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I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I do not suppose it will be necessary at all to emphasise the importance of the topic which I have to introduce to the House this afternoon. Coal is, after all, the key industry of this country. Upon an adequate supply of coal at reasonable prices depend not only the comfort of the great mass of our people, but the successful maintenance of the industries of the country. It was upon coal in the last century that our supremacy as an industrial nation was built up, and to-day coal is still the vital factor in all our commercial prosperity and success. Looked at from another point of view its importance cannot be exaggerated. It employs at the present time 1,180,000 men, and in respect of the number of employés it is second only to the industry of agriculture. Its wage bill amounts, in this present year, to something like £270,000,000, which is greatly in excess of the wage bill of any other industry. The value of its products, on present particulars, is something like £440,000,000 per annum, which, again, exceeds the value of the product of any other industry of the country. Accordingly, it is apparent that no one would willingly propose to legislate for an industry of such vital importance to the country, except in the most cautious fashion and after the most deliberate and painstaking care. This industry is to-day in a most anomalous position. During the War, many measures were taken which have vitally affected it. It is not worth while spending time in discussing whether all of these devices were either required or successful; we have to deal with the industry to-day in the position in which we find it. The House will, perhaps, allow me, however, for a moment, to show what happened during the War. In the first place, as soon as a shortage of coal became apparent, it was found necessary to fix pit-head prices. Thereafter it was essential to ration the supply of coal to the community, and that involved, also, the fixing of retail prices. The shortage also demanded that we should regulate exports; and, as soon as you began to tell the coalowners of the country where they must send their coal, how much should be exported, and how much should be kept for inland consumption, you of necessity had to deal with the distribution of profits. It was impossible to select one coalowner and tell him that he should have the advantage of the export price, and another that he should have the disadvantage of the inland price. Accordingly, there sprang up the pooling system, which is still in operation to-day. As a corollary to all of these matters, wages also had to be fixed, or, at least, the fixing of wages had to be controlled; because, if you deal with profits and fix prices, it is obvious that you can only do so in relation to wages. Coal was thus brought under a system of control such as has been applied to hardly any other commodity in the Kingdom.
We have, happily, got rid of a portion of these controls. We have shed the duty of controlling retail distribution, and we have got rid of the necessity for fixing retail prices; but it is obvious that, in the present condition of the supply of coal in the world, we must still continue to control the amount which is allowed to go for export. If that were not done, either we should have a great shortage of coal in this country owing to the large demands from foreign markets which would take the coal from our shores, or we should have a position in which the home consumer would be compelled to outbid the foreign buyer, and to pay a price equal at least to the world's market price to-day. I do not fancy that we could contemplate either of those positions with equanimity, and, accordingly, we find it necessary to control the export of coal. That involves carrying on the system of arranging the amount of profit. It also makes it necessary that we should fix pit-head prices, and that at the same time we should be in a position to deal with the wages that are to be given as the reward for labour.
There are certain enactments which to-day control these matters, but very soon they will all expire. In particular, the most important of them disappear on the 31st August. Therefore, if we are to continue what is an absolutely necessary control, we have now to pass legislation for the purpose, and we propose to do it by this Bill. The Bill provides that for a year from the 31st August the new Minister of Mines, whom it is proposed to appoint under this Bill, shall have the power to make Orders regulating the pit-head prices and the amount of export, and, further, that he shall have the power to give directions dealing with rates of wages and profits. I think it must be obvious that, to that extent, at least, the provisions of this Bill are absolutely necessary. That, however, does not conclude the matter. It is not enough to-day merely to deal with the controls I have mentioned. I should like the House to carry their minds back to a period even before the War. The colliers of the country were already putting forward an insistent demand for two things, namely, for better conditions of life and for the nationalisation of their industry. During the War, these demands fell into some abeyance, owing to the concentration of everyone on bringing victory to the country's arms; but as soon as the War ceased, those demands sprang up again with a greater insistence than ever. I am sure the House will recollect the position of difficulty, trouble and anxiety in which the country found itself last year in January, February and March and the succeeding months, because of the condition of unrest in the coalfields of the country. There was set up, as the House will remember, a Commission to inquire into the claims of the miners, both as to wages and as to hours of labour, and for the nationalisation of the mining industry. There was a Report, which was signed by every member of that Commission, in favour of the nationalisation of the minerals of the country; and there was a Report, signed by a majority, in favour of the nationalisation of the mining industry as well.
With regard to the first of these matters, the Government took the view that we ought to nationalise the minerals of the country, that they should be placed under the ownership of the State, and should be worked under leases from the State, The question may be asked, why provisions to carry out these views do not appear in the present Bill. I say to the House quite frankly that there is no intention on the part of the Government
of dropping that part of their programme. They mean to carry out their pledge to nationalise the minerals of the country, and the only reason why provisions to that effect do not appear in this Bill is that, as I have explained to the House, the legislation which we now require is a matter of urgency, and must be got through Parliament before the 31st August. If this Bill were complicated with provisions as to the nationalisation of minerals, and all the intricate matters which follow upon that, it would be impossible, in our view, to get the Bill through in time. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mr. Leslie Scott) has an Amendment on the Paper which deals with the same matter, and I hope he will take it from me that, whether his view be better and sounder than the Government's or not, it would raise a discussion which would prevent any possibility of a measure dealing with the coal mines of the country being carried through within the few weeks which are available. On the subject of the nationalisation of the industry, the Government came to the conclusion that it was not warranted or justifiable or expedient, or in the interests of the coal industry. The point of view from which it was recommended by the Chairman of the Committee was that it would bring about peace in the industry and that the miners would work better for the Government than for private capitalists. We did not live very long before we found out the complete fallacy of that contention. It happened not long after the Report was published that a strike of miners occurred in the Yorkshire coalfields, which persisted for many weeks, and which very nearly ruined some of the most important industries in that part of the country. The fact that the industry was being run by the State did not have the slightest effect upon the mind of anybody who was engaged in that dispute. Then we had a railway strike in the autumn. The railways were also under the control of the State, but a strike broke out, and, while it lasted, it was just as violent as it would have been if the antagonists of the men upon that occasion had been private employers. With regard to the motive of working for the State being a serious consideration under such circumstances, I find that Mr. Hodges in an important document which
he issued upon this whole topic, he being the Secretary of the Miners' Federation, used these words:
Theorists have spoken of various motivations for work—' the motive of public service' and 'the incentive of citizenship in an industrial democracy.' These excellent ideals will only be realised after many years of universal education.
Accordingly, it would appear to be recognised by those intimately associated with the coalmining industry, that not much is to be hoped for from any of the suggestions that were made by the miner's representatives that the industry should be nationalised for these reasons. Most of us can remember a speech of one of the Members for Lanarkshire, in which he said that instead of weakening their organisation, if the State were to become the owners of the coalfields, they would require to strengthen it, because they would have to fight so much harder. Looked at from all these points of view, it would appear that the Government have come to a wise conclusion in rejecting nationalisation. I should like to say just one other word in passing upon the merits of these theories of nationalisation. In the same pamphlet to which I have referred, Mr. Hodges analyses the possible methods of nationalisation of the coal mines. First of all, he rejects bureaucracy, as did all the representatives of the miners on the Coal Commission. They said it would be impossible to run the mines of this country by a Government Department, and I remember the right hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace), upon the last occasion when we discussed this matter, pouring scorn upon any such plan. Next he rejects syndicalism. He says it is an anti-Socialist policy that any industry should be owned by nobody but those engaged in it, and that, if effected by force, it would sooner or later break down. Having rejected bureaucracy and syndicalism, upon what does he fall back? He comes to the conclusion that the mines of the country should be bought over by the State, and that thereafter they should be operated by a National Council. He is frank enough to put it thus:
The social aspect of the miners' scheme is founded on the fact that the industry must be treated as a national asset, but the production must not be controlled and determined by the Government. On the contrary, the Government will have by no means a controlling voice in the industry.
The State is to incur all the risk—to purchase
the mines and, presumably, to supply the money that may be necessary for carrying on the operations, but it is not to have a controlling voice over the way in which the money is to be spent. He is very candid, and he states:
It is contemplated that the finance will be determined by the National Mining Council as distinct from the Exchequer.
Therefore, while the Exchequer supplies the funds, the National Council is to operate the mines. You have, accordingly, a dilemma of two methods—one, bureaucracy, which they condemn, because it will not work, and the other one in which you are to have the State incurring all the risk and having none of the control, a system which, I am perfectly certain neither this House nor the country would ever accept. I prefer to go back to what Mr. Hodges says in the beginning of his pamphlet:
On the whole, coal mining has been fairly and efficiently managed under private ownership.
He refers to the fact that it has succeeded in producing 287,000,000 tons per annum, which he calls a remarkable achievement in the British coal fields. He might have added that not only did it produce 287,000,000 tons in the year before the War, but that figure was an increase from 138,000,000 tons thirty years previously. So far from the coal mines offering the unattractive chances of employment which were described at some length in the Report of the Coal Commission, they succeeded during the same thirty years in attracting 600,000 more people into the industry than had been there previously. The Government is content to base the working of this industry upon the private initiative and enterprise which have produced results which are as remarkable as Mr. Hodges has described. It is not enough, however, to take up a merely negative attitude upon this matter. At the Coal Commission the miners succeeded in making a case for several points which they put forward. In the first place, they made a case for bettering the amenities of their lives. It was shown that in certain colliery districts the conditions under which they lived were unworthy of the state of civilisation which we have reached. They also made a case for getting a greater knowledge of the industry in which they spend their lives and for obtaining positions of greater responsibility. For my part, I am perfectly
certain that the only advance that can be achieved in the industrial life of this country must be along the lines of improving the status of the worker, of giving him added knowledge, because ignorance always breeds suspicion, and of increasing the responsibility under which he carries on his labour.
In the third place, they made out a case for the workman having more interest in the profits of the industry, and, indeed, that case was conceded by the owners, who themselves put forward a scheme of profit-sharing based in the first place upon a standard wage and a standard return upon capital, the balance to be divided between capital and labour, labour getting its share in an increased percentage on the wage. The Government pledged themselves to deal with all these points. There was a further matter which was established. There is great overlapping at the present time among the departments which deal with different phases of the coal industry. It is necessary that we should be done with that overlapping, and that we should have a more complete organisation and establish a Department which will take control of all matters relating to the coal fields, with a responsible person at its head. The Bill deals with all these various matters, and I will, with the permission of the House, describe shortly what the proposals are which we now make. In the first place—I gather from the newspapers that this is a matter of some controversy—we propose to set up a Ministry of Mines, to which shall be transferred the powers of all the various Departments which deal with mining interests at the present time. You have, for example, the Home Office dealing with inspection and the safety of the mines. You have the Board of Trade dealing with the minimum wage, and District Boards. You have the Board of Education dealing with geological survey, and you have the Commissioners of Woods and Forests dealing with the coal under Crown lands and under the sea. You have various other bodies—I have not enumerated them all—each of which is dealing with some aspect of the coal question.
There is no doubt at all that that leads to bad work, to more staff than you require, and often to results which are inconsistent in the information which is given to the
public. We ought to get rid of that overlapping. The question is whether you should have a Ministry of Mines or whether you should have it merely as a Department of one of the other Ministries of the Government, and what status you should give it. I think it is perfectly plain from what I have said that it is a big enough industry to be dealt with by a separate Ministry. It is not merely the coal industry with which we are dealing under the proposed Ministry; we are going to deal with all mining questions, as, for example, the mining of nonferrous metals, and we shall deal also with such oil as may be found under the surface of our land. This question has been the subject of much discussion, and since, as I have said, this is a point upon which controversy may arise, I hope the House will forgive me if I state shortly, but with some little detail, what has been determined by various Commissions which have dealt with it. I take, first of all, the Commission which sat upon the question of the development of mineral resources in the United Kingdom. Sir Lionel Phillips was the Chairman, and the Report of the Committee says:
The absence of a properly organised Mines Department in the United Kingdom is most detrimental to the industry. The Home Office, which collects and publishes annually records of the output and value of minerals from all mines, is also responsible for the supervision of health and safety, but is not provided with the necessary authority or staff to analyse returns, to follow the progress, or to advise as to the steps necessary for the further development of mineralised areas, etc. The Mineral Resources Department was organised for specific purposes, but has been much handicapped owing to the difficulty, and in many cases impossibility, of obtaining detailed records of mines which have been even recently abandoned.
They say further:
Further examples might be given to demonstrate the need of a more fully equipped Mines Department. Its establishment would be heralded with enthusiasm by those directly interested in the industry, and the co-operation of mineowners and managers could be relied upon. The establishment of such a Department armed with legal powers is recommended.
That Committee was followed by another, which sat upon the question of coal conservation. It was a Committee under Lord Haldane, but the Report to which I am about to refer was one which was issued by a sub-committee dealing specifically
with matters in relation to the mining industry. That Committee said:
It is now proposed that, subject to the exceptions mentioned below, all the functions rested in various Government Departments before the War in the matter of the coal mining industry should, either at once or after the War, as may be determined, be transferred to and administered by a separate Ministry of Mines and Minerals presided over by a Minister with a seat in Parliament. Any development of these functions determined by legislation in the future, whether as the result of recommendations of the Coal Conservation Committee or not, should also be administered by this Ministry.
The Minister of Mines and Minerals should, in the opinion of the Committee, be assisted by an Advisory Board consisting of representatives of the mining industry (including the workmen) together with men eminent in branches of science connected with the industry, and the claims of the principal classes of consumers to representation will require careful consideration.
Still another Committee dealt with this matter, one which was presided over by my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Leslie Scott). That Committee in its turn dealing with the acquisition and valuation of land said:
We recommend, therefore, that the Mining Department should be a branch of the Home Office or of any Ministry which may be created to take over the duties of the Home Office in this respect.
Some of these Committees go into reasons as to why a separate Mines Department is required. Reference is made to the practice of our Colonies in that respect and to the need which has been found in them of setting up Ministries of Mines. The last Report which I propose to refer to is one on the non-ferrous mining industry. The Chairman was the hon. Member (Mr. Betterton) for Rushcliffe. This Report has been issued since the present Parliament met. They state in the strongest possible terms that the mining industry has suffered very badly in the past from not having a Ministry of Mines, and they say:
We recommend that the various duties relating to the mining of minerals other than coal now entrusted to a number of Departments should be centralised in one organisation….. At the same time it appears to us probable that the formation of a Mines Department, dealing with all minerals, including coal, will be the inevitable outcome of the present situation.
Whatever diversities of opinion there were amongst the members of the Sankey Commission, they all agreed in this, that
you should set up a Department of Mines. That is evidence from every body of men who have investigated the matter. There is not a single opinion against it. On the contrary, the view is unanimous that the industry has suffered in the past and is suffering now from lack of a central organisation which would take a real and imaginative view as to the possibilities of mineral development. We have taken, if I may use the phrase, the least grandiose of the proposals which have been put forward by these various Committees. I have no doubt some of my hon. and right hon. Friends opposite will say that the House should really set up a Ministry of Mines quite independent of any other Department of the Government, and there is a great deal to be said for it. We suggest that the Minister of Mines should be an Under-Secretary in the Board of Trade, but that he should be in a position of complete responsibility so far as all the routine work of the Department is concerned, and should only be responsible to the President of the Board of Trade in matters which really involve large policy. Perhaps some hon. Members may think that is an anomalous position, but in point of fact we have already had it. We have had a Ministry of Blockade under the Foreign Office in a similar position, and those hon. Members who have read the Report of Lord Haldane's Committee upon the readjustment of administrative duties will remember that there is adumbrated in that Report a theory of subordinate Ministers which the Committee thought would prove an efficient system of administration. The miners have for long claimed a separate Ministry of Mines, and that there should be a Minister to whom they might have ready access upon all questions dealing with their industry. From the point of view alone of bringing a more harmonious spirit into the industry, the setting up of a Ministry within the Board of Trade in the way we suggest would be likely to prove efficacious.
The question of expense, I gather, is the one which chiefly disturbs various people, both inside the House and outside. The only additional cost that I can see this Ministry can involve is that of the Minister's salary —£2,000 a year—and of the immediate headquarters staff that he requires. I believe that would be more than compensated for by the savings that you would make by bringing all the Departments which are dealing with this matter together. The cost certainly will not be large. I cannot imagine it running into more than a very few thousands of pounds altogether. I am certain you will save more by preventing one day's stoppage in any coalfield, if you can achieve that much, than it will cost you to provide this additional Minister. I hope the House will remember that he will be carrying on his duties with the staffs which are at present in other ministries performing the same functions. As far as the temporary staff is concerned dealing with coal control, these would be required just so long as it would have been required supposing you did not have any separate Ministry at all, and looking at it with careful scrutiny, as a Scotsman should, when, it comes to dealing with matters of expense, I assure the House that this is not a matter which is going to involve the country in any elaborate expense. I turn next to the question of the Advisory Committee which we propose to set up to advise the Minister. I have quoted from two of the Reports in which Advisory Committees were suggested, and we have followed the suggestion which was made in these Reports, that the Advisory Committee should be composed of people representative of the trade, both of employers and workmen, and people representative of other trades, being consumers, and of technical experts who could advise upon matters relating to coal mines.
