taught much by the right hon. Gentleman in that direction. I wonder sometimes whether it is not a characteristic of the race. But the Miners' Federation is not asking anything unreasonable in this case. This will enable us on Wednesday to go to our Conference and as an earnest of good faith say that the Government show that by fixing the 12th of March they do not desire to prolong this anxiety and to go over the date which has been fixed. Bodies of men can be dealt with up to a certain point, but when they have come to a hard decision by ballot it is very difficult for the Executive Council to change that unless there are overwhelming reasons given to show that it should be changed. Our view is that we want no inquiry upon the question of wages or hours, but taking your view that you do want on inquiry, on that let us co-operate with you and give us a chance to co-operate with you by fixing the 12th of March as a date for reporting on these questions and we shall be better able to take part in the inquiry which is what my right hon. Friend wants. If the Commission finds under the presidency of Mr. Justice Sankey that the 12th March is not quite sufficient then our own members upon the Commission will come to us and say, "We must have a little more time before we can have a Report presented." That is not an unreasonable request to make.
It is because I feel so anxious that we shall as a great federation do nothing to jeopardise the welfare of the country that I make this request. No one knows better than ourselves what strikes mean or how easy it is to start a strike as it is easy to start a war, but how difficult it is to stop it. Therefore, we do not want to start one, and I would ask my right hon. Friend to give us a reasonable chance to go to our people who by ballot voted for, arriving at a hard decision that they must have this matter settled by the 15th March; and if they cannot give us the 30 per cent. or the six hours, let them undertake that the interim Report shall be made by the 12th March. That will then give us the opportunity to consider if you want more time and to consider our attitude as to the Report, and will enable us to keep faith with our people and to co-operate with the Government by sending our own men on the Commission to take part in the inquiry. I hope my right hon. Friend will not think our application is unreasonable, and that he will be able to see his way to give us the undertaking we ask.
In supporting the Amendment, I make no apology for doing so. In the county from which I come, the county of Durham, there will be much discontent, and especially as far as the miners are concerned, in not making the six-hours day from bank to bank. I have listened to the remarks of the Prime Minister in regard to the policy pursued by the Miners' Federation and the Labour party. It was suggested that if these claims are conceded they will bring irretrievable ruin to the industries of this nation. The same argument was advanced 100 years ago as a reason why women should not be taken out of the mines, and why the age for the employment of boys raised. The people were then told that those changes would mean irretrievable ruin, unemployment, and bankruptcy. But the women were taken out of the mines, and the age for the employment of boys was raised, and instead of ruin overtaking the mine-owners, greater prosperity than ever came their way. Those reforms made the lot of the miners brighter and better. I believe if the hours of labour were reduced to-day to six hours it would result in a great improvement in many ways. We have had experience of the six hours in the county of Durham, not seven from bank to bank, but six hours one shift from bank to bank. From the human standpoint it is quite sufficient. For men or boys to work in the mines longer than six hours per day is neither economic nor human. If you can get the best out of a man in six hours, why keep him in the bowels of the earth away from the light of day longer than is necessary. I submit that a man can produce as much coal in six hours, or more, other things being equal, in the county of Durham, than those who work eight or nine hours. Our experience also is that it would be more economic for the men to work the six hours. The greatest number of accidents in our county have occurred at the closing part of the miner's day's work. I make no apology either for the Labour party or for the Miners' Federation in making these claims. We think that as a minimum these claims ought to be conceded. The wages that are asked are none too much. It is only with great difficulty that we have been able to persuade many of our men to make their claim 30 per cent. of an advance instead of 50 per cent.
We want wages which will enable our men to obtain the necessaries of life after the day's work is done, and to enable them to have time and energy left for leisure, recreation, culture, and refinement. Those do not come the way of the miner to-day because his hours are too long, and he cannot obtain the necessaries of life with the wage he receives because it is too small, and the cost of living is too high. Those that are complaining about the attitude of the Miners' Federation and their ballot and suggested strike should recollect what would have been the miner's position had it not been for strike after strike and effort after effort to get shorter hours and better wages, and greater opportunities for living and education. Our hours and position would have been worse than those of the animal. The miners are looking forward to a time when their standard of living will be justly raised higher than what it is to-day and what it was in pre-war times. We look to the future with optimism. We think that the industry can sustain this advance, and that the claims we put forward are reasonable and just. We think that our men, who have served in the Army, should not come back to find that there is no hope for them, and we think there ought to be work for every miner who is able and willing to work, and that that work should be performed under humane conditions. The ballot that has taken place is an expression and a protest against the lowness of our wages and the bad conditions which have hitherto existed. It is a protest also against the wrongs and injustices that have been imposed upon miners right through the ages. We do not intend to go back to those black, dismal days, of the past. I believe if the mines were nationalised it would be a great economic advantage to the community as a business proposition, and those who suggest that it is nonsense to talk about nationalising the mines, way leaves and royalties do not speak with any knowledge of the mining industry. We find in many of our areas that within a mile or two miles we have five collieries working with conflicting way leaves. If the mines royalties and way leaves were owned by the nation we believe that the mining could be simplified and a better system adopted and great economies effected, the hours of labour reduced, output increased, the wages of the workers increased, and at the same time you could have coal on the market in larger quantities than to-day and cheaper for the consumers. That would be accomplished by removing the element of profit and waste competition, while more scientific methods would be adopted than are possible to-day, and inventions would operate in the mines which would make them a blessing instead of a curse to the community.
It has been suggested that we require a larger production out of the mines. Well, we agree; but we had six hours and seven hours in the county of Durham, but when machinery was introduced to accelerate and simplify production we found that eight hours was imposed upon the men who had to follow the coal-cutting machines, although the output was increased, and the only remuneration as an extra which they got was 4d. per shift. What does it matter to the minor or to the consumer whether or not machinery is introduced? There is no legitimate guarantee, if a scientific system is adopted in the mines, either that the consumer will get his coal cheaper or that the miner will be paid better wages. That will only come in so far as the mines are owned by the nation and worked by the nation for the benefit of the nation. If the mines were nationalised we should get better wages, so that we might have a chance as mine workers to live in better houses than is possible to-day, when we have to live in slums unfit for habitation. We want better wages, and the minimum which is put there is what we require. It is suggested that a strike would be disastrous. We do not want a strike. We think these things ought to be given to us without going to an arbitrator, because they are the minimum demands that ought to be conceded to us. We want our children to have better opportunities for education. Amongst the children of miners are those who are richly endowed by nature with wonderful artistic and scientific powers and natural ability, but because of the lack of a general system of education, and because the wages of the miners are not sufficient, they are dragged away from school and placed into the mines and elsewhere because the demands of the household have increased, and we suggest that if better wages were paid our children would get better opportunities to-day. They are placed to work without any corresponding benefit to the community, nor have the children any aptitude for the work, and they are soon reduced below the line of mediocrity. We hope these concessions will be made to the mine workers, so that it will not be imputed that they are overworked and underpaid any longer, and, if there is any meaning in that statement, then these concessions ought to be made. If they are, I have no fear but that greater progress will be made in the country. If they are not conceded, we can expect stagnation. Concede them, and greater progress will be made by the miners, and under healthier and happier conditions mankind will rise to a higher plane than is possible to-day. I hope these concessions will be given in the interests of the miners and the whole community.
As I am one of the few Members who are coal-owners, and no owners have spoken up to the present, it is just as well to put forward one's views. I am very puzzled still to know what are the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Do they say they will have a strike under any circumstances if they do not get what they want on the 15th? Do they say that unless we consent to nationalisation they will have a strike, or what is the object of having the inquiry if their views are to be carried out? Listening to them, it appeared to me very much as if they said to the Government—and coming from a Scotsman I quite understood it—"Give us the whisky, and then have the Commission to ascertain whether we are to drink any water with it at the end of the time." Apparently the miners who have spoken all want exactly what they demand. There is to be no reduction of any of their demands, and the inquiry that the House is asked to accept seems to my mind a miserable delusion, because it is not to lead to anything. There are two points in connection with this inquiry that want looking at. The first is the point of the sale and distribution—that is to say, the wages and the shorter hours. So far as the owners are concerned, of course if the Coal Controller will enable us to put the extra on the consumer, you cannot expect that we should have any objection, except, I am sure, that the nation generally and the other hon. Members of this House would say to us that with our experience and knowledge of the coal trade we were a nice set of men to have led the country into such a mess. Otherwise, so far as the owners are concerned, why should we object to the extra cost, the 8s. or 10s., or the shorter hours? We should go to the Coal Controller and say to him, "Please permit us to make the consumer pay," and then the consumer would pay, and we should be in as good a position as before, subject to the nation being in as good a position; and on that point you would expect the coal-owner to give a little good advice. I happen to know a little bit about the steel trade, and the other day we got a message from the Board of Trade to the effect that they would like us in the steel trade to inform them how to get over this difficulty. "We find," they said, "that America is able to sell steel all over the world £5 cheaper than you can do it in this country. Please inform us how this arises?" Of course, I venture to think the Board of Trade ought to have known it themselves, that the higher wages and higher cost of fuel, and all the subsidies that are going about no doubt raises the cost. The Board of Trade ought to have known that without coming to us.
