His Majesty shall have power to appoint Commissioners, consisting of a chairman, who shall be a judge of the Supreme Court, a vice-chairman, and such other persons as His Majesty may think fit, for the purpose of inquiring into the position of, and conditions prevailing in, the coal industry, and in particular as to—
I beg to move after the word "conditions" ["inquiring into the position of, and conditions"] to insert the words "other than wages and hours of work."
The object of this Amendment is to remove from the operations of this Commission the consideration of the question of hours and wages.This subject was so exhaustively discussed yesterday that I do not propose to occupy the time of the Committee other than to urge again that the Government should give consideration of the representations that were made yesterday. There is one word I may add which was not said yesterday, in order to allay the fears of the Committee as to the financial effects of these changes. The argument of the Prime Minister and of the hon. Members who supported the Government were largely based on our competitivecapacity with other countries, and the speeches assumed that the workers of the other countries were going to continue under pre-war conditions. We are assuming quite another phase of the question; we believe that none of the workmen in the countries which have taken part in the great War are going to be satisfied with the old order of things. One great European competitor in the South Wales coal trade was Germany. Is it to be assumed that German workmen are going to be content with pre-war conditions? Weare not assuming it. I remember that at our first International Conference of Miners German workmen gave a report of a man and his wife working in German mines for £49 a year. As the result of the International Miners'Conferences and the assistancewe were able to give to the German miners in forming themselves into a trade union, that condition of things was very much improved before the War broke out. None of us are desirous of seeing the present state of things continue in Germany. We hope they will soon settle down to some democratic form of government. If they do, we need not be afraid in this country of any competition we have to meet in the coal trade from Germany. I have no desire to labour the question, which was so exhaustively discussed yesterday, and I move the Amendment in the hope that the Government are prepared to find some way out of the difficulty.
I am rather sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has moved this Amendment in this particular form, because it would knockthe whole of the inquiry as to hours and wages not only out of this Bill but out of any other form of investigation. I quite understand that every Parliamentary opportunity is to be taken. I am not complaining of the principle, or that the right hon. Gentleman has taken his opportunity in this way, but it would be regrettable if this Amendment were carried in this form. I quite understand the purpose of the right hon. Gentleman—I have some sympathy with him—it is that we should get a decision on the question of the 35s. a week average earn- ings of the miner on the pre-war basis and on the 30 per cent. increase. Hon. Members want a decision on that before the Conference. That is the real point they desire to achieve. I should be very sorry that that should be achieved in a way that would block now a real radical inquiry in the way I want it undertaken into the whole question of wages and of conditions and hours that are wrapped up with the wage question. I would ask the Government one question on a little point of interpretation about which I am not sure. As I read the words, the Commissioners may take it either way, either that it was included or that it was excluded. What I should like to know from the Government is this: Whether the Commission, once they have brought in their Interim Report, which is the immediate thing that is wanted, and wanted in a short space of time, would then proceed to go into the whole question of the basis method on which wages are paid? The right hon. and hon.Gentlemen opposite know that for several years they have been ready, particularly in South Wales, to press very hard for a complete change from the method upon which wages are based and the method by which they are calculated. I remember a gentleman who is no longer with us, who was one of the greatest authorities on the coalfields of this country—Sir Arthur Markham, formerly Member for Mansfield—telling me many times that the system of payment in the South Wales coalfields, when considered in relation to the systems in other coalfields, was a system unintelligible to anybody, absolutely indefensible and a permanent source of unrest. Everybody will agree that the way it has grown up, patch upon patch, from the early days of the coalfield leaves us at the present time with an infinite source of friction from day to day between the individual workman and the individual official. That goes on all the year round. It is essential that the Government, now that they are about the matter, should deal with this, so that we shall not have it raised again in a year or two's time.
I would refer to another point which has a very important bearing on the question
of hours. The South Wales miners have absolutely refused, and on very strong grounds, to work more than one full working shift of eight hours. If, as a result of this Commission and, perhaps, with the creation of a better spirit, you can get out of this Bill two shifts of six hours, then, of course, the mine-owners will be in a much better position to deal with the question of wages, because, although their overhead charges would be the same, they would get twelve hours as against eight hours'production of coal. I am quite certain that the decision about hours will be very difficult and almost impossible, owing to the difficulty of the individual workman who in this shift finds he is messed up by the man in the next shift. With the present wage system in South Wales and the way it is constituted,I do not believe you will ever persuade the Welsh miners to give you the two shifts of six hours. It may be possible for this Commission, if they go into the question of the method of payment and try to bring about the rearrangement that is desired and give us a complete new settlement, to get such a system that will make it very much easier for us to persuade the South Wales miner to take his two shifts of six hours. I therefore hope that the Amendment will not be carried in this form, because the objectof hon. Gentlemen opposite will not be achieved by this particular Amendment.
I did not rise before because I thought that perhaps some other hon. Member would like to say something upon this Amendment. Really the question was threshed out yesterday, and I am quite sure my hon. Friends will not think me in the least discourteous if I do not repeat to-day what was said yesterday in answer to the proposal. It is not one which the Government can possibly accept. The matter was really decided yesterday, and therefore I am sure my right hon. Friend will not think me rude if I say nothing further about it.
|Division No. 5.]||AYES.||[3.59 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Brown, J. (Ayr and Bute)||Crooks, Rt. Hon. William|
|Arnold, Sydney||Cairns, John||Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe)|
|Bell, James (Ormskirk)||Carter, W. (Mansfield)||Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Devlin, Joseph|
|Edwards, C. (Bedwelty)||Jones, J. (Silvertown)||Spoor, B. G.|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Kenyon, Barnet||Swan, J. E. C.|
|Griffiths, T. (Pontypool)||Lunn, William||Tootill, Robert|
|Grundy, T. W.||Onions, Alfred||Waterson, A. E.|
|Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton)||Redmond, Captain William A.||Wedgwood, Col. Josiah C.|
|Hartshorn, V.||Richards, Rt. Hon. Thomas||White, Charles F. (Derby, W.)|
|Hayday, A.||Roberts, F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Young, Robert (Newton, Lancs.)|
|Hayward, Major Evan||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Hirst, G. H.||Short, A. (Wednesbury)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Captain|
|Hogge, J. M.||Sitch, C. H.||Smith and Mr. Tyson Wilson.|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Dennis, J. W.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Dockrell, Sir M.||Lewis, T. A. (Pontypridd, Glam.)|
|Ainsworth, Capt. C.||Doyle, N. Grattan||Lister, Sir R. Ashton|
|Ashley, Col. Wilfred W.||Du Pre, Colonel W. B.||Lloyd, George Butler|
|Atkey, A. R.||Edgar, Clifford||Locker-Lampson G. (Wood Green)|
|Austin, Sir H.||Edwards, A. Clement (East Ham)||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Hunt'don)|
|Bagley, Captain E. A.||Elliot, Capt. W. E. (Lanark)||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Entwistle, Major C. F.||Lonsdale, James R.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Loseby, Captain C. E.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Farquharson, Major A. C.||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Barrie, C. C.||Fell, Sir Arthur||Lowther, Col. C. (Lonsdale, Lancs.)|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||France, Gerald Ashburner||Lynn, R. J.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||M'Callum, Sir John M.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Galbraith, Samuel||M'Donald, Dr. B. F. P. (Wallasey)|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Ganzoni, Captain F. C.||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Stirling)|
|Bellairs, Com. Carlyon W.||Gardiner, J. (Perth)||M'Guffin, Samuel|
|Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth)||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Mackinder, Halford J.|
|Benn, Com. Ian Hamilton (G'nwich)||Gilbert, James Daniel||M'Lean, Lt.-Col. C. W. W. (Brigg)|
|Bird, Alfred||Glanville, Harold James||Macmaster, Donald|
|Blair, Major Reginald||Glyn, Major R.||M'Micking, Major Gilbert|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Gould, J. C.||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Boles, Lieut.-Col. D. F.||Goulding, Rt. Hon. Sir E. A.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Grant, James Augustus||Maddocks, Henry|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur Griffith-||Greame, Major P. L.||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Bottomley, Horatio||Green, J. F. (Leicester)||Mallalieu, Frederick William|
|Bowles, Col. H. F.||Greene, Lt.-Col. W. (Hackney, N.)||Malone, Col. C. L. (Leyton, E.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Greig, Col. James William||Malone, Major P. (Tottenham, S.)|
|Bramsdon, Sir T.||Griggs, Sir Peter||Marriott, John Arthur R.|
|Brassey, H. L. C.||Guinness, Lt.-Col. Hon. W.E. (B. St. E.)||Martin, A. E.|
|Breese, Major C. E.||Hacking, Captain D. H.||Moles, Thomas|
|Briant, F.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir Fred (Dulwich)||Molson, Major John Elsdale|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hallas, E.||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz|
|Brittain, Sir Harry E.||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Moore, Maj.-Gen. Sir Newton J.|
|Britton, G. B.||Harmsworth, Sir R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Morden, Col. H. Grant|
|Brotherton, Col. Sir E. A.||Harris, Sir H. P. (Paddington, S.)||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Buckley, Lt.-Col. A.||Haslam, Lewis||Morris, Richard|
|Burdon, Col. Rowland||Henderson, Major V. L.||Morrison, H. (Salisbury)|
|Burgoyne, Lt.-Col. Alan Hughes||Hennessy, Major G.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Torquay)||Henry, Sir Charles S. (Salop)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Burn, T. H. (Belfast)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford)||Murchison, C. K.|
|Butcher, Sir J. G.||Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.||Murray, Hon. G. (St. Rollox)|
|Campbell, J. G. D.||Hilder, Lieut.-Col. F.||Nall, Major Joseph|
|Campion, Col. W. R.||Hills, Major J. W. (Durham)||Neal, Arthur|
|Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Hinds, John||Nelson, R. F. W. R.|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Hope, Harry (Stirling)||Newman, Major J. (Finchley, Mddx.)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)||Nicholl, Com. Sir Edward|
|Cayzer, Major H. R.||Hope, John Deans (Berwick)||Nicholson, R. (Doncaster)|
|Chadwick, R. Burton||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Nicholson, W. (Petersfield)|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Howard, Major S. G.||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Norris, Col. Sir Henry G.|
|Clough, R.||Hunter, Gen. Sir A. (Lancaster)||O'Neill, Capt. Hon. Robert W. H.|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Hurd, P. A.||Palmer, Major G. M.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hurst, Major G. B.||Palmer, Brig.-Gen. G. (Westbury)|
|Cockerill, Brig.-Gen. G. K.||Illingworth, Rt. Hon. Albert H.||Parker, James|
|Colvin, Brig.-Gen. R. B.||Inskip, T. W. H.||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Jameson, Major J. G.||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Jephcott, A. R.||Percy, Charles|
|Coote, Colin R. (Isle of Ely)||Jodrell, N. P.||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan)||Johnstone, J.||Perring, William George|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives)||Jones, Sir E. R. (Merthyr)||Philipps. Sir O. C. (Chester)|
|Cory, J. H. (Cardiff)||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)||Pickering, Col. Emil W.|
|Courthope, Major George Loyd||Jones, Wm. Kennedy (Hornsey)||Pinkham, Lieut.-Col. Charles.|
|Cozens-Hardy, Hon. W. H.||Joynson-Hicks, William||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Assheton|
|Craig, Capt. C. (Antrim)||Kelly, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Pratt, John William|
|Craig, Col. Sir James (Down, Mid.)||Kidd, James||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Kiley, James Daniel||Purchase, H. G.|
|Curzon, Commander Viscount||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Rae, H. Norman|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)||Knights, Capt. H.||Raeburn, Sir William|
|Davison W. H. (Kensington)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Raper, A. Baldwin|
|Dean, Com. P. T.||Lane-Fox, Major G. R.||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Raw, Lt.-Col. Dr. N.||Simm, M. T.||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Sprot, Col. Sir Alexander||Weigall, Lt.-Col. W. E. G. A.|
|Rees, Sir J. D.||Stanier, Capt. Sir Beville||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Reid, D. D.||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Preston)||Whitla, Sir William|
|Rendall, Athelstan||Stanton, Charles Butt||Wigan, Brig.-Gen. John Tyson|
|Renwick, G||Strauss, Edward Anthony||Wilson, Capt. A. Stanley (York)|
|Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)||Sturrock, J. Leng-||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, W.)|
|Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Sugden, Lieut. W. H.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn)|
|Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||Surtees, Brig.-Gen. H. C.||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Robinson, T. (Stretford, Lancs.)||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)||Winterton, Major Earl|
|Rodger, A. K.||Taylor, J. (Dumbarton)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Rogers, Sir Hallewell||Terrell, G. (Chippenham, Wilts.)||Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge and Hyde)|
|Roundell, Lt.-Col. R. F.||Thomas, Sir R. (Wrexham, Denb.)||Woolcock, W. J. U.|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Norwood)||Thompson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)||Yate, Col. Charles Edward|
|Samuels, Rt. Hon. A. W. (Dublin Univ.)||Townley, Maximillian G.||Young, Sir F. W. (Swindon)|
|Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur||Tryon, Major George Clement||Young, William (Perth and Kinross)|
|Seager, Sir William||Waddington, R.||Younger, Sir George|
|Seely, Maj.-Gen. Rt. Hon. John||Walton, Sir Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Shaw, Hon. A. (Kilmarnock)||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Captain|
|Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.||F. Guest and Lord Edmund Talbot.|
|Shortt, Right Hon. E.|
I beg to move, after the word "coal" ["coal industry, and in particular"], to insert the words "owning and producing."