I have dealt with Part 1 of the Bill. Part 2 deals with the future regulation of the industry. It proposes to set up a series of Committees—Pit Committees, District Committees, Area Boards, and a National Board. The country for this purpose is divided into 24 districts and six areas, and the plan which has been followed is really in principle the same as has been suggested by everyone who has applied his mind to the reorganisation of the coal industry, and in a certain measure it represents what is in existence now upon a smaller scale although designed upon a voluntary principle. The representatives of the owners at the Coal Commission put forward a scheme for pit committees and district committees and a central committee. The representatives of the men put forward, and Mr. Hodges repeats it in the pamphlet to which I have referred, a similar scheme of pit committees, district committees, and a central committee. The only variation we have made in the scheme is introducing an area board; and the reason why that is introduced is that it makes it possible to group mines which have matters in common more completely With regard to pit committees, we suggest that they should be composed as to one half of representatives of the employers, and the other half representatives of the workmen, but at the pit committee you may not have enough representatives of the employers in the ordinary sense. We have described it in terms of management, and we have brought within the ambit of management people down to the grade of deputies in the pit. So that you may very well have on a pit committee representatives of the workmen on the one side, the representatives of the other side being men who have not very long before been working in the pits themselves in the ordinary duties of the service. The pit committees should meet not less than once a month, and they would deal with matters involving the safety, health, and welfare of the men, with output maintenance and increase, with the examination which the men may make under the Act of 1911, and with any questions of dispute. They may refer any recommendation they have made, which has not been complied with, to the district committee.
Let me now say a word about the district committees. They in their turn may deal with the same matters. They may make recommendations, and if they are not complied with they may refer the matter to the Minister of Mines for him to deal with. Similarly, the area board may deal with these questions and may pass on recommendations to the Minister of Mines for him to deal with. But the area board gets a very much larger power, and I should like to ask the attention of the House in particular to the provisions with regard to its functions. The area board has power, under the proposals of the Bill, to formulate a scheme for the adjustment of the remuneration of the workmen on the basis of the profits of the industry in the area. The conception of the Bill is that the National Board should lay down general principles for the adjustment of remuneration, because, of course, you want to have, so far as possible, the arrangements for remuneration uniform throughout the country. That is a conception which the Federation of Coalminers thinks of very great value and lays stress upon. Once the National Board has laid down the general principles, the area board may formulate a scheme. They may ask for particulars smith regard to output, profits, costs and generally the proceeds of the industry within the area, and these must be supplied upon the certificate of an accountant. They must be the average profits. It will not be competent for the accountant to reveal the particular profits of any individual mine. That would neither be fair to the individual mineowner, nor would it give any guidance as to what the rate of wages ought to be in the area. Accordingly the proposal is that the area board having all the information are entitled to formulate a scheme in regard to the remuneration of the men, based upon profits which are being earned. That is a great change and a great advance upon the old scheme, of which the men very generally complained that they were paid upon the basis of selling price rather than upon the profits which were obtained. It does not in any way represent a scheme which the owners would be averse to take up. They even suggested it in the course of the Sankey Commission. I gather that it is suggested from the miners' side that this is an attempt to drive a wedge in between different sections of the Miners' Federation. I do not think that is going to be its effect, and in any case it certainly is not the intention. You have had previously in the mining industry variations in the remuneration paid to the men in every district. There has been no uniform standard of earning in the coalfields of this country. Every district, as the right hon. Member for Paisley will especially remember, because I think that it was he who established the original scheme, is separately dealt with under the Minimum Wage Act, and a standard was set up for each district. If you look at the amount of the standard wage in the various districts to-day you will find that it varies from district to district, and in some cases you have surprising results. In some districts which were regarded as the poorest districts you have a higher standard wage than in a district where the output is etter and where it would be supposed that the earnings would be higher. Accordingly, there is no difference, so far as this matter is concerned, from the old principle. You will still have to regulate the wage upon some standard applicable to each district separately. Thereafter, no doubt, you could have, if a national demand is made for an increase of output, uniform increase on your standard wage—if that is what is sought. On the other hand, you will also have—and this is the natural result of industry wherever you are—variations from district to district, on the basis of the profits that it is possible to make within the area.
I will deal with that in a moment. I was going on to say in regard to the area boards that the schemes they formulate will require to be approved by the National Board and by the Minister of Mines, who may make modifications in them before they are set up in any particular area. I wish to say a word about the National Board before I come to the powers of the Minister of Mines. The National Board is in a position to deal with any matter that may be referred to it from the district boards or from the area boards, also any matter which may be referred to it by the Ministry of Mines or any matter which it may choose to take up upon its own initiative. It will also be able to deal with the principles which should be laid down for the remuneration of the workmen in the industry. Now I come to the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lambert) as to how these bodies are to be paid. The proposal in the Bill is that the boards should be paid out of the industry itself. That is to say, that in the case of a pit committee their time should be paid for by the owner of the mine. In the case of the district committee there would be a levy upon each of the mines in the district for the purpose of paying the expenses. Similarly with regard to the area boards and the National Board. It may be said that this expense will be passed on to the consumer. It naturally will. I have not the slightest doubt that that will be the result. I cannot imagine that the expense is going to be very large; but in any case if one has any belief at all that a scheme of this kind is going to work and be useful, and particularly if you have any belief that harmony is going to be produced, as we hope it may be, by the employer and his workmen gathering round a table to discuss matters for the common interest, I have not the slightest doubt that the expense will be far more than compensated for by the results you will get in the production of the industry. If you do not have that much hope, there is no good suggesting any such scheme. If you cannot believe that harmony in industry is going to produce better results then we must reconcile ourselves to strikes. If the basis upon which this Bill is put forward is a sound one, then I present this view to the House that the expense which is going to be caused by the setting up of these bodies will be a mere bagatelle compared with the beneficial results.
The powers of the Minister of Mines will include those of making regulations for the procedure of these various committees. He will be in a position upon any question that is brought to him to consult any one of these committees that may be concerned. He will be able to set up advisory committees dealing with any question affecting the industry, and he will be in a position to give final directions requiring compliance with any recommendations which any of these committees have put up. Accordingly, you are going to have for the first time a Minister in a position to pronounce effective directions with regard to things upon which he has received recommendations from the people in the trade who are the interested parties. Of course, it will be his duty at the same time to consider the interests of the public at large. As the Minister he will have the responsibility of seeing that the consumers are protected. There is another important power which the Minister of Mines will have. One of the disadvantages, to which reference has been made, arising out of private ownership is the fact that you have very expensive drainage schemes, and various people are doing pumping at various mines where one common system of pumping would do all that is necessary at less expense. In some cases it has been alleged, and in other cases it has been proved that owing to the action of a contiguous owner, large bodies of coal have been lost through drowning out owing to the refusal to allow the necessary pumping to be done. There are two instances, the details of which I had better not mention because they are at present in controversy relating to this particular question. The proposal we make is that the Minister of Mines should have power to authorise a general drainage scheme, and to see that a levy is made upon the various people concerned in order that such a scheme may be carried out.
So far as the various people on the boards are concerned they will be representative of the interests I have described. Accordingly, a scheme will require to be made out by which you may get proper representation. In the Bill we have not set out the precise method by which that will be done. We have laid down the principle that the boards shall represent these different interests, but the precise details by which that can be done will be set forth in regulations which will be made by the Minister of Mines. It will be his duty to make regulations which will carry out the principle of making these bodies representative. It would be very unwise for the House to tie the Minister down to a rigid system at the present time. He must find the best method of giving representation and make his regulations in the light of the information which he gets. I think the House will readily trust him following the principle which has been laid down in the Bill to see that that matter is properly carried out.
A definite method is not laid down in this Bill. I come now to the last matter which I have to mention in connection with the Bill, and it has to do with the improved conditions of life in mining areas. The Bill provides that there shall be paid by the owners of coal mines a sum of one penny per ton for the next five years upon the tonnage of coal raised, and that this fund shall be devoted to the purpose of improving the social welfare of these great mining communities. This proposal was recommended by Mr. Justice Sankey and by three independent employers who sat with him upon his commission. The recommendation was made after listening to evidence on the condition of a large number of mining communities. It is not merely a question of housing, although that undoubtedly is important, but it involves also the question of the means of recreation in many mining communities and the general conditions under which the men live. Many of us know of communities in districts that are isolated from populous parts of the country where miners live under very depressing conditions. Nobody says that that condition of things is universal. On the contrary, we know of mining communities where you have the most cheerful population you can find. It is very unwise to generalise upon this subject or to exaggerate the conditions which at present exist, but undoubtedly there are places where the conditions are not what they ought to be. We must recognise that. Accordingly, we propose, in the nature of an experiment, that the recommendation made by Mr. Justice Sankey and his colleagues should be followed, and that this money, which will represent £1,000,000 a year, should be devoted to this purpose. It is not intended that we should in any way perform the functions which ought to be performed by the Ministry of Health in providing adequate accommodation, although it may be necessary to supplement their efforts in particular cases, with their acquiescence. We look forward also to providing the means both of recreation and of instruction, and we desire that the recommendation which has been made with great urgency in one of the reports to which I have referred, as to technical education for boys in mining communities, should be adopted and carried out. We propose that the Committee to deal with this matter should consist of five members, one representing the miners, one representing the employers, and three others selected by the Minister of Mines. There will also be upon the Committee assessors representing the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and the Secretary for Scotland, because these three Departments are concerned with matters with which this Committee will deal. I have endeavoured very briefly to describe the main features of the Bill.
The money will be spent through the committees. A central committee will have to determine the manner in which this money is to be spent. It is not possible to say now the particular means by which the money is to be spent. I quite anticipate that some hon. Members will take the view that this Bill ought to be rejected because it does not give them nationalisation. Others will say that it ought to be rejected because it goes so near nationalisation. I notice a very unequal yoking of Members in one of the Resolutions that are to be proposed in regard to this Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Sir C. Cory) finds himself in very unusual company in the Motion which he has made. I have no doubt that some will say that they cannot work this Bill, and others that they will not work it. Probably I shall be told that you may take a horse to the water, but you cannot make it drink, but I think that the proposals in this Bill are worth working. I believe that this Bill can do a great deal of good to the coal industry, and that it is fair alike to the interests and the rights of all the people concerned in the industry. If it gets a chance, I believe most confidently that it can bring about a spirit of harmony in the coalfields such as we have not seen before, and that it may also have the result of creating much greater success in the industry than we have at the present time. I confidently ask the House to give this Bill that chance.
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."
In rising to move the rejection of this Bill, I may be allowed to compliment my right hon. Friend upon the skilful way in which he has introduced his measure. I think that he must have been studying military tactics with advantageous results. Instead of approaching the House of Commons behind a smoke screen, he has approached it bringing his Bill with him behind a screen of prejudice and suspicion which he has raised against a scheme of mines nationalisation. This is not a Bill for mines nationalisation. If it were, I would view it with a little more sympathy than I am disposed to do at the present time. Why my right hon. Friend should have dwelt so long upon the dangers and difficulties and disabilities of nationalisation in connection with a Bill in which he does not propose either directly or indirectly to deal with that question, I cannot conceive, unless it be that he knows his House of Commons so well that he felt he must have some prejudice to enable him to carry the Bill. The Government appear to be destined to take the wrong step every time they deal with this matter. Better far had they not set up the Coal Industry Commission at all than to treat it in this cavilier fashion. All that my right hon. Friend has done is to use the Coal Commission and its Report as an instrument to cloud the real issue which the House of Commons this afternoon is called on to deal with.
I regret to have to say, but there is no room for doubt, that the Miners' Federation of Great Britain has lost confidence in the Government and its handling of this mining industry. It is not necessary that I should detail particular dates and resolutions. I state the broad facts, but if challenged I will come to close grips on that very question. In making the broad statement I am within not only what is right, but what is notorious. As a result of the Government treatment of the mining industry in connection with the Sankey Commission and other matters, they have lost the confidence of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. I am not quite sure that the Government have the coalowners' confidence either, and I shall be interested later in the Debate to listen to the speeches of my hon. Friends who, in a special sense, will speak for the coalowners. Therefore, it seems to me to be an imperative duty upon the Government to endeavour to wipe away this suspicion, which is not only disabling, but wholly disgruntling this industry, which the President of the Board of Trade properly says is the great key industry and the spindle upon which the whole of this great industrial and commercial nation turns.
Does this Bill do anything in that direction? My right hon. Friend's speech has done very little in that direction. I am not interested in entering into controversy with him over Clauses 8, 9, 10, or 17. If my right hon.
Friend had started the Bill by saying, "For the purpose of securing the most effective development and utilisation of the mineral resources of the United Kingdom and the safety and welfare of those engaged in the mining industry, the mines shall be nationalised," then I should have been prepared to approach the other Sections of the Bill with a great deal of sympathy, but he has done nothing of the kind. My right hon. Friend is setting up pits committees and district committees, area boards, and subcommittees that will deal with the social welfare of the mining industry and the people engaged in it, but his fundamental difficulty is that the basis of the Bill is wrong. What my right hon. Friend does in the name of the Government is to come down to the House with a Bill for the purpose of handing back the industry in a more prosperous position to the coalowners than it was in before August, 1914. I do wish that the Government would try to remember that as the result of the War not only is the mentality of the people engaged in the industry changed, but the economic conditions of the industry are such that this cannot be done.
My right hon. Friend talks about production. How can you have production unless you have confidence? The real reason why there is a loss in production is because of the faulty organisation of the industry. Hon. Members are sometimes inclined to think that the cause of reduction in output must be placed at the door of the working men, but it is the entire organisation of the industry which is at fault. It is notorious that the employers have been ca'-cannying for months. It is notorious that the coalowners have not attempted to develop the collieries. Everybody who understands the science of mining knows that it is a wasting industry and that in order to maintain production you must develop, and that unless you develop the industry must decline and production go down. That is one of the reasons why you have this difficulty at the present time. I am a believer in piece work. I have never hesitated to say so. When I was a pitman I was a piece worker. My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) was also a piece worker. Would this House believe that exactly the same price lists on which he and myself had to make our livelihood are the price lists which exist at the present time? Talk about co-operation! The problem is easy of solution if dealt with in the proper way, but this is not the way.
One of the reasons for reduced output is because of the obsolete character of the price lists on which men have to work. Therefore, I am all in favour of setting up some kind of machinery upon the lines which my right hon. Friend suggests, which will deal in a practical manner with revising and bringing up to date the price lists in every colliery, so that men will be able to depend upon it for their livelihood and know exactly how much they will get, and which will allow them to earn the money they desire to earn. Therefore, I have no quarrel with my right hon. Friend upon the principle of pit committees, district committees, and social reform. But now I come to Clause 11. Clause 11 is the Bill. My right hon. Friend referred very slightly to Clause 11. He is a very skilful Parliamentarian. He is not so old a Member of Parliament as some of us, but I have come to the conclusion that he has learned his lesson very early. He knows, and no one knows better, that the real basis of this Bill is in Clause 11. Sub-section (3) of this Clause says:
An area board shall formulate, at such intervals and on such principles as may be prescribed by the National Board, schemes for adjusting the remuneration of the workers within the area, having regard to the profits of the industry within the area.
It all turns upon "within the area." My right hon. Friend proposes that after a certain date we shall establish area Boards without any relationship with the other districts within the United Kingdom. Why does he make such a proposition? Is he not aware that when the Government deal with railways they recognise that the railway system demands a National Board for the adjustment of the conditions of employment? My right hon. Friend must know that so far as the economic earning power of an industry is concerned there is as marked a difference between railway and railway as there is between colliery and colliery or coalfield and coalfield, and in dealing with the railway problem you very properly, in my opinion, laid down that inasmuch as transport is of national moment and in the national interest, it is better that a national system should be devised
by which wages would be regulated for all railway men, whether they are employed in England, Scotland or Wales.
When it somes to the mining industry, which is the key industry, we are to be sent back home to make our own arrangements. Sometimes this House is a little bit dubious of my statement that there is a great reservoir of altruistic sentiment among miners. There is. If we were as selfish as some people in this country think we are, I would welcome this Bill, as a Welshman. It contains every advantage for the Welshman. Upon any economic system the men employed in the Welsh coalfield can live, and live well, and we would be able to enter upon an enormous advance in wages. Yes, but we should enter upon it at the expense of our fellow-workers in the same industry who happen to be employed in coalfields not so fortunately placed economically. It is not that we will not work this Bill as workmen; it is that we cannot work the Bill. I am sorry to tell the President of the Board of Trade that he will have to withdraw this Bill. In a moment the House will see why. Take the White Paper, which was issued a few days ago, dealing with the statistical summary of output, the cost of production and the proceeds and profits of the coal mining industry as a whole, over the various districts in respect of the three months ended 31st March, 1920. The House will remember that this is a document presented to Parliament, and I should say that we are very much obliged to the Coal Control Department for promptness in getting the figures ready.
If the figures are examined this is what will be found: Scotland, which gives employment to 142,752 people, made a loss upon the quarter mentioned of 2.17d. per ton. Suppose you send Scotland back to a Scottish Board to regulate wages. The first thing they would have to deal with would be the question whether they should have a reduction in wages, or stand where they are, or seek for an increase in the price of coal to the public in order to cover the loss. It will be observed that in the Schedule the United Kingdom is divided into five areas. The next area is called the Northern area, and in includes Northumberland and Durham. Northumberland gives employment to 58,717 workmen and Durham to 165,967 workmen. Upon the quarter's working Northumberland made a profit of 18s. 5.21d. and Durham a profit of 8s. 4.85d. per ton. We are talking about peace in the industry. Can you conceive anything more likely to cause disturbance and disruption than to have reductions in one district at a time when other districts are having an advance in wages? Turn to the Midlands. They comprise Cumberland, Lancashire, Cheshire, North Wales, South and West Yorkshire, South Derbyshire, North Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, and Shropshire. Cumberland, which gives employment to 11,119 workmen, made a loss on the quarter's working of 10s. 2.57d. per ton. Yorkshire, which gives employment to 165,831 men, made a profit of 10.26d. per ton on the quarter. Lancashire, Cheshire, and North Wales, which give employment to 129,550 men, made a loss on the quarter of 4s. 7.92d Derby, Nottingham and Leicester, which give employment to 125,991 people, made a loss on the quarter of 5.94d. Staffordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire, which employ 93,431 men, made a loss of 2s. 9.28d.; and Somerset, Gloucester and Kent, which form the southern area, made a loss of 4s. 7.69d. Will the House try to visualise the situation? Several of the areas made a loss while others made a profit. While we are getting an advance in wages of a substantial amount in Wales, Northumberland and Durham, and while Scotland is standing still, all the rest of the coalfields are receiving reduced wages or fighting against a reduction. If you want chaos in the industry and in the nation, go on with this Bill, deal with the question of areas. Oh, no! Whether we like it or not, this industry, for weal or for woe, has once for all settled that it must be treated as a national unit.