We are all faced with this question, the fact that America can produce and is selling cheaper than we can, in South America, India, Australia, the Colonies, and the Argentine. We have a very large business in South America, but we have not had an order for a couple of months, because all the orders have gone to America for wire rods and wire netting and all that sort of work. I think it would be wrong if these facts were not submitted to the House, so that the House might know that if we are going to give this increase to the miners it will put an extra cost on everything—not only steel, but all the chemicals in the country and other industries—and in adding to the cost we shall damage the trade of the country. One hon. Member gave us figures showing that before 1914 the colliers'wages—men at the face—were £1 19s., and that at present they were £4 3s. 6d., I think it was. At any rate, they were over £4. Now that is certainly 100 per cent. increase in wages. On top of that we are told we must give a further 30 per cent. so that the wages really asked for are something like 130 per cent. more than what they were before the War. I am not saying that a collier gets too much. I know his work. I am proud of what he does, and the glorious way in which he has fought in the War. My son, unfortunately went down into a pit, and caught cold there and died. I know all about the conditions, and how severe and hard is the work they do.
I see the Minister for Education below me. When we were settling the Education Bill last year, and there were deputations, he was most anxious—I hope I am not misconstruing him—that we should give the miners more education and increase their facilities. I think I am right in saying the Minister for Education said that when he went into the colliery districts there was nothing that struck him so much as the amount of money they had and the amount of leisure they had to spend it, and that he could not consent to our proposals for some rearrangement because, in his opinion, his chief duty was to teach them how to spend their leisure and money well. I am only mentioning that because, whilst I quite agree as to the hardship of the miners' life, I think many exaggerate them to a large extent, because the miners in our district are a very happy family. They seem to live pretty well and fairly contentedly. I have a son who is working with me, and I do not hear that there is now that misery and discontent with their surroundings that their used to be in the old days when wages were small.
It is just as well to consider the figures of some of the mines. You would almost think that the only people who are the foundation for this contention are South Wales and Scotland. South Wales and Scotland may prosper highly. There is a South Wales coal-owner sitting beside me. I do not know whether they do prosper so tremendously in South Wales, but I am bound to say it is not so in Lancashire. I have here two cost-sheets, and the cost of the coal in one case, including everything, is 23s.8d. a ton—that is, including materials and 15s. 10d. for wages. I have another one in which the figure is 18s. 8d. Those figures are very considerable increases when you come to put them on to costs, and, as a matter of fact, in most collieries—and it is pretty much so in all the collieries in Lancashire, many of the older collieries in Yorkshire and many other places—the sales at present do not meet the costs. In one of these cases the sales up to date are £437,000 and the working expenditure £443,000. So that we have got £6,000 for which to apply to our friend the Coal Controller. The same thing occurs in two other sheets I have here. We are all working at a loss. The working expenditure is in excess of the sales, and the sales there are, in the one case 19s. 3d., and in the-other case 16s. 3d. These figures may not agree with the state of things in South Wales and Scotland, but they show the state in Lancashire and of a good deal of Yorkshire. An addition of 30 per cent. would mean a tremendous increase to the cost of wages, and the cost we shall have to ask from the consumer in order to repay this heavy charge. Can we do it? There is the bunkering of coal. There is all the export of coal from South Wales. Our information is that all the purchases now for coal for Spain and Italy are going to America, and not coming to this country. If we cannot let them have it at the price America is now selling coal, are we going to get the trade at the increased cost when all these additions have been made? If we do not, and starvation wages return to the miners, are they going to be improved in their position—or are any of us going to prosper? What we want is to keep wages and the standard of comfort? We ought to have good trade, but we cannot have good trade, if we cannot do our work at a cost to compete with America, and, shortly, Belgium and France. We shall be left behind, and then where will our workpeople be? What a responsibility this House will have if they consent to such wages that the world cannot stand it. The world not being able to stand it, we shall be shut out. What is the use of talking of shorter hours and more comfort for the men if there are no wages to go to their homes? And there will be no wages if we crush trade to the extent we are likely to do.
With regard to nationalisation, I venture to think that the men are not wise to press that, and I will give them only two reasons. My father-in-law was a collier who worked in the pit. But he worked hard. He went to the mining college, and improved his education, and was finally a Member of this House for Wigan. But he did a very wise thing. His ability was known, and some one in a colliery in the district came and asked him to manage it. He said, "No, I am not going to manage it. If you will make me a partner I will come and join." He became a partner and a prosperous coal-owner. After twenty years of age he had a peaceful and an enjoyable time. Is not that a position from which you are going to shut every man out in the coal trade? Every good man who goes to a college and works, and is fit for a splendid job, is to be stereotyped in a post of £300, £400, or £500 a year. You say you want to nationalise the mines. What salaries do the Post Office officials get? What salaries do the telephone officials get in comparison with what, I hope, is the ambition of all of you clever colliery men on the other side, that you may be partners and enjoy your lives in the same way as anybody else? I venture to think you are committing a foolish deprivation of all your children's future in saying that they are to become children of the State, with miserably reduced salaries, instead of having the ambition of being such as your fellows are, and ruling the country and the State. On the other question of nationalisation, which, I think, is a very strong one, who is going to find the capital to sink these mines?
And does the hon. Member think that the State is going to find it when the project is to hunt for coal under the sea, and there is a doubt of getting it; when it is an engineer's proposition which everybody does not accept? Will the State say: "We will risk half a million in looking for this coal." The coal-owners do it. You have some of these magnificent collieries in Durham sunk and opened by owners and fitted with every appliance to bring the coal up in the cheapest method, to wash it, to distribute it, and deliver it in the best possible way. Will the State do that? Will the State come forward and risk £500,000, which has been risked in the past by the coal-owner with no certainty of a profitable result, or it might be nine years before you got a penny on your money? I myself have done it in some of my colliery ventures. You put down your bore-hole, then you sink your shaft, then you find water in the shaft, and it is years before you get any return. You think once or twice as to whether or not you will abandon the mine. What will the State do in circumstances of this sort? Will the State find the money? I doubt it. The result will be that instead of having an ambitious and a well-managed industry, a credit to the whole world, assisted by the talents of those represented by hon. Members opposite, assisted by clever mining engineers, and by the men who control the industry, you will have an industry dull, dead, and on one level in which there is no progress and no enterprise. If you suck the industry dry by high wages it will be a grave mistake, for without money you cannot keep the thing going, or advance the trade, or improve the exchanges in the world, or bring about the reduction of freights for the bringing of food to this country, with all the other enormous advantages contained in the coal trade. I do appeal to hon. Members opposite to consider this question not only in the narrow light of increased wages, for I go with them thoroughly in urging every comfort for the worker, good housing, and proper wages—but I do venture to think that, they ought to have an inquiry to see that they are not going to destroy the industry of the country. As to nationalisation to which they have been married for some time, and from which they will not have a divorce, I ask them to put that on one side for the present until a Commission has reported, which will show how it can be done—if possible—without injury to the State, and without injury to all their dear ones, and all others interested in the coal trade.
It is a strange coincidence that the last Bill we had the pleasure of discussing in this House dealt with air navigation, and that the next Bill that followed it—the present—should deal with matters affecting men and an industry in the bowels of the earth. I have listened with rapt attention to the hon. Member who has just spoken. To my mind he has very eloquently put forward the old plausible tale to which we have been subjected from that class of the community for many, many years. He speaks of his class as the "poor coal-owners of the country." In stating this, and in speaking of the output, he never tells us, nor do other hon. Gentlemen representing capital in this particular industry, the exact output, and the exact profits, that accrue from the concerns in which they are particularly interested.
Then Mr. Deputy-Speaker, it is remarkable how exceedingly well many of these worthy gentlemen thrive on their losses. I have on more than one occasion had to deal not only with individuals of the class represented by the hon. Gentleman as business men, but I have also had to deal with companies in which I have had the privilege of negotiating conditions, and so on, and they always put forward this plausible plea. Some, at any rate, thrive extremely grand upon it. I happen to represent a constituency. I do not want like some hon. Gentlemen to give the House the exact figures of my majority. I am satisfied, so far as my Constituency is concerned, that they consider that they have done their duty—and I come from a constituency that, to my knowledge, has not a single mine in it. Therefore, I can voice, at any rate, the feelings and aspirations of the British people in that constituency. Let me say here, quite frankly, that the question of not merely hours and wages contained in this Bill, but also the greater principle of nationalisation, was one of the main points that I put forward in my programme in order to be returned to this House. Naturally, then, I come forward pledged to the full to see that at the first opportunity the principles of nationalisation of mines shall be operative.