I do not propose to press this Amendment, but I want to have a statement from the Government that the Bill does cover these two different factors in the industry. I am afraid the Bill has hitherto been argued as one dealing solely with coal getting. If it is to exclude from the purview all inquiry into the powers of coal-owners of holding any gotten minerals and keeping those minerals unworked, then, I think, the chief advantage of this inquiry would fall to the ground. I will give an illustration of what I mean, which was told me by Sir Arthur Markham. He told me ten years ago now, but the illustration holds good now as much as it did then. He said, "I wanted to open up the coalfields under the Welbeck Abbey Estate, and I went to the Duke of Portland and offered him royalties which would have amounted to £50,000 a year. It was a fixed rent of £25,000, and the output would have been such as to produce £50,000 in royalties in a year. But the Duke declined to allow the estates to be worked, with the result that the coal was not got and the people who might have been employed getting the coal and the people who might have been using it were either not employed or unable to get it."That sort of thing hampers the coal-mining industry every bit as much as do high wages or short hours. You cannot carry on an inquiry relating solely to the question of the labour applied to the coal. You ought also to consider the powers of the owners of the coalfield to withhold it from the market. I want to be quite certain that the inquiry will consider the power of the people who own the coalfields to withhold the coal from use. The Duke of Portland was able to refuse to allow Sir Arthur Markham to work the coal because so long as he kept it idle he was neither taxed nor rated upon its value. Obviously, this Committee, if it comes to anything, will have to inquire whether or not a system of taxation and ratingwhich exempts ungotten minerals from all contribution to the State is a fit method of taxation or rating to be allowed to continue in the interests of the coal production of the country and the cheapness of that coal when it is produced. Therefore I move this Amendment pro forma because I want to know whether it is within the purview of the Commission or not to consider the terms under which the landowners are held to own the coal seams under their land.
I think I can reassure my hon. and gallant Friend. I do not think it advisable to insert these words. They might have a limiting effect rather than otherwise. With regard to my hon. and gallant Friend s intention, I think the inquiry into nationalisation covers it. It deals with the future of thecoal industry, and it involves the nationalisation of land, and of course the question how far coal-owners are able to hold back necessary coal and how far they are entitled to charge prohibitive prices in the way of royalties would be included. I think it is entirely covered under Sub-section 1 (f).
I am not quite happy. Nationalisation has not been defined. I am still ignorant whether it means nationalisation of the pits already working or nationalisation of all the minerals in the country.
I beg to move, in paragraph (a), to leave out the words
and whether and, if so, to what extent, and by what method, such wages should be increased and hours reduced, regard being had to a reasonable standard of living amongst the colliery workers, and to the effect of such changes on the economic life of the country.
These words are redundant. In paragraph (a) it talks about "a reasonable standard of living," and in paragraph (e) of the same Clause,
the social conditions under which colliery workers carry on their industry—
one and the same thing. Again in paragraph (a),
such changes in the economic life of the country.
In paragraph (h),
the effect of proposals under the above head which these changes will make on the economic life of the country.
It is an obvious redundancy. But that is a small point. I am going to ask the Committee to have these words withdrawn on a bigger issue than that. The Prime Minister told us quie truly yesterday that this is not a dispute between the miner and the colliery-owner. It is not a dispute, again, between the miner and organised capital. It is to a certain extent, but we have to remember that organised capital is to a very great extent able to take care of itself. It is mobile. If it is persecuted it can go away. The great firm of Yarrow was hunted from London to the Clyde and from the Clyde to British Columbia. No doubt in course of time it will go from British Columbia to Shanghai, but in each and every case Yarrow's have managed to get a profit for their shareholders, because capital is mobile. Nor, again, is this a dispute between the miners representing one branch of organised labour and another great branch of organised labour, because we had it yesterday from both benches above the Gangway, "We stand by the miners."No, the dispute is between colliery workers, whether above or below ground, and the great middle section of the community—call them if you like the middle classes—those who have to use coal in their ordinary daily life and who are not organised. If the Government had really gone to the miners and the owners of collieries and arranged that the miners shouldget what they want, and the coal-owners should be allowed to charge 10s. or 12s., whatever it is, more for their coal to the private consumer, it would very nearly have signed its death warrant.
This seems to have been a lost speech on the Second Reading of the Bill. It does not arise on the Amendment for which I called the hon. and gallant Gentleman. It seems to me really a question of the drafting of paragraph (a). The hon. and gallant Gentleman wishes to propose to leave out all the words after "workers" in the second line of the paragraph.
The reason I want to have the words left out is that if they are left in it gives a wrong direction to the Commission. If any reasonable man read these lines he would certainly say they contain a direct direction to the Commission to report in a certain way. It is to have regard to a reasonable standard of living. What is a reasonable standard of living What is the datum line? A city clerk who goes off to his work at half-past eight inthe morning and gets there at half-past nine, after an hour's strap-hanging in 'bus, tube, or tram, and gets home at half-past six in the evening, earns £150 a year. The purchasing power of the sovereign has gone down by a half. Is that a reasonablestandard of living? The mine-worker gets, as I understand, anything from £5 to £7 a week. At any rate the Prime Minister told us yesterday he gets a minimum of 82s. to 83s., but if the evidence I have read is correct he gets a great deal more than that. At any rate he gets well over £200 a year. Surely on that he can maintain a reasonable standard of living, and it is easier for him to maintain that standard than it is for the clerk. Surely it is unfair that these words should be inserted. They are giving a direct incentive to the Commission to report in a certain way. We surely want to have the Commission made absolutely fair. We want to get for it the sympathy and the support not alone of the miners, not alone of the coal-owners, butof the general community. If the general community imagines that this is a biassed Commission it will have no confidence in its finding, and if these words are eliminated at any rate the general public will have some sort of confidence in them.
I think if the hon. and gallant Gentleman applies his common sense to these words he will see that his fears are ungrounded. There is nothing in the Sub-section which directs the Commission as to the manner in which they are to report. It puts a plain question. It says, "You are to consider the wages and the hours worked by the various grades of workers." Then it tells them, "You are to consider whether the wages are to be increased." It may say, "No,"to that. If it says "Yes," it is to consider to what extent and in what method; and then there is the simple fact that it is to have regard to two things—the effect such changes as it may recommend may have on the cost of living and a reasonable standard of living among the colliers and the effect upon the economic life of the country. It is to go into the hours and the wages, and to inquire whether, having regard to a reasonable standard of living and to the effect it will have on the other industries of the country, it is right that there shouldbe an increase. If it recommends that an increase is not right, there the matter ends. If it recommends that it is right, then it must say to what extent and in what method. I think that is a perfectly plain question and it leaves the Commission an absolutely free hand, and there is no suggestion of hampering it in any way.
I beg to move, in paragraph (a), after the word "method" ["and by what method"], to insert the words "of taxation or legislation or trade union action."
I am quite confident from what I have heard to-day and yesterday that unless we insert here some words which will direct the Commission to inquire as to whether there is not some chance of altering the conditions by other means than legislation, we shall have direct action, or trade union action, absolutely ruled out. We have just voted on trade union action, and I never gave a vote with greater satisfaction in my life. I certainly think there can be a very strong case made out for a strong trade union desiring to regulate the hours of labour and the wages of labour itself without State interference. But I think this Commission might consider the problem of direct trade union action as apart from the collectivist action of the State by means of legislation. I would draw the attention of the Committee to the insertion of the words "methods of taxation."This is a vital question. I have illustrated just now the ease with which the owners of ungotten minerals could keep their minerals un-worked, thereby reducing the amount of coal produced and reducing the payment for labour, while at the same time increasing the price of coal, because if you reduce the supply you increase the price. There is another very pertinent thing for the Commission to consider. At the present time, owing to the somewhat light-hearted action of the 1910 Parliament, we have had imposed in this country a tax upon royalties. A royalty is a payment made for every ton of coal which is produced. If you put a tax upon royalties it checks the production and reduces the amount of coal produced, so that you have in this royalties tax a direct restriction upon production. What is the history of that tax? I am afraid the Home Secretary was not in the House then. Very few Members of the present Parliament were. I will tell the Committee what produced the tax.
Now that the hon. and gallant Member has explained his Amendment, I would point out that it has got out of place. Paragraph (g) deals with this question. He has handed in an Amendment on that paragraph in order to raise the question of taxation. His Amendment is clearly out of place now.
Paragraph (g) deals with mining royalties and way-leaves. I submit that that is not the place to consider an alternative to the taxation of royalties and wayleaves. The taxation of royalties, as you must know, reduces production. If the taxation had been imposed as it was originally intended in the 1910 Act, and had been put upon ungotten minerals, whether used or not, it would have had a diametrically opposite effect and would have increased production. That is as well known to you as it was to any Member of the 1910 Parliament.
I quite appreciate the hon. and gallant Member's point, but it must not slip into paragraph (a). The hon. Member had better bring it up as a separate paragraph.
The hon. and gallant Member has handed in a manuscript Amendment to come in at the end of paragraph (a), but that also is out of place. The new paragraph should come in at the end of paragraph (c). The hon. and gallant Member's Amendment at the end of paragraph (b) is permissible, I think.
I beg to move, at the end of paragraph (b), to insert the words "by law or otherwise."
My object in moving this Amendment is to give the Commission the wider powers of inquiring whether the evil conditions in the mining industry can be remedied by allowing natural laws to have effect instead of relying upon artificial restrictions upon hours or artificial increases in wages. That is the same point that I brought up elsewhere.
The hon. and gallant Member's next Amendment at the beginning of paragraph (c), in which he wishes to insert the words "Rents, royalties, and wayleaves," again, is connected with the wrong paragraph. When we come to paragraph (g), which deals with royalties, wayleaves, etc., we can deal with that Amendment.
I beg to move, in paragraph (c), to leave out the words "of coal,"and to insert instead thereof the words:
in the coal industry or any industry commonly carried on in connection therewith or as ancillary or incidental thereto.
The object of this Amendment is that there are certain industries which are incidental or ancillary to the coal industry, such as coking and other sorts of industry, and we are anxious that everything shall be included. We insert these words in order to ensure that the whole of the industries connected with coal owning and working should be included within the scope of the Commission. I am sure the Committee will agree that the scope of the Commission should be as complete as possible.
I welcome the Amendment of the Home Secretary, but I should like to know whether it means that the Commission will be able to inquire into the oil industry as to cost, and the cost of pit wood, and other things which are factors in depressing wages in some form or another. The cost of oil has increased considerably and the cost of pit wood and all the other things which go to make up the operations of the mining industry have greatly increased. Does the proposal mean that the Commission may inquire as to whether the oil factors, who supply the oil to the collieries are asking too exorbitant prices and making for themselves extravagant profits, or the suppliers of the pit wood are asking too great a price and leaving themselves too large a margin of profit? Does it mean that the Commission can inquire into all these things as part and parcel of the coal industry?