There are standard wages in each area, but above that standard rate there is a floating percentage, and the more it is the better we think it is What I am talking about is this floating percentage. At every colliery there is a standard price list which covers all the efforts of labour. For the area in some places, there is an average, but above all that there is a kind of running percentage. It is 55.83 in South Wales. If we sought an advance in wages in our areas we should seek an advance above the 55.83 because of the 18s. 7d. per ton profit. And we would have it. What is the alternative to that? The alternative is that in every one of the English coalfields which are losing money there would be an advance of the selling price of coal to the manufacturer and the household, to the economic standard that would give them a wage equal to what we get in Wales. My right hon. Friend comes here, and in the name of the Government, most soberly proposes that the House should give a Second Reading to a Bill which is going to create, not only dissatisfaction, but industrial disturbance, and a Bill which, at the end of all, must mean an enormous increase in the selling price of coal for every ton used in British manufactories and in the households of the country. We cannot work the Bill. Will my right hon. Friend try to understand that we are not the enemies of our nation, that we are the friends of our nation when we deal with this Bill in this way, and when we say to the Government and the House, "Do not place the great mining community in a state of chaos; treat it as one unit; let the prosperity of the prosperous coalfields be used to balance the losses upon the coalfields which find themselves in an unfortunate economic position."
That is the appeal we are making to the Government. We say to them that even if they carry the Bill on Second Reading and it is sent to a Committee and redrafted there, so long as Clause 11 stands, without drastic amendment which would not compel us to go back to area arrangements, there is no power either within the Miners' Federation or outside of it that can prevent either tremendous industrial disturbance in the industry or an increase in the selling price of coal to every consumer in the land. I hope my right hon. Friend will see that we are offering not carping criticism, but reasoned criticism of the Bill. That is the position we shall take up at Leamington next week. As sure as I am talking in this House this afternoon, when the English counties find that they will be thrown back with their losses to bear their own burden, irrespective of the desire on the part of Welshmen and Northumberland and Durham to share their prosperity with the less fortunate, they will say that the Government have no right to divide the industry in this way and for this purpose. My right hon. Friend had better take his Bill back. Let him put in Clause 1 the little Amendment I have suggested by introducing the word "nationalisation." There is the solution of all his difficulties. The miners will then rally to him. The coalowners are very content. I hope my right hon. Friend will not allow himself to believe that the employers are moved by a tremendous passion to get hold of this industry. No! They have more profits than they have ever received before in their lives. The Government have surprised them with generosity, and though we made our fight while the last Bill was a Bill, it has now become an Act, and the miners, who are great constitutionalists, say, "We will observe the law, but do not ask us with our eyes open to enter into an arrangement which we are convinced will mean the destruction of the mining industry of this country."
My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade was quite correct when he said that our reasons for objecting to this Bill were quite different from those of my right hon. Friend who has just spoken, and who complained that the Bill is not nationalisation. I complain that the Bill is too near nationalisation. With regard to nationalisation the Government would be taking all the risks and none of the control, and I submit if this Bill is passed that that will be the position of the coal owners, since they would be taking all the risks with the full control taken out of their hands. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace) asked, "How could you have production unless you have confidence?" That is exactly the reason why developments in the coal trade have ceased for so long, because the owners have no confidence as to the future and as to what is to take place. You cannot expect them to put fresh capital into the industry, and indeed they cannot obtain it to put into the industry, unless they know what returns they are going to get on their capital. The right hon. Gentleman also said that the same price list existed to-day as existed at the time when he and another hon. Member worked in the mines, and also from the time of the father of the hon. Member; but he seems to forget that not so very long ago when my right hon Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) was Prime Minister the standard was increased by 50 per cent., and as well there was an enormous increase in the percentages and the minimum was introduced. To-day the miners are so content with the wages they make in the minimum that at certain collieries they have suspended check weighmen. They do not see any object in paying them and they are content to work to the minimum and then work no more, and to that extent miners are responsible for the diminished output.
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brace) pointed out that there was a loss, according to this White Paper, in Scotland and a profit in South Wales of 18s. 7d. I understood him to suggest that the proper thing for the Government to do would be to level the wages up in all the districts to the level of the 18s. 7d. profit in South Wales. At the same time he deprecates any increase in price to consumers. Therefore the only way I can see in which that could be done would be my making the taxpayer pay the difference, which would be a very heavy penalty on the taxpayer. The President of the Board of Trade says that this Bill will continue to regulate the export of coal. I quite agree that it is necessary that that should be done for some time to come, because whilst prices for export are so high it is natural that producers should rush to export which would leave the home consumer short. He also said it would be necessary to continue control in regard to pit-head prices for the home consumer. But, may I ask, why is it necessary in the case of coal sold for bunker purposes to regulate the price? Surely shipowners can well afford to pay what is necessary. There is no control in regard to bunker coal at present, although there is an arrangement by which the shipowners shall not be charged an excessive price. The Minister for Mines under the Bill has power to regulate wages by directions on his own authority. He has also power, by order, I presume in Council, to regulate the distribution of profits. I submit it should be laid down that he must do both things. If he alters wages and does not regulate prices accordingly, the coal owner will be left in a very awkward position, and possibly without any profits at all. This would be best dealt with on the lines of the Coal Mines Emergency Act. We have been promised, as I thought, that control should cease at the earliest possible moment, but the Bill provides that the powers are to be continued and quite possibly for all time. Clause 4 deals with the constitution of an Advisory Committee, the members of which are apparently to be appointed by the Minister of Mines. The composition of this body is most extraordinary. There are to be twenty-four members. Four of those are to be owners of coal mines and four are to be workers in or about coal mines. Then there are three employers in other industries, and what they have got to do with the coal industry or why they are introduced I do not understand. There are also to be three workers from other industries, and to me it is inconceivable why they are brought in. One member is to be a mining engineer and two managers of coal mines, but the agent who is the principal man is left out altogether.
Yes, but he may be an outside engineer. Then there is to be a coal exporter on the committee, and I really do not see what a coal exporter has got to do with the question of raising coal and the management of collieries. There is to be a coal factor or coal merchant and there is to be a person with experience of commerce other than the production or distribution of coal, and there is to be a person with experience in co-operative trading, and there are to be persons with expert knowledge of medical or other science. The composition of this body is the most extraordinary of which I have ever heard. You have 24 members, and the coalowners whose property you propose to deal with are only to have a representation of one-sixth of that body. Under Clause 7 it is not provided that the Minister of Mines shall have a seat in Parliament. I think it is most desirable that he should be in this House in order that all interested should be able to ask questions and debate matters in case of dissatisfaction. There is a provision in this Clause which seems to me to be most unconstitutional, and that is that the person who is first appointed to be Minister shall not necessarily vacate his seat on his appointment. Why should he not have to seek election the same
as any other Member who gets a post with emoluments? Clause 8 deals with the regulations. I suggest that owners should have the power to suggest alterations, and if not satisfied to go to arbitration as under the Coal Mines Act of 1911. There should be some power of appeal. Clause 9 contains provisions with regard to the constitution and functions of Pit Committees. The President of the Board of Trade said that it was intended that half the representation should be coalowners and half miners, but the Bill does not carry that out, as it practically gives an increase of representation to the miners. The Clause says:
A Pit Committee shall comprise representatives of the owners and management of the mine and of workers employed in or about the mine selected from amongst their own number.
In Clause 22, management is defined thus:
The expression 'management' in relation to a coal mine includes the manager, under-managers, technical and administrative staff, officials and deputies, firemen and examiners of the mine.
Deputies, firemen and examiners as a rule belong to the Miners' Union. It is so in a great many cases, and in that way you might have a considerable excess of miners representation over that of the coal-owners on the Pit Committee. I suggest that the owners should be given power to appoint their own representatives, and I would make a similar suggestion in the case of Clause 13 dealing with the National Board. In Clause 14 certain penalties are laid down to be imposed on all persons connected with the industry. Those will be enforceable against owners or managers but will not be enforceable against the 1,180,000 men. They can evade these penalties, and it is not fair to enforce them against one side unless you enforce them against the other side as well. A Clause should be inserted that the men should not be allowed to stop work until the dispute had been dealt with by all the machinery set up in this Bill. When you are imposing so many obligations on coalowners I contend it is only fair that you should impose some obligations on the miners The President of the Board of Trade told us that the expenses of all these committees are to be paid for by the trade. The expenses of the pit committees are to be paid by the particular mine. Those committees generally sit once a
month, but if they are going to be paid by the coalowner they will sit about every day. They pay their own expenses now, and why the coalowners should have in the future to pay their fees for attending those meetings, I am at a loss to understand. In the case of the other committees, the District Committee, the Area Committee and the National Committee, the expenses are to be paid out of the industry. Why should that be so? If you set up this machinery it ought to be paid by the Government. You are imposing penalties on this trade which are not imposed on any other trade in the country.
Then the right hon. Gentleman referred to draining schemes. It has been suggested that schemes of that kind are very often held up by the coalowners. It may be that there have been one or two instances of that kind, but although I have been a long time connected with the trade I have never heard of any such case. In any case to drain one part of a district means to drain it at the lowest point, and to lift the water a greater height than if it was done in one mine alone. I think there ought to be some machinery of appeal against anything the Minister of Mines might propose, because it might be some fantastic scheme which would be detrimental or too costly. Therefore we should have either an appeal or arbitration. With regard to Clause 17, which the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think was such a brilliant Clause, I do not see why the coal trade should be the one exception among all the trades in having to find a penny a ton of the output for five years to improve the social amenities of the miners in their particular districts. I am quite sympathetic with the object, but I do not see why the coalowners should have to do it. Education, both scientific and technical, has been carried, in South Wales for instance, to a very high degree, and that is a good example of a case in which the coalowners have voluntarily imposed a levy on themselves for technical education among the miners. That levy is ˙10 of a penny and it is to be raised to ˙25 of a penny, or one farthing a ton, which may last for all time. They have some of the finest mining classes in the world, they have done some of the best work, and they have the finest staff and equipment obtainable. That is what they have done voluntarily; they have imposed it upon themselves, but they do feel that it should not be imposed upon them by law and not upon any other industry. That they oppose in toto. Then there is Clause 22, to which I have already referred, which in its definition of "management" does not include the agent. The question of management should be left to the coalowners themselves to define. For these reasons we shall propose drastic revision and Amendment of the Bill, which, as it stands, is absolutely hopeless.
I do not propose to take any part in the controversy between the Government and hon. Members opposite with regard to the general questions of the relationship between the State and the industry, nor do I express any opinion—I do not feel capable of doing so—upon some of the other important questions which have been raised by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. I would like to say one or two words upon the application of this Bill to the metal mines, and the non-ferrous mining industry of the country. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, this Bill proposes to take control over all mining in the country as well as coal-mining. From the best consideration which I have been able to give it, and having heard his lucid speech, I have arrived at the conclusion that the Bill does not give that attention to the non-ferrous mining industry to which it is entitled. It is true that everybody knows that among the various mining industries of the country the coal-mining industry is dominant. The figures that were quoted are gigantic, and prove that, and especially when they are compared with the latest figures of the nonferrous mines. These show £20,000,000 in value and the employment of 20,000 men. Even with those figures, I think the non-ferrous mines are entitled to some consideration in a Bill of this kind. Of course, the problem with which the non-ferrous mining industry is confronted, and the dangers which those who are engaged in the non-ferrous mines have to face, are different from almost every point of view from those of the coal mines. There is one obvious point, which is that the coal trade is a protected trade. That is one great difference, because the tin and lead trade has to face world-wide competition and to hold their own in the markets of the world. Another point is this: that the dangers which those who work in the coal mines have to face, though not less, are dissimilar to those of the metal mines. The coalminer has the dangers of gas and the fall of roof, but the metal miner has to face dangers arising from dust, and I think if you will take a period of years, and the relationship to the number of men employed, you will find that that the victims of such diseases as miners' phthisis and lung diseases are not many fewer than the victims of explosions in the coal mines. I am anxious to suggest to the House and the right hon. Gentleman that the non-ferrous mines are entitled at least to sympathetic consideration, and I think they will have sympathetic treatment, even though their difficulties are not quite similar to those of the coal mines, and therefore the treatment meted out to them may be different.
If we look at Part II of the Bill, it is limited to coal, and, with the exception of Clause 2, I think there is no reference at all to the metalliferous mines. Although in some of the Clauses they are obviously included, taken as a whole the Bill is one almost entirely dealing with coal. Part II is headed: "Regulation of Coal Mines," and it is limited to coal in that respect. Then Part II also proposes to set up an elaborate system of committees for the pits and for each district, and area and national boards. I am not going to argue that any such system of committees is necessary or desirable for the non-ferrous mining industry. If you look at the powers which are to be given to these committees you will see one or two instances in which the non-ferrous mines are concerned. One of the functions of the pit committee is to make recommendations with respect to the safely, health and welfare of the workers. One of the functions of the National Board is to take into consideration questions affecting the coal-mining industry as a whole, and according to Clause 14 these recommendations are to be taken into consideration by the Minister, and he is to give such directions as he thinks fit. Those engaged in the metalliferous mines are entitled to the same right of access to the new Minister, with regard to the safety, health and welfare of the workers, or any question affecting the industry as a whole, as are those engaged in the coal mines. They should have, and I hope Amendments will be introduced in Committee to secure that they should have, precisely the same rights in matters such as those as the men engaged in the coal mines. The safety, health and welfare of the men in the tin mines and lead mines are just as important and serious questions as the safety, health and welfare of the men engaged in coal mining, and the same applies to the other questions affecting each industry as a whole. No doubt most of the questions in the coal mines raise problems quite different from those of the metalliferous mines. But they are equally important in both, and my submission is that they both ought to have the same right of access to the Minister, and the same certainty that their views, opinions and suggestions will be considered by him.
That this is not the intention at the present time, I am afraid is clear from Clause 4, which says that the Minister of Mines shall appoint a committee to give him advice and assistance in reference to the coal mining industry, and may appoint one or more other committees to give advice with regard to his other powers and duties. That is, he shall get advice with regard to the coal trade, and the committee shall be set up at once. But the other committees, presumably from the words which are used, may or may not be appointed or may never be set up to advise him in such matters. Another illustration of this view which I am endeavouring to urge was given when the right hon. Gentleman referred to Clause 16, which deals with schemes of drainage. These shall be carried out after consultation with the district committee or the Area Board, and he may make schemes with respect to any group of coal mines as to the drainage thereof. That Clause is limited to coal mines. I should have thought that of all the Clauses if there was any discrimination it should not have been in this one, which if it is applied to coal mines should also have been applied impartially to the nonferrous mines. One of the richest lead-bearing districts in the British Isles is Halkyn in. North Wales. During the last 10 years its output has been reduced from 8,000 tons to about 2,000, and the reason is simply this, that the whole of that district has become heavily watered; the water has got the better of the miners. There is one large drainage company incorporated by Statute in that district, and if there was fusion between the mining companies and the company responsible for drainage, it would be capable of doing great good in that particular district where there is a conflict of interests. The Clause, if applied there, might have most useful and beneficial results in solving some of the greatest difficulties that they have to face. Another illustration to show why I think some of these Clauses should be applied is this. I have here the Report of the Royal Commission on Metalliferous Mines, which sat about seven years ago. A large number of exceedingly valuable recommendations were made. Many of them, if applied, would be calculated to improve the safety, health and welfare of the workers. Not a single one of these recommendations, so far as I know, has been carried out from that day to this. Surely these are questions that should appeal strongly to us in the consideration of this Bill, so that the recommendations might be carried into effect. Surely they are questions upon which those engaged in the industry should have ready access to the Minister in order to lay their cases before him and press upon him that he should carry into effect recommendations which were made as the result of so prolonged and elaborate an inquiry. Might I just give one other reason why the Bill should be amended? As the House is probably aware, for good reasons or bad—I know not which—a year ago, or whenever it was, the Government entered into a contract to take practically the whole of the output of zinc concentrates. It is perfectly true that very few of these concentrates have been taken, but, still, that contract is in existence, and it lasts for ten years. It is obvious that, with such a contract in existence, the whole position of the zinc industry in this country—and it is an important one—is overshadowed by the existence of that contract. It puts great power in the hands of the Government. That seems to me precisely the sort of case in which those interested in zinc should have the right of going to the Minister of Mines and laying their case before him.
There are one or two other Clauses on which I should like to say a word. Clause 18 says:
It shall be the duty of the owners,
agents, and managers of any mine, and any other persons engaged in the mining industry, to furnish to the Minister of Mines, in such manner and form as he may direct, such accounts, statistics, returns, plans and other information as he may require for the purpose of his powers and duties under this Act.
I hope very much that the result of this Bill, if it passes into law, will be that the State will have in its possession far better and more elaborate, useful, and comprehensive information than it has got at present. Hitherto, statistics have been published by the Home Office relating merely to the output, the number of persons employed, and certain details as to health and safety, and there are great complaints with regard to the delay which used to take place each year before the statistics were compiled. What the State wants is the fullest information with regard to such things as costing, the amount of development done, ore reserves and values, revenue and profits, and details of that kind. Such information would be of the greatest service to the Government and to the industry. I think my right hon. Friend in his speech referred to certain inquiries which took place during the War. During the War the country was at its wits' end to get lead, tin, and other non-ferrous metals, and months and months of valuable time were wasted, and thousands and thousands of pounds expended in getting information by ad hoc inquiries—information which should have been in the possession of the State without any fresh inquiries at all. If anyone in the House cares to take the trouble to pursue the report which was issued, for instance, by the Minister of Mines in South Africa, he will see that all this information, which would have been of such value to us in time of war, is published year by year in South Africa, and that is precisely the sort of information which, I trust, my right hon. Friend will insist on getting when this Bill passes into law.