As I look on the benches opposite, and consider that a while ago they were more full than at the present moment, I may say the assemblage to me represented mining directors and owners more than it represented to me a House of Commons of the people of this country. I was somewhat astounded by one or two remarks which fell from one of the hon. Gentlemen opposite who represents one of the divisions of North Wales. He put forward well the plea that he represented the North Wales miners. I am not an individual who generally makes a challenge of any description, but I venture to predict for him in respect to the challenge that he has put forward, that had the conditions been of a normal character at the recent election, under ordinary circumstances, in all probability he would not have been sitting in this House. It is all very well for hon. Members who want to rise up with patriotic pride to say that they are not Bolshevists. I have failed to come across many men in this House who really do understand the elementary principles of Bolshevism. It is extremely easy to say, "I am not a Bolshevist." Neither do I in any way support propaganda of this description. But the Bill we have before us is certainly an extraordinarily important one. Whilst there may be one or two points worthy of consideration, it will not be acceptable to the miners of this country unless the principle of hours and wages is settled to-night, and also unless we come to an understanding that nationalisation shall be established. We have been told that the public have to be considered. There is no sensible man in this House who does not view it from that point of view. It is because we believe on these benches that the public has a right to be considered that we ask for the principles in the Amendment, even if we have to go to a Division in order that they shall be put forward. One hon. Gentleman has spoken with reference to the cost of production being placed upon the consumers. This is nothing new, because the consumers always have to pay, and strange to say the consumers in the country who have to purchase in the smallest quantities have to pay the greatest price for everything. Therefore, under State control, we say nationalisation would be in the interests of the public and the consumer.
Have the public always been considered by the mine-owning classes, and by those who are enjoying the benefits of the royalties accruing from this industry? Have they always, considered the sympathetic public which they now ask the miners to consider? I think not. If we only take a glance around and see some of the habitations in which, the miners live, to use an old paraphrase, how can you expect an A1 population to thrive under even C3 conditions of that character? I have seen, in my own locality, men coming from the pits wet through to their knees, the bottoms of their trousers drenched with the very water they have been standing in, and is it too much to say that six hours is sufficient for those men to be engaged in an occupation of that kind. I only had the privilege once in my life to go down in a cage. I am not a miner, and I have been in the railway industry for the past twenty-three years, but I have seen in the mining industry these men go down into the very bowels of the earth and face even death itself for from eight to ten hours, and I submit that under hazardous conditions of that character six hours is sufficient from bank to bank, for the life these men have to endure day after day. This House has been shocked on more than one occasion when it has read of the terrible disasters that have come to the mining classes of this country, not during this last year or so, but when we think of that great accident at Whitehaven and others in the South Wales area and how men have gone to their death. What for? Has not the output of these men been for the benefit of the few and to the detriment of the majority? Of course it has, and none but the mine-owning classes would endeavour to dissuade us from that point of view. I presume it would be as well for me to be in harmony with the rest of hon. Mem- bers who have spoken, and to say that I am a constitutionalist. Generally when new Members rise they say they are constitutionalists, consequently as a new Member making his maiden speech I must be in harmony with the rest of the House, and I say as a constitutionalist I regret more than any man here representing a mining constituency that the miners have not sent more men on these benches instead of the opposing classes who are against it. The miners' vote, of which we hear so much about in the Press to-day, let us remember, is a democratic vote. The Miners' Federation and its executive have not been heard in the country sending their Whips here and there in order to influence their members, as has been done in this House on more than one occasion in order to get hon. Members to vote. Here they tell hon. Members they have to do it whether they desire it or not, or they will be party-hounded out. These men have had their free choice and no one to instruct them—nothing to assist them except their own intelligence when the ballot paper has been presented before them. They have not been informed in any way in reference to that, and it is because they have had a free voice and a free vote that there are Members of this House who would undermine even that principle. If the vote had been instituted in a devious and ulterior way, the Miners' Federation would have been condemned.
The Premier stated that he would have an inquiry. I am anxious that on the Commission there should be 50 per cent. of workmen in the mining industry. I am almost sick to death and tired of what we have experienced on Commissions heretofore. In the past we have had too much theory and too little practice. What is required on Commissions of this kind is that the men who have the practical working of the whole thing and know it from its very fundamental basis should be the men who should form fifty of that Commission, and the evidence should be given clearly and distinctly in the interests of those whom they desire to serve. I am extremely anxious that on this Commission the principles in the Amendment should be incorporated, and that we should have 50 per cent. of practical men upon it. Why is this unrest, why is there this trouble throughout the country? Remember that it is the awakening of democracy.
Has not the Premier given the working men of this country the call to a higher life? He has told us more than once that we must rise to the occasion. He has told us, "You must have audacity, audacity, audacity." Those are the Premier's words, and if this unrest is coming about, the right hon. Gentleman must accept the responsibility of his own sayings while he is Premier. I agree with the attitude taken up by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace) when he said the case was an irresistible one. I believe it is irresistible from more than one point of view. Let us view it from a health point of view. Can you expect the best from these men when they have been working so many hours against nature, fighting it as they have been fighting it, can you expect a strong and virile race when men have to work in the mines as they have had to work in the past? Why cannot the Government concede this principle and concede now a principle that will have to be settled in a short time? If the Premier has so much confidence in the Commission—by his words he almost infers that all that we ask for will be established—would it not be better to avert this terrible catastrophe of a national stoppage by conceding the principle now and going into the minor details afterwards? It has been said that the ringleaders in the Miners' Federation are driving these men like a flock of sheep. Thousands of men, 600,000 in round figures, are not to be led like a dog to the slaughter. [Laughter.] Unfortunately new Members sometimes make a slip. This is the usual method adopted by the Government in order to try and create a false impression throughout the country.
There are several reasons for this unrest. The "New Statesman" is not written by the editor of the "Labour Leader." It is not a Socialist Review, or anything of that character. It is written by men of the calibre of those who sit on the benches opposite. The "New Statesman," of 2nd November, 1918, when dealing with the question, "Who is getting richer," said that the 2 per cent. of the population who formerly owned two-thirds of the total wealth of the country now, after four and a half years of war, probably own three-fourths of a greatly augmented total. The working men read these things and form their own opinion. They have come to the conclusion that they are not receiving a fair proportion of the wealth that they produce, and that something drastic should be done in order to secure to them a fair proportion. The Premier, in his closing remarks, made an exceedingly impassioned appeal. His impassioned appeals, when he wants to get the sympathy of the House, are beginning to get a little old and ancient. They do not have the effect upon the working class that they had two or three years ago. We refuse to remit the case to arbitration. My experience of arbitration has not been an exceedingly happy one. Who are the men upon whom the decision rests in every arbitration? They are men who do not understand the position either on the one side or the other, and they cannot in any way get even a glimpse of the ordinary toiler's life and conditions. They are drawn from a class whose very environment has given them the idea that the workers are selfish and inhuman beings. We feel that even with independent arbitration we have not had that justice given us that our case demands. I want to appeal to the House not to consider it in the light of what the coal-owners have to say, or so much from the point of view that has been expressed from these benches, but to consider it in the light of justice and in the light of how the State will benefit if these principles are adopted as incorporated in the Amendment. Therefore, I appeal to the House, which has listened very attentively to my maiden speech, for which I thank it, to stand by the Amendment, and if it goes to a Division to give the miners an opportunity to say that these principles shall be adopted.
I desire very briefly to intervene in this Debate, and I do so with the more assurance as I have no connection whatever either with the miners or the mine-owners. I think that is an advantage, for the question which we have been discussing this afternoon is one which concerns far more people than the miners and mine-owners. If any of us were in doubt as to whether an inquiry into the many points that we have had discussed this afternoon were necessary, I think the Debate will have made us sure that such an inquiry is required. It was remarked by the hon. and gallant Member for Mid Antrim (Major O'Neill), when speaking in the Debate on the Procedure Amendments of the Government, that he thought Governments were often misled and induced to do things by listening only to the speeches which were made in this House, though those speeches very often did not give an accurate diagnosis of the feeling of the House or of the country. I venture to think that the Debate this afternoon exemplifies that point. It has been conducted too much on the lines of the miners, the mines, and the mine-owners. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the front Opposition Bench made the remark that it was no good putting this question of the 30 per cent. increase before a Commission for inquiry, because it was a question of the standard of life which the miners had determined should be improved. In my opinion, the question of the standard of life is a most important one to be inquired into. You cannot fix a standard of life for one particular class or one particular industry; it depends upon a thousand different things. If the fixing of a standard of life for the mining industry involves the raising of the price of coal, as we heard from one hon. Gentleman opposite, by another 10s., from 48s. to 58s. per ton, it will affect the standard of life of a very large number of people in this country.