I am afraid that would mean opening too wide a scope for the inquiry. If one is to be able to inquire into the production of all the raw material which the colliery requires it would open the scope of the Commission for years and years. I cannot consent to that. There aremany collieries which have coke ovens, and so forth, and the idea is to include these incidental or ancillary operations for the purpose of considering the wages, hours, and other details, just as we should inquire into the wages, hours, and other detailsof the coal industry pure and simple. I can hardly be taken to have said that the question should be gone into as to whether the Norwegian owner of forests is charging too much for the timber sold for pit props. That would make far too large a scope for the Commission. I am afraid I cannot go quite so far as that.
I hope the Home Secretary will reconsider this matter. I understood from him that he was proposing his Amendment with the view of widening the scope of the Sub-section, but if his interpretation is right, it would mean that in one vital respect he is narrowing the scope of the Sub-section. I have profound sympathy with the point of view of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Brace). If you are giving the Commission power to inquire into the increase of wages and the reduction of hours, they will have to go a little beyond that to see where the cost of this increase of wages comes from. I have no hesitation in saying that there is a very large margin that could rightly be pulled back for the bene- fit of wages and hours in the mining industry from the perfectly prodigal and extortionate prices that have been charged for timber. As the Sub-section stands it is perfectly clear, without the Home Secretary's Amendment, that when the Commission have power to inquire into the cost of production of coal they can take into consideration all those increases which have taken place in the cost of stores, timber, etc. I am a little afraid of the interpretation of the Home Secretary, but I am not so much afraid of the wording of the Clause, because as I read it the Commission willinquire into the whole cost of production and distribution in the coal industry. I think those words are ample to cover an inquiry into the cost of timber, oil, explosives and other factors which have gone enormously to increase the cost of production ofcoal apart altogether from the question of wages. If there is any doubt in the Home Secretary's mind as to these powers, I would earnestly appeal to him to insert the necessary words in order that that inquiry should take place by the Commission.
The intention is that, in addition to inquiring into the coaling operations of the industry, the Commission should also be able to go into the question of coking ovens and any other by-products ancillary to the coal industry. It would be impossible for this Commission if it found that the cost of timber was excessive to go into the whole timber industry, and to decide whether or not the Norwegian owners or the Scotch owners are charging too much. You cannot do that. The Commission could find as a fact and could say that the cost of timber and the cost of any other raw material which the coal industry requires is excessive, but they could not possibly do more than that. They could not go into the whole question of the raw material the colliery requires. The object of the Amendment is to ensure that where you have a colliery which is not only dealing in coal but a dealing in tar, coke, and other by-products, that that should be taken into consideration, that the workmen therein engaged should be included within the scope of the inquiry, and that the profits derived from those incidental industries should also be taken into consideration in connection with the profits of the colliery.
It is important to know to what extent we are amplifying the scope of the original words, "cost of production and distribution of coal."That was one of the problems that were raised here yesterday. There is another, and that is the essential need for the miners to get authentic figures to explain where the difference goes between the price of coal at the pit mouth and the price at which it is sold to a poor working man in London. I understand that that was included in the original words, "cost of production and distribution of coal."I am not quite sure that you have covered that particular point in the words which you are now inserting. Would it not be necessary to put in the words "and trade"? I do not think that the average factor selling coal in London comes within the definition of "coal industry."
We must be clear as to the line of demarcation when we enter into the question of the production of coke and by-products. In some instances you have coke ovens in connection with the collieries. In other instances you have the coke ovensin connection with steel works. These coke ovens are intermingled with the collieries in Cumberland, while in South Wales you have the collieries and steel works combined, and the coke ovens are included in the steel workers'wages, and there is quite a different scale for the steel works and for the collieries. I do not know where you can draw the line of demarcation so far as finding out the cost is concerned.
I must apologise to the Committee because they have not before them on the Order Paper the actual words of the Amendment. These words, taking coke ovens as an example, deal with coke ovens which are in connection with the collieries or ancilliary or incidental thereto. They are intended to cover the case of those coke ovens which are carried on in connection with collieries.
What was suggested just now is being done. Under an agreement between the owners and the miners in Northumberland, there is an award of ascertainment for the regulation of wages. Suppose three tons of coal made two tons of cokes and say three tons of coal are 24s. and two tons of coke are 30s., and suppose there is 2s. for labour, then 28s. would go into ascertainment. I do not know where this is going to lead us to. I understand that the suggestion was that all cognate industrial workers are going to be put into the inquiry, apart from the miner altogether. I know some collieries where the coal comes direct from the pit and by-products of all kinds are made from it. Some collieries have clay as well as coal, and the clay is manufactured into fire-bricks. That is put into the ascertainment as well. I desire to contradict a statement of one of the hon. Members in respect to the wages that are paid. These statements get into the Press and are not fair toour men. I got this week-end from a colliery that is working every day in the county of Northumberland figures showing that the average is not £1 a day but is 10s. 2d., and in some cases is much lower than that. I happen to be secretary to what is called the joint committee, and among our men are some who are getting as low as 4s. a day, and some as low as 6s. 8d. a day. It is not fair to say that our men are getting all the pay.
I will explain again. As the Bill stands, the words "selling price and profits in the coal industry"might mean coal and coal alone. The profits of collieries and of mine-owners are not necessarily made out of coal alone, and the intention of this Amendment is to add to the inquiry those things like coke, or any other matter, which are a source of revenue, and a source of wages, and a source of everything else. This extends the scope of the inquiry so as to complete it by including everything which the mine produces.
The selling prices and profits in the coal industry in paragraph (d) is a very different matter from the cost of production and distribution of coal in paragraph (c). The Amendment would be quite right in the second paragraph, but here we shall have to go into it very carefully.
How are you to draw the line, when you come to by-products, between collieries which are partially collieries and partially steel works, and others that are entirely collieries and others that are entirely steel works? I guite understand wanting to go into this, to get the cost of production of the coal at the pit-head. That is all right so far as paragraph (c) is concerned. I quite understand the Government also wanting to get the selling price and profits in the coal industry and all cognate things. That is all right so far as price and profits are concerned, but how are you going to work it for cost of production of tar, phenol, benzol, and their distribution afterwards? I would suggest that this Amendment be confined to paragraph (d).
I do not think it necessary to include this Amendment here. I think that the Government will have ample power if they include it in paragraph (d). It is important on the question of general publicity and of giving the miners all information to have this Amendment. But if it is inserted here it will lead to grave difficulty in the Report of the Commission; whereas, if we wait until paragraph (d) it will serve all the purposes that are needed.
The position is this, (c) deals with the cost of production and distribution and organisation, and (d) with selling prices andprofits. Both of these deal with coal as the Bill stands. The proposal is, that as the cost of production of coal and the cost of distribution and organisation and the question of selling price and profits are mixed up with these by-products in both cases, the by-products should be brought within the scope of the inquiry, and it is therefore proposed in both cases that coal should be taken to include coke and other by-products in order that the inquiry may be as complete as possible.
If we go on extending the scope of this inquiry, it seems to me very reasonable to ask why the cost of production here, for instance, is 18s. a ton as against 11s. in America. At the same time we might have some information as to why the cost of coalproduction in New South Wales was 8s. in 1911 and in 1915 was 7s. 7d., which is a decrease. What the House wants to know is, whether that is a question of better administration or improved machinery or what is the reason to account for this discrepancy? If we go on extending this to by-products, I dare say you will go as far as oil recovery and waste of coal, and then it is apparent that it will be absolutely impossible for the Commission to report in time. Reference has been made to what is the standard of living. That is defined in the Australian Arbitration Act—
I have recently had the opportunity of being associated with a Committee of Inquiry connected withcoal production. We were able to prove conclusively that during the last five years the cost of coal production has gone up by 12s. 6d. Surely if the books are kept properly in the coal mining industry it will not be difficult for the Commission to arrive at the figures. What we want to find out by this Inquiry is the cost of coal at the pit's mouth, and I think it would be foolish to extend it until it gets to the coal cellar of the ordinary consumer.
There is a very good precedent in this matter. When we started the coal control we carefully avoided having anything to do with coke or that sort of thing. If you really want to get a quick Report, there is no use in extending the inquiry. What you desire to know is about the coal industry proper.
I would like to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether he is not really confusing two things when he proposes to introduce these words twice over. I think that the Committee as a whole desire very much to see this inquiry conducted very quickly and to see the question affecting wages and hours decided at the earliest possible moment. I have no interest in any sense in the matter except a very sympathetic desire to see everything that can be given to the miner given to him. But it seems to me, if you inquire into the cost of by-products and possibly into a question like that of collieries run by steel companies, you would be really confusing two things and not getting the coat of the coal at the pit-mouth. Some collieries only bring the coal to the pit-mouth and do not have other reductions of costs. You would therefore be getting two sets of costs, and that would be a mistake. In this first inquiry what you want is the cost at the pit mouth of the coal as it comes up and is sold, and as that affects the hours and wages of the men. The selling prices undoubtedly must be considered when you come to the question of nationalisation. Those and other questions may be gone into later, and that will be provided for byaccepting the Amendment at the second and not the first place in which it is introduced. I urge that course not in any sense to evade inquiry, but in order to make it more successful and quicker in its effects. If the argument is advanced that you will not get a proper result by that means, I should listen most respectfully to such an argument. What we want is the truth and the whole truth, and the best results would, I submit, be obtained by doing as I have suggested.
I cannot agree with my hon. Friend in the suggestion which he has made. The Commission may be trusted not to waste time on any inquiries which they find do not really affect the matter. In some cases the by-products are produced at the colliery as part of the colliery work and in the colliery precincts. All that must be gone into, and the Commission may be trusted to distinguish between coal companies run by steel works and others and equally trusted to distinguish as between the mine which runs something ancillary to the mine and that which does not. The Commission may be trusted to conduct the inquiry and to make their own investigations, and it is necessary that these words should be in both places in order that all the circumstances may be properly taken into account by theCommission.
I beg to move, after paragraph (c), to insert as a new paragraph
(d) effect of coal control upon prices, wages, costs of production.
I think the Committee will agree that it is very desirable to consider how coal control has affected coal prices, wages, and profits of the collieries. Little less than a year ago we had brought before the House by the Government a Bill for controlling the coal-mines of this country. One of the objects of that Bill was thatprosperous mines which were to continue their output or to increase it by getting a larger supply of labour were to hand over 15 per cent. of the excess profits to a pooling fund to be used to make good the profits of mines not worked to the full extent or closed down. Thus the poor mines were to be compensated for being closed down and controlled by the Government at the expense of the prosperous mines. When that Bill was going through the House we protested over and over again that the fund upon which the poor collieries would draw would be nothing like sufficient to compensate them, and that there would be a charge upon the taxpayers of the country in order to make good the compensation to those collieries which were suffering, or likely to suffer, fromthe coal control. We were assured when the Bill went through that this fund of 15 per cent. of the profits of the prosperous collieries was amply sufficient for its purpose, but that has not proved to be so. In the long run we generally find that these little balancing schemes somehow or other bring more profits to the profiteers. What happened in this case? It is true that the Government did not come upon the taxpayer to make good the loss, but what it did was to push up the price of coal and recoup the poor mines by increasing prices all round. Some hon. Members come down to this House and say, "These wicked workers will demand such big wages and short hours that up go the coal prices."
But that is not the reason at all, but it is due to Government interference and control of the industry carried out on unsound lines in a manner which necessarily inflated the price to the consumer and strangled industry.