There is one other question which is closely analogous to the question I have just raised, and it arises on the Clause. It is the question of plans. The law at the present time with regard to the deposit of plans as to metal mines—I know nothing about coal mines—is grotesquely inadequate. The only obligation that rests upon the owner of a mineral mine to put in a plan with the Government is if the mine is closed down. Then, within three months, he has to deposit
plans, and then only if more than twelve men are employed. The result of that, of course, is that within three months the mine is probably flooded, and so the plans cannot be checked. Moreover, it is open to every kind of evasion, and the Report of this very Royal Commission to which I have referred gives an illustration, showing the inadequacy of the present law, of a mine which was to all intents and purposes closed down. The number employed in it was reduced to five, the original number being about two hundred, and these five men were kept there for three years, and then the mine was entirely closed down, and it was held that no plans need be deposited, because less than twelve men were employed in the mine. It seems to me absolutely necessary, in the interests of the State itself, that it should not merely be an obligation upon the owners of mines to deposit plans in such a case, but that there should be an obligation on owners of mines to deposit accurate and up-to-date plans at frequent intervals, say, every quarter, with the Minister of Mines, and if the Minister insists upon that he will be merely following the precedent set up by South Africa. Let me refer to the interpretation Clause of the Bill, which says:
The expression 'coal mine' means a mine to which the Coal Mines Act, 1911, applies.
I venture to think that definition is a definition which merely perpetuates an anomaly. The definition in the Coal Mines Act, 1911, is this:
The mines to which this Act applies are mines of coal, mines of stratified ironstone, mines of shale, and mines of fire-clay.
The result of that is, that with regard to the mines of stratified ironstone, you get mines in the northern division of Yorkshire which are subject to the Coal Mines Act, and therefore subject to every definition of the Act, while you get hematite ironstone in Cumberland which does not come under it, and there are districts in Northamptonshire where part of the mines comes under the Act and part does not, and the interpretation, which perpetuates what is, on the face of it, an anomaly, is one which certainly ought to be considered. The result of this definition Clause in the Coal Mines Act, 1911, is that about 40 per cent. of the ironstone raised in this country comes under the Coal Mines Act, and about 60 per cent. does not. There is no need, when you are considering the whole of this question, in perpetuating what is, on the face of it, an absurd anomaly.
The coal industry in this country is very rich and very powerful, and it has some of the most able representatives in the country In relation to the coal mining industry, the metalliferous mining industry is comparatively weak and comparatively poor, and I would urge my right hon. Friend that such advantages and such benefits as this Bill may bring should not be limited to coal mining, but that those engaged in metal-mining should share in the benefits. I would ask him for this further pledge, that when this Department is set up there should be a separate section of the Department which shall devote itself entirely to the metal mines of the country; otherwise, I am perfectly certain that the metal mines will be swamped by the coal mines.
Listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill, one felt at least that he had a keen sense of responsibility and a broad knowledge of the conditions of the mining industry. One regretted, therefore, that it should have fallen to his lot to introduce a Bill of this character which, as sure as day follows night, cannot be accepted by the miners of this country. I listened to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace), and with every sentence he spoke I found myself in complete agreement. A series of statements was made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. He alluded in almost glowing terms to the space occupied in the mining industry in the life of the nation—it gave employment to 1,100,000 people; it paid almost unnumbered millions of money away in wages—about £270,000,000 per year—it raised an enormous number of millions of tons of coal; it was a constituent part of every industry in the land, and, altogether, I think if we, as people who have been acquainted with mines all our lives, did really require a most successful advertising agent, we could not do better than give the job to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. Then he went on to make some references to the amount of coal that had been wound in 1913, and ended up by agreeing with the present secretary to the Miners' Federation of Great Britain that the industry had done well under private enterprise, and said it might very well be left alone to proceed along that path untrammelled. I have a much longer memory than the right hon. Gentleman, and I ask the House for one moment—because the real meaning of this Bill is to throw that great national industry back into the hands of private ownership and control—to consider the full bearings of the case. All these small trimmings and soufflé placed around the central provisions do not hide the real fact that private ownership and control are what is sought by this measure.
The industry became a great one in the early days of the Franco-Prussian War. Millions of pounds were freshly invested in the enterprise. Most unheard-of prices were charged the London public, and the public were almost helpless. From that time, back in the late 'sixties or early 'seventies, this industry has taken a great place in the public vision, and has never since ceased to occupy an important place. From 1870 it became week by week and year by year probably one of the best-organised industries, even on the workmen's side, that the country possesses. Certainly on the employers' side it was the best-organised industry in the nation. A quarter of a century later, under private ownership, 750,000 people, representing a population of well over 3,000,000, were locked out for 16 weeks against a reduction of 25 per cent. in their wages. That is one of the blessings of private ownership, and one of those things upon which the right hon. Gentleman would hardly, I think, pride himself. What were wages at that time? I really do want the House, when we are descanting upon the glories of private enterprise, when we are launching out into wonderful eulogiums as to what this industry and the other industry has been capable of under private ownership and control, to look at another side of the picture. In 1897 the right hon. Gentleman the then Member for West Birmingham took a very prominent part, and a part for which he will always be gratefully remembered by the workpeople of this country, in bringing into this House, and passing through it, the Workmen's Compensation Act. The average wage of the adult worker at that time in the industries embodied in that Act, I am speaking of 1897, were 26s. per week. There were also in the mines—and I myself in my own home have a record of thousands of cases—many of the adult workers who worked five days a week on an average getting coal at the actual coal face receiving less in 1900–1–2 than 25s. per week.
Here is a great industry, compact on the owner's side to a degree unparalleled, and organised on the workmen's side to a very high state of efficiency. Yet private ownership, owing to the constant competition between owners in one area and owners in another area, kept wages down to such an extent that five years after the passing of the Workmen's Compensation Act, in 1897, the wages of a man, with a wife and family to maintain, did not exceed, on an average, 26s. per week—that in an industry whose glories have been this afternoon descanted upon from the Treasury Bench! Will hon. Members go a little further with me and come to 1912? We had been trying for years to obtain a minimum wage in the mines. We did not pitch our demands very high. We only asked for boys of 14 a pittance of 2s. per day. It was not a seven hours' day either. The boys of 14 could be held 8 hours in the mine, apart from the time taken in lowering them into the mine and raising them again. We appealed to this House. We first of all appealed to the employers for a minimum wage. In one area—the federated area of which I have pretty full knowledge—we did gradually get the employers—to their credit be it said—to take an amenable line. But in South Wales the private owners, under whom the glories of private enterprise were developing, refused even to discuss the question. The same thing took place in Scotland, and in Durhan, and in Northumberland. Almost without exception every private owner refused even to discuss the question of a minimum wage with the workmen, although that minimum was 2s. per day for the boys, and 5s. per day, or an average of 25s. per week, for a man who had to maintain a wife and family. This was in 1912—only eight years ago! Discussion even was refused. A strike followed which placed the country, the whole nation, under villainous duress. We raised a Debate in the House. The right hon. Gentleman the then Prime Minister refused even to concede 2s. a day, or 5s. a day to a man, and this was applicable to hundreds of thousands of cases. Such was the real glory of private enterprise up to 1912. The year before the highest production was reached. How was that high production reached?
Not by improvements brought about by private ownership. Not by developments in mines which would have lessened the amount of human energy required and placed it upon machines. Not by improvements in the mines. As a matter of fact, the death rate kept as high as ever. The accident rate was as terrible as ever. If there had been real improvements, if private control and enterprise were justifying themselves, there would have been improvements in the mines; the death rate would have lessened, the accident rate—that most terrible thing in the whole country—would have been lessened. It never has lessened. It is as high to-day as ever. Terrible accidents, explosions, and a thousand and one things happen in the mines, upon which I will not dilate, because I do not want to speak as if I were an emotional man. But what I would say to the House is, that any industry which, on the one hand, professes to be capable of such glories to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded and the great mass production of nearly 300,000,000 tons, and, on the other, produces the other results of which I have spoken, is not such that this House should be called upon to encourage it.
It is, however, utterly impossible that we should go back to private enterprise—utterly impossible! Eight years ago I myself, on behalf of the party with which I was then associated, brought in a Bill for the nationalisation of the mines. Not because it was a fad on our part, but because we had a firm conviction that that which is due to the energy of no man, that that which is due to the bounty of Nature, that that which cannot be increased by the energy of any person, that that which has been laid in the earth by the act of no one individual, that that which is necessary to the well-being of the nation as a whole, should come into the ownership and control of the nation as a whole. There surely can be no moral objection to that statement. It is, indeed, admitted that we are going to buy coal for ourselves. Surely, then, why not work the coal for ourselves? I would submit that a Bill like this is only the precurser of very terrible trouble for the Government. If you buy out the royalty owners, and the nation, therefore, has a claim upon the minerals in the womb of the earth, if the shafts and engines belong to the coalowners, and if all the means whereby the coal can be reached and raised belong to a different person altogether from the royalty owner, I submit that that condition in itself is only the beginning of your real trouble.
When the War broke out it became, to an extent, perceived that ownership and control of enterprises upon which the very safety of the nation and the possibility of success depended could not be safely left in the hands of the private individual. It was not very long before—even when the country was in the very throes of its bitterest fate—private owners were haggling with their men as to very small increases in their wages. As to who nominally was in the right or wrong I am not prepared to say. I do say this, that when we really were fighting a conflict, the like of which has never been known in human history, that that surely was not the time for private ownership to engage in conflict with its workmen! It was not long before we were compelled to take over the management and control of the mines. Is there any right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench who will prove to this House that that which was essential for the safety and well-being of the nation in time of war is a thing less essential for the wellbeing of the nation in time of comparative peace—because, after all, it is only a condition of relative peace in which we are standing at the moment? A large aftermath of the War is still with us.
New visions have come into the minds of men and are developing day by day. Look at your White Paper. I join with my right hon. Friend in complimenting sincerely the Board of Trade upon their promptitude in the appearance of that Paper. It seems hardly more than a few days since the Act was placed on the Statute Book. I think we are entitled to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and the Gentlemen who are in the Ministry: they are entitled to our confidence and gratitude, particularly for the prompt action they have taken in the matter. If we really want to maintain peace in this essential industry, is it possible to achieve it by these proposals? Within twelve months from August next all effective control will practically disappear. I am not paying any attention to these small Committee points about the establishment of pit industries, which are pure dressing, and not very good at that. The central principle is bad. Take the case of South Wales. Under control a great deal of the passion and the friction among miners is allayed.
In the federated area. With the single exception of the strike in Yorkshire there has been no strike of any importance, and we have not had a strike in Lancashire which has affected more than 50 men since the War broke out. When you are speaking of a great industry embracing well over one million people, with all the passions and prejudices involved, you can only make large generalisations. The strike in Yorkshire we all regret, and nobody regrets it more than the Yorkshire people themselves. When you consider the vast mass of the people, the real urgency of the Yorkshire case, and the strong feeling of unfairness that the Yorkshire miners felt, you need not wonder there was a stoppage. I know that Lancashire people have not been rightly treated. I have gone into the whole matter for one-half of my life, but we managed to hold our men. We had repeated deputations and meetings behind the Speaker's Chair. We saw the Leader of the House, the Coal Controller, and all those holding responsible positions in the Government, and although we had deputations extending over weeks, we failed to receive what I know to be the right thing for Lancashire. Nevertheless, we curbed our desires, and we felt that the nation's claim must come first, and that is being felt very largely, as I know from my own close and intimate knowledge in the Midland counties, and it is not because there is not the material for trouble.
If you remove control on the 31st of August twelve months, and let the Lancashire people know that whereas the South Wales people are receiving on an average well over £60 a quarter the Lancashire man is only receiving £49 a quarter; that the South Wales man is receiving a wage 25 per cent. higher for working the same hours and working under similar onerous conditions, is there any power on earth can keep the industry at peace under such conditions when there is a positive loss in Lancashire of practically 4s. 8d. per ton, and in seven, eight, or even nine other coalfields substantial losses are being made? Is it not quite clear that you will have to raise the price of coal to the general public to such a degree as will make the least productive of the collieries pay, because that is the only condition under which they can continue to exist?
Prices will have to be raised to a paying level, and consequently those that are already paying will pay much better. Then, of course, will be raised once more the cry of profiteering. Again you will have the public rightly complaining that the withdrawal of control is costing them large sums of money. I think we shall all have a right to complain because the inevitable result will be that prices must be raised in order to make the least successful of the collieries pay and enormous profits will be added to those that are paying well already. It is because we feel that the Government in this case is making a cardinal error at the very beginning that we are opposing these proposals. I do not want to indulge in recrimination. The whole nation is told that in so far as statesmanship can provide them there are to be new conditions and we are never to go back to the old conditions. I believe those statements have been honestly made. I am sure statesmen on the platform in the country really say those things as language of conviction. But can it be possibly imagined that this country can hope to escape all the evils and indeed all the horrors of private ownership and control of the collieries if you are going back to the old conditions?
From 1874 right up to 1893, a period of 20 years, the history of coal mining is a history of industrial tragedies. County after county, sometimes half-a-dozen counties at once, have passed through the bitterest struggles. Let anybody read through the history of the coal-mining industry on its social and industrial side, and they will be filled with pity at the recital, and the position in which private ownership has landed that industry. The blame has always been put upon the men, but I tell this House that which I can prove, and it is, that the wages were such at one time that employers refused 2s. per day to the boy of 14, even in 1912, and that was for an average working week of five days. Taking the cases of the miner week by week, allowing for holidays and breakdowns in health, because the strongest of them must occasionally break down; taking all the fortuitous circumstances of the miner's life, he does not make more than five days per week, and 2s. per day or 10s. a week was refused for these boys before the War. That is the inner history of the coal-mining industry. There have been tens of thousands of homes broken up and constant havoc in the villages, and conflict with the military and the police, and riots. Hon. Members know exactly what I am speaking about. There is hardly a mining district which has not been visited by the policeman's baton, the bayonet of the military, and all the trouble which accompanies social disorder. You have to judge the results of the system as a whole, and you cannot make exceptions in the case of individuals.
We were hoping that we were starting out in this House to try and put into realisation some of the sentiments we have advocated on public platforms, and we were hoping that this great industry, with its great wealth, would become national property in the fullest sense, which I am sure is the keen desire of the people at large. I am sure that is the convinced opinion of the miners themselves. I am really sure that no such Bill as this can be made successful unless you have the willingness and the confidence of the miners, and I feel sure you do not possess that. It is because I feel this measure will become a dead letter unless you have the miners behind it to help to work it, and because I feel and know that the Government is following the same attitude in regard to this measure as they did with reference to the Bill for the better government of Ireland, that I join with my hon. Friends in doing what I can to secure the rejection of this Bill.
The last speaker has made an impassioned appeal to the House on an issue which, I believe, which most of the people of this country regard as dead. The hon. Member asks for the rejection of this measure on the ground that it is not nationalisation. He has made an earnest appeal for nationalisation on grounds which would extend nationalisation, not only to the ownership of the minerals, but to the ownership of the whole of the land of this country. He has talked of the possessions of these people in coal and the minerals in the earth, and he says that because they are put there by nature or Providence, and not by the act of man, they ought, therefore, to be the property of the nation at large. [HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear!"] I thought I had not misjudged the argument. That argument is equally applicable to the whole of the land of this country.
We all know that the party to which my hon. Friend (Mr. Walsh) belongs are in favour of the nationalisation of the means of production in this country. That is an issue upon which I for one, and which I believe a great majority of this House, in spite of what the hon. Member said, are convinced is the path to destruction It was with a pang of relief that this House heard not many months ago from the Prime Minister the considered position of the Government of this country that they would not have nationalisation. The real object of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace), which has been supported by the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. S. Walsh), is to defeat this Bill, because it will prevent nationalisation. So far as this Bill does prevent nationalisation, I thank God for it, and I believe a majority of the people of this country take a similar view. Is this Bill to be discussed this afternoon on the broad issue of nationalisation or no nationalisation. I do not think this House wants that. I think the House desires to consider this Bill on its merits and on the footing that nationalisation, as a solution of the mining question, so far as this Government and this House of Commons are concerned, has been finally rejected.
On that footing I believe this House will want to consider the provisions of this Bill to see if private ownership is to be the fundamental system under which the mining industry is to be carried on, what is the best way of carrying it on, and how far the Bill promotes that object. Addressing my mind to the problem how the Bill serves the purpose of enabling us to carry on the mining industry in this country to the greatest public advantage, and to the greatest advantage to all sections of the community, including that important section, the miners themselves, I am going to ask the House to look for a moment at one or two of its provisions. The measure, the hon. Member for the Ince Division (Mr. Walsh) says, proposes eventually to restore the system of private ownership, and he went on to declare that it is going to throw back the industry into the kind of private ownership—uncontrolled private ownership—which obtained in the year 1893, when the great strike took place. I join issue with the hon. Member. I say it does not. The great charter of the wages of the miners in this country, embodied in the Coal Mines (Minimum Wage) Act, 1913, and the charter as to their hours of employment, are left intact by this Bill. Under the Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1911, as every mining representative in this House knows, the miners achieved great additional protection, and that charter remains. This Bill does not upset it. Indeed, this Bill goes very much further in the direction of protecting the miners of this country. It is very largely designed, as I gather from its Clauses, to help the miners, and to talk as if we were throwing back the mining industry to the conditions of 1893, I venture to say is talking in terms of ancient Egyptian history.
