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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

No, this is for the coal industry. People may say that the nation has spent £8,000,000,000 in this war, and how are you going to find the money to purchase these mines? In my early days in this House, when I used to hear the Prime Minister, the Leader of the House, and other right hon. Gentlemen talking about purchase and high finance, I used to feel myself in a kind of a maze, and I thought they lived in a sort of mysterious world of which I did not form a part. I have learned something since then. I find that finding millions of money is not at all mysterious. We propose doing for the mining industry what the Government has done in connection with the port of London. We propose to buy the mines, not with money but with paper. On the appointed day you will inform the shareholders of companies that they must send their script up to London and in return you will send them a Government bond. A piece of paper goes up to London and a piece of paper goes back That is how we propose to buy these mines, and I call that high finance. It is an exceedingly interesting operation. It is said that investments in colliery shares are of a speculative character and they ought to have a much higher rate of interest than is paid upon other forms of in- vestments, and I think that is sound. I do not dissent from that point of view at all. I think it is quite true. It is a speculative and a wasting investment. Under the arrangement which we are pro-posing, however, we change the form of the security. Instead of it being risky and speculative, it is a sound investment, and, inasmuch as we give the nation as security for it, the shareholders will have to be satisfied with exactly the same rate of interest as people who invest in the War Loan. What is to be the price? That is the real crux of the matter. Set up an impartial and fair tribunal and let that tribunal fix a fair price to be paid to the shareholders for their collieries. I am not only prepared to see a fair price paid, but I am prepared to see a generous price paid for this property. Whether we like it or not, we shall have to face this issue. Without nationalisation, this nation cannot have the coal that it wants. The war wiped away, either wholly or in part, the old economic view of things, and if you want the miners to welcome the introduction of any labour-saving appliances, if you want them to welcome the introduction of machinery, and if you want them to welcome every invention which would give to the nation a larger output of coal, then you must change, the House of Commons must change, the motive. I assure the House, on my word of honour, that there is a feeling among the mining population that they will not produce to the last ounce of their capacity simply to add to the profits of private individuals. They are prepared, however, to produce to the last ounce of their capacity to give to the nation and to the humanity of the world all the coal which they require.