We therefore see that the standard of life of one section of the community is interdependent with the standard of life of other sections of the community, and it is impossible for one section to say, "We have decided upon securing an improved standard of life. It is not a matter which any Commission or Committee can decide; it is one which we have decided, and we demand that this should be given to us without inquiry." I say again that it is a very much bigger question than the question of the mines, the miners, and the mine-owners. It is really a question as to whether this Government, which has been returned to power by one of the largest majorities which any Government of this country has ever secured, and which has also been returned by an electorate, both of men and of women, such as has never expressed its opinion upon things before, shall decide and bring forward measures as they have pledged themselves to do to improve the standard of living all round throughout the country or whether a particular section of the community or a particular trade shall say to the Government, "Now, at our time, before you have got into your stride, before you have even settled the terms of peace, you shall give us an improved standard of life, which we shall fix without inquiry." I say that is a very big matter, far bigger than the question as to whether the standard of life in that particular industry should be improved or not.
I made notes of several of the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite and I observed that many of them rang with what, without disrespect, I may call a somewhat dictatorial tone. One hon. Gentleman, referring to the questions of wages and hours, said of the miners, "They are ripe for it and intend to get it." A right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench said there would of course be difficulties if a 30 per cent. increase of wages were given, together with a six hours' day, but the injury of the country would not be so great as if a strike were allowed to take place. A third hon. Gentleman said, "I do not want a strike, but I want those terms which we have demanded." In every one of those speeches there was an implication that the miners had a right to say to the Government, "We want certain things and you must give them to us." This is a very big question and I hope the Government will remember that they were returned to power not only to secure improved conditions for the mining industry, which, like other industries, requires improved conditions, but that they represent the country as a whole, and that this House and the country will support them in holding a full inquiry into this matter. I greatly deprecate giving way to a demand of this kind from a particular section of the community without the fullest inquiry and consideration.
I think we all realise that the question before the House is a great and grave one, which will require tact and discretion if we are to prevent a catastrophe in the industrial world. I have listened this evening with some respect to speeches which have been made by hon. Gentlemen, but I have also listened with a certain amount of indignation to other speeches which have been delivered. There are certain periods in the history of our nation when miners come into very prominent positions, and while sitting here my mind has gone back to the history of the mining movement and of the Miners' Federation, and I have asked myself whether there is any justification for the suspicions and charges which have been levelled against that body. The Miners' Federation of Great Britain has always been in the van of progress. It is a federation of men who have always recognised that if the workers are to have fair and humane conditions they can only procure them on the lines of combination. I can remember when the miners were responsible for bringing certain questions before the House in the past, and when the very predictions which have been made to-night were put forward. Even when they brought the question before the House of establishing the principle of the minimum wage, so that the working men of this country should have a bare subsistence, or, in other words, that they should be allowed to live, the same criticisms were meted out against the principle of that humane proposal, and there were hon. Members in the House who declared that even in accepting the principle of a minimum wage we were going headlong to ruin, that we were driving trade out of the country, and that it would be the end of all things. But we have lived to see the day when the gentlemen who prophesied the downfall of this country, both economically and industrially, have been so converted to the principle of the minimum wage that just recently they have advocated to the best of their ability in this House that it should be made applicable to almost every trade in the country. They were mistaken in their ideas and judgment then, and I maintain that they are equally mistaken in their ideas to-day.
I can remember the day when I worked down a coal-mine as a lad, going down the pit on Monday morning and never seeing daylight till three o'clock on Saturday afternoon, with the result that when we came out of the pit we were blinded by the daylight and could not see for five or ten minutes, because it was so unnatural to us. And when an attempt was made to remedy that condition of affairs we were told that unless we were very careful we should drive trade out of the country. The same arguments were used against the eight-hour day proposal. I want this House to understand that when the miners agitated for the Eight Hours Bill they intended that it should be from bank-to-bank—that it should be a clear-cut eight hours. But it was altered in another place, so as to include the time of going down and coming out of the pit, making it not eight or nine hours but often nine and a half hours, and there are men to-day coming from collieries in the district I represent who are away from their homes as much as eleven or twelve hours per day, because, owing to housing conditions, it is impossible for them to live near the pit. I think we shall all agree that so far as the miner's occupation is concerned it is a most hazardous and dangerous one. We all know, or ought to know, the cramped conditions under which the miner has to work. As one who has been down the mines as a practical miner for over thirty years, working in the thick and in the thin seams, I am so convinced with regard to that occupation, which appeals to some people being such an ideal one, that I would never advise my lad to take it up, because I know of its dangers and hazards, and of its great and laborious work. As one who has some human nature in him, I told my lads to keep out of the pits and of the colliery. I think that in this House we all agree as to that, and when, at the present day, a man has been buried in the earth, hacking and picking for a certain commodity which is acknowledged to be the very life of the nation. Also, having regard to the fact that there are annually 1,400 or 1,500 fatal accidents in the pits, and that there are tens of thousands of other accidents, where the miner, working in that dangerous occupation, meets with an accident and has to go on to the Workmen's Compensation Fund, of which the benefits are so limited in character, that I tell the House in all sincerity that there is no class of the community which is suffering to a greater extent than those men and women who are dependent on this Compensation Fund, and who at the present time are literally starving, because of the limitations of the benefits of the Workmen's Compensation Act. The miner's occupation is peculiarly dangerous, and there are a very large number of men in it to-day who are suffering to a much greater degree than in any other industry.
With regard to nationalisation, the question has been a subject which has been debated now for many years at the miners' conferences, and year after year it has been agreed to unanimously. There is no class of the community which has been more tolerant and patient than the miners. Time after time they have sent their resolutions to the heads of the State but they have been ignored. The mining community think that this is an opportune time for the State to take over the mines. If it is imperative, at a time when the nation is in peril and we are in grave danger, to put into operation the principle of State ownership and State control. I ask hon. Members whether there is not some virtue in regard to nationalisation? I believe that every Member of the House thinks that it is inevitable and knows it is inevitable, and that it is only a question of putting off what I may call the happy day. I listened with some interest to a statement which was made by an hon. Member who appears to be connected with the mining industry. He said he had a son, and that he was in the fortunate position—and I am pleased to know it—of being able to give his son the best of educations. Owing to the education which he received, his son was in a position to take up a great and responsible post in the mining industry. When he was asked to take over the management of the mine, he replied, "No; I cannot do that. If I am going to take any action in regard to the mine, I am going to be a partner." That is where we are. We think that if the mines are nationalised and every member of the community is a partner, then all that would come from that great industry would be for the good of the nation. I hope and trust that, so far as the Government is concerned, they will listen to the appeals that have been made by my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench not to include the question of wages and hours in the terms of reference in this Bill.
Something has been said by Members on the other side of the House on the question as to whether or not we had a mandate. The district for Nottinghamshire, for which I am the Member, and the coalfield which I have the honour to represent as a trade union leader, have always been looked upon as an area of very moderate and modest men. In fact, the charge has been made many times that we were behind the times. The return that has been made with regard to the question before the House is not five nor eight to one, it is twelve to one. Our people are so interested and as enthusiastic in regard to what they think is a reasonable and legitimate claim, that they have almost demanded that the leaders should attend meetings on the Sunday. I only wish that the hon. Members who seem to doubt that we come here with a mandate had been with me yesterday when I attended a meeting of miners in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, where the men flocked in their hundreds and thousands to hear the report of the general secretary of our federation. These men were enthusiastic, and it is my firm con- viction that unless the Government accepts the appeal which has been made to them this evening, and keep out of the terms of reference the question of wages and of hours, then—I am very sorry to have to say it—a strike in the coal industry is inevitable. A conference is to be called in this city on Wednesday next. The delegates are coming from every part of the coalfield. I know with what mandate they are coming up here. Some hon. Members have said that this is simply pointng a pistol at their heads. It is not altogether that; but it is because we believe in our hearts that the appeal with regard to hours and also with regard to the advance which we are making to the Government responsible for the administration of this country is so reasonable in character, when the men's health is absolutely dependent upon the shorter hours suggested. Again, when you get the 30 per cent. and add it to the amount even which the Prime Minister submitted, I venture to suggest that with this £4 a week which the miners are getting—some of them, because in the district which I represent the average day rate is 14s. 4d., and, if you add the 30 per cent., less the war wage, it will not make more than 17s. 6d. or 18s.; multiply that by five and you get your £4 10s.—you will find that the purchasing power of that money only represents just over £2. If you had to go into the market, as our wives have to, to purchase the commodities of life at the present moment, you will find there was very little margin left over for what is usually called the rainy day. I hope and trust the Government will be able to meet us. No one would deplore a strike more than I should; no one would deplore a strike more than the people with whom I have the honour and privilege to be associated. It is because we feel that the proposals which have been submitted by the Minors' Federation of Great Britain are reasonable that we have confidence that something will be done to avert a national catastrophe, that common sense will prevail, and that the miners will come to the advantages which they have submitted for your consideration.