I see a good many hon. Members opposite who are interested in the coal trade. I remember how they opposed the Coal Control Bill. They opposed it because it would interfere with the natural forces at work in the industry and strangle business and push up prices. That is exactly what it has done. They were perfectly right and I hope to have their supportfor this proposal to inquire as to how far that State control was in the interests of the public. The Government always say it is in the interests of the public, but it proved to be in the interests of the coal-owners. Everyone who has had experience of Government interference in an industry like this knows well enough as to how far that has been the principal cause of putting up the price of coal against the consumer and of practically ruining our export trade in this country. It would be ridiculous to have this inquiry solely into the hours and wages and the cost of pit-props or of by-products of the collieries, and to leave out of consideration the artificial inflation of the price of coal through the action of the Government. It is like all these things, directly the Government come in and pass an Act of Parliament and interfere with the natural laws of supply and demand, those natural laws come back and hit the Government and the public. This inquiry, if it is going to be anything but a farce, and one of the usual inquiries for the putting off of the settlement of the important question, ought to inquire into the success or failure of the scheme of controlling the output and the price of coal in this country.
So far as I can see, there is no reason why this Amendment should not be accepted by the Government, as I hope it will be. It really raises one of the most important points of the whole controversy, but one as to which the Prime Minister in the course of his remarks yesterday said nothing. He quoted the price of coal now, and suggested that the increase that has taken place since the beginning of the War was entirely due to the higher wages. That is not so. Many factors enter into the problem, and probably a considerable proportion is due to the financial arrangements made under the Coal Control Act. What we do not know is how much of the increased price of coal is due to the working of those financial arrangements. The Government ought to be able to tell us, but I am afraid they cannot, and my right hon. Friend ought, therefore, to accept this Amendment. I wish to call attention to the fact that there is no representative of the Board of Trade on the Government Bench. Neither the President nor the Parliamentary Secretary of the Boardof Trade is here, and I believe I am right in saying that throughout the whole of yesterday's sittings neither of those Gentlemen was here for a moment. I have a great respect for the Home Secretary, but, after all, he is not omniscient, and I do not expect him to be able to throw any very definite light upon this problem. The financial arrangements under the Coal Controller have had an effect on coal prices, and I say we ought to have the facts. To suggest that the increase is due only to higher wages as the Prime Minister suggested yesterday, is only to mislead the public, and it is also misleading the public to suggest, as the Prime Minister did, that if the demands of the miners are granted—and I hope they will be—the effect on production will be such that disaster will ensue. That is not so. What would mainly happen would be this, that the coal-owners'profits would be reduced. The coal-owners would get less and the men more, and thus the profits of the industry would be more fairly distributed. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not say that there is no need for specific reference in the Bill, and that it is not necessary, and that the Commission can report on this without specific reference. There is no reason why specific reference should not be put in, and I want the attention of the Commissioners to be specially directed to this question.
I wish to support the Amendment. If we are to find out the truth about the cost of production, wages, profits, etc., we ought to know where the money goes if the price of coal is raised. Last year in June there was a rise in the wages of the men, or two rises of 1s. 6d. each, which came to 3s. a day, for the men, and the price of coal was raised 4s. a ton. The coal-owners were told by the Controller that if this more than covered the extra cost of wages he must have full accounts and the owners should have none of the profits; he would have them for himself. This is very important, because when hon. Gentlemen say that coal-owners are getting advantage out of the rise in the price of coal, that is a fallacy. No coal-owner can get a penny out of this rise of 4s. of last year. If there is any margin between the extra cost of the wages and the extra cost of the coal, it goesstraight to the Coal Controller. I know it does in my case, because I wrote a cheque the other day for the Controller, and I venture to suggest that you can have no complete inquiry into cost and wages without doing as my hon. and gallant Friend suggests in this Amendment.
Sir J. WALTON:
I consider that an inquiry into the full effects of the interference of the State into the coal trade is extremely necessary, and that we must ascertain that if we are to consider properly and with full knowledge any question of the nationalisation of the coal mines; but I hope that if this Amendment is accepted it will be clearly understood that it is not to interfere with the speedy action of the Commission in reporting as to wages and hours of labour, but that it is to beregarded as a question to be examined and investigated in connection with that of the nationalisation of the mines. I am glad the last speaker referred to the question of the 4s. a ton rise in the price of coal last year. The two advances in wages given by the Coal Controller of1s. 6d. per day amounted in each case to £22,000,000, or a total of £44,000,000. Four shillings a ton on an output of 250,000,000 a year is £50,000,000. Therefore the Coal Controller had a surplus over what theminers got of some £6,000,000 for departmental or other expenses. Certainly we were expressly told that whatever the surplus was, not one penny of it would go back into the pockets of the coal-owners.
Sir J. WALTON:
The Coal Controller's. He told the coal-owners that whatever there was over, it was to be paid back into the Coal Controller's Department, and I think that ought to be made perfectly clear. The coal-owners have got sins enough to answer of which they are guilty without being charged with those of which they are not guilty.
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us if it is not proposed to pay some grant from that money which is going into the pockets of the Coal Controller to the collieries that are not earning profits?
Sir J. WALTON:
Not one penny is to come out of that fund to the collieries that are making losses instead of profits, and that have to be raised to the pre-war average. The whole of the money that will be given to these poorer collieries comes out of the special 15 per cent. levy on the whole coal trade, which is quite a separate matter—the 15 per cent. levy that they have to pay in addition to the usual 80 per cent. excess profits duty. The £6,000,000 istaken by the Coal Controller, and all that he has told us is that we shall not receive a penny of it. As to what he intends to do with the money, he has not made that clear. Unfortunately, the Coal Controller is not with us to-day, or we might have had an explanation.
Does the hon. Gentleman not know that it is because the 15 per cent. levy was insufficient that this other sum was required to go to the poorer collieries?
Sir J. WALTON:
I am not aware that the 15 per cent. is insufficient.That remains to be shown. When the Bill passed through the House we were told that if it was insufficient, and a further sum was found to be necessary, the Government would introduce a proper Financial Resolution in this House and come openly to the Houseto make the deficit up at the expense of the taxpayers, and we certainly have been distinctly told that under no circumstances will one penny of the 4s. a ton come to the coal-owners. But my point in rising mainly was to say that it is essential, in considering any question of the nationalisation of coal mines, that we should have the fullest information as to what has been the actual effect of State interference in and control of the coal industry under the Coal Control Act. I therefore hope the Home Secretary will accept the Amendment.
Of course I should be very anxious to accept any Amendment which I thought really extended where it was proper the scope of the Inquiry, but I really cannot see how the Amendment now proposed does extend the scope of the Inquiry at all. May I put it to the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Amendment that he may be confusing two things, confusing the words in the Bill which provide the subjects that may be inquired into, and putting words into the Bill which deal with the evidence that may be called before the Commission? Surely the whole conduct of the Coal Controller, the whole of the steps which he took, and the whole of the effects and results of those steps would be evidence under several of the heads of the subjects in the Bill. I should have thought it was impossible to inquire into the question of nationalisation without going into the question of our experience under the Coal Control Act. Equally, I should have thought you could not inquire into the conditions prevailing in the coal industry today in so far as they have regard to selling prices and so on, without going into the result of what the Coal Controller has done in the past few years. After all, the Coal Control Act is an emergency piece of legislation. It is a very important piece of evidence which the Commission will necessarily have regard to and consider when they are coming to a decision, but surely we do not want to burden the Bill by instructing the Commissioners as to what evidence they are to call. It is one thing to do that, and another thing to ensure that the subjects into which they are to inquire are properly provided for. It seems to me that the conduct and effect of what the Coal Controller has done is a matter of evidence, not a subject in itself; and while I am very anxious to meet my hon. and gallant Friend if he really thinks there is anything inadequate in the Bill, and if there is any subject which he thinks cannot be inquired into which he considers ought to be inquired into, it seems to me, as far as I understand the Amendment, that it does nothing but provide for evidence as apart from the subject. That I do not think it is wise to do in the Bill.
I still hold that my Amendment is desirable. We areinquiring into wayleaves and royalties, and here we have clear evidence that the Coal Controller has raised the price of coal 4s. and that this was a tax on the whole community by the Coal Controller. The price of coal at the present time is, to the extent of 4s. a ton, the result of the exercise of his power, and when we are going to consider whether the extra wages or shorter hours of labour are going to strangle industry, we must consider in ad- ditions to the wayleaves and royalties the effect of what the Coal Controller has done.
I am afraid my right hon. Friend was not in the House when the Coal Control Bill went through, and I do not see the President of the Board of Trade here. I think he might agreeto the Amendment, so that an inquiry should be made into not only the bad but the unconstitutional practice of the Board of Trade and the Coal Controller at the same time as we are inquiring into the other factors which have gone to create this very highprice of coal.
The arguments which the right hon. Gentleman has just used really apply to all the paragraphs in this Clause. All we want is that this should be added, so that the attention of the Commissioners should be specifically directed tothis point. I think it is a reasonable request, and it is in harmony with the general structure of the Clause. I hope, therefore, he will accept the Amendment.
I beg to move, in paragraph (f), to leave out the words
whether on the present basis, or on the basis of joint control, rationalisation, or any other basis,
and to insert instead thereof the words
on the basis of nationalisation.
This Amendment, unlike the others we have just finished discussing, seeks to limit the scope of the inquiry. In moving it I have no intention of discussing itat great length, in view of the discussion we had at various stages of the question yesterday. We believe that coal is such a vital necessity to the industrial system of this country that it cannot any longer be allowed to remain in private hands. We believe that the production of this valuable raw material should be lifted out of the higgling of the market and put entirely in the hands of the State. We believe that if this course were followed, it would at the same time effect a great saving to the country by
eliminating the coal owner—on fair terms of course—the royalty owner, and the middleman. In the course of these discussions we have been trying to discover where the extra money, as between the price at the pit head and delivery tothe consumer, say, in London, goes. It would eliminate all this, and whatever profit accrued from it would come to the State. In addition to being a source of revenue to the State, we believe that the adoption of the principle of nationalisation, so far as coal, royalties and wayleaves are concerned, would also be the means of avoiding a considerable amount of waste that is going on under present conditions. For instance, we have barriers of coal between properties belonging to one mining company and another, which means that a considerable amount of coal in the various parts of that coalfield cannot be worked. We have, again, seams, which the coal-owners do not consider profitable under present conditions, left in. Under a system of national ownership boththe barriers and the thin seams would be worked, and in that way we would avoid a considerable amount of the waste that is going on. We have also the waste that is brought about by the accumulations of water that are allowed to take place in the properties belonging to certain mining companies, making it impossible for other mining companies to work all the coal that is in their area. We also believe that if the industry were State-owned and worked on behalf of the State, we would be able to effect a considerable saving in the wastage of human life that takes place in the mining industry at present. Annually we have an average of something like 1,300 fatal accidents in the mining industry, and 150,000 more or less seriously injured. That is a heavy toll that is being paid by the mining population, and if any means can be taken to effect a saving in that alarming casualty list, it is well worth the consideration of this House and of the Government. We believe that nationalisation would enable us to reduce that casualty list to a considerable extent.
This is my first opportunity of rising in this House, and I pray its indulgence for a moment or two. I know a little about work in the pits, and about the feelings of the miners upon most of the questionsthat have been discussed in this House during the past two or three weeks. Thirty-five years of my life have been passed in or about the pits, and on this day my father is still a miner and so is my eldest son. So that I have some connection with this matter, and may be able to say a word or two as to what is the opinion of the mass of the workmen on this question, particularly in Yorkshire, where I have some connection with the Yorkshire Miners'Association. In this Sub-section we are now considering there is no explanation of what is meant by "joint control."If joint control as mentioned here means joint control between the present owners of the mines and the workmen in the mines, then I say that is a matter that will not appeal for one moment to, or receive any consideration from, the miners in this country. There is no miners'union that favours joint control with private ownership as we have it to-day. There is no miners' organisation that is prepared to give a moment's consideration to co-partnership as we understand it, and have had it explained, or to profit-sharing, as we know a little of it in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
This Amendment is welcomed by the Members on these benches, by the Miners' Federation and by every separate part of that Federation, and it is one part of our programme that we are prepared to suspend awhile so that it may be fully inquired into. At the same time, we do not want the shuffling with the question that usually goes with Governments, and I suppose will with thisGovernment equally with any in the past, so that nothing may be reached until a long time to come in this matter. We are hoping to see the mines nationalised during the present Session of Parliament. There is no question which is so popular in miners' branches and upon programmes of miners'candidates as the nationalisation of the mines, and of the minerals and all in connection therewith. The discussion that took place a minute or two ago, I think, is very valuable, and I hope that inquiry will be made into the present control of the mines. Many Members of this House are anxious that control of industry should be removed. I believe most of them forget the fact that when this country was in danger—as we are now informed—when private ownership had failed to meet the country's requirements, then the Government took control of various forms of industry, including the mines, and since that time every trade union official, practically, in the mining industry, equally with, or more so than, the owners or their managers, have assisted in increasing the output at the collieries in the nation's interest. Whilst I do not care for the present system of control, I personally want to see the reins tightened very much, so that we may have public ownership and joint control, if such we should have, as between the nation and those who are engaged in the industry in the interests of the whole community.
