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Coal Mines (Nationalisation).

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

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I do not know whether the Coalition Government adopt as their method, or as their governing principle—but it used to be a well accepted canon in this House of Commons—that a pledge given by a Minister on behalf of the Government was a pledge binding upon the Government as a whole: and if that be so, as it ought to be, then the Government undoubtedly are pledged up to the hilt to accept the Coal Industry Commission Report, and to initiate legislation to give effect to it. The Home Secretary is not a subordinate Member of the Government. He is not a minor official of the Government. The Home Secretary is the principal Secretary of State, and therefore, surely, this House had the right to think, when he was giving an undertaking on behalf of the Government in connection with mines nationalisation, that he had been authorised by the Cabinet to give that undertaking. Speaking in this House on the 24th of February last year, the Home Secretary said: It is a purely business proposition and if it turns out on investigation that it is for the good of the country as a whole that the mines should be nationalised, that the people of the country would be better off if the mines were worked under a nationalised system rather than under private ownership, then it is a good business proposition, and we should accept it. The Government desires to go into the matter to see if it is a good business proposition. If it is that, I accept it; if it is proved to be a national detriment rather than a national advantage, then the Government will oppose it. There the position stands. I should have thought myself that for anyone who desired merely to do that which was best for the country, the proposal of the Government was the best, namely, that the whole question should be thrashed out with expert evidence, expert opinion, expert knowledge before a competent and highly efficient tribunal.