We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Coal Mines (Nationalisation).

Part of Orders of the Day — King's Speech. – in the House of Commons on 11th February 1920.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Vernon Hartshorn Mr Vernon Hartshorn , Ogmore

I imagined that every Member of the House understood that there was an Excess Profits Tax in operation and that the mining industry was treated differently from every other industry in the country. The miners do not agree with that system. If we are to have private enterprise, and if we are to go upon the old lines, then for the life of me I cannot see how you can justify placing the mining industry in a different position from every other industry in the land. I do not see why you should say to the cotton operatives and to the manufacturers in the woollen industry, "Go ahead as much as you like, and of your surplus profits we will take 40 per cent., but from the mining industry we will take 85 per cent." If you leave 60 per cent. for the workers and employers in the cotton, woollen, steel and shipping industries, there is no reason why the workers in the mining industry should not insist on being treated in the same way. We are anxious that we shall not have the abnormal profits now being made, because they are not due to the coalowners or to anyone else concerned in the mines. We say there is no reason why, in regard to these enormous profits, the miners should not be treated exactly in the same way as the cotton and woollen industries are treated.

A conference will be held in the immediate future and if this House says we are not going to utilise a certain margin that is in the industry to-day for the purpose of buying up the industry, then the miners will certainly come to a decision of their own. What that decision will be it is not for me to say, but I do think Members of this House should endeavour to appreciate the situation before the vote. Every member of the Miners' National Executive is anxious that there shall not be a demand for an advance in wages. We had the matter under discussion by our executive recently in connection with the Welsh figures, and there was a general feeling that although in the past we have always gone in for an advance in wages, yet now we ought to utilise the margin for getting the mines under State ownership. Whether hon. Members agree with that or not, I submit that we are entitled to be regarded as putting forward what we deem to be a perfectly unselfish proposition. I cannot see what particular advantage the miners have to gain from nationalisation. What power shall we get under nationalisation which we do not possess to-day? The only thing is that as every quarter, half-year or year comes along instead of a Board of Directors examining the balance sheet from the point of view of the shareholders, you will have every man engaged in the coal industry, every miner and every labourer, interested in that balance sheet, because he will know that whatever results have been produced he, in common with the community, will be entitled to share in the benefit. Hon. Members may laugh at that, and I can quite understand that people who have been trained in private enterprise economics would regard this kind of sentiment as nonsense. But I can assure them that if they attended some of our Conferences they would realise there is something much more idealistic in the speeches of the miners than in the speeches delivered in this House. I can only express the hope that in recording their vote hon. Members will realise that whatever happens we cannot very well avoid a decision of great importance being reached in this country, not only by the Miners' Conference, but by the Trade Union Congress. It is, therefore, very desirable that all the possibilities of the situation should be weighed from every standpoint before a decision is reached. My right hon. Friend, the member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace), dealt very exhaustively and very admirably with the general subject, and it would therefore be a waste of time on my part to say more. I only rose to emphasise the fact that this vote which we are taking to-night is of far-reaching importance.