This is no particularly new idea. Ten years ago the present Prime Minister, in imposing in his Budget at that time a tax upon the mining royalties, hinted at the possibility of the mines and minerals being publicly owned by the nation. In 1912, the Labour party in the House at that time introduced a Bill for the nationalisation of the mines. I have never beenable to understand why it is necessary that a few individuals should own a natural product which is such a great national necessity as coal, and wring profit out of the workers, as they do to-day, by the ownership of that particular natural necessity. I have known, in my own experience, cases of the royalty-owner demanding an increase of a 1d. or 2d. a ton. The fact that he has done that, while the coal-owner was not in a position, or would not agree, to pay that amount, I know, has actually depopulated villages in my time. I do not say it would do so to-day.
I hope, as a result of this inquiry, that we shall see no more of private ownership of the coal as it is, that mining royalties as now paid will be removed, and that the mines will be worked in the interest of the nation. I am sure that will be in the interest of the whole community. I am quite convinced of that. I believe it would bring about a good many economies. There are to-day thousands upon thousands of tons of coal, which will be needed in the nation's interest some day, that are now wasted as a result of private ownership. There is not the regard that should be paid to human life by the method of working the mines as they are worked to-day. Again, there has not been that development of machinery in the mines as would have been the case had the mines been held and worked by the nation. We realise that. I hope in the course of a week or two we shall see shorter hours established for mines, but I hope further we shall see a greater shortening of hours than the six hours now proposed.
I am prepared to say that I am not a supporter of shorter hours because I want to see a greater output of coal under the present system of working. I know the miner works hard enough to-day. He takes everything out of himself every day he goes down the pit. I know he cannot do more than he is doing to-day. But I do realise that if the mines were owned by the people it would mean that the machinery would be increased, and when themachinery was increased in the mines more consideration would be given to the human machine than has been given up till now in the introduction of the ordinary machinery. If that machinery be introduced, I am sure it would mean a greater output than comes to-day from the mines. My idea of shorter hours is not simply because I want the men to work harder.
I want to provide more opportunities for the miner's children than those given in the past. Some of us have had no opportunity of education whatever. We desire to see that our children have a better opportunity. We do not want to see them coming home tired and weary as we did as boys and as they do to-day, unfit to take advantage of the opportunities that are given even now. We want to see these opportunities and advantages provided, and that they may be able to take advantage of them, and make the best possible use of them. I hope and trust that this Amendment will be carried. I hope that the Labour party is prepared to carry this Amendment to a Division, because, personally, I believe it is the one question of importance. Whilst I know it is important to increase the men's wages at this moment, to give them an increase, and to improve their standard of living, and even to decrease their hours of work, we should all look beyond the particular idea of what is to our immediate advantage to what is to the advantage of the nation as a whole, and also to the advantage of the industry concerned. I hope, before very long, we shall see the mines of the nation owned by the nation and worked jointly by those in the industry. I am satisfied that will mean more saving of life in the mines. It will mean loss and less injury, more economy in the production of coal, more coal and cheaper coal for the people who are to-day unable to purchase coal, and also better conditions for those who work in the industry.
I rise to support this Amendment, because I believe there is no aspect of the question that has been considered which is more important than the one which the Amendment covers. As previous speakers have remarked, the question of the nationalisation of mines and other industries is a question that is not to-day an academic one. It is one that has been considered for a very, very long period; so far as I know, for over twenty-years. Trade union congresses, year after year, have unanimously carried resolutions supporting the principle. It is not only, as the previous speaker have indicated, that during the stress of the last four and a half years, that the Government have realised that as private enterprise had broken down, altogether, it was absolutely necessary to secure some form of State control for the mining industry and other industries. As I have listened to the Debate I have had the feeling that this House has in some degree got out of touch with public opinion outside. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] I listened about a week ago to the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University. In it he made an extremely interesting historic comparison betweenthe position of Parliament to-day and the position of Parliament over a century ago. He pointed out how curiously and how strangely the authority of Parliament in the country had apparently diminished. Certainly there appears to be a great deal of force in the argument he used. As one has listened to the discussion of yesterday and to-day one cannot help feeling that this House, to a great extent, is out of touch with the opinion of thinking men and women in the country. We were told by the Home Secretarylast night that there was some doubt in his mind as to what was meant by the principle of nationalisation. I would suggest to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that he might refer to some of his colleagues on the Government Benches. He might, for example, ask the Secretary of State for War, who has assured us within recent days that his experience at the Ministry of Munitions has almost completely converted him to nationalisation. He might also refer to some of the speeches of the Leader of the House during recent months in which the right hon. Gentleman has assured the country that the nationalisation of railway during the War had secured for the country a very real and considerable economy. He might, with advantage, refer to some of the early speeches of the present Prime Minister, who, as was pointed out yesterday, was committed entirely, in so far as speeches can commit anybody at all, to the principle of nationalisation. Moreover, I want to submit that this was a very vital issue at the last election.
The Labour party got over two and a quarter million votes in 300 constituencies. Every Labour candidate who stood was pledged to the nationalisation of mines and railways. The people who voted for Labour men at the last Election voted with their eyes open and so voted because they were convinced of the wisdom, justice, and right of the application of this principle to our industries. I argue, and I think quite reasonably argue, that the existence of that huge vote does prove that there is a very solid body of opinion in the country in support of the nationalisation of an important industry like this. The fact is that commercial men in this country realise, no less than other classes realise, that the real truth is that private enterprise utterly collapsed during the War. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The Government apparently realised that it had because they took very hasty steps to assume State control.
Private enterprise failed during the War. We are prepared to admit that those things which have been State controlled have not been controlled in the best possible manner. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We are quite prepared to admit that: but we do say that the very stress of the situation demonstrated the imperative need for some form of real State control. In the course of this Debate we have heard a great deal, and quite rightly, about the rights of the community. The labour party is very seriously concerned for the rights of the community. As I listened to speakers, who apparently are opposed to the principle of nationalisation, and as I heard them urge that the community should be considered, I could not understand why they were not prepared to be logical. We want to consider the community. We want to consider the community so much that we say: "Let the community itself control this big industry." We realise that the difficulties which exist to-day, the injustices that are apparent to everybody, could be minimised enormously if this vast industry, as has been pointed out by speakers yesterday and to-day, which is absolutely vital to the nation's well-being was nationalised. We believe that the injustices which at present exist under the present system could be largely minimised if not entirely removed by a wise system of nationalisation. The principle, or, at any rate, the recognition of the principle of the right of the community to a voice in matters like this has already been conceded by this Government, or rather by the late Government. Up and down the country there have been established Whitley Councils. As. I read the Report of the Whitley Committee that met month after month what struck me about it was that, underlying the decisions finally arrived at, and, mark you, they were decisions subscribed to alike by the representatives of capital and labour—there was the recognition that in justice the community had a right to consideration. The very existence of the Whitley Report proved that there is beneath all these disputes common ground. We want to emphasise that principle. We want in this House to recognise that the community's need is the first consideration.
I am a member of the Labour party. I am standing here, however, to-night to support this Amendment in the interest of a very much wider community than that represented by the Labour party. I say that this is not a matter that should be left to the joint control alone of worker and employers. We can quite understand that it might be to the advantage of both of them to have joint control and to force up prices and to secure larger wages at the expense of the community. But, as has been pointed out by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, there is not a single miners'organisation throughout the length and breadth of Britain that wants joint control. The fact of the matter is that the miners of this country are not a set of unreasonable men. They have lived under conditions that the men in no other industry has had to endure for very many years now. I heard an hon. Member yesterday say that he came to this House on the vote of the miners. I come from a mining division in which the mining vote enormously preponderates. But I come invited by the people of that constituency to support with all the strength I have the application of this principle of nationalisation to their industry. They realise, and other people realise, the inequalities of the matter—that the atmosphere of dissatisfaction, suspicion, and dispute that exists throughout this industry will never be removed so long as the industry remains in private control. Previous speakers have pointed out that vast economies can be effected in management and other directions. We have been asked how it was that the price of coal at the pit's mouth varied so enormously from the price of coal on sale in our cities, and in places like London. The Labour party believe that the middleman in the coal trade can be to a great extent eliminated, and that all the money that it requires for increased wages can be secured without imperilling the industry, or any industry, in this country. It is because I believe these things that I have pleasure in supporting the Amendment which has been put forward by the Leader of the Labour party. I would like to remind the House of what one of the speakers referred to yesterday, and that is the human side of this question. I live in a mining district. I know the wretched housing conditions that obtain there, and I know that no wage, however large, is enough to compensate for those conditions. I know more than that. The men working in the mines have been denied access to those departments of living where real life exists. The previous speaker referred to the demand being put forward for improved educational facilities and for a wider andlarger life for the children of the miners. Beneath the demand which is being made to-day by the miners there is really this cry for a very much fuller and better life than the working classes of this country have previously enjoyed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting pointed out last week that the working-class miner moves along simple lines, and it is quite understandable that the men who have to go down coal-mines and then come home to live in a miserable little hovel realise that they are suffering a terrible injustice. I have realised that the colliery interests have been very well and adequately represented. From this side of the House men have spoken who have worked in the mines themselves, and they have pleaded the cause of the miners. At the same time they realise, and we all do, that they are up against a very formidable proposition. I want this House to sink all considerations of a petty selfish character and view this matter as a very big national question and grant what the Labour party is asking, namely, an admission of the principle of nationalisation. The Government have already admitted that principle. We ask them to admit it here before going on with this Division. If the Government can see their way to admit this principle without committing themselves to any details as to its operation, it will contribute more to secure a condition of peace and security in the industrial world in the country than anything that they could possibly do. I have very much pleasure in supporting the Amendment.
It may seem somewhat a piece of impertinence that a new Member should suggest to the Government that they ought not to accept this Amendment, but as the representative of a thoroughly working-class constituency, I have been sitting here listening to the Prime Minister and other speakers, and I have concluded that a number of Amendments have been submitted to this Committee which are merely holding up this Bill which the Prime Minister has asked us to pass at once. The difficulties which are confronting the nation are to be considered by a Statutory Commission at once, and if the Amendment which is now proposed were accepted it means that the issue is prejudged. The Bill asks that it may be considered on the basis of nationalisation or otherwise, and surely it is good enough for hon. Members opposite to have got the word "nationalisation"into the Bill itself. Since coal control came in I have been acting as honorary overseer in the largest district under the Act, and my anxiety, standing between the working-class population and the miners is to see that the 300,000 souls committed to my care have not only coals to keep the factories going in order that they may get their wages, but also that they may have coals after the 15thof March to keep themselves alive in this weather. That is the issue before the nation, and the members of the Labour party opposite are jockeying the position. They are trying to get their claim in first and to get these wages fixed at once as a statutory matter before the Commission sits and makes its Report.
The whole question of the value of a sovereign is in the melting-pot. No one can tell what wages will be worth in a short time because if there is no money coming in through lack of occupationthere is no food coming in. The whole question must be considered as representative of the whole of the nation. The coal industry is one of the fundamental industries governing the whole of the trade of this country, and as the Prime Minister very truly said, we depend upon our exports, and if we cannot produce at a price which will enable us to compete with countries overseas there will be unemployment. I make an appeal to any hon. Member who has got an Amendment on the Paper to get up and say, "I withdraw it,"and then this Bill may get through and we shall set up a Statutory Commission. If hon. Members opposite would do that the nation from end to end would put them on a much higher pedestal than they do now. By doing this they will admit the nation's necessity, and for the sake of a bare fortnight they should agree to put these matters before a Commission. What is the position of an umpire if he is called in to arbitrate between two people and one says, "You have my books and you can examine them," and the other one says, "No, you shall not."That is the position, and I appeal to those who have put down these Amendments to withdraw them, and give the Government the Bill they ask for straight away, and let us get on with the work of reconstruction and other Bills which are more important than this.