Under the provisions of this Bill indeed, the Minister is given power for a year, at any rate, to continue the kind of control that there is to-day—the kind of control which the hon. Member has said has brought into the ranks of the mining industry such a sense of peace. For that year it will be possible for the permanent provisions of the Bill to be thought out and considered, and regulations made in order to enable them to work effectively. In addition, I invite the attention of the House to the extreme strength and width of the provisions made by the Bill in favour of the miners. Under this system all advisory committees, pit committees, district committees, area boards and the National Board are given power to deal with the wages question. Perhaps my right hon. Friend, the President of the Board of Trade, will follow me on this point. I want to have it clear. As I read the Bill all these committees and boards are given power to make recommendations on all questions affecting the welfare of the miners in the industry, including the difficult question of wages.
With that I am not concerned for the moment. I say it is proposed that these committees shall have that power, and when the National Board makes recommendations to the Minister, the Minister has power under Clause 14, if he thinks fit, to give directions requiring compliance therewith, either with or without modifications. My own view is that that is a great power to give to the Ministry—much too great a power. But it does not lie with hon. Members on the Labour Benches who say they have been so happy under Government control to oppose this Bill because the Government control is to be taken away. One clause gives the President of the Board of Trade or the Minister of Mines power to legislate on every conceivable subject affecting the mining industry, wages, hours, terms of employment, and so on, and to make it law by a stroke of his own pen. Even the hon. Member for Ince under that, surely, will have enough Government control. I venture to think that the attack on this Bill on the ground that it is throwing the industry back into the period of unadulterated private ownership without Government control or interference is without foundation. I pass, however, from that point. Assuming we get out of the way this great chimera of nationalisation and agree that this Bill is not a Bill to restore the industry to pure unadulterated, uncontrolled private ownership, let us consider it as a practical measure for improving the conditions of the industry. On that it is very important to note that in Clause 1 of the Bill its object is defined as:
For the purpose of securing the most effective development and utilisation of the mineral resources of the United Kingdom.
That is the first object of the Bill, and its second object is that for,
the safety and welfare of those engaged in the mining industry, it shall be lawful for His Majesty to appoint a Minister of Mines,
and so on. As to the second purpose, the safety and welfare of the workers, I think I have said all that is necessary for the moment. The existing provisions of the law are, I repeat, left intact. The Minister, in addition, is given very wide
powers to deal with matters affecting the safety and welfare of those engaged in the industry. Of the first object set forth in Clause 1, I find very little trace in the Bill itself. Indeed, the only trace I find is in Clause 16, which enables the Minister:
after consultation with a district committee or area board, or holding such other inquiry as he may think fit, to make schemes with respect to any group of coal mines as to the drainage thereof.
I really think that is the only Clause that can possibly be said to come under that heading, and I venture to surmise therefore that the first two lines of Clause 1 are an interesting survival of an earlier drafting of a Bill which it was proposed to put before Parliament, and which had for its object the development of the mineral resources of the kingdom. There is nothing conducive to the development of those mineral resources in this Bill, so far as I can see, except in the Clause I have referred to, unless it be the vague phrase in Clause 2, Sub-section (1), which allows the Minister "to take steps to carry out the purposes aforesaid." If under these interesting words we are to see the Ministry drafting a whole scheme of regulations for the complete development of the mineral resources of the United Kingdom, I would suggest that that is a subject which would be better dealt with in the House itself. Beyond that, however, there is nothing in this Bill. On the question of the proposal to make the person who is to be responsible for the conduct of affairs in connection with the Department on the part of His Majesty's Government a Minister, I personally think it is a mistake to create a new Minister. Indeed, I really do not quite follow how this Minister is to be a Minister under the Bill. He is a Minister who is to have various functions transferred to him, but, the Bill provides that he is to be a Minister under the Board of Trade. The right hon. Gentleman, in introducing the Bill, said the Minister was to be absolutely independent in regard to details that did not matter, but on questions of policy he is to be subject to the over-riding judgment of the President of the Board of Trade. I venture to submit to the House that the real essence of constitutional procedure in this country is that we should have a limited number of individuals at the head of the great Executive Departments of the country, each one of whom
is a Member of one House or the other and is responsible to Parliament, and that we do not want a vast number of semi-independent Ministers, because Parliamentary responsibilities will be frittered away if we have not got a limited number of individuals responsible for the various Departments under them. Take the case of mines. A question is to be put to the Minister, but the hon. Member who proposes to put it down will not be sure whether it is merely a detail of administration which can be answered by the Minister, or whether it is a question of policy which should be answered by the Board of Trade. Again, when we are dealing with the Board of Trade vote, are we to deal with the Ministry of Mines and censure the Minister of Mines only? If so, he will reply to the House, "I am not responsible for policy; do not blame me; it is the President of the Board of Trade." With that kind of divided responsibility the British Constitution will never work. I have very great sympathy with the system advocated some time ago by the hon. and gallant Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore), involving a comparatively small Cabinet of twelve Ministers having all the various Departments managed by under-secretaries under them. I believe that is a system of government that would really be far more consonant with the constitutional history and genius of this country than any other, and for these reasons I for one am opposed to giving this Under-Secretary the grandiose title of a Minister. We had better call him an Under-Secretary and have done with it.
A Committee appointed two years ago at the instance of the Prime Minister, of which I was Chairman, to deal with the question of the development of the mineral resources of this country, reported in favour of a Mining Department in which all the duties of the various Government Departments connected with coal mines could be taken together, but we advised strongly against having a Minister, as we did not think it necessary. I adhere to that opinion to-day, and if it is to be a mere question of name, I can only say it is a mistake to call a man a Minister who has no ministerial responsibility to this House. So much for the question of the Minister. I will only add this, that the Board of Trade has to do with a number of great industries—cotton, iron, steel, wool, and so on. As each of these industries comes forward in the future with various grievances, is each industry to be given a Minister? Are there to be Ministers for each one of them? I venture to think that that is not a sensible view to take of our constitutional machinery. The temporary powers proposed by the Bill are, of course, only the powers exercised by the Controller, and I do not think the House need waste any time over them. It is a mere question of their extension for a year, and is a committee point. The permanent powers which the Bill gives to the proposed Minister of Mines are, I think, the powers under the various Mines Regulations Acts, and are to-day vested in the Home Secretary. My Committee thought it would be best to increase the Department of the Home Office dealing with mines, as they have the staff there, but I think the Board of Trade is quite as good, provided that all the Home Office functions in relation to mines are transferred to it. The original idea was that there should be a department responsible for maintaining the statutory provisions, breach of which was a criminal offence involving a penalty, in the hands of the Home Secretary, rather than that they should be given to the Board of Trade. My own view, however, is that it would be better, really, to hand them over to the Board of Trade, and I think that that is a sound proposal. We cannot deal, as it seems to me—and this, perhaps, is one more reason against the appointment of a Minister—with broad national questions such as housing, health, education or labour, by a system of watertight departments defined by particular industries. There is bound to be overlapping, and it seems to me that you cannot create a Ministry of Mines for the purpose of giving it the duty of dealing with various social, economic and industrial questions of that type. If that is done, the machinery of Government will get into a hopeless mess.
This Bill does not contain any provisions for the purpose of developing the mineral resources of this country, but that is provided in another Bill which has come down from another place, and has been printed and read the first time in this House. It is entitled "An Act to make better provision in the national interests for the production and development of Coal and certain other Minerals, and for purposes connected therewith." It is true that it is limited to coal, stratified ironstone, shale, and fire-clay, but I hope that, if the right hon. Gentleman replies to this Debate, he will deal with that Bill in his remarks. It does deal very effectively with some of the main problems upon which the effective development of the mineral resources of our country depends. It was based upon the Report of the Committee over which I had the honour to preside, and the broad principle of that Report was this: Under the present system of ownership there are, as we pointed out, many defects which prevent the development of our resources. No one in his senses ever thought that the system of private ownership was perfect and free from defects. It has many defects, but in our view they are curable, or, at any rate, after you have dealt with them in the best way you can, you get a result which is heaven as compared with the alternative which nationalisation would introduce. My Committee considered the industry, and looked carefully through our experience —and the Committee was a very experienced one—to see what were the reasons which had impeded development in this country hitherto; and we gave a list of 14 different causes which prevented development. Most of them centred, in one way or another, on the unwillingness or inability of individual proprietors to do what in the national interest it was right that they should do. There were men who were unwilling to let coal or to sell coal, men who were unwilling to give wayleaves, men who were unwilling to allow the surface to be let down, and so on. We also dealt with the case of collieries being badly laid out through the companies being unable to get a suitable "take" of coal, through the boundaries being unsatisfactory, or through the collieries being inefficiently managed. We reported that in those cases it was in the national interest that compulsory orders should be made, allowing colliery workers, who are willing and competent to work, to get the coal or other mineral, whatever it might be, in such a way as to conduce to the successful and safe development of the particular mine in question. That proposal was just as much in the interest of the men as of the owners, and it was still more in the interest of the nation at large. We had evidence that there was not a huge or exaggerated, but a very considerable loss of minerals through these defects which were due to the system of private ownership. We said that that must be prevented; that we must have a system of lay-out so that development starts on the right lines from the beginning in a new field or a new mine; that much coal has been unnecessarily left in barriers, which ought to be compulsorily worked where it is safe, and so on. Our principle was that there should be a Mining Department whose duty it would be to investigate all these problems, who would be in contact with owners, colliery workers and others, and would advise and make recommendations. We did not, however, propose to allow the Mining Department to be a judicial authority, or to supersede Parliament in making compulsory orders to take land. We said that there must be an authority, independent of everyone, representing the general public, to whom the function of making these compulsory orders should be entrusted. We went further and said that, on the whole, we thought it better that Parliament should be the body responsible for the appointment of the subsidiary Sanctioning Authority, as we called it; and we proposed a Joint Committee of the two Houses of Parliament, nominated by a Selection Committee of the two Houses, who would sit as a Sanctioning Authority, acting by panels and making compulsory orders.
There was another Committee over which my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Betterton) presided, which dealt with similar questions so far as the non-ferrous metal mining industry was concerned, and they reached the same result. They reported that they agreed broadly and in the main with the conclusions of my Committee. They agreed with our list of 14 defects, and they agreed broadly with the proposals that we made for an independent authority for making compulsory orders. They said, however, that on the whole they thought it would be better to have a fixed tribunal, on the analogy of the Railway and Canal Commission, to make compulsory orders. My Committee thought it would be best to keep the matter in the hands of Parliament, and to allow orders made by a Sanctioning Committee of Parliament to come before this House on a big question of policy. That, however, is a detail. The essence of the Reports of both Committees—and they were both unanimous—was that the root solution for the big difficulties that have been met with hitherto in the development of the mineral resources of this country, was an independent Sanctioning Authority with power to make compulsory orders wherever it was in the national interest that such orders should be made. This Session, in another place, a Bill was introduced to give effect to the proposals of my Committee. That Bill is down for Second Reading in this House for next Monday, but hitherto the Government have not seen their way to give any time to its discussion. It has been carefully discussed through all its stages in the House of Lords, and has been sent down here for the consideration of this House. I say that that Bill does meet the case, and provides machinery for the satisfactory development of the mineral resources of this country in accordance with the national interest, so that, in the future, private interests should on no occasion be allowed to interfere with the development which the nation wants. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill, does that Bill carry out the purpose of his own Bill, as expressed in the first two lines of Clause 1, or does it not? I do not mean in detail; I am not discussing Committee points; but I do contend that there is a sound and sane solution of the chief of these difficulties, and that, with the assistance of such provisions, this Bill would be made ten thousand times a better Bill than it is to-day. The Government have been promising for months, almost for years, to deal with the mining industry, but they have been so long about it that I cannot help thinking that they have considerable difficulty in making up their minds as to what is the best thing to be done. Here is a practical proposal for their consideration. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman will tell this House that he disagrees with the main idea of that Bill. He will say, no doubt, that the Government must consider it; no doubt he will tell us that the Government has considered it. I have put down a Motion which would enable this House to deal with it, and to give some kind of expression to the effect that the course I have indicated in my Motion is a reasonable one, namely, that this House should express unwillingness to read a Second time this Bill which is now before the House, until a promise has been given by the Government that time will be given for the discussion of the Bill from the other Chamber, with a view, if this House approves of that Bill when it is discussed on Second Reading, to the two Bills going to the same Committee. That is all I ask. I am not asking that the terms of the other Bill should be prejudged in its favour. I merely make this practical proposal. Here are a set of proposals carefully thought out, after much evidence had been taken, by the very skilled Committee of which I had the honour to be Chairman. Those proposals have run the gauntlet of the other Chamber. It is not courteous to the other Chamber for the Government to say in this House, "We will treat that as waste paper; you can put it in the waste paper basket, because we are not going to find time this Session in this House for a word to be said about it." By a little exercise of in genuity on the Order Paper, I think I have put myself in order in discussing it to the extent I have. The Bill can be obtained in the Vote Office, and I ask hon. Members following me to rub in this point, that here is a practical proposal that ought to be discussed, and I hope the House will discuss it.
I rise to oppose the Bill upon grounds differing very much from those proposed by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brace). It has some things to commend it, but there are others which are very wrong, and the House ought to know some things that concern some Members of the community in connection with the Bill. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Horne) for his very fine, able speech. Of course I could expect nothing else from him, because he has been brought up in a community where he has been surrounded by collieries and mines, and he has in his youth, I am sure, known a good deal, not only of the mining community in general, but of the details of some of the pits working round about him. I was a little disappointed in some of the statements he made in connection with the Bill. He told us the principal object was in order that the Government might not be found sleeping when 31st August came, when control would cease, and I had hoped from that that he would have confined the Bill entirely to that matter It is impossible to take control off on 31st August because it would bring the coal trade into chaos, and none of us want to have that. In connection with the Ministry of Mines, speaking from knowledge, I have to commend the Government upon the bold step they have taken at last in providing a Ministry of Mines. It would have been better for some things if it had been a separate Department altogether, but seeing that the Government have made up their minds to begin in that way by having him an Under-Secretary, probably under the Board of Trade, it is all to the good when one remembers just now under the Home Secretary all the various things connected with mining are to be brought to his notice. I have never been able to see why the Home Secretary should have anything whatever to do with mining except in so far as he makes himself responsible for the prosecution of mine managers, colliery owners, and miners in general. Beyond that, I do not see that it is any use at all having a mining Department kept under the Home Secretary. Therefore I welcome that part of the Bill in so far as we shall have a separate Ministry of Mines.
In connection with Clause 4 there appears to me to be something very far wrong in the advisory committee. Only one-fourth of the total committee of 25 persons, including the Minister of Mines, are to be mine-owners, and on the technical mining side only one-third. The rest is to consist of men who are outside the business altogether. I cannot for the life of me see why any industry should be controlled or advised by any committee the members of which are not connected with the trade itself. You have here men who are employers in other industries and workers in other industries, I suppose simply because they burn coal, and because they burn coal they are entitled to come in and have some say in the management of the mines. It appears to me it would be as wise to ask that because all of us eat bread we should therefore be asked to join an advisory committee to tell the baker the best way to bake it so that it might suit our palate. I do not think any industry in the country has been or will be so badly saddled in connection with its operations as the coal industry will be if this advisory committee is set up. I do not see why it ought to be set up at all. I hope the Minister of Mines will be a Member of Parliament. He may be, and I hope he will be, and that when he is here we mining people who have any grievance shall be able to have it put right in connection with any of these matters. I should like to ask in connection with pit committees whether they will include surface workers, who have just as much reason to be put on them from the point of view of safety as the persons underground, and I should like to know whether it is contemplated that they shall have a say in the matter.
Clause 9 provides for the setting up of pit committees, and I want to raise a very strong protest, not because I do not believe in them—I believe it is a very essential thing to have them, along with the managers, to do certain things—but in regard to their functions, I want to take strong exception on behalf of the profession to which I belong—the profession of mining engineers and colliery managers. At least half the committee must be workers in the mine, and the other half represent the managers of the mine, and looking at the definition Clause, the management consists of the manager, the under-manager, deputies and other officials. In Scotland the firemen had an association of their own. Not very long ago they were compelled by the Miners' Federation in the district to join the Miners' Union, against their wishes, and to-day they are actually members of the Miners' Union. If the workers are to be in a preponderating majority on the pit committees it is most unfair to the managers and others. We find that the functions of the Committee are to provide for the safety, health and welfare of the workers. I wonder why it is that the pit committees should interfere in the question of safety. Under the Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1911, Clauses 29 to 41, give the question of safety entirely into the hands of this Coal Mines Bill. I wonder whether or not it is contemplated by the Minister in charge that all the functions relating to safety at present undertaken by the mines inspectors of the various districts are to be abrogated and handed over to this pit committee, because if that be so it appears to me that there must be a clashing of interests between the pit committees and the mines inspectors. Surely it is not meant that this matter should go as far as that, and that the pit committees should have any voice whatever in the question of safety, which is left entirely to the Mining Department now through its mines inspectors.
Then it speaks about the health of the miners. I cannot understand what that means. It cannot mean the health of the miners generally. It can only mean their health so far as mining operations are concerned. The health of the miners must be kept up and it is a breach of the law if any colliery manager allows the ventilation to get so bad that the men's health will be injured. Therefore I cannot see in what way the pit committee can interest themselves in the health of the miners. A great improvement has taken place in this respect during the last 30 years. It was quite a common thing when I was a boy to see men of 45 troubled with asthma simply because there had been no ventilation, but since the Mines Act of 1872 and various Acts since, the ventilation has so improved that you never in any mining district see a miner going about in the least short of breath. They are all strong, healthy men. The children in the mining villages compare favourably with children in the towns because of their fine, healthy colour. They are all strong boys and girls. Some of our mining districts in Scotland are so high that they say there are nine months of blustery weather and three of winter. In some of these districts there are no weak people at all. The weak people have all died off and the strong only remain.