My justification for rising to-night is that I represent a constituency in which there are from 17,000 to 20,000 miners. It has been my experience, during the fourteen or fifteen years I have been among them, that they are very reasonable men and men who like justice and fair play. I have heard to-day that upon the ballot being taken, 11,900 odd miners voted in favour of a strike and only 793 voted against it. I am sure, from my knowledge of the miners, that there are great grievances that have to be redressed. Every Member who has spoken in this House from the moment the Prime Minister opened the Debate up to now has been of one accord, that the miners have grievances to be redressed. The question of whether the miners are deserving of sympathy is not before the House. The question whether they are underpaid is not before the House, and the question whether we are to extend sympathy to them is not before the House. What is before the House is this: In order to arrive at the truth, is there to be an investigation of the facts, or is there not? The Prime Minister put many facts before the House which were contradicted by the Labour Members. Which facts are to be accepted? If the Prime Minister's facts are to be accepted, it would follow that the Government, acting upon those facts, if they had to take any course in connection with a labour dispute, might do a great injury to the miners. The miners' facts may be correct, and if those facts are investigated by a Commission of Inquiry and are found to be correct, I say most emphatically that the miners will have public opinion behind them and their position will be strengthened. But if, on the other hand, it is found from the inquiry that those figures are not correct, but that the figures in the possession of the Government are correct, then if the miners where to persist in their attitude it would amount to this, "Either you will accept facts which are incorrect, or we will cause a national strike."
With regard to wages, the amount miners are able to earn has been disputed from both sides of the House. That can be inquired into and ascertained to a nicety. With regard to hours, whether they are exceptionally long, whether in some districts they are from bank to bank, or whether an allowance is made in some other way—all that can be inquired into. Knowing the name of the learned judge who will preside over the Commission, if it is appointed, one knows that that name is a guarantee of impartiality and that the Commission itself is stamped with the hallmark of thoroughness by the name of the learned judge who is to be Chairman. Why, therefore, should the miners' representatives here to-day say to the House, "We want you to eliminate from the inquiry all questions of wages and all questions of hours"? It must be, and can only be, that they are afraid to test these figures in the light of an inquiry. If that is so, I am quite sure I am speaking for the miners of Warwickshire when I say it is an attempt to get an advantage on figures which are not correct, and I am quite sure that the miners of Warwickshire would repudiate it. With regard to the nationalisation of mines, one is quite aware that that is the burning question behind all the others. It is the one question the Miners' Federation wishes to force upon the country. What question requires greater investigation than a question which would involve the spending of hundreds of millions of public money? It could not be done without an investigation, and as I understand the terms of the reference to the Commission of Inquiry they would include an inquiry into the desirability of the nationalisation of the mines. All these matters would be inquired into in the most careful way if this Bill is passed, and then the House and the country would be able to judge what would be the proper, honourable and fair course to take with regard to the mines.
One word with regard to the position of the miners in respect to the threatened strike. Although the miners' representatives here and the miners' leaders in the country may say that the vote of the miner is for a strike—and I agree unless his grievances are redressed—they must not put upon the miners' shoulders the responsibility for the refusal to grant an extension of fourteen days for an inquiry. That rests upon the shoulders of the hon. Gentlemen opposite and of the Labour leaders. The men have been loyal to their federation. The men have had word from their federation that a national principle is involved in this strike, and they have been loyal to their federation and have voted throughout the country for the strike: but they leave it in the hands of their leaders to advise them as to its being postponed. Very rarely in the history of this country has so great a burden been laid upon the shoulders of any men outside the Government as lies upon the shoulders of those who have to advise the miners in favour of a strike in place of an inquiry. I wish to protect the miners. I wish to say it is not the responsibility of the miners if the miners refuse to have an inquiry to ascertain the facts of the case. It will be the delegates, it will be their representatives, who will refuse the offer of the Prime Minister. Before irreparable damage is done, not only to the miners but to the country, those hon. Gentlemen opposite should consider whether they will not agree to the recommendation of the Prime Minister in favour of this Commission of Inquiry.
I, like the last speaker, represent a constituency which consists very largely of coal-miners, and as I intend to vote with the Government to-night, I do not feel that I can very well give a silent vote on the matter. Representing, as I do, a great mining constituency, I know perfectly well the danger and the hardship of their lives. I know the industry well in which they pursue their calling; I know the loyalty with which they stuck to their work all through the four and a half years of war; I know, moreover, the conditions under which they have to live. When I see the housing in that part of the country I represent, it is enought to madden men. I fear that if I myself had to live under those conditions, I should be far more violent than any of my Constituents are in my denunciation of the evil conditions under which I lived. I have no doubt that quite apart from housing, which is of such a scandalous character, they have a just claim for great improvements in many respects. Let me say with regard to the particular demands which are now before us, that all through the General Election these three questions were not asked of me. Now these three questions are brought forward, and we are told that they must not only be inquired into and granted, if possible, if the inquiry can show a way of granting them, but that two of them must be granted straight off without any inquiry, and as for the third—nationalisation—that also must be accepted in principle, and what is to be left to the inquiry is the particular method of carrying it out. I am not opposed to these demands. As to nationalisation, I have been a land nationaliser for many years, and for many years I was chairman of the Land Nationalisation Society; therefore I am not in the least likely to be against the proposal, for the nationalisation of the land, of course, involving the nationalisation of minerals. But I cannot help remembering that we are within a few weeks of a General Election, in which the country has returned a Conservative majority, and I should not, as a reasonable man, even though a land nationaliser, come to this House and say, "Having been returned as a great Conservative majority within a few weeks you are now to accept straight off and without any inquiry this great principle of land nationalisation." We must be reasonable, and if the Government has gone so far as to say that it will refer the question of the nationalisation of the minerals of the country to a Commission of Inquiry, I, as a land nationaliser, consider that we have achieved a very great step forward indeed. If we come to the other demands there is the six hours, meaning, as I understand, an actual six hours work in the mines. In Durham that does not make a very great deal of difference. The hours of actual work are not very much longer at present. It does not in the least appal me if it is suggested that the working hours of the miners should be six throughout the rest of the country, because that is within a little what the working hours of the miners are in Durham. Then you come to the other point, the 30 per cent. rise, and we are told it would be a disaster to the industries of the country. I admit there is a very great deal to be said for that, especially at the present time, and yet I cannot help remembering that these great increases of wages take place from time to time. I cannot help remembering that if a 30 per cent. advance had been demanded in 1914 we should have been told it would be entirely ruinous to the industry of the country, and yet much more than a 30 per cent. advance has occurred since then. I admit that the circumstances have been very special. I do not use that as a conclusive argument that the 30 per cent. should be granted straight off. I give it simply as a reason why it does not appal me and why I think it is a matter for fair inquiry by the Commission which it is intended to put up.
If the Government had met these demands with a blank refusal I should have been obliged to vote against the Government on the matter. As they have said they will grant a fair inquiry, as they have named a Gentleman of conspicuous ability and impartiality to take the lead in that inquiry, as they have promised us that the inquiry shall be completed within one short month, and I think we have also been told before that the advance which may be given will be dated back, I cannot possibly vote to refuse their offer and to insist that by 15th March the two main propositions must be granted and the principle of the third must be granted, and only matters of detail left to the inquiry. I do not believe my Constituents, though they are for the most part miners, would desire me to vote for anything of the kind. I do not believe for a minute that if the case is properly put before them by their leaders they will say, "No; we are willing to wait nineteen days for a decision in this matter, but we absolutely refused to wait thirty-five days, and we will plunge the country into untold misery and disaster sooner than we will wait an extra sixteen days." I think there is a most serious duty lying upon the shoulders of the Labour leaders, and of those who represent mining constituencies, to say to the men that in the present state of national affairs it is not reasonable that they should insist upon these demands, however good they are in themselves—and, in the main, I believe there is a very great deal to be said for them—being granted out of hand before there has been time for even the most expeditious inquiry to deal with them. I must, therefore, vote for the Government in this matter, and in doing so I do not feel that I am voting against labour. Very far from it. I believe I am voting for a course which will lead to very great improvements in the conditions of the working masses of the people, and more particularly of the mining class, and that those great improvements will be brought about by peaceful means, and without the injury to the other trades and the other people of the country which might result if we were rash enough to rush on this matter and to insist upon a settlement before there has been time to inquire into it.
I will not detain the House for many minutes. If I had my way I would cut down every Member to ten minutes, and I think the House would be very much the better for it and would live much longer, because we should not be bored quite as much as we are at present. I want to say a word or two on the nationalisation of mines. Some hon. Members seem to think this a new thing which we have never thought of till now. Nationalisation of mines is quite an old thing, and several years ago a Bill was deposited in this House by the miners themselves on this very point. Since I have been in the House I listened to that very long and tedious discussion when everything which could be said was said about unrest and what brought it about. I believe I could say in a sentence what is at the bottom of the unrest, and it is that the workers of this country are tired of working in order simply to make profits for a few people. I believe that is at the very bottom of the thing. There are other sidelights about it, but that is the basis of it all. The same applies to the miners, and, whatever conditions are given, or whatever wages are paid to miners, there will be no rest until the industry is nationalised. They have to believe that it is national wealth, and ought to be worked for the benefit of the nation. The wasteful method in which the mines are worked is sufficient to force us to nationalisation, and I believe if hon. Members who are not acquainted with mines knew the wasteful way in which the mines are worked they, too, would favour the very idea that we are talking about. I was down a pit not many weeks ago, trying to fix a price-list there. I found the seam was this: There were 2 ft. of coal—and there are plenty of seams in this country worked at a profit at 2 ft. There was stone about 15 in. to 18 in., then 3 ft. 6 in. of coal, and a workable seam, yet they were working the top piece of coal and leaving the 2 ft., which it would be practically impossible ever to reach again. Why was that? I suppose it was because the mine-owners were working the mine for profit, and they wanted to work the best pit. The miners were piece workers, and they wanted the best pit too. But it is really a waste of national wealth, and from that standpoint I believe it ought to be seriously faced, and there will be no rest until these big industries are nationalised.