I wish to express my congratulations to the last three hon. Members who have spoken. When the first two had spoken I felt that if I had been a member of the Commission I should almost have been converted to nationalisation, but when I heard the last of the three I somewhat altered my view. May I point out that we have nothing to do with nationalisation to-day? The point is whether nationalisation is to be one of the questions into which this Commissionis to inquire or not. I can quite understand hon. Members opposite saying that their minds are made up, and so they do not think it is necessary to have an inquiry, but do they suppose everybody in the country agrees with them? Is there not a large body to whom the nationalisation of mines is not a good thing. They are entitled to their view, and they are also entitled to put their view before this Commission of Inquiry. The whole point is not whether nationalisation is right or wrong, but whether itshould be inquired into. That is the one point before us, and I ask the Committee to keep to that point. Let us consider whether it is not a question which ought to be inquired into. If there be a strong case, then those who support this principle will get a Report in accordance with their view, but we should keep to the point whether this is a question which ought to be inquired into by the Commission. We are not concerned with the question whether it is right or wrong, but we are concerned in securing that every class of opinion shall have fair dealing before the Commission.
It may be putting it a little too high when I say that I was rather hopeful that the Government would have accepted our Amendment, but I certainly thought the right hon. Gentleman would have given it more sympathetic consideration. The right hon. Gentleman will have noticed that the Amendment put down in the name of my right hon. Friend was for the purpose of limiting the inquiry to within a reasonable period, and we feel that unless we can get the Commission pinned down to an inquiry into nationalisation alone we shall have to wait not for this Parliament, but for many Parliaments before we shall be able to deal with this industry in an effective way which will give satisfaction to the working section of the miners'industry. Therefore, without arguing the question of nationalisation, the whole point is that we demand an inquiry into the question of joint control or into the question of any other form of organisation of the industry, so that we may look forward to a Report within a reasonable period. I assure the House that it will not make for industrial peace if the Miners'Federation find this inquiry going on month after month and year after year, and it is because of our real fear that the men whom we represent may interpret the extension of the inquiry to mean so grave a delay that this Parliament may not be able to deal with the question that we have put down this Amendment. I am very sorry that my right hon. Friend didnot see his way to receive it more sympathetically. We must certainly divide upon it.
I should, of course, have dealt with that particular point if it had been mentioned in the course of the speeches in support of this Amendment. It was not raised by the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment, and it was not taken up by any of those who spoke in support of it. I do not think that the Amendment will save any time at all. If you go into the future control and organisation of the minesbased upon nationalisation, you must compare that with the present basis and with other bases, and I really do not think therefore that any time would be gained. I am quite sure if time would be gained that we should do our best to accept the Amendment, but I do not think that it would be.
I am rather surprised that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to limit the scope of this inquiry, and are afraid of the Commission going into the question of the desirability of continuing the present state of affairs, or of joint control, or of nationalisation. Surely the more information that the country can get on this question the better. One right hon. Gentleman said that there was a large body of opinion in favour of nationalisation. I canassure him that there is a very large body of opinion which is against nationalisation. As far as I can judge, there is a larger body of opinion against it than in favour of it. Most people who have had any experience of nationalisation in other countrieshave come to the conclusion that nationalisation is a very expensive mode of carrying on business. One speaker said that State control during this War had been a great success. All I can say is that at every meeting that I addressed during the election Iwas asked if I would vote in favour of doing away with all State control at the very earliest moment possible. It was a burning question at the General Election. The hon. Gentleman spoke of the economies effected under State control. I do not think that it has been the experience of people generally that State control has meant economy; indeed, quite the reverse. I was rather amazed, as I am sure all hon. Members must have been, that it should have been said that this House was out of sympathy with the country. It has not taken it long to get out of sympathy, seeing that it has only been elected about a month. It was said by Members of the Labour party that the last Parliament was out of sympathy with the country, but when the Government appealed to the country they were told that they had no business to do so. It seems very difficult to please some people whatever course you take.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife (Mr. Adamson) said that one of the advantages of nationalisation would bethat the nation would work thin seams of coal which present owners thought it was not profitable to work. That does not look as if nationalisation would lead to economy in working. If you are going to work seams of coal which the present owners find it impossible to work at a profit, there will be a tremendous loss, because prices, so far as experts are concerned, are regulated by competition with other countries, and the difference will have to come out of the taxpayers'pockets. We have heard a great deal about the difference between the price at the pit and the price at which coal is sold in London. I only know that the prices charged by the collieries in South Wales, who send most of their coal to inland consumers, are regulated by the Limitation of Prices Act. They find that they are working at a heavy loss, and the Coal Controller has to make up their loss out of the Coal Control Fund. I fail to see, therefore, where their profit comes in between the selling price in London and the pit price. The PrimeMinister yesterday gave the pit price as 18s. I am at a loss to understand where he got that price. I have here the cost sheet of a typical colliery in South Wales, neither a particularly profitable one nor one doing very badly, and I find that the cost of labour alone for large steam coal is 24s. 4.62d. per ton. You have to add to the pit mouth's price of the coal railway freight to London, which before the War was about 9s. per. ton, and I suppose to-day is 13s. or 14s. per ton, and wagon hire and distribution charges. I cannot quite see where the profit comes from.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife spoke against the present system because it was affected by what he calls the higgle of the market. I fail to understand what he means by that sentence, or what he intends to convey. It has also been said that if you had State control you would have less than six hours. To-day men on the average are under ground eight and a half hours, and statistics have been taken out showing that they do not spendmore than six and a half hours at the working face. If you reduce the eight hours to six hours, it will mean that men will only actually work four and a half hours, and if you reduce the hours below six the men will certainly only work about two or three hours at the working face. I do not know whether that is considered sufficient time, and whether that will not affect the price of coal very materially. There has been a lot said about the profits made. Before the War an average was taken in the collieries of South Wales over a term of years, and it showed only about 5 per cent. interest on the capital, without anything at all for sinking fund. Certain collieries were spoken of yesterday as having made big profits. It is lost sight of that for years and years they were worked at a loss.
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I would remind the Committee that the Amendment before the House is whether the Bill should be limited to nationalisation or to the words in the Clause. The Debate has rather wandered, and I only wanted to warn the Committee that we cannot go on indefinitely discussing matters more appropriate to Second Reading.
I am going to bow to your ruling. I was led astray by previous speakers, and I thought it was only fair to reply to them. It would be a great drawback to limit the scope of this Bill to a mere inquiry into nationalisation.
If the Home Secretary is making very brief speeches with the object of saving Parliamentary time, I hope he will forgive me for venturing the opinion that he is making the industrial situation rather more difficult by not going more fully into these matters. He is not saving the industrial situation by avoiding some fuller answer to the points which have been submitted from this side of the House. The whole case is not covered by the right hon. Gentleman's interpretation of the effect of this Amendment upon the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman should look at the matters as they come beforethe House in the light of the effect that they will have upon the whole industrial situation. The Bill apparently is especially submitted to Parliament because of the grave industrial situation in the country. It is from that standpoint that these Amendments ought to be treated and discussed. Probably to-morrow hundreds of thousands of workmen, including a large number of miners, will turn to see what the Government have had to say officially through the mouth of the Home Secretary on this Amendment,definitely asking that the Commission should not be empowered to investigate the question whether or not the mines should become national property. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] We have had no definite statement upon that question from the right hon. Gentleman. We have been assured that the great work of reconstruction is to be undertaken by this Government, and that immense changes are to be set on foot so as to make this an entirely different country. We cannot have these immense changes if we are going to proceed upon lines which will substantially leave things as they are. Very many big alterations must take place, and in our view this is one of them.
Coal is the foundation of practically all our other industries, and of all our great commercial undertakings. It is a commodity so socially necessary that we feel that it ought to be socially owned and controlled. I venture to say that if public opinion were sounded on this specific question it would be shown to be overwhelmingly in favour of making the mines the property of the nation. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I grant that the country has been quite recently consulted, but I submit to hon. Members opposite that if they had definitely told the electors in their constituencies that they would not vote in favour of the nationalisation of mines they would, at least, have had increased difficulties in getting returned to this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I do not want to exaggerate the point, but so far as one can judge from the Press, from conversation, and through all those mediums through which filters what we term public opinion, a great deal of popular approval of the miners' claim has been manifested. A reassuring statement from the Government on thepoint would, therefore, have a very close relation to the issues in dispute, and would go far in allaying some of that feeling in the minds of the miners that the Government have no sympathy whatever with what they conceive to be the source of many of the grievances from which they have suffered for many years. I submit tothe House that this above all other points is a question which ought not to be sublet, which ought not to be delegated to any outside body, but which should be dealt with by a big assembly like this Coming as we do fresh from the country surely we can claim to be able to deal with this question and to have from experience, and from our own knowledge the material wherewith to resolve in our own minds whether the mines should be the property of the nation or not.
If we cannot have a definite opinion without investigation can we have some statement from the right hon. Gentleman as to what the attitude of the Government will be in the event of the view being expressed by the Commission that the nationalisation of the mines would have the effect of securingmore economical working and would enable the work to afford better conditions and wages for the miners. I submit that the right hon. Gentleman ought not to treat this matter in such sparse terms as he has done, and ought to have in mind the effect on theminers'attitude. This week and next may prove crucial weeks for the country for probably a good many months to come, and I should like some more sympathetic attitude, some more hope, some more reassuring statement made to us before we are obliged to carrythis matter into the Division Lobby. We know that we shall be beaten, but that is not the point. The mere record of the figures one way or the other will not alter the industrial temper at the moment, and if the right hon. Gentleman can say anything which will tend to lessen the feeling of soreness in the mind of Labour, then I think we shall not have pressed him in vain.
There is no Member of this House who listens to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes) with greater pleasure than I do. I think he very rarely speaks without illuminating the House. Yet I cannot but feel that this afternoon he has befogged the Committee in what he has just said. What is the position of hon. Members opposite in regard to this Amendment? As I understand it, theyare asking the Government and the Committee to rule out every solution of this question except the solution of nationalisation. They are not asking for an extension of the scope of this Commission, they are not asking for an extension of the scope of theinquiry, but they are asking us to exclude from the inquiry every solution except the one they personally desire. If that is not the meaning of the Amendment, I hope I may be told what the meaning is. They have turned round on the Government and have complained that it has given sympathetic hearing to the Amendment. I hope that the Government will very stoutly oppose it. I do not wish to enter into the merits of the question, because I believe the Committee is exceedingly anxious to divide; still lessdo I desire to Bay one word that could possibly exacerbate the feeling on either side. I am certain the less we speak on this question the better, and when we do speak we should say no word which could arouse passion on either side.
May I just add this single word. I myself am very strongly indeed opposed to the solution proposed in this Amendment. I am opposed to it not only for the reasons which have been given by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, but I want to know from the hon. Members who are proposing this as a solution of the question whether they in their hearts can tell the Committee that it is a final solution of the question even from their own point of view. My own impression was, until to-day's Debate, that nationalisation was a backnumber in the Labour party or, at any rate, among those who are not members of the Labour party in this House but who are behind those members in the country. This agitation very largely proceeds not from the responsible leaders of labour opinion, not from those who represent Labour in this House, but from a certain body of extremists who hold views which are as much opposed to nationalisation—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] I did not suppose I should obtain the assent of hon. Members opposite to that proposition, but my opinion is that the Members in this House who represent Labour have to reckon with a force which is not at this moment represented in this House—the force not of nationalisation, but of syndicalism, to which there has, however, beenno reference whatever in these Debates, although it is in the minds of everybody who has been discussing the question the afternoon. What I want to know from hon. Members opposite who are proposing this solution of nationalisation is whether, if we give it to them, they can deliver the goods?
