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 Robert McLaren Mr Robert McLaren , Lanarkshire Northern

The figures stated by the President of the Board of Trade two or three months ago was 187 tons, whereas in 1917 it was 321 tons. It is true the aggregate may be higher, because there are more men engaged now than in 1917. Anyone who reads the weekly statement knows well that the output is not increasing as it ought to do. If we believe the Miners' Federation contention that the moment they get control the men would work more intensively than they did in the past, we are relying upon a broken reed. After the statement made by the Prime Minister it is not worth while going into details, but there are many parts of the question which the House ought to consider. First, will it be for the good of the country that the mines should be nationalised? It has been proved conclusively that other countries which have tried it would now be glad to be brought back into the old system. I have here a letter which has been published in the "Enginering Review" which refers to that part of Germany where the mines are nationalised. The letter states that the State collieries are run at a loss at 9,000,000 marks a month, that so heavy is the burden on the German people that members of a Commission appointed to consider the socialisation of industry rejected a proposal to extend State ownership of mines, and that the State continues to lose 100,000,000 marks on the coal mines already owned by it, but which it would gladly give away to any capitalist willing to acquire the mismanaged enterprise. I also hold in my hand another statement by a German which contains a warning to this country from Germany to which we should pay heed. As we say in Scotland the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We find that in Germany the State ownership of mines has been a dismal failure. With such results before us it would be a serious mistake for this country to go in for a nationalisation scheme which would bring disaster to it. This statement says: Addressing a mass meeting of German miners, who had asked for information concerning the probable effects of nationalisation, Count Seckendorff, who is connected with the big coal-mining industry in that country said—' We are beginning again after a desolating war and there is not an industry in the German Empire that is not dependent upon our particular trade. Directly or indirectly, they all turn upon the question of coal. They must have heat and power. It is just possible that our great rival England may suffer shipwreck over her labour troubles and especially over coal-mining troubles. They are a muddle-headed people the British, and they are no longer a hard-working or very conscientious people; but you must not altogether rely on this to ease the situation here, or to shake the belief that you miners must put every ounce of your strength into your work. Germany cannot succeed otherwise, and if we neglect our duty and miserably run after every new and untested panacea such as nationalisation, it will be little consolation to you to know in your ruin that the British miner has followed the same ignis fatuus, and been led into the same hopeless morass as yourselves.' In view of the facts which have been stated in the House to-day, it would be a serious mistake to take the mining industry away from private individuals. It is the key industry of the whole country, While it is true that much has been done in the past, it is equally true that much more can be done in the future, because at the present time men are being trained to take the places of men who have gone before. With private enterprise, and everyone doing his level best, I do not see why this old country of ours should not rise to the occasion, and, as in the past private enterprise has proved to be such a blessing to the country, I trust it will go on, and through that and through the efforts of the miners we shall soon be out of our difficulties and have an increased output of coal.