The maintenance and increase of output are also to be in the hands of these pit committees. What does maintenance of output mean? I think it means, first of all, that there must be development to maintain the output. You cannot possibly get maintenance or increase of output without development. Development is entirely a scientific principle. At present, mines are developed by getting safety appliances, by the best means of cutting coal, by machinery, and the best means of transporting the coal from the coal face to the shaft and from the shaft to the surface. All these are brought about by scientific and technical means and no other, and the moment you begin to interfere with development the colliery is bound to go back. It is just because there has been no development in recent years that the output to-day has, to a very large extent, decreased, and I have no doubt at all that in the future, and very shortly, I hope, by the maintenance of development we shall have the output very largely increased. That means that if the pit committee, consisting of workers who are practical men only and know nothing about the scientific side, is to dictate to the manager how he is to develop his colliery and bring about increased output, and the various things connected with coal mines, I am bound to tell the House, on the authority of the managers themselves, that they will refuse to have anything to do with the pit committees. It is not because they do not want the pit committee. They want the pit committee to do what belongs to them, but the pit committee must not interfere with the management. They will not have that on any grounds, because they say, "We have to take the decision of these men into account. They ask us to do certain things. We do those things, but when things have been done according to their suggestions, something happens, a breach of the law takes place, and these men will not take the responsibility. Therefore, we refuse to take the responsibility of carrying out the Mines Act if these men have to come in and dictate to us."
While the owners have no objection to the pit committees in regard to questions of better wages, the settlement of disputes and so on, they absolutely refuse to have anything to do with the pit committee which will be given power under paragraph (b) of Sub-section 2 of Clause 9 in regard to other matters. I thought that perhaps the reason why the Miners' Federation was objecting strongly to this Bill was in connection with paragraph (d). This Committee will have power to settle disputes arising in connection with the mines. That is exactly the point where, I suppose, the Miners' Federation will join issue with the pit committee, because the pit committee will have full control in settling disputes, and that will leave out the miners' agents. Perhaps it might not be a bad thing for the various mines if in some cases some of these unwise agents were left out. As a Mines Inspector I can recall disputes which could easily have been settled between the manager and the men themselves, but for the foolish intervention of some of these wild men who came in at the last moment and upset things. It might not be a bad thing if this Clause remains, because while it will give power to the pit committee to settle disputes, and it would keep outside these men who very often come in at the last moment and cause far more mischief.
I come now to the question of the regulations. I suppose the regulations are drafted first of all by the Minister of Mines, but I am not sure whether or not it would be a good thing to leave that entirely in the hands of the Minister of Mines. I do not see why the Minister of Mines should have the power to draw up regulations in connection with the various mines. If these regulations are drawn up, they ought first of all to be submitted to a committee of the men and the owners, who could discuss the whole question as to which would be the better way to bring about the regulations. You will often find that the man at the head of affairs in the Ministry of Mines is not a practical man, but a politician, and he is not able to undertake the duties connected with practical work. Therefore, if he is to draw up regulations, it would be a good thing if, before he puts the regulations into operation, he goes to the coal owners and the managers and the miners to ascertain exactly the practical side, and how things can be carried out.
In connection with Clause 9, Subsection (4), a very curious thing happens. Under Section 16 of the Coal Mines Act, 1911, power was given to employ two men to go round the mines to make an inspection once a month and to ascertain if the Coal Mines Regulation Act was being carried out and also to see as to the safety of the mines. I am very sorry to say that, so far as my experience goes, the miners themselves did not take much advantage of that Section. They left it very much in abeyance, but I am glad to say that upon most occasions when they did make inspection they found, as a rule, very little to complain of, and because of that they thought there was very little need for them to go round. These men had to be paid by the Miners' Federation. I find that under this Bill two men, one representing the owners and one representing the men, have to go round and make an inspection. These men are under the pit committee, and have to be paid. This has been put under the pit committee because in the past the inspection has proved a failure, for two reasons: in the first place, because the men were not very willing to do it, and, secondly, because the payment had to come out of the Miners' Federation, and that always meant taking money from their funds. I am not very sure whether or not, even with the payment that is proposed under the Bill to these men for making the inspection, it will be a success.
In connection with the Districts Committee and the other Committees, it does not state in the Bill who will nominate the Committees, whether it will be the Minister or the colliery owners, the managers and the workmen. That is a question that ought to be settled. In the Schedule we find that the District Board is composed of 24 districts. It is a very curious commentary upon the present system of mining inspection that just now there are six divisions, and those six divisions have six divisional inspectors. Under the old system there were 12 districts, and those 12 districts were divided in such a way as to have 12 different inspectors. As one who has some knowledge on this matter, I say that the whole system of divisional inspectors has proved a dismal failure, and the sooner the Minister of Mines, when he gets into harness, gives up the divisional inspector system the better it would be in the interests of the safety of the mines. I suggest that those 24 districts ought to be divided up so as to have 24 different mines inspectors. At the present time the divisional inspectors are very hard worked with their clerical work, and they are seldom able to go down a pit. Under the old system it was an unusual thing if the inspector did not go down at least four times a week. Sometimes the divisional inspectors do not see a pit once in a month. The whole thing has proved a dismal failure, and a very costly thing at that. It would be cheaper and more efficient if there were 24 district inspectors, instead of the divisional inspectors under the present system.
The area board is a very curious thing. The remuneration of the workers is to be settled by the area board. It is quite right that there should be some system whereby the wages should be paid upon profits. I have always held that it is a great mistake to pay men's wages upon the selling price. The proposal in the Bill is a step in the right direction—that the area board should have the power to settle the wages of the men, not upon the selling price at the pit head, but upon the profits made in the various collieries. The proposal in regard to drainage is most important. At the present time there are districts where huge blocks of coal lie under water. If one huge pumping station was put up, and the whole water was pumped, it would be a great saving to the country, a great help to the industry, and a great help to the people who live in the district, and I commend this part of the Bill. It is the most sensible thing in the Bill, except, perhaps, the first four Clauses. I am quite sure that arrangements could easily be made in many cases whereby the various owners of minerals and those who undertake to lease the minerals could pay a share of the cost. I should like to ask the Minister whether this Bill applies to the whole of the mines under the Coal Mines Act. To-day some gentlemen from Scotland have made a representation to me as to whether shale mines come under the operation of the Bill. From one part of the Bill one would think that they do not, but in the definition Clauses we find that the definition Clause states that this Bill applies to all the mines in connection with the Coal Mines Act, 1911. The mines covered there are coal mines, ironstone mines, oil shale mines, and fireclay mines. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will state to which of these the Bill applies: whether it applies only to coal mines or to mines producing oil shale.
While I am in opposition to the Bill I do not want to carry my opposition so far as to vote against it, because I think that several Clauses are necessary just now. If the Bill had confined itself entirely to the question of bringing in something in order to get over the difficulty I have outlined I should have no objection in the matter. In connection with the Sankey Report, it was stated that ld. per ton should be devoted to improving the conditions under which the miners live. In the Bill that recommendation is carried out for five years, and it will mean £5,000,000. Reference is made to the housing question, and on this point I am very sorry that an impression was left upon the minds of many people by the evidence given by the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. Robertson) that the miners' houses in Scotland were of a very bad character. I quite admit that many of the things that the hon. Member said before the Commission were to the point, and that there were colliery districts where some of the houses were certainly not a credit to the place. They are not so bad now as they were many years ago. The hon. Member quoted a report from Dr. Russell, of Glasgow, which was made in 1888 in connection with single-roomed houses. He gave a report upon the slums of Glasgow and it would appear that in giving that statement the hon. Member did not make it clear that it did not apply to the miners' houses in Scotland, and many decent miners have come to me and have repudiated the statement and the suggestion that their houses should be looked upon in the same way as the slums of Glasgow. They are bad enough, but I do not think any of them could be compared to the slums of our big cities. I have been in the homes of many people in the various mining districts. Probably I have been in more of these homes than any hon. Member, and while I have seen many houses that were not exactly what one would like them to be, I have seen houses even of the single-roomed type where it was a great honour to sit down at the table in the kitchen and have a cup of tea. You could have taken your tea in any part of the home because of the cleanliness of the women who had charge of the home. Having seen that class of mining people I regret very much that the statement should have gone forth that there were mining houses in Scotland that were at all to be compared to the slums in Glasgow and the big cities. It is not the case. So far as the miners themselves are concerned, they are not to be compared with ordinary men in the various cities. They are far above the ordinary men of the city in every respect, and while here and there there are some who are not a credit to their class, on the whole the mining population have proved themselves to be sturdy, hardy, decent men, and above all they have proved themselves in the great War to be men above men in connection with the noble deeds they did in saving our country from disaster.
The right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Horne) alluded to the fact that there was a strange mixture of names heading the Motions which are on the Paper. Judging from the speeches which we have heard, I suspect that this will be still more accentuated in the Division Lobby later on. I think that the opinion is shared by many Members that we should make a mistake if we examined the present Bill simply from the point of view of the mine owner on one hand and the miner on the other. I hope that hon. Members will agree that we shall better discover the merits and demerits of the Bill if we examine it critically, certainly from the standpoint of the mining industry in particular, but also from the standpoint of the nation as a whole. Underlying the Bill, as the right hon. Gentleman indicated, is the desire on his part to bring about conditions of greater peace and greater prosperity in the mining industry as a result of the closer co-operation of the different interests represented in it. I think that we are all agreed that with the closer co-operation of those interested in industry, not merely the mining industry, but all the industries, we should have improved conditions in which peace and prosperity would be largely increased.
But there is a real co-operation and a sham co-operation. As to which this Bill represents I think that the best test to apply is, would anyone after careful study of the Bill agree that its terms are such as to attract private enterprise to mining? Will it or will it not attract money to be invested in the mining industry? I submit another test. Whether it will or will not attract private enterprise the Bill will require to satisfy two conditions. We should require to discover in the cooperation proposed in the Bill some proof that we shall have identity of view among the different interests of on these different Committees, with regard to the legitimacy of private investment in mining although I know that in these days it is the fashion to affect to scorn considerations of finance. I am speaking as one who cannot be suspected of being a millionaire, but, after all, the validity of a proposal with regard to industry here or elsewhere is, will it attract investment or stifle investment? The second condition which the Bill would require to satisfy is, would these proposals if given effect to preserve, not for selfish purposes, but for the benefit of the nation, the full dynamic force of individuality? Will the Bill preserve for the nation unhampered to any undue extent the courage, enterprise and ability and technical skill of the individual? I should like very much to support this measure, promoted as it is by the right hon. Gentleman, were it for no other reason than for the days of auld lang syne. But the right hon. Gentleman will not mistake me when I say that applying the tests which I have suggested to these proposals I find that they fail to satisfy them.
With regard to the identity of view on the subject of finance, the attitude of hon. Members opposite is a complete answer. You cannot have identity of view when, on the one hand, you have private enterprise supported, and, on the other hand, you have nationalisation advocated. I do not complain for the moment of the demand for nationalisation. I only want to show how with this demand it is impossible on those committees representing the management and the owners. on the one hand, and the miners on the other, to have that identity of view which is a basic consideration and must be present at the basic factor if we are to have the peace and prosperity sought by the right hon. Gentleman. With regard, again, to the matter of interference with the individual, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman can he really argue that private enterprise will be attracted to the industry when the balance is to be against those investing in the industry, because, make no mistake—I am making no complaint, but trying simply with a kind of neutral mind to examine the Bill—the balance is against the man investing his money? There is an appearance of equality. There are five men from the miners and five from the management and the coalowner, with a chairman nominated by the politicians, but it comes to this, that you have put in a mixture which is bound to interfere with the technical and financial ability which are necessary for the conduct of any concern.
If I were asked to choose between nationalisation, on the one hand, and the proposals of this Bill on the other, much as I am opposed to nationalisation, I would support nationalisation. Once I examine this Bill critically—I would ask the right hon. Gentleman when replying to answer this point—I am bound to come to the conclusion that, whatever intention the right hon. Gentleman may have with regard to the preservation of private enterprise in mines, the Bill inevitably leads to nationalisation. He has two splendid guides which he might have followed in framing his proposals. He has set up a system of private ownership where you have dual control. I do not see any Irish Members present from either party, but had they been present I think they would have endorsed my view, that perhaps our troubles in Ireland to-day would be non-existent but for the unhappy fact that the land of Ireland for centuries was under the pernicious system of dual ownership or control It proved a failure there and has brought endless trouble, and trouble which has grown to the most aggravated form today. That was one guide which the right hon. Gentleman might have followed. We have another example nearer home which he might have followed. I submit to the right hon. Gentleman that by drying up private investments in mining he is going to repeat for this country in mining the experience which we have had in the matter of housing.
I know that there are Members of this House who pretend to ignore what really did cause the cessation of investment in house property, but they have had no experience of house property. They have never been engaged in buying or selling house property. But every man who has had any experience knows the cause of what has happened to kill investments in house property. From that cause rents rose, capital values went up for the time being, insanitary dwellings were occupied, and, at the very time when you were bleating about ministries of health and asking for millions for the Ministry of Health, you were pursuing a course of legislation which encouraged insanitary conditions, compels the intervention of the State at a cost to the country of hundreds of millions of pounds. That mistake the hon. Gentleman is now repeating in the matter of mining, and that would be far more fatal to our country than the mistake in housing. After all the housing difficulty will be redeemed in time either by the strength of the Government or partly by that and partly by emigration, but you will not redeem the same mistake in mining. You are going to dry up private investment. Coal being a basic factor in our national industry you must get coal. If coal is not to be raised by means of private investment, in privately-owned mines, then it must be raised by the nation itself, and then you arrive at the point of nationalisation. The one touch of symmetry about the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman is this, that swearing he would never consent to the proposals of nationalisation made by hon. Members opposite he does indirectly consent, and this Bill is to be the precursor of another Bill that goes bald-headed without apology, without excuse, at tremendous cost and at tremendous risk to the country for nationalisation of royalties.
While I regard nationalisation as the lesser evil I wish, with the overwhelming support of the population of that industrial county (Linlithgow) which I represent, and with I believe the support of the majority of the miners of that county, to say that the objections which I have to urge against nationalisation are these. First of all there is the loss of freedom to the miner. It was only the other day I recovered from a colliery in my own district a journal dated about the year 1750, and there were some entries in that journal that were astonishing. There was no suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman's control board, but there were continuously through the journal entries such as these: "Paid gill (ale) for the soldiers for bringing back colliers who had bolted to Preston Pans." The miner was then to all intents and purposes a slave. To-day you are going to add some gentility to the slavery, but under nationalisation the miner is destined to lose his freedom. If he is working in a mine and he finds the presence of a particular overseer or manager objectionable he can leave today. Can any of the miners' leaders go to the country and tell the men that under nationalisation they will have the same freedom to change their pits as they enjoy to-day?
It matters nothing, of course, to the men who sit on cushioned seats in this House, but it makes all the difference to the man working in the pit. Nationalisation, moreover, is bound to lead to a diminution in the security and safety of the mines. At present, under a system of private enteprise, you have the Home Office, with its officials, critically following every action of the management in regard to safety. But if the management of the mines is under national control, it will only be human nature if there arises such a camaraderie between the one set of officials and the other, that is bound to militate against the security of the mines. May I add that in case of nationalisation the miner would run the risk of becoming a kind of industrial Ishmaelite. If a miners' strike is in progress now, the sympathy of every worker goes out to the miner, because of a suspicion that he is not getting his fair share of the profits. The miner, under present conditions, has the whole moral support of the industrial world. Nationalise the industry to-morrow, and what is the miners' position? The volume of feeling will be against the miner instead of for him, inasmuch as everybody is a consumer of coal-every housewife as well as every manufacturer; and that will tend, not to raise the miners' wages, but to depress them. Every increase in wage will be recorded as a particular privilege to him, and the result of that constant pressure of public opinion will inevitably be that the miners' wage will tend to a lower level rather than a higher.
Am I to understand from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and from the President of the Board of Trade, that the only alternatives before the country are the proposals of the Bill or nationalisation? I deny that absolutely. I think I may venture a very safe guess, that in his scanty leisure the right hon. Gentleman has perused the pages of Mr. Buckle. Time was when he affected to be a disciple of Mr. Benjamin Disraeli. I am afraid he has strangely misinterpreted his Master if I may estimate the conclusions he has reached by the terms of this Bill. May I remind him that Mr. Disraeli gave a distinct lead to the country in regard to co-operation in industry, a co-operation where you could have the identity of view of which I have spoken, and a co-operation in which we could have preserved the whole individual liberty of the citizen. Mr. Disraeli's gospel was, "Help people to help themselves." The politician who pretends to discover social progress in any other gospel is little less than a political quack. The only function a statesman has is to help individuals to help themselves. You had it both negatively and positively from Mr. Disraeli. On the side of spending you had it in the co-operative movement. Then trade unions got their charter. The trade union began with the idea that it should defend the worker against the brutality, it might be, of capital, during a stage in the history of our country, where wealth was too often simply sweat transmitted into gold. But the trade union movement was also established for a very much greater purpose. Just as on the spending side the co-operative touch was the spending unit, so on the creative side the trade union should be the investing unit. It is simply humbugging the situation for the trade unions now to kick against the economic pricks. They may cause a great deal of trouble and unrest, and under different conditions they may provoke something like revolution, but sooner or later they are bound to recognise natural laws. They have the road open in the trade union movement. That movement has lingered far too long about its earlier stages. It is time for it to move on. It has the example of success of the co-operative movement on the spending side, and it is far too hestitating on the part of trade union leaders if they cannot, with that example, accept trade unions as the investing unit on the creative side.