Several speeches have been made from this side of the House which I should not like to be associated with at all. I personally am in favour of the nationalisation of mines, but I submit it is nota question for this Committee to decide now. The point we have to decide is whether the Amendment is necessary for the introduction of nationalisation under this Bill. Those of us Who are strongly in favour of the nationalisation of mines need not be afraid that the words in the Bill will bring undue delay, because it is absolutely clear that every other means will be suggested by its opponents the moment you propose nationalisation, and whether you put those means of controlling the mines down on the Paper as an instruction or not, will make very little difference. On the other hand, right hon. Gentlemen opposite have expressed doubt of the sympathy of the Government on this subject. I listened with great care to the speeches of the Prime Minister yesterday, and I think I am not wrong in saying that that right hon. Gentleman expressed his intention of carrying out the recommendations of this Commission. If, therefore, those recommendations are, as I feel certain they will be, in favour of nationalisation, he will be enabled to carry them out in a way that he might not be if he declared himself in favour of it to-day.
Are hon. and right hon. Gentlemen quite certain they could get a majority of the House, even with the help of the Prime Minister, if the question were put to the House as a whole? I am not quite sure. I do not know the composition of the new House. I could have told it in the old House, but we have many new Members and new thoughts, and we cannot say which way they are going. To them this question may be new, although it is not new to old politicians or to those who have been in touch with the miners. But nationalisation is new to a good many, even those who have miners in their constituencies; although they may have a good many miners there, they do not constitute the majority of the voters, and therefore we must go carefully and see that a solid foundation is given to the Government to press this matter, if they are to press it. I do not believe the Government will be able to do much with this House unless they have the evidence and the support of the Commission. Many of us would gladly vote with hon. and right hon. Members opposite on ordinary occasions, but we are pledged to see this Coalition Government through its difficulties till peace is signed. We are bound to stick together as one man until peace is signed. I deprecate any Division against the Government, even on important questions, until that day. But do not let anybody misinterpret our feelings. Do not let anybody think thateither the Government or the Coalition Members who support it are necessarily opposed to them on a question like this because they vote against it. There is the more important question of the united front which this country must still show, and I hope that will be remembered by every hon. Member, Labour or otherwise, until the day peace is signed.
I have listened to the Debate carefully, and I have not yet heard any reasons put forward by our Friends on the other side as to why the mines ought not to be nationalised. There are some things that we on these benches do not claim to have much knowledge upon.What we do claim to have knowledge upon are the conditions under which mines are worked. We believe that under private ownership of mines it is impossible to allay the unrest of the nation, or to produce the amount of coal required by the nation to satisfy either the demands of the consumers or the requirements of those who are working in and about the mines. In the nation's hour of need the private ownership of mines failed it. The result was that the Government was compelled to intervene and take over the control of the mines. Control, however, does not satisfy the miners, nor has it brought about a state of affairs which would satisfy the community. We therefore think the time has come when there ought to be not simply control but ownership by the nation, so that the mines may be worked by the nation for the benefit of the nation. We, as miners, are not putting this Amendment forward simply in order that the mines shall be worked under the control of the mine-workers for the benefit of the miners. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] That is not our object in the least. One speaker opposite suggested that if we are to hold our own in the markets of the world there will have to be greater production. Well, we desire greater output, and we believe that if the mines were nationalised and the royalties and wayleaves dealt with also, great economies could be effected. If we are to hold our own in the markets of the world in competition with other nations, then the indemnities which are imposed upon the mines by way of royalties and wayleaves must be removed out of the way. That will remove a handicap that is imposed upon us at the present time. Again, if we want to effect the safety, security, and happiness of the miners, we suggest that the element of private interest must be eliminated. We believe that by State control of the mines great reforms can be effected in that direction. To-day that is impossible. We believe that by having national control the method of working the mines could be simplified. To-day what prevents the simplification and scientific working of the mines is the vested interest of royalties, wayleaves, and private ownership. They have to be removed out of the way.
Again, we desire a better standard of living as mine workers. If there is one thing which condemns private ownership, it is the huge slums in which the mine workers have to live. We believe that if the mines were under national ownership that would go, and that the profits which now go to landowners, mine-owners and private individuals, would provide the miners with adequate homes in which to live. The mine-workers are discontented because they believe that during the War they were plundered by the high profits of the employing classes, and that they are now being plundered upon the political plane by control. The high profits might have been appropriated for the mine-workers or by the Government for the cost of the War and the cost of running the country. Instead of that being done the owners have been allowed to appropriate the profit and to invest it in loans, and we are again requested to pay 5s. tax, direct or indirect, upon the profits which accrued to them but which ought to have been utilised in another manner. If you are to effect the safety and security of the nation, if you want to solve the industrial problem, the mines must be taken over by the State and worked by the State for the benefit of the State. Then whatever reforms are made with regard to the introduction of machinery, instead of their being to the disadvantage of the miners they would be used to the benefit of the community. If the mines were owned by the nation it would be possible substantially to increase the output of coal, and the wages of the miners, and even to shorten the miners'hours to a greater degree than it is to-day, while the coal could be sold to the consumer at a lower figure. It is suggested that if the mines were taken over by the State you could reduce the hours of labour of the miners below the six hours' shift. I mentioned last night that in the county of Durham we have been working seven hours from bank to bank—one shift of seven hours and another of six hours. There is no utility either from the humanstandpoint or from the economic standpoint in having the men in the mines longer than is necessary. It is no use having a miner in the mine when in six hours you exploit all his energy. That is folly.
That is getting rather far away from the Amendment at present before us. We are not now discussing the merits of nationalisation. The only question is the scope of the inquiry, and whether it should be restricted by the terms of the Amendment or conducted on the wider terms of the Bill.
I thank you, Sir, for that correction. I was just leading up to show how the unrest can be allayed, and how we can retain the confidence of the mine-workers, and that is by getting the mines nationalised. The one thing upon which there is deep discontent in the mining industry is the present system of ownership, and these reforms can only be secured by nationalisation.
I want to know, before I divide upon this most important Amendment, exactly what nationalisation is. Does it mean nationalising the minerals of this country or nationalising only the coal measures of this country, or does it mean having a bureaucratic department running each mine, with an official paid by the Government instead of the managers and the different mining companies? Or does it even mean nationalising the distribution of the coal of the country and the supersession of our invaluable Deputy-Chairman of Committees? What is meant by nationalisation, and, above all, what is the price you are going to pay? After all the talk about the virtues of State control as against individual control, the problem resolves itself largely into the question of pounds, shillings and pence—what are we to pay?
I do not propose to go into the merits of the question but to say that it is impossible to consider this question without having the alternatives to nationalisation before us. Obviously, if it is a question of what you are going to pay for this monopoly, it is a question also of whether there are other ways of breaking a monopoly besides purchasing it at a very high price. I admit I have always hoped it would be possible to break the monopoly in other waysand that we could break the monopoly by taxing the value of the minerals, whether or not they were worked, but I am coming to believe that that common-sense solution is impracticable—impracticable because the vested interests are too strongly intrenched in this House. If it is impracticable to break the monopoly completely, let me urge those who are in favour of nationalisation to consider whether their policy could not be combined with the other policy so as to break the monopoly price the mine-owners would otherwise claim from the country for the privilege of selling their coal.
I believe I have kept strictly within that.I was trying to show that the possibilities of taxation combined with nationalisation would lend an additional argument to keeping the words as they stand in the Bill, so that nationalisation, if it comes about, shall not be a nationalisation which may be expected to ruinthe finances of the country. Therefore I ask the Labour party not to divide on this question. I believe we may be driven to nationalisation in order to smash these vested interests, but let us keep the door open so that the Commission of Inquiry can consider not only the question of taxation, but, as an hon. Member opposite suggested, also the possibility of syndicalisation as an alternative—I think a thoroughly unsatisfactory alternative—to the solution of nationalisation and taxation.
|Division No. 6.]||AYES.||[6.58 p.m.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Brassey, H. L. C.||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Breese, Major C. E.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Briant, F.||Dean, Com. P. T.|
|Ainsworth, Capt. C.||Bridgeman, William Clive||Denison-Pender, John C.|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Col. Martin||Britton, G. B.||Dennis, J. W.|
|Armitage, Robert||Brotherton, Col. Sir E. A.||Denniss, Edmund R. B.|
|Astor, Major Hon. Waldorf||Buckley, Lt.-Col. A.||Dixon, Captain H.|
|Atkey, A. R.||Burdon, Col. Rowland||Doyle, N. Grattan|
|Austin, Sir H.||Burn, Col. C. R. (Torquay)||Duncannon, Viscount|
|Bagley, Captain E. A.||Burn, T. H. (Belfast)||Du Pre, Colonel W. B.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Butcher, Sir J. G.||Edgar, Clifford|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Edwards, A. Clement (East Ham, S.)|
|Banner, Sir J. S. Harmood-||Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Elliot, Capt. W. E. (Lanark)|
|Barker, Major R.||Cautley, Henry Strother||Falcon, Captain M.|
|Barnett, Captain Richard W.||Cayzer, Major H. R.||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Oxford Univ.)||Farquharson, Major A. C.|
|Barrand, A. R.||Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.|
|Barrie, C. C.||Cheyne, Sir William Watson||FitzRoy, Capt. Hon. Edward A.|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Child, Brig.-Gen. Sir Hill||Forestier-Walker, L.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Clay, Capt. H. H. Spender||Foxcroft, Captain C.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Clough, R.||France, Gerald Ashburner|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Fraser, Major Sir Keith|
|Bellairs, Com. Carlyon W.||Cockerill, Brig.-Gen. G. K.||Ganzoni, Captain F. C.|
|Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth)||Colvin, Brig.-Gen. R. B.||Gardiner, J. (Perth)|
|Benn, Com. Ian Hamilton (G'nwich)||Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Geddes, Sir A. C. (Basingstoke)|
|Bentinck, Lt.-Col. Lord H. Cavendish-||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham|
|Betterton, H. B.||Coote, Colin R. (Isle of Ely)||Gilbert, James Daniel|
|Birchall, Major J. D.||Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan)||Glanville, Harold James|
|Bird, Alfred||Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives)||Glyn, Major R.|
|Blades, Sir George R.||Cory, J. H. (Cardiff)||Grayson, Lieut.-Col. H. M.|
|Blair, Major Reginald||Courthope, Major George Loyd||Green, J. F. (Leicester)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Cozens-Hardy, Hon. W. H.||Greenwood, Col. Sir Hamar|
|Boles, Lieut.-Col. D. F.||Craig, Capt. C. (Antrim)||Greer, Harry|
|Bottomley, Horatio||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Henry Page||Greig, Col. James William|
|Bowles, Col. H. F.||Davies, Sir Joseph (Crewe)||Gretton, Col. John|
|Bramsdon, Sir T.||Davies, T. (Cirencester)||Griggs, Sir Peter|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Macquisten, F. A.||Rodger, A. K.|
|Guest, Major O. (Leices., Loughb'ro'.)||Maddocks, Henry||Rogers, Sir Hallewell|
|Guinness, Capt. Hon. R. (Southend)||Magnus, Sir Philip||Roundell, Lt.-Col. R. F.|
|Guinness, Lt.-Col. Hon. W. E. (B. St. E.)||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Royds, Lt.-Col. Edmund|
|Hacking, Captain D. H.||Malone, Col. C. L. (Leyton, E.)||Rutherford, Col. Sir J. (Darwen)|
|Hailwood, A.||Malone, Major P. (Tottenham, S.)||Samuel, A. L. (Eye, E. Suffolk)|
|Hallas, E.||Marriott, John Arthur R.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Norwood)|
|Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Mason, Robert||Samuel, S. (Wandsworth, Putney)|
|Harris, Sir H. P. (Paddington, S.)||Mildmay, Col. Rt. Hon. Francis B.||Samuels, Rt. Hon. A.W. (Dublin Univ.)|
|Haslam, Lewis||Mitchell, William Lane-||Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur|
|Henderson, Major V. L.||Moles, Thomas||Scott, A. M. (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Hennessy, Major G.||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford)||Moore, Maj.-Gen. Sir Newton J.||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone)|
|Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. C. T.||Seager, Sir William|
|Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.||Morden, Col. H. Grant||Seddon, J. A.|
|Higham, C. F. (Islington, S.)||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)|
|Hilder, Lieut.-Col. F.||Morrison, H. (Salisbury)||Shortt, Right Hon. E.|