Some hon. Members have a very queer way of showing how they are representing their constituents. One hon. Member said he believed that about 9,000 voted in favour of the strike, and about 700 against, and he claimed that he is representing them in advocating the Prime Minister's Commission. That is very queer when we are considering the vote that was given. Now we come to the point as to the six hours. We go on talking about the six-hour shift. An hon. Friend said it was six hours actual work. It is nothing of the sort. We are supposed to be working under an Eight Hours Act at the present time, but it has never been eight hours. In the bigger pits some of the men have to start to go down an hour before the time, and it takes them an hour after they finish work before they are up again. That means ten hours. The men are in the pit ten hours. This six-hours day would simply mean that the men would be down the pit eight hours. Another hon. Member spoke about the leisure the miners have. There is a workmen's train which starts at five o'clock every morning from the place where I live. The men go down the pit there at six o'clock, and they are back again at three o'clock. That is ten hours that they are away from home, and from the time they get up in the morning until they are back in clean clothes again it means twelve hours. And yet we talk about an eight-hour shift. It is nothing of the sort. I do not see why there should be any inquiry into this case. Some of us know from bitter experience what I am going to say now: that is the effect of long hours upon the eyesight of the workmen. That is a very serious problem. I know what it is; I have suffered from it, and when I go out of this House to-night and I look at the blaze of light I can no more see the entrance than I can fly. That is because of working long hours in a poor, miserable light. It takes you half an hour to accustom your eyes to such a light before you can see anything at all. Surely six hours is sufficient to work in that. Men are old long before they ought to be, and they suffer from very bad eyesight. I am putting a question on this point to-morrow in order to find out what the Government reply will be as to the medical examination of miners under the national service scheme. I do not know what their information will be, but I know what my information is, and that is that there is only 1 per cent. of colliery underground workers who have normal eyesight. It was the young men who were examined, not the old men, but the youngest and best men in the collieries. From the national standpoint the menought to be kept efficient for their work so long as it is possible to keep them. I do not see why there should be any inquiry into a point like this. The underground workman is not like other workmen. He works under worse conditions with the light I have spoken of, and the longer hours, than a surface man. The work is quite different.
As to the question of wages, we have been told that the average increase which the miner has received since the commencement of the war has been about 80 percent. We are asking for a further 30 per cent., which brings the increase of wage up to 110 per cent. Is not that about the game percentage as the increased cost of living since the commencement of the War? Surely we are entitled now that the War is over to ask for pre-war conditions. What about the coal-owners? We have had some of the accounts of the companies given to us to-day. I read of another company this morning, and although the case may not be a good one in one sense because it is a colliery company which for years did not pay. I like to see collieries paying dividends. When I go to a colliery and I find it is a good paying concern, my work is much easier than it would be if it was not a paying concern. This particular colliery did not pay for years. They got into arrears with their dividends, but, notwithstanding all the pressure which the Government has been putting upon them, and notwithstanding all the profits which some hon. Members have told us the Government has taken away from the colliery-owners, this company's report in to-day's papers shows that they have paid off the whole of their arrears since the War, and 10 per cent. dividend as well. That is rather better than pre-war conditions. We are only asking to be put in the same position as we were before the War, and we are offered an inquiry. We are against an inquiry on these two points of wages and hours, because we consider they are reasonable and just and modest. The Prime Minister some time ago told us to come forward with large demands. We are coming forward with a modest demand, and the offer which the Government gives us is an inquiry. I hope these two points will be granted. As to nationalisation you may inquire about that if you like, but nationalisation has to come, and there will be no rest until it does come.
I desire to call attention to the fact that the iron and ore industry is very closely allied to the coal industry, and representing a constituency where there is a large production of iron ore, I desire to ask the Government whether they will include the iron-ore industry in this Bill in the same way as the Bill applies to the coal industry. I should like to know whether the Government would accept an Amendment including the iron- ore industry in this Bill, seeing that that industry is practically on the same lines as the coal industry?
As a new Member I have listen very attentively to the Debate. I rise to speak as one who has had experience as a practical miner and who is also a member of the Miners' Executive Committee at the present time. Therefore, I have taken part in all the deliberations that have been going on in connection with these questions that are involved in the Bill now before the House. I want to remind the House that we are asked by the Prime Minister, and also by a good many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, to hold our hands for another sixteen or seventeen days. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members say "Hear, hear!" I want to ask the Government why there has been delay since the9th January to the present time, and why they have not pressed their Departments to act quicker than they have acted? Should the miners have to put into effect the strike notices which are expected to terminate on the 15th March, I believe that the country will not put the onus of that on the miners, but on the Government of this country. [Hon. Members: "No, no!"] Let me remind hon. Members opposite of one fact. Our claims were presented on 9th January, 12th January, and 15th January. We asked for the figures that were so much talked about as long ago as August and September, 1918. We were told that under the Coal Mines Limitation Prices Act of 1916 we could not get these figures. Then we were told by the Prime Minister last week in Downing Street and this afternoon in this House that we could not get these figures. Then I want to know how has he been able to give us the startling figures which he gave us this afternoon, when he spoke of the advice which he had received? Where did he get that advice if not from the various Departments?
I am confident the Government have all the figures that are required in this case if any figures are required at all. Is it not a fact that coal-owners have to make a return to the Government once a month in respect of output, sales, prices, profits, losses and all these things? How many of the coal-owners in this country have been before the petty sessional benches because they failed to send in these returns? The matter has been camouflaged in this House just as much as the country was camouflaged in the General Election. I agree with the right hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace) that these two questions which we are asked to keep over for review by the Commission of Inquiry are not questions that need figures in the way in which we have had to have figures in our discussions before Conciliation Boards.
We have been told by the Government in a document presented to us by the Ministry of Labour and in the speech which the Minister of Labour made to us at Montagu House, that the Government were so imbued with the idea of doing something for the miners that they were prepared to give them all sympathy, consideration, and care. That we were the most vital industry in the whole Empire, and that we were the very lifeblood of the industries of the nation. When we went to the Premier in Downing Street we were also told that we were of vital importance so far as national industries were concerned. Sympathy was flowing on every side, and to-day in this House it is absolutely showered upon us. Every speaker has got up and said that he believes that the miners ought to have some of these things, and the way they dispense their sympathy to us is to compel us to a Court of Inquiry. Those who are the lifeblood of the nation and who produce its most vital raw materials are to be subject to strict inquiry as to what are to be the conditions of their employment. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members say, "Hear, hear." [An Hon. Member: "Why not?"] They can say what they like, but we believe that the two questions ought to be given as a matter of justice to the miners of this country.
One hon. Member said, "If you nationalise the mines, where are you going to get the capital?" We will get the capital in the same way as it is got at present, from the labour of the men who work in the mines. If the miners of this country have been able to produce so that the mine-owners have made fabulous fortunes, then the same mines can produce the same commodities for the benefit of the State. On the question of nationalisation, may I ask—where do the royalty owners get the right to say that they have a right to the royalties? Where have they got the right to say that they have the right to exploit the country and to say that the royalties belong to them? Where have the coal-owners got their right to say that they have the right to have full control and govern- ment of the coal measures of this country? We say that the mines are a national asset and ought to belong to the State.
I come from a constituency that has a large proportion of miners. They not only sent me to this House with nationalisation on my programme and a six-hours day for miners, with an amended Workmen's Compensation Act and many other things, but when they were asked to take a ballot on this question, without our addressing a meeting or sending out a circular the men voted by ten to one in favour of a strike on the 15th of March. Before they took the ballot, to a large extent they knew the new propositions that had been laid before the miners by the Prime Minister, because certain parts of it had been published from Downing Street, whether we were agreeable to the publication or not. The Prime Minister in introducing the Bill this afternoon said that the cost of coal at the pittops in this country is now from 18s. to 18s. 11d. per ton, and he compared that with the cost per ton of coal in America. I am not going to dispute these figures. But I want the Prime Minister to tell us what becomes of the difference between the 18s. 11dand the £2 4s. a ton for which coal is selling in this district? An artisan who lives in this great Metropolis is glad to pay 2s. 6d. per cwt. for coal. The miner wants to know, Where are the profits going to? We say emphatically and believe that the Government already possess the figures to give us all this information, or otherwise the Premier could not have given us some of the information which he gave us to day. I thank the House for the indulgence it has extended to me as a new Member, and I ask hon. Members who are on the Government Benches to rise beyond that feeling and to recognise and realise that the mining industry of this country is a vital part of the Empire, and to let the best part of their manhood be displayed in this matter, and to use their influence in asking the Government to concede these two points without driving us to this Commission of Inquiry.
