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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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Photo of Mr William Brace Mr William Brace , Abertillery

If my hon. Friend will forgive me, he will see that I cannot enter into a controversy with him upon the subject. I am not interested in denying whether he is right or wrong in his idea, but, after all, the workmen must have their right to elect their own representative, and if a man wins a majority of the votes at the colliery he must have the right to represent them. If my hon. Friend is under the impression that under this scheme provision is made for any man at the pit to get something for nothing, he has made a mistake. If you want a real old-fashioned Tory you must not go to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, but you must go to a British workman. You get these men in a pool at this pit where the interests of one depends upon the efforts of the whole. Under these circumstances you cannot imagine a man trying to get a bit out of the "pool" which he has not worked for. I think the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Stanton) can safely leave them alone. I have been asked whether there was any provision for an output allowance. My reply is, that on page 16, Clause 53, of the Coal Industry Commission Report, there is a distinct undertaking, which is as follows: The workers at each mine shall be entitled to an output allowance to be ascertained in an approved manner and divided among them half-yearly. The House will see that the inducement to a pit or district is to produce, because, according to the degree they produce, they will advance as regards their conditions of employment, on account of the output allowance. There is another clause which I should also like to cite. The export of coal is a tricky, intricate, and difficult question, and we do not propose that our scheme for nationalisation shall be used to destroy our export trade of coal. We pay the compliment to the exporters of coal, that they know a great deal about their business, and it must take us a year or two before we can know as much. Therefore, instead of disconnecting them from the industry, we propose to sell coal to them, and coal will be sold to exporters as freely under nationalisation as it is at the present time. Anybody who wants to supply depots in France, Italy or Argentina, all they need to do is to apply, and coal will be sold to them, but there will be a proviso, which they may not like, but it is a very necessary one, and we make it a condition in Clause 89 that: Any exporter to whom coal is sold for export shall divide all profits over one shilling per ton equally with the District Mining Council. Exporters may not like that, but as they will have the advantage of buying coal quite freely, it is thought that the nation is quite within its rights in saying that they should share their profits with the nation. That is the scheme in a fragmentary form as contained in the Coal Industry Commission's Report. That is the scheme which the Miners' Federation accepted at their conference, and it is the scheme which the Labour party accept, both in this House and in the country. It is also the scheme which the Trade Union Congress have accepted in congress, and that scheme we call upon the Government to put into operation, not to the advantage of the miners, but to the advantage of the State. It is a pity we cannot do without money, and I can understand people saying that the scheme sounds all right, but how are you going to find the money?