|Hinds, John||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Sprot, Col. Sir Alexander|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Sir Samuel J. G.||Mount, William Arthur||Stanier, Capt. Sir Beville|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Hood, Joseph||Murchison, C. K.||Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Hope, Harry (Stirling)||Murray, Lt.-Col. Hn. A. C. (Aberd'n.)||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Murray, Hon. G (St. Rollox)||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)||Nall, Major Joseph||Sturrock, J. Leng-|
|Hope, John Deans (Berwick)||Neal, Arthur||Sugdeh, Lieut. W. H.|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Nelson, R. F. W. R.||Surtees, Brig.-Gen. H. C.|
|Hopkinson, Austin (Mossley)||Newman, Major J. (Finchley, Mddx.)||Sykes, Col. Sir A. J. (Knutsford)|
|Horne, Edgar (Guildford)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter)||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|Hudson, R. M.||Newton, Major Harry Kottingham||Taylor, J. (Dumbarton)|
|Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Nicholson, R. (Doncaster)||Terrell, G. (Chippenham, Wilts.)|
|Hurd, P. A.||Nicholson, W. (Petersfield)||Thomas, Sir R. (Wrexham, Denb.)|
|Hurst, Major G. B.||Nield, Sir Herbert||Thompson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Inskip, T. W. H.||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Tickler, Thomas George|
|Jameson, Major J. G.||Norris, Col. Sir Henry G.||Townley, Maximillian G.|
|Jephcott, A. R.||O'Neill, Capt. Hon. Robert W. H.||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Jodrell, N. P.||Palmer, Major G. M.||Waddington, R.|
|Johnstone, J.||Palmer, Brig.-Gen. G. (Westbury)||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Jones, Sir E. R. (Merthyr)||Parker, James||Walton, Sir Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)||Peel, Lt.-Col. R. F. (Woodbridge)||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Jones, Wm. Kennedy (Hornsey)||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Kelly, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Perkins, Walter Frank||Weigall, Lt.-Col. W. E. G. A.|
|Kidd, James||Philipps, Gen. Sir I. (Southampton)||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Philipps, Sir O. C. (Chester)||Whitla, Sir William|
|Knights, Capt. H.||Pickering, Col. Emil W.||Wigan, Brig.-Gen. John Tyson|
|Lane-Fox, Major G. R.||Pinkham, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Williams, A. (Consett, Durham)|
|Law, A. J. (Rochdale)||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Assheton||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough)|
|Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow)||Pratt, John William||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir Rhys (Banbury)|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ. Wales)||Pulley, Charles Thornton||Willoughby, Lt.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Lewis, T. A. (Pontypridd, Glam.)||Purchase, H. G.||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Lindsay, William Arthur||Rae, H. Norman||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, W.)|
|Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Raeburn, Sir William||Wilson, J. H. (South Shields)|
|Lloyd, George Butler||Ramsden, G. T.||Wilson, Col. M. (Richmond, Yorks.)|
|Locker-Lampson G. (Wood Green)||Raper, A. Baldwin||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Hunt'don)||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler||Winterton, Major Earl|
|Lonsdale, James R.||Raw, Lt.-Col. Dr N.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Lorden, John William||Rees, Sir J. D.||Wood, Major Hon. E. (Ripon)|
|Lort-Williams, J.||Rees, Captain J. Tudor-||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Loseby, Captain C. E.||Reid, D. D.||Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge and Hyde)|
|Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)||Remnant, Col. Sir J. Farquharson||Yate, Col. Charles Edward|
|Lyle, C. E.||Rendall, Athelstan||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Lynn, R. J.||Renwick, G.||Young, Sir F. W. (Swindon)|
|M'Callum, Sir John M.||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Young, William (Perth and Kinross)|
|M'Donald, Dr. B. F. P. (Wallasey)||Richardson, Alex. (Gravesend)||Younger, Sir George|
|M'Guffin, Samuel||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Mackinder, Halford J.||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Lord E.|
|Macmaster, Donald||Robinson, T. (Stretford, Lancs.)||Talbot and Captain Guest.|
|M'Micking, Major Gilbert|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Edwards, C. (Bedwellty)||Lunn, William|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah|
|Arnold, Sydney||Grundy, T. W.||O'Connor, T. P.|
|Bell, James (Ormskirk)||Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton)||O'Grady, James|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Hartshorn, V.||Onions, Alfred|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Hayday, A.||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Brown, J. (Ayr and Bute)||Hayward, Major Evan||Redmond, Captain William A.|
|Cairns, John||Hirst, G. H.||Richards, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Carter, W. (Mansfield)||Hogge, J. M.||Roberts, F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Holmes, J. S.||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe)||Irving, Dan||Sexton, James|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Jones, J. (Silvertown)||Short, A. (Wednesbury)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Kenyon, Barnet||Sitch, C. H.|
|Smith, Capt. A. (Nelson and Colne)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Young, Robert (Newton, Lancs.)|
|Spoor, B. G.||Tootill, Robert|
|Swan, J. E. C||Waterson, A. E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Taylor, J. W (Chester-le-Street)||White, Charles F. (Derby, W.)||T. Wilson and Mr. Griffiths.|
|Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)||Wignall, James|
Question put, and agreed to.
I beg to move, in paragraph (g), after the word "wayleaves" ["mining royalties and wayleaves"], to insert the words "and taxation."
I wish to add taxation as one of the subjects which has got to be considered under paragraph (g). Paragraph (g) detailsthe different items which the Commission have to consider, namely, the effect of the present incidence of, and practice in regard to, mining royalties, wayleaves, and taxation for the coal industry. I need not repeat the arguments I have already used. Thequestion of taxation has a very material effect on the mining industry. At present our system of taxing royalties, if it does not actually reduce production, at any rate tends to reduce production. Because, if you base your taxation on what is produced, you obstruct that production, and thereby increase the price of the article produced. If, on the other hand, your taxation were based upon what was not produced, upon the raw materials that were left unworked, then the owners of these raw materials would have their hands forced by the taxation, and would be compelled to lease their coal measures, and would be prepared to work them. They would be forced to lease them at lower royalties than at the present time, because the pressure of taxation would drive their coal measure into the market. Surely this is a very pertinent question when the problem to be solved is how to to make coal cheaper, how to increase wages, and how to reduce hours. If you can double the demand for labour, by forcing all the unworked pits—the pits that are shut down—to be worked and by opening up the coal measures which are not being worked, thereby you create a natural demand for labour which increases naturally the strength of the trade unions and the wages obtained by them, and at the same time increases the production of the mines, lowers the royalties, and lowers the price of coal. That, it seems to me, is one of the subjects which should be considered by this Commission. I do hope that the Labour Members, who sit upon that Commission, will see that that point of view is not entirely slurred over. It is very easy to confine discussion to the questions of how far the consumer may be made to pay and how far he can stand the burden thrown upon him. But it is just as well that they should take also into consideration the question of how far they can stop the robbery of the consumer by those people who have the monopoly of the raw materials and who can force the people who use their raw materials to pay the price they choose to ask. The breaking down of monopoly is one of the best ways of benefiting the whole industry of the country. As long as you have these gigantic rings and cartels controlling the output of the coalfields and iron-fields of this country you are bound to have monopoly—that is private persons taxing not only the actual workers, but the whole industry of the country and the whole community. Therefore an inquiry which burkes that issue, an inquiry which deals merely with nationalisation apart from the basis upon which that nationalisation is to come about would be a futile and a frivolous inquiry made to shelter those vested interests.
I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will not press this. Judging from his speech, the Amendment will not inthe least effect what he desired to do, and indeed it is not necessary, because the powers are already in the Bill. It simply refers to taxation of the coal industry, and not of royalties or wayleaves. But the Committee is entitled to go into the whole organisation, and if it can be shown to the Committee that by the process of taxing mining royalties—
By taxing the undeveloped coal, or whatever my hon. and gallant Friend wants to tax, you can forcethe mine-owner to develop his mine, well and good. The Commission can go into all of that as it stands. It would be very undesirable to have the taxation of one particular industry considered all by itself. The effect of taxation upon the industry, how far it is affecting prices or anything else, can be gone into as it is, but if the Amendment is put in it would involve an inquiry into taxation, not as a whole, not as it affects an industry, but as it affects a small part of one particular industry, whichis most undesirable.
I hope the Government will not adopt this non possumus attitude on the question of taxation of the coal industry. Obviously one of the questions which will also be brought up is the question of an export tax on coal. You have a great many pundits in political economy who think that by exporting coal we are bolstering up the industries of other countries, and will endeavour to recommend that coal may be reduced in price by the taxation of coal sent out of the country. A previous Government of that political complexion introduced a measure on those lines about fifteen years ago. You cannot say that taxation of the coal industry must not be inquired into, because it is probably the most important element in decidinghow the coal industry is to flourish in future. I am sorry the Government will not accept this Amendment. There is no earthly reason why it should not, except that it naturally wishes to protect the people who have sent it to power.
I beg to move, in paragraph (l), after the word "industry" ["development of the coal industry"], to insert the words
the individual consumer of coal.
One or two statements have been made above the Gangway which will certainly very much increase the anxiety with which the average consumer of coal in this country—not the big steel magnate, but the ordinary man who consumes a few tons of coal a year, will regard the proposals of this Committee. We were told by the Home Secretary that the Prime Minister himself was somewhat in favour of nationalisation of coal mines, and we bad the statement of an hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite who apparently had received his Coalition ticket that he himself was in favour of the nationalisation of mines. That does not tend to quiet the fears which a good many people feel as to the result of this scheme on the price of coal to them in the future. Therefore, I suggest that in order to allay their anxiety as far as may be, we should definitely put into thisBill that the individual consumers of coal will be taken into consideration by the Commission. It is not in the Bill anywhere else. The standard of living of the miners is in and the condition of the economic life of the country is in, but there is nothing in to show exactly that the Commission need
take into consideration exactly what effect the recommendations will have upon the price of coal to the consumer. It is only a small thing to put it in. It can do no harm except the extra cost of printing, and it will allay anxiety. I dare say it will be said that the ease of the individual consumer is covered by what is called the economic life of the country. That is a very vague term. The draftsman of the Bill is fond of it because he has put it in twice. But it is a vague term to cover the small man. Let us do what we can for him. After all, he is the defendant. The miners of the country are the plaintiffs. They say the defendants are getting too much out of coalmining, and the methods of labour, wages,and so on, which are not fair, and we the defendants must give them more. If that is the case, let us have our case as defendants considered as fully as ever we can. Let us direct the Commission specifically to consider the case of the small individual consumer.
I really do not think these words are necessary. The hon. and gallant Gentleman was right when he foresaw that I would say that. They will have this effect, that in the construction of the Act, the words being inserted there, it will beheld that where the words "economic life of the country"appear in other places they do not cover the small consumer, because it would be argued at once that if they did it would not be necessary to put in the individual consumer in that place. I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the whole object of putting in the words "economic life of the country" is to protect the consumer, and I think it does protect him. The term "economic life of the country"is used throughout the Bill, and if you put definite words in there it would be argued that they were not included within the term, "economic life of the country"in other places. The object which he has in mind, and which the Government has in mind, too, is better effected by leaving the words out.
I have an Amendment handed in by the hon. Member (Mr. Clement Edwards) which does not appear to me to read here. The earlier words of the Clause are:
conditions prevailing in the coal industry and in particular as to.
Then we come to paragraph (h), and he wishes to add a further paragraph as follows
and any other factors ancillary thereto.
Those words are not particular but all-embracing, and would involve a contradiction in terms of the earlier words.
In the course of the discussion this afternoon there has been a good deal of anxiety, both from one point of view and another, as to the extent of the powers of the Commission, and the Chairman might not find that he was in possession of the necessary authority to go a little outside into relevant matters. It is usual on most Royal Commissions to put in some comprehensive term in the event of the Commission finding its powers were not quite wide enough. It is only a question of getting the exact words. Could we not have the words "any facts ancillary or relevant to the foregoing Sub-section"?