I am a new Member, and I certainly cannot aspire to the eloquence or verbosity one hears from both sides of the House. I am an uncompromising Radical and shall find myself in most Divisions in the Lobby with the Labour party. I started life to work at ten years of age at one shilling per week. In a year it was increased by another shilling, and so on to sixteen years of age, so that I claim to know something of what the cottager's life is. I never lived in anything else but a cottage, and I want to speak from that standpoint to-night. My sympathies are entirely with labour. I favour the increase in the miners' wages. I favour the reduced hours of labour they ask for, and I favour the nationalisation of the mines. I believe the miners' case is so strong that the Government ought, before the 15th March, be able to make up their minds with regard to it, and that the Commission ought to be in a position to bring in an interim Report with regard to these two matters. I have heard a good deal since I came to this House a fortnight ago about the general welfare of the community. I want to speak on the human side of this question. We heard a good deal about industry and the effect of increasing wages and shorter hours on industry. I desire to mention the case of a class who have not been spoken about and who are the least able to help themselves in this great crisis. I am hereto say that there is nothing can excuse a national strike at the present moment looked at from the standpoint of those people. I come from a district with 124 parishes and 320 square miles in extent which was managed largely and strangely by two dukes up to the recent election, when the people at last found their sense. I know the homes of three thousand soldiers there. I know how they are suffering at the moment. I know that many of them have no coal, and I know that if they had the means of getting it there is no coal for them, and from the standpoint of these people, parochial a view as you may think it, it would be a national calamity to have a strike at the present moment. Many of these people are on the verge of starvation, and we want to remember—and I am afraid we sometimes forget it—that it is owing to the heroism of the men who have left these homes, it is owing to the sacrifice of the women in these homes, that we are able to be here to-night discussing whether there is to be a strike or not. From the standpoint of these people's homes, I want to appeal to the Government, even at this last moment, and to the Labour party too, with whom I hope to vote, that there may be a compromise, so that this great national calamity may be averted. Those are just the few words I want to say in this my maiden speech in this House. I did not intend to intervene in this Debate at all, but hearing so many people speak, and hearing so many people give platform speeches, I thought at last that possibly I might be allowed to say a word or two from the point of view of a platform speaker. I believe I am reputed to have obtained more recruits perhaps than any other man in Derbyshire, and I got them in this manner, that I went to them and reasoned this out with them, as to what their duty was, and I am bound to see here, as far as humanly possible, that their homes do not suffer while their men folk have gone to fight our battles, to make it possible for us to be here, and to make it impossible for the Germans to be here settling these disputes for us. The right hon. Member for Abertillery somehow seemed to me to hold out the olive branch to-night, and I cannot think it is beyond the wit of the Government and the Labour party to come to some decision whereby this great national calamity may be averted, and the homes of these people will not suffer as they will do if this strike comes about.
We have certainly listened to a very interesting Debate an done in which there have been many speeches by new Members which showed a very close and intimate knowledge of the subject under discussion, but it is equally clear from the Debate, and from the speeches to which we have listened, that the issue between the Government and the Labour party, the question which has to be decided between them, is a very small question and really is not one for Second Reading Amendment to this Bill. When we are dealing with the arguments that have been put up, what is the point of view from which the Government must approach a consideration of the whole question? I do not think I can put it better than it was put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby when he said, "Unless you give way upon this, unless you agree to eliminate from the inquiry of the Commission the question of hours and wages, and unless you accept the principle of nationalisation, there will be a strike." And he went on to say, "If we, the strikers, win, we have defeated the country." That was a very very important declaration to make, because it is perfectly clear that if a winning strike is a defeat of the country a strike at all is an attack upon the country; and, therefore, it is perfectly clear, and my right hon. Friend has made it perfectly clear, what the duty of the Government is in this matter. He has shown perfectly clearly that the Government now is put by him and his Friends in the position of defending the country as a whole from attack by a small part of the community. My right hon. Friend spoke in no threatening manner, and I do not do so either. He put the facts clearly, and I am merely trying to do the same. But it shows the point of view from which it is essential that the Government should approach the consideration of these questions.
What is the issue between us, after all? I have not heard one single speech in the whole course of to-day which was opposed to the Commission as a Commission. From one end of the Debate to the other, there has been universal consent that the Commission should be set up for some purposes, and the only issue between us has been, what are the particular questions which are to be put to the consideration of the Commission? It is a very wide question. The whole of the future organisation of the coal industry is one which every man who knows anything about it must know is a very large question indeed. The question of nationalisation in itself is one of immense importance, and one of the most far-reaching effects, according to the way in which it is decided, and I do not think anyone could suggest that it has ever been really discussed or debated in this House in such a way as to say that it has been thrashed out, and that anyone is really in a position to give a considered judgment upon it.
We are asked to-night to accept the principle of nationalisation. What is the principle of nationalisation? I confess I do not understand the term. The nationalisation of mines is not a religion. It is a pure business proposition, and if it turns out on investigation that it is for the good of the country as a whole that the mines should be nationalised, that the people of the country would be better off if the mines were worked under a national system, rather than under private ownership, then it is a good business proposition, and we should accept it. I should not ascribe that as accepting the principle, and if my hon. and right hon. Friends opposite, when they say, "Will you accept the principle of nationalisation?" really mean, "If, on inquiry, it is found to be the best thing for the country, will you accept it?" then I unhesitatingly say, of course I accept the principle of nationalisation. But, as I say, it is a business proposition, and a business proposition of great complexity, a business proposition of the most far-reaching effect, and, therefore, a business proposition which must be carefully considered before it can be accepted. That is one of the things which this Commission will inquire into. Can anybody suggest that in a question like the nationalisation of mines sixteen days here or there, or even three months here or there, is going to matter? What can it matter accepting what they have called, the principle of the thing? The Government desire to go into the matter to see if it is a good business proposition. If it is that, I accept it. If it is proved to be a national detriment rather than a national advantage, then the Government will oppose it. There their position stands. I should have have thought myself that for anyone who desired merely to do that which was best for the country, the proposal of the Government was the best, namely, that the whole question should be thrashed out with export evidence, expert opinion, expert knowledge, before a competent and highly efficient tribunal. So far for nationalisation.
What is the other suggestion—indeed the only other issue—between us? It is the question of wages and hours. There are other matters for investigation by the Commission included in the Bill. Those right hon. and hon. Members who have had time to study the Bill will have seen that in the various Sub-sections of Clause 1 there are a number of matters to be inquired into, including the selling prices and the profits of the coal industry. We have this afternoon heard speeches dealing with the profits of the coal-owners. I suppose one may include, that being the subject of one speech in particular, that hon. Members were of opinion that the profits were too big, and that thereby labour was deprived of some of the wages which it was thought it ought to have earned. That, I conclude, to be the argument intended. Does anyone who knows anything of the mining industry; does either the Miners' Federation or the Government really know anything about profits? In the speech that was made by my very old Friend the hon. Member for the Morpeth Division of Northumberland, reference was made to the fact that for years the Conciliation Boards had been endeavouring to go into the question of profits, and that for years the mine-owners had successfully opposed them. We do not know to-day the real truth about profits. The Government have certain information. We cannot prove that information, nor can we prove the evidence the Government possess. But surely the intention of the Government to arrive at a conclusionis proved conclusively by the suggestion to set up this Commission. The mere fact that we are bringing in this Bill proves that we desire to ascertain what the truth is. If that is our motive and our intention does anyone suppose that we can do it without this Bill, or if we could have managed it without this legislation, we would not have done so? We have proved that we are in earnest by bringing in the Bill. Surely we would not have brought in the Bill if we could have done it without. We could not. We have not got the full information, and this Commission will obtain it. We have taken care in the proposals put forward that the Commission shall be in a position to do so. We could have set up a Committee of Inquiry, but without legislation that Committee would have been unable to force the truth from unwilling mine-owners, or firms, or companies. Under this Bill the Commission will be entitled to subpœna witnesses exactly in the same way as does a judge of the High Court. They can subpœna them to bring their books and disclose them for investigation. They can force witnesses to answer, and if a witness does not answer there is power to commit him for contempt of Court, exactly as can a High Court judge. The intention is not only to set up a Committee composed of men who, by their training and experience, are qualified to make this investigation, but also with power to make the inquiry thorough and complete when they are about it. In addition to that there shall be as much speed as practically possible. There is a provision for interim Reports, not only that they may make interim Reports with regard to any of the subjects before them, but they must make, as quickly as possible, the Report in regard to wages and hours. So far as the claim of the miners are based upon the excessive cost of living, they have had an offer made to them definitely to accept the position which the railway men have accepted—that they can take as the datum line the last rise in wages on account of the increased cost of living, and that they can, as the railway man, get the increase at once without prejudice to any future claim they may make. With regard to their general claim as to the questions of wages and shorter hours, it has been definitely promised that any award that is made will date right back to the beginning. What is the loss by accepting this?