We are all agreed that with the advance of education and the change of times the worker should see much more intimately the inside of industry, that he should see the wheels go round, but he must not be subject to a kind of political nystagmus. He wants his eyesight clear, and in the great trade union movement he has an opportunity for identifying himself with industry in such a way that, with greater knowledge, suspicion will be dispelled. What is more, he will then join with skilled workers, with the trained mind in industry, he will then support a system which will attract capital more and more, and attract it on a constantly reduced rate of return, so that with the increased wealth resulting from the greater peace and prosperity, a greater share will fall to the wage earners of the country. That is the line I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman. Whatever mandate the Government received at the last election, they received no mandate from the country to subvert our system of private enterprise in industry. That system may have its blemishes. After all, it is a system which has brought to this old land of ours a prosperity almost equal to the prosperity attending newer and richer countries. It has also allowed us individual liberty, and has given equal opportunity to equal gifts. I do not deny that the system has some blemishes, but it is a system which, running alongside natural law as it does, is capable of being brought into harmony with every ambition of the worker.
In introducing this Bill the President of the Board of Trade did well to remind the House of the importance of the mining industry. In our discussion I think we ought to keep as near as possible to the Bill and to the issues raised by the Bill. In telling us of the importance of the mining industry the right hon. Gentleman pointed out that there were over one million men employed in it, that the wages paid were £270,000,000, and that the value of the product was £440,000,000. I wish he had gone just a little further and told of the terrible death and accident rate in the industry. From 1907 to 1916 the average number killed per year was 1,240, and every year there are between 160,000 and 170,000 men seriously injured and away from work for more than seven days. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to quote Mr. Hodges, Secretary of the Miners' Federation. What that had to do with the Bill it was very difficult to understand. It is not the question of what Mr. Hodges said or what Mr. Hodges' theories are that is before the House, but this Bill. The hon. Member who spoke last said that if the mining industry is nationalised it was the thin edge of the wedge for the nationalisation of all other industries. If the nationalisation of the mining industry is good for the country it ought not to alarm anyone. and if the nationalisation of all industries is good for the country, it ought to be a matter for congratulation. I am sorry that the hon. Member for North Lanark (Mr. R. McLaren) is not in his place, because before leaving the House he made an attempt, that has been made repeatedly in other quarters, to whitewash the deplorable conditions under which the miners are compelled to live in the districts. I am not fond of reminding people that I have lived in a mining village, or that I have worked in a coal mine, but I put my experience of working in a coal mine alongside the experiences of the hon. Member for North Lanark. I was engaged as a miner from boyhood to manhood, not as a mines inspector, and latterly, probably, as a shareholder in colliery companies prepared to whitewash deplorable conditions. I would not have referred to this at all if it had not been dragged in. I prefer to take the Medical Officer's Report for the county rather than the repudiation from the hon Member for Northern Lanarkshire, who evidently is blind to the conditions under which the miners work. He said my quotation of 1888 was ancient. As a matter of fact, the quotations from Dr Russell's Report, made in 1888, are more true to-day in the mining villages of Lancashire even than they were in 1888. In the county of Lanarkshire there are certain mining districts well known to the hon. Gentleman, and I believe in the division which he represents. He referred to the health of the miners, and said that there was no asthma. There is a more serious disease. We find that there are housewives 51, domestics 24, miners 46, and scholars 87 affected with tuberculosis No housewife, no matter how careful she may be, and I am as proud as any man inside or outside this House of our mining community and how they endeavour to live under the conditions, can turn her single apartment in a three or four apartment house. We discover thousands upon thousands of these people living under these conditions, with no wash-house, no coal-house, the coal stored under the bed, and in many cases six, seven, or eight persons to the apartment, and in other cases people affected with tuberculosis, and not only four occupying one room, but four occupying the same bed. How the hon. Member, knowing what he does about the housing conditions, and how there has been an outcry from pulpit and platform against them, can come into this House and endeavour to whitewash the coalowners who have those places for the miners to live in is more than I can understand of any individual who claims to place the truth before the House. This brings into prominence the evidence given before a Royal Commission. If hon. Members doubt the statements we make as to the conditions of the miners in their houses, they have only got to consult the Royal Commission on Housing in Scotland and the Medical Officer's Report, and they can verify the conditions under which these people are compelled to live.
In opposing this Bill I hope we do not do so merely for the sake of criticism. I think it can be said of the Labour party, and I hope it will continue to be said of them, that when any Bill comes before this House, no matter from what party or the colour of the politician who brings it forward, we are prepared to consider it on its merits, and we do not merely oppose a Bill for the purpose of making political capital. We oppose this Bill because we honestly and sincerely believe that inside a very short time it would lead the mining industry into chaos, disorder, and a series of industrial strikes such as we have never had before in the mining industry of this country. As was rightly said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace), the real crux of this Bill is contained in Clause 11. It is perfectly true that in Clause 1 it is proposed to create a Ministry of Mines and to appoint a Minister of Mines. I should like to know what are to be the qualifications of the new Minister. A great deal has been said against nationalisation, but one thing is certain and that is, whenever labour has a dominant voice in the selection of a Minister, they will appoint an individual to that position who has knowledge of the industry he is supposed to carry on. Clause 11 proposes that the respective districts are to deal with wages. Why should a miner merely because he happens to work in Bristol or Somerset or one of the poorer coalfields, have different remuneration from that of the individual who works in the richer coalfields? No matter how much may be said against, the miners, they are very fair-minded on this question.
Yes. The miners are not out for any scramble in connection with this matter, as evidently the coal-owners are. The miners of South Wales are prepared to allow the extra value of the coal there to help to make up the wages of the miners in the more poorly-situated coalfields. We were told when something from 1893 was quoted, that it was ancient history. Wise men always endeavour to guide their conduct by the experience of the past. In 1893 the miners of the Midlands were on strike against a reduction in wages, and no sooner was that strike settled than the miners in Scotland in 1894 were up against a reduction in wages. In 1898 the men in the South Wales coalfield were out for 22 weeks against a reduction in wages, and if this Bill comes into operation we will at once have, and indeed, must have, demands for reductions in wages in the less favourably situated mining districts. I am afraid that that will not lead to a greater production of coal or the development of the mining industry.
I sincerely hope the Government will take warning from men who, although they may be in favour of nationalisation, are second to none in their desire for the welfare of the nation to which they are proud to belong. There are to be pit committees, district committees, and a central committee under this scheme, and, after all is said and done about nationalisation, the miner who asks himself a question. It has been said by the Member for North Lanark (Mr. R. McLaren), what has the miner got to do with the regulations for safety. I reply that he ought to be more concerned about safety than anyone else. The miner brings into the mining industry his life. The owner brings in his money. The miner who puts his life into the industry puts in a good deal more than the man who only puts in his £. s. d. The miner, as he is the person first concerned, should be the first consulted, and his view should be the most heard in regard to the management of the mines so far as safety is concerned. As I have said, he asks himself a question. He says: "If my views are to be heard upon the committee with regard to management first on the mines committee, and then the district committee, and then the central committee, if I am to take that interest in the mining industry, why should my practical and expert knowledge not be used on behalf of the State instead of for private individuals, as they are being used at the present time?" I hope the President of the Board of Trade will take the advice tendered to him by the men who are most closely in touch with the mines and the miners, and who know what the result would be of conflicts in the individual districts. We hope that by such consultation we shall arrive at results which will prevent the industry again facing the calamities that have occurred in the years which I have referred to.
I should like to say a few words in favour of the Bill without any reservation. Everyone who has dealt with it has either mildly supported it with reservations or thoroughly condemned it. I do not understand why the opposition of the Labour party should be there. One ground given is that nationalisation is not in this Bill. A second ground is that this Bill reverts to the old conditions of allowing the respective areas to fix wages as they did in past years. A third point was advanced by the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. S. Walsh), which was that coal control entirely ceased. I believe it has not been proved, either by the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace) or by the last hon. Member who spoke, that the respective districts will have the fixing of wages in each district. Though the Board may make suggestions, these suggestions must go up to the Central Body and then to the Minister of Mines. Under Clause 3 control still remains. One must make up for the loss of another, and I am unconvinced upon that subject. The hon. Member for Ince was not in the least degree more convincing. Clause 3 does for a period give control, and it gives twelve months to make up our minds as to the position of the coal trade for some years to come. Then there was the argument, which was almost a threat, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Abertillery, which was when he told the President of the Board of Trade that when the Miners' Federation meets at Leamington next week the Bill would be turned down. That would not be surprising. There has been no body of men within the past eighteen months who have more distinguished themselves for bad advice than the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. Eighteen months ago, before the General Election in December, nationalisation was not talked about. I sit for a district which is mainly a mining one, and the question of nationalisation was never mentioned in the General Election.
But in the January following we were told that the question of nationalisation was urgent, and it was laid down at Southport that unless nationalisation was adopted, the industry forthwith would stop. I believe that if the miners had adopted that advice of the Miners' Federation they would have made a very false move. A general strike for nationalisation would have been a criminal mistake. Yet they had urged that. A month afterwards, when the situation had not changed in the least, they gave advice in the opposite direction. A few months afterwards the miners tried to induce the railwaymen, the dockmen and all the other workers to lay down their tools to secure nationalisation of the mines. They were turned down by their fellow trade unionists, and then it was that they turned round and said they would secure it by constitutional means. I suggest that in a constitutional country with a democratic Government that should have been the first thought in their head, but it was as the last. It was a last resort when they turned round and said, "We will secure what we want by constitutional means." I would not be surprised if the Miners' Federation committed the same mistake as they did in the early part of last year. I want to welcome this Bill upon two other lines. It has been condemned because it has been said that nationalisation is not there, but I suggest that nationalisation should be a national issue and should be decided not by the trade unions but by the electors of this country. It is a matter for their decision, and theirs alone.
We have had from the hon. Member who has just spoken complaints about nationalisation not being there. He gave us a good deal of mixed Scotch logic. He condemned the Bill and proceeded to tell us that 150 years ago in some districts of Scotland soldiers were supplied with beer for returning miners to the mines who had left their work. But he forgot to tell us that 150 years ago they were practically the property of the mine-owners and were sold with the mines. He might have told us much more than that from Scottish history. He suggested that the improvements that have been made in the conditions of the miners were due to the trade union, but he might have added that most of them were due to the power of the law through this House. Many of the improvements which have been made in the mines with regard to preventing explosions and better ventilation and reduction of the hours of labour were largely due to Acts of Parliament. Surely it is altogether wrong for him to tell us that it was all due to trade unions. We have got a long way since the time of which he spoke. We have taken large strides and we will go still further. Two years ago a number of monied people were very timorous about the Bolshevik movement. They were afraid that the Bolshevist virus would inoculate the British workman. Well, after the last six months, they think that danger has passed away and that British workmen are not going to be inoculated by the Bolshevist virus. Now that the danger is past some of them are disposed to harden their hearts and to make no concessions. But I believe that the constructive policy of the Government will not only save the country but also bring vast improvements. There is no great sudden revolution, but we are having an infusion of workmen into the industrial forces of the nations. The railwaymen are having a larger share in the control of our railways. Workmen on the land are having their say in the adjustment of conditions and the rates of pay. If the workmen are to take a larger interest in the affairs of an industry, the first thing is that they should have a hand in the controlling of that industry. When the late Mr. Chamberlain gave compensation to people maimed in industry, or to the widows and children of those who lost their lives in industry, there were people who complained at that time that it would lead to ruin. It is a wise and a good thing to compensate for death, but it is a much wiser and better thing to do something to develop life. I know the mining districts in the North of England exceedingly well, and I say the Bill does not go far enough in one direction. It does lay aside a penny a ton for five years to improve the social conditions of colliery workers. I welcome the principle, but I would like it to go a good deal further. We charge the industry not only to pay its way, but also introduce a new principle, which charges on the industry the betterment of those engaged in the industry. My friends of the Labour party ought to welcome the introduction of that principle in this Bill.
Some reference was made this afternoon to those engaged in the non-ferrous mining industry. This Bill touches them very lightly. I hope before the Bill gets through Committee its powers in that respect may be extended, and, if the industry cannot be improved, then the industry ought to go out of existence altogether. It is altogether intolerable to think that we have men working in tin mines to-day eight hours a day for £9 a month. Therefore, we hope something may be done whereby the Minister may buttress the industry and improve the lot of those engaged in it, or else see if something cannot be done to remove the men altogether to some employment where a living wage can be obtained. I believe this Bill will help us forward to a better life in our mining districts. I regret that the Labour party and the Miners' Federation refuse to accept this Bill. I see no possible loss to them in the application of any principle contained in the Bill. There is not a backward step even on the wages question, and I hope the Bill will be passed into law as quickly as possible.
When I put my Motion down on the Order Paper to reject this Bill, I did so for very different reasons from those expressed on the Labour Benches this afternoon. They put theirs down because they have not got the nationalisation of mines. To me the very name of nationalisation, the very thought of it even, raises in my mind bitter antagonism. Perhaps we might think over the arguments that are used against nationalisation, and particularly the arguments which have been used in this House by the Prime Minister himself. The Prime Minister, in a speech which, I am sure, will be within the recollection of the whole House, said:
There are men who are working in offices, in works, in the Post Office, Civil Service, trams, electricity, and my right hon. Friend is under the impression that they are all consumed with a daily and a nightly desire to increase output in every branch-burning with patriotic zeal. They come to their offices earlier than anybody and work longer hours. They are fired with an intensity that surpasses which you get in these miserable offices working for private profit. I suggest to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Brace) that he should one day turn in to one of these offices, and that he should look at the way in which people work for humanity."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1920, Col. 124, Vol. 125.]
I think, if those words mean anything, they mean that the profits which are supposed to be secured to the community by nationalisation would be wiped out by the cost of the bureaucracy which it would be necessary to set up if you had the mines nationalised, and I cannot understand why in this Bill it has been the policy of the Government to set up all the bureaucracy and all the vicious principles which nationalisation necessitates, and not to bring to the community
the profits which private enterprise would bring. We know from every experience we have had with telephones and telegraphs that the cost of bureaucracy has taken away all the profits, and, for myself, much as I hate nationalisation, I would much prefer nationalisation to the type of bureaucracy which is brought forward in this Bill. Nationalisation we know. We know what the effect of it would be, but this Bill sets up another bureaucracy, another State Department, with all the extravagance which generally attaches to Government Departments, and, so far as I can see, brings no good whatever.
Only last week we were discussing one of the new inventions brought into being in this Parliament. We were discussing the Transport Ministry, and I think the Leader of the House, in reply to the criticism on that occasion, stated that it was this House which brought that Ministry into operation. The Debate on that occasion, it seemed to me, was rather like locking the stable door after the horse had been stolen. The time to talk about that Ministry was not after the money had been spent, after the squandered had been let loose, but when that Bill was before the House of Commons. That is my argument this evening. The time to speak is not after the Ministry has spent the money, not after the Estimates have been put before the House. The time to speak is now, when this Bill is being discussed, before the expenditure can possibly be brought forward. We were told the same thing as this afternoon when the Transport Bill was being discussed. We were told that the cost would be small. To-day we are told that this is only going to cost a few thousands. We cannot afford those few thousands. We are told that the charge to the State will be almost nil. We were told the same on the Transport Bill. We know what the result has been—a squandering of the national money.
In my opinion—and I think in the opinion of many Members of this House—we have already too many Ministers and too many Ministries. I have taken the trouble to find out how many Ministers we have on the Treasury Bench. There are 62. The cost is somewhere about £200,000 annually. It will be quite possible to find means, I am sure, for a great many of these Ministries to be cut down, instead of asking this House the sanction of another one. The President of the Board of Trade in his speech told us that without this Bill the Government would have to take all the risks and they would have no control. It seems to me that with this Bill they will have all control, and no profits. I could not understand what was the use, or object, in the long explanation of the right hon. Gentleman of these 27 district boards, all these committees, and the area boards which are to be formed. If we come to think that matter out in detail the power with which these committees would be invested exists at the present time through the Industrial Councils which are under the Ministry of Labour. I should not have thought it would be necessary to pass an Act of Parliament to set up these committees unless it is proposed to give in the coal industry alone a statutory power to the Industrial Councils which has been denied to every other Industrial Council in the country. There is a great deal of machinery already existing without this Bill to enable employers to meet their employees around a common council table; it is not necessary at all for a Bill to be introduced to provide machinery of the kind.
This Bill—and it is just as well to say it straight out—is a Bill which is going to stifle coal enterprise and strangle the coal industry with red tape. If this Bill is passed everyone of the coal interests—whether it is the labour interest or the employer interest—will have to be running up to Whitehall every few minutes. The representatives will be filling the London hotels, and crowding the London trains. From every point of view the control of industry is worse than the nationalisation of industry. My view is that we ought to give private enterprise the free air of wholesome competition. Let it go ahead and make what profits it can. If private enterprise is allowed free sway in the industry, those concerned will sink new mines, undertake new risks, and launch out into new enterprises. Then and then only, and only by that means, will production go up and supply exceed demand. It is only when the supply does exceed the demand, not only in the coal industry, but in other industries, that profiteering will be effectually killed. I do not know why the Government are afraid of anyone making profits, especially as at the present time whatever profits are made by private enterprise are practically all taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in one form or another. This is the moment when the Chancellor has just introduced an increased Excess Profits Duty, which would take away all profits of that kind, that the Cabinet chooses to bring in a new Bill which proposes to set up another new kind of Ministry and a new set of bureaucratic officials. I am sure the country is sick of new officials and new ministries. The country wants fewer officials and fewer ministries. This extravagance is indefensible. I am beginning to despair in the matter, and think that the Government will never learn how deep is the feeling against Government extravagance and how far it is sunk into the mind of the nation. The Government will learn—I am afraid too late for their own good—what the country is thinking on this question. The country is sick and tired of bureaucracy and of control. There are Ministries in existence, such as the Ministries of Food, Shipping, and Transport—amongst others—that the country thinks are already overdue for disbandment. This feeling is not a mere echo of the sensational Press. If the Press and the opposition had concentrated on bureaucratic control they would have had more success in their opposition. I appeal with all the power I possess to the House to reject this Bill, which is a bad Bill. It will not bring peace in the industry. It is going to be a very costly Bill. It is against the best interests of the national trade. It is against the considered will of the people, and it is not a Bill which the people of this country desire.