I think the claim was made on the 9th January. I do not pledge myself, but it was about then. That is the position. What do the men lose by accepting the proposals of the Government? They have a strong case, I believe, at least that is my impression. If it is right they will succeed in their case, and they will not lose one day. Really to threaten an attack upon the country, to threaten a strike which must have appalling consequences merely as to what appears to be a bit of amour propre does not seem to be a tenable position for a great organisation. This really is a Committee question. The real way to raise this would
have been to move on the Committee stage to omit from Clause 1 these provisions. I ask the House to let us have the Second Reading. It is of immense importance that the Commission should be started at once. The learned judge is already in a position to begin his inquiry. We want him to start at once. It cannot harm the men in the least to give us the Second Reading because they accept a Commission for certain purposes. Therefore, as all these matters can be raised on the Committee stage I do ask and beg of my hon. and right hon. Friends opposite to give us the Second Reading of this Bill. The intention and motive is clear. The effect of it, assuming that even 50 per cent. of what has been said on behalf of the men's claim is true, must be to the advantage of the men. I therefore beg that the House will give this measure a Second Reading.
|Division No. 4.]||AYES.||[10.39 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Chadwick, R. Burton||Glanville, Harold James|
|Ainsworth, Capt. C.||Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Glyn, Major R.|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Col. Martin||Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Gould, J. C.|
|Armitage, Robert||Child, Brig.-Gen. Sir Hill||Goulding, Rt. Hon. Sir E. A.|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Grant, James Augustus|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Cockerill, Brig.-Gen. G. K.||Grayson, Lieut.-Col. H. M.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Colvin, Brig.-Gen. R. B.||Greame, Major P. L.|
|Banner, Sir J. S. Harmood-||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Green, J. F. (Leicester)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Coote, Colln R. (Isle of Ely)||Greer, Harry|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan)||Greig, Col. James William|
|Barrand, A. R.||Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives)||Gretton, Col. John|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Courthope, Major George Loyd||Griggs, Sir Peter|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Craig, Capt. C. (Antrim)||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Guinness, Lt.-Col. Hon. W. E. (B. St. E.)|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. w. C. H. (Devizes)||Daiziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirk'dy)||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir Fred (Dulwich)|
|Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth)||Davies, A. (Lincoln)||Hallas, E.|
|Benn, Capt. W. (Leith)||Davies, Sir Joseph (Crewe)||Haslam, Lewis|
|Bennett, T. J.||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Henderson, Major V. L.|
|Bethell, Sir John Henry||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford)|
|Betterton, H. B.||Dennis, J. W.||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Bigland, Alfred||Denniss, Edmund R. B.||Hilder, Lieut.-Col. F.|
|Birchall, Major J. D.||Dockrell, Sir M.||Hills, Major J. W. (Durham)|
|Bird, Alfred||Donald, T.||Hinds, John|
|Blades, Sir George R.||Doyle, N. Grattan||Hood, Joseph|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Duncannon, Viscount||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Edgar, Clifford||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur Griffith-||Edwards, A. Clement (East Ham)||Hope, John Deans (Berwick)|
|Bowles, Col. H. F.||Elliot, Capt. W. E. (Lanark)||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Falcon, Captain M.||Howard, Major S. G.|
|Bramsdon, Sir T.||Farquharson, Major A. C.||Hudson, R. M.|
|Brassey, H. L. C.||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Hunter, Gen. Sir A. (Lancaster)|
|Breese, Major C. E.||Foreman, H.||Hurd, P. A.|
|Briant, F.||Forestier-Walker, L.||Hurst, Major G. B.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Foxcroft, Captain C.||Inskip, T. W. H.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry E.||France, Gerald Ashburner||Jameson, Major J. G.|
|Britton, G. B.||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Burn, T. H. (Belfast)||Galbraith, Samuel||Jodrell, N. P.|
|Butcher, Sir J. G.||Ganzoni, Captain F. C.||Johnstone, J.|
|Campbell, J. G. D.||Gardiner, J. (Perth)||Jones, Sir E. R. (Merthyr)|
|Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Cayzer, Major H. R.||Gilbert, James Daniel||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)|
|Jones, Wm. Kennedy (Hornsey)||Murray, Dr. D. (Western Isles)||Seager, Sir William|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||Nall, Major Joseph||Seddon, J. A.|
|Kiley, James Daniel||Neal, Arthur||Shaw, Hon. A. (Kilmarnock)|
|Knight, Capt. E. A.||Newman, Major J. (Finchley, Mddx.)||Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)|
|Knights, Capt. H.||Newton, Major Harry Kottingham||Shortt, Right Hon. E.|
|Lane-Fox, Major G. R.||Nicholson, R. (Doncaster)||Simm, M. T.|
|Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow)||Nicholson, W. (Petersfield)||Smithers, Alfred W.|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ. Wales)||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Sprot, Col. Sir Alexander|
|Lewis, T. A. (Pontypridd, Glam.)||Norris, Col. Sir Henry G.||Stanier, Capt. Sir Beville|
|Lindsay, William Arthur||O'Neill, Capt. Hon. Robert W. H.||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Lloyd, George Butler||Parker, James||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Hunt'don)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Stewart, Gershom|
|Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Lonsdale, James R.||Percy, Charles||Sturrock, J. Leng-|
|Lorden, John William||Perkins, Walter Frank||Sugden, Lieut. W. H.|
|Loseby, Captain C. E.||Perring, William George||Surtees, Brig.-Gen. H. C.|
|Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)||Pickering, Col. Emil W.||Taylor, J. (Dumbarton)|
|Lowther, Col. C. (Lonsdale, Lancs.)||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Thomas, Sir R. (Wrexham, Denb.)|
|Lynn, R. J.||Pinkham, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Thompson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|M'Callum, Sir John M.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Assheton||Townley, Maximillian G.|
|M'Guffin, Samuel||Pratt, John William||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Mackinder, Halford J.||Pulley, Charles Thornton||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|M'Lean, Lt.-Col. C. W. W. (Brigg)||Purchase, H. G.||Wallace, J.|
|Macmaster, Donald||Rae, H. Norman||Walton, Sir Joseph (Barnsley)|
|M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Ramsden, G. T.||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|M'Swiney, Terence||Raper, A. Baldwin||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Maddocks, Henry||Raw, Lt.-Col. Dr. N.||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Magnus, Sir Philip||Rees, Sir J. D.||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Malcolm, Ian||Reid, D. D.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Mallalieu, Frederick William||Rendall, Athelstan||Wigan, Brig.-Gen. John Tyson|
|Malone, Col. C. L. (Leyton, E.)||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Williams, A. (Consett, Durham)|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||Richardson, Alex. (Gravesend)||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Martin, A. E.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Mitchell, William Lane-||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, W.)|
|Moles, Thomas||Rogers, Sir Hallewell||Wilson, Col. M. (Richmond, Yorks.)|
|Molson, Major John Elsdale||Roundell, Lt.-Col. R. F.||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Moore, Maj.-Gen. Sir Newton J.||Rowlands, James||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. C. T.||Rutherford, Col. Sir J. (Darwen)||Woolcock, W. J. U.|
|Morris, Richard||Samuel, A. L. (Eye, E. Suffolk)||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Morrison, H. (Salisbury)||Samuel, A. M. (Farnham, Surrey)||Young, Sir F. W. (Swindon)|
|Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Norwood)||Young, William (Perth and Kinross)|
|Mount, William Arthur||Samuels, Rt. Hon. A. W. (Dublin Univ.)|
|Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Lord E. Talbot and Captain Guest|
|Murchison, C. K.||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone)|
|Murray, Lt.-Col. Hn. A. C. (Aberd'n.)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton)||Sexton, James|
|Arnold, Sydney||Hartshorn, V.||Short, A. (Wednesbury)|
|Barton, R. C. (Wicklow, W.)||Hayday, A.||Sitch, C. H.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Hirst, G. H.||Smith, Capt. A. (Nelson and Colne)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Irving, Dan||Spoor, B. G.|
|Brown, J. (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, J. (Silvertown)||Swan, J. E. C.|
|Cairns, John||Kenyon, Barnet||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Carter, W. (Mansfield)||Lunn, William||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Cape, Tom||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Waterson, A. E.|
|Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe)||O'Connor, T. P.||White, Charles F. (Derby, W.)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||O'Grady, James||Wignall, James|
|Devlin, Joseph||Onions, Alfred||Young, Robert (Newton, Lancs.)|
|Edwards, C. (Bedwellty)||Redmond, Captain William A.|
|Finney, Samuel||Richards, Rt. Hon. Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. T. Wilson and Mr. Griffiths.|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Roberts, F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Royce, William Stapleton|
Question put, and agreed to.