I find myself in entire agreement with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down—at least in one sentence—that this is a thoroughly bad Bill. I do not know I shall find myself in agreement with him on any other point. He has been giving his reasons why he is opposed to this measure. I propose to give mine. I want, in the first place, to say that I am not opposed to this Bill because it does not nationalise the mines. I want to make it perfectly clear that neither I nor my colleagues would be opposing the Bill simply because it was not a Nationalisation of the Mines Bill. We oppose it for entirely different reasons. If the Government have brought in a Bill which would solve the problems with which the industry is at present faced, I for one would have welcomed it and have supported such a measure. But I am opposed to this Bill for three reasons. The first is that if carried into law it will add enormously to the cost of inland coal, and thereby to the general all-round cost of living. That is a statement which, I contend, cannot be controverted. It is not long since the Government came forward with a proposal to add 14s. 2d. per ton to the price of domestic coal, and 4s. 2d. to the price of industrial coal. I urged on that occasion that the Government should refrain from imposing that additional burden until such time as the Members of this House were in possession of the statistics of the industry for the March quarter. I gave it as my opinion then that there was no necessity for imposing a single additional penny on the price of domestic coal in order to make the mining industry a paying proposition. I gave that as the general opinion of the Miners' Federation. We have now got the published statistics, and they prove conclusively what we have been contending all along, that there need not have been any increase in the price of coal, and this is borne out by the facts and figures contained in that document. Everybody knows who understands the Government policy that that 14s. 2d. was not added to the price of coal to make the industry a paying concern, but it was put on to enable the Government to come down with this Bill and to make individual collieries profitable, so that they could be handed back to the coalowners and worked under private enterprise. That was clearly the object.
The statistics for the industry show that for the March quarter we have, notwithstanding all the losses in the different coalfields, a profit of £14,377,702. We have been informed that the profits to which the owners were entitled under the Coal Emergency Act amounts to £26,000,000 per annum, or £6,500,000 per quarter. We have already got for the March quarter, before any of the increased price comes in at all, a profit of £14,377,000. You have to take out of that £6,500,000 to provide the profits to the owners under the Act of Parliament, and you have practically £8,000,000 left. Out of that, rather more than £6,000,000 is to be deducted on account of the last wages advance which the miners received, but you have a margin left after paying all the profits to which the coalowners were entitled and the increased wages which the miners received under the recent advance without any of the recent increase in the price of coal at all. That increase would never have been put on to the coal but for the fact that the Government desired to make provision for bringing in this Bill, and it was not put on because it was wanted to make the industry a paying proposition. We have got on the March quarter a margin of profit, but in addition to that, the Government have added to the price of coal roughly £36,500,000 per annum on domestic coal, and about £26,500,000 on industrial coal. Although there is already a profit on the industry, about £63,500,000 has been added to the Revenue.
Now we are faced with clamour on the part of the miners, as I told the Government and the House would be the case, when this proposal was under consideration, that they should share in the profits of the industry. I am not so sure that the miners are not going to make a demand for the profit accruing from the increase in the price of domestic coal. If they will accept the advice of their leaders they will, if necessary, put up a fight, not to get that money into their own pockets in the shape of increased wages, but to compel the Government to take off the 14s. 2d., even if they are involved in a strike to do it. That is the advice that will be given, and I hope it will be accepted, because this imposition on the part of the Government to bring in a Bill such as this is nothing short of a national scandal. It is because the Government know that the putting of this Bill into operation will involve very considerable additions to the price of household coal, and not because it is not a Nationalisation Bill, that I am opposed to the Second Reading. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brace) dealt with these statistics to-day, and I do not propose to go in any great length into them again. But the contention is that under this Bill you drive us back again into the system of an Area Board to fix wages. I know this contention has been disputed by the last speaker, who said that it is not in the Bill. But this is what the Clause says:
(3) An area board shall formulate, at such intervals and on such principles as may
be prescribed by the National Board, schemes for adjusting the remuneration of the workers within the area having regard to the profits of the industry within the area, and any such scheme when formulated shall be submitted to the National Board for their approval, and if approved by that Board shall be referred to the Minister of Mines, and for the purposes of this Subsection the owners of mines in the area shall furnish to accountants appointed by the area board such information as they may require in order that they may ascertain for the information of the area board particulars of the output, cost of production, proceeds and profits in the area as a whole:
If that does not mean that we are to have our wage system fixed on the profits of the area, then I do not understand the meaning of English.
Hon. Members have been contending that this is a good Bill and that we are misrepresenting its provisions, but I say there is no other interpretation to be put upon that proposal. We have these side areas, and I would like to give a few illustrations in a different way to those given by my right hon. Friend to-day. The five areas are, (1) Scotland, (2) Northumberland and Durham, (3) South Wales (4) the rest of England, except the Forest of Dean, Somerset and Bristol, and (5) the other three coalfields. What do we find? In the Scottish coalfields—and we must take these figures as representing last quarter; since then, in May, we got an addition to the selling price of coal, and therefore these figures do not exactly represent the June quarter—we had 4s. 2d. added to the price of industrial coal and 14s. 2d. to that of domestic coal. I work that out at an average of 7s. per ton on all home consumed coal. The domestic coal produced in that region represents 52,000,000 tons and industrial coal 128,000,000 tons, so that we get an average of 7s. per ton to the added price on home consumed coal. If we take Scotland, we have got 2d. per ton loss on the whole of that coalfield. Assuming that the whole of the coal from that area is consumed at home, there is 7s. per ton to be added to the price, and you get a profitable area with 6s. 10d. to the good. 2s. 3d. has to be taken out of that on account of the rise in wages, and that leaves us with 4s. 7d. as profit; that is after paying the last wage advance, and taking into account the increase in the price of coal, you will have in that Scottish area 4s. 7d. per ton profit. Under the Act of Parliament, according to the President of the Board of Trade, the coal-owners are entitled to a profit of 2s. ld. per ton. Take that from the 4s. 7d. and it leaves 2s. 6d., about which there is to be a wrangle. The Area Board is to propare a scheme based on that profit. One shilling would represent an advance of 1s. 6d. per day to the miners if the owners did not get any more.
Take Northumberland and Durham next. We have at the present time a profit of 11s. spread over these two coalfields, for they will not be treated separately under this Bill. The profit in the two counties is 11s. per ton. Having regard to the fact that much of the coal is exported, you can take 4s. per ton as accruing to them on account of the increased price of domestic coal. That gives them 15s. per ton profit. Take out of that the 2s. 3d. advance in wages and the 2s. ld. to which the owners are entitled, and you still get a profit of 10s. 8d. per ton in that area. And taking 1s. 5d. per ton as representing 1s. per day extra in wages, the men in this coalfield could claim an advance of 7s. per day in wages. On the same basis of calculation the South Wales miners could claim 12s. per day. If this Bill is put into force tomorrow in this area, if boards are set up and we come down and frame a wage scheme based on the profits of that area, the Welsh miners could claim about 12s. per day advance in wages. Take next the Midland Federation which produces only coal consumed at home. Over the whole of that area the loss is about 1s. 5d. per ton. That was before the recent increase. There is 7s. to come, and taking the 1s. 5d off it leaves a profit of 5s. 7d. Out of that 2s. 3d. goes for the recent advance in wages. That leaves 3s. 4d., and if you take the 2s. 1d. to which the owners are entitled to profit that leaves 1s. 3d.; so there they would get about 10d. per day advance in wages. If you take that area with the recent advance in prices you will have a profit over the whole of it which would entitle the men to an advance in wages of about 10d. per day. But what about the constituent coalfields which make up the areas? In Cumberland they have a loss of 10s. 3d. per ton, and another 2s. 3d. to be added on account of the rise in wages. That makes 12s. 6d. per ton loss. In Lanca- shire already there is 4s. 7d. per ton loss. That was before the increase in wages was put on. When you come to fixing the wages in an area on the basis of the profit, you are bound to have a very large number of individual colieries in the area that cannot pay their way. There is no pooling system and no guaranteed profits, so that one of three things must result. Either the men must have a substantial reduction in wages, or the price of coal must be considerably increased, or the collieries must shut down. That is what this Bill means, and it means nothing less. And it is because we know that it does mean this that we are opposing it and will continue to oppose it in all its stages. I hope it will be opposed both inside the House and outside until it is killed.
Let me take next the Forest of Dean area. Even with the la t advance in prices they would not be able to maintain the wages now being paid there. They will have only got £42 for the quarter for wages, as against £61 16s. in South Wales, and in that little area they would have to accept a reduction in wages or there would have to be a big increase in the price of coal. At the same time, the Welsh miners will be entitled to go in for an advance of 12s. per day in wages. The Welsh miners stand to gain everything under this Bill. I represent them. I know I am expressing their sentiment when I say they are not prepared to go in for that 12s. for themselves and to leave the poorer districts in the cold and uncared for. They say if there is prosperity in the industry let all engaged in it share in that prosperity. We could very well, if we cared to accept this Bill, set up our area. We should have a demand for increased wages in some places and in other places the owners putting in applications for a reduction, and at the same time we should find the price of coal going up in the home markets much higher than it is now. I want to say to the Government that no scheme will be acceptable to the miners—and when I say that I mean that it will not be worked—no scheme will be operated by the miners which destroys the national basis upon which wages are to be regulated. That is fundamental. If the Government have ma de up their minds, as they say they have, that the mines are not to be nationalised, they must adapt private enterprise to meet the changed conditions which have grown up during the War. You cannot have a settlement of the miners' question without establishing a pool. We have said that all along, and we shall continue to say it and insist upon it until it is established. We know that you can reduce the price of coal in this country to-day and give us an advance in wages, if you treat the industry as a national concern and as one unit. We know, also, that you cannot bring in the provisions of this Bill and enable individual collieries to pay their way without enormously increasing the price. That is a policy to which the Miners' Federation will not lend any countenance, but will oppose in every way that is available to it. I sincerely hope that we shall not find ourselves in the position of having to take action other than in this House in order to enforce what, after all, we shall feel that we are fairly entitled to fight. The Government are entitled to say that they are going to stand by private enterprise, but they are not entitled to say that they are going to smash our organisation. If they do say that, they will only succeed after a very severe contest. This Bill would simply place the Miners' Federation of Great Britain out of the running altogether. We should have these five areas all quarrelling and wrangling and fighting amongst themselves. Wales could not go to any National Conference and say, "We want a national movement based on the statistics of the industry as a whole." We should be told, "You have your little area; you must arrange everything there." Everybody else would be told the same, and our national movement would simply he destroyed if this Bill were put into operation. As to the machinery of the Bill—the pit committees and district committees—we have no objection to that until you come down to the area board. That is a kind of thing which we do not think we can possibly accept, whatever may be the consequences.
I want to say a word or two with reference to a matter which has not been touched upon in this Debate, namely, the provision in the Bill which, in my opinion, virtually establishes in the mining industry compulsory arbitration. Clause 12 provides that all matters dealt with by the district committees and area boards are to be governed by regulations made by the Minister of Mines or the President of the Board of Trade. Among other things to be done under regulation is the appointment of an independent chairman, who will have a casting vote, to decide all matters that come before the committee. To all intents and purposes that is compulsory arbitration; and under Clause 14 penalties are imposed for non-compliance with any recommendation made, those penalties being the penalties laid down in the Coal Mines Act of 1911. If the Government have not yet realised that the Miners' Federation of Great Britain will not accept compulsory arbitration, it is about time they did, because every Member of the Government has been informed of it time and again. The present Prime Minister, the ex-Prime Minister, the President of the Board of Trade, and his predecessor, have all been told that they cannot apply compulsory arbitration to the mining industry. Yet, as I read this Bill, its provisions would certainly lead to that. Instead of the Miners' Federation being able, as it is at present, to protect the interests of the miners by the power of its organisation, all those matters would have to go to these area or district committees.
Would the hon. Member kindly answer one question for me? Does he suggest that, under Clause 12, the compulsory powers to which he refers can be exercised beyond the functions which are exercised to-day by a Conciliation Board, or beyond the functions exercised to-day by a District Wages Board under the Coal Mines (Minimum Wage) Act of 1912?
Those boards at present deal with all the wage disputes and all other cases of disputes that arise in the collieries. At the present time our Conciliation Boards in South Wales, for instance, has referred to it every dispute, regardless of its nature, that arises in the coalfields. At any rate, that is our constitution. If it can be settled by the pit committee, that is the end of it; but, if they cannot settle it, it goes to the district committee. Provision is made in this Bill that these district committees shall be subject to the decision of an outside individual. That is a position which we have always resisted, and which we are not prepared to accept in any Bill.
Our district boards at present deal with these matters. Before a strike can be entered upon, the matter must be referred to the district board. Every effort must be made to settle it, but, as the last resort, the power is left with the Federation, if need be, to fight it. What you are doing is taking away that power from the Federation and vesting in the independent chairman the casting vote on all matters in dispute. That is a matter which we regard as of vital importance. Of course, this Bill cannot be operated except with the wholehearted co-operation of owners and miners. I do not think there is the ghost of a chance of securing that co-operation for a Bill containing such principles as those which I have been outlining. What I suggest is not that a Nationalisation of Mines Bill should be brought in. It is quite unlikely that we should get that from this House, and I think we shall have to be content without nationalisation. We must have the principle of private ownership applied to mines, for some time at any rate. What does this Bill do? I have shown that to operate these area boards would involve an enormous addition to the price of coal, and the Government know that. They do not intend that these area boards shall come into operation; they are going to issue Orders instead. They provide, therefore, that the emergency Act which was passed, and which comes to an end in August of this year, shall be continued for another year. Orders will be issued under it, and profits distributed, and, when a year has gone, Parliament may decide whether it shall continue for ever. This Bill does not settle or solve a single problem with which the industry is faced at the moment. It simply defers it, and proposes to set up a lot of machinery which is going to irritate all the men employed in the industry from John o' Groats to Land's End. The industry, at the moment, is full of uncertainty. This leaves it in precisely the same state of uncertainty until August, 1921, and thereafter as long as Parliament may determine. We have a stagnant industry. For the March quarter the output per man employed was 208 tons per annum, an unheard-of low output, disastrous to all the industries of the country. If we are ever going to have any improvement, we must have development, and those developments will only come when the employers or those responsible for carrying on the industry know what their position is to be, not for to-day or for to-morrow, but for the future; and all the uncertainty that has obtained up till now is to be continued for the Lord knows how long—nobody else does.
I want to suggest that the Government should bring in a scheme for the time being laying down that, whatever arrangement is made with the owners, it should be made upon a national basis, and that, whatever wages are paid, they should be paid upon the basis of the profits of the industry as a whole. If the Government would bring in a scheme based upon those principles, there would be some hope of getting the co-operation, at any rate, of the miners in carrying it through; but in the absence of any such scheme we shall have only chaos in the industry, the miners fighting for advances in wages, the owners fighting for reductions, and the Government meeting the difficulty by putting up the price of coal; a solution which not only the miners are not prepared to accept, but which the Government ought not to ask the House to support, and which the House ought not to support, if asked. The clear duty of the Government to the nation and to the miners at this stage is to take off the increase of 14s. 2d. in the price of domestic coal that they put on some time ago. It is not wanted in the industry.
It is only going to create friction and trouble and pile up burdens which in a very short time we shall not be able to carry. That is all that it is doing. If you take that increase off, and treat the industry as a whole, basing wages and profits or whatever remuneration be given to either side on the industry as a national concern, there is some hope of getting through, but in the absence of any such thing I sincerely hope that the Government will not pursue the policy embodied in this Bill, and, if they do, that the House will turn it down.
While agreeing that this is a thoroughly bad Bill, I cannot agree with the reasons which the hon. Gentleman has adduced in support of his argument. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brace), who moved the rejection of the Bill, did so in his usual plausible manner, but I failed to find in the arguments which he put forward any real valid reason why the Bill should be rejected other than the fear that, if carried into effect, it might be found acceptable to the miners and therefore destroy the hopes of nationalisation. I was rather pleased, from what I know of South Wales, to hear him say that a spirit of self-abnegation was actuating the miners in South Wales in considering the good of the whole of the mining community. It is very cheering and pleasant news to all of us, and it is the first word of encouragement that we have received from them for some considerable time. Only recently we heard that they had refused to contribute to the Miners' Federation the extra subscription which was demanded. The reasons adduced by certain of their leaders for their non-compliance with the policy of the federation was simply that, working the pits which are producing the biggest profits, they should not stand in and out of the increased wages pay the losses in the pits and districts where there are losses.
It may be a libel on the South Wales miners, but, being a Welshman myself, I am not at all certain that there is not a great deal of truth in that generalisation. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Brace) talked of the profits that came out of the coal industry, and he suggested that this was one of those Bills which would give to the private owner greater control over the profits of the industry than he enjoyed under the Coal Control Department today. There are one or two things which the right hon. Gentleman did not tell us. He did not point out that in 1913 the amount of money which was retained by the coalowners as their pre-War standard plus allowances was £22,000,000, and that the amount which they were allowed to retain in 1919 was only £27,000,000. He did not tell the House that the total amount of wages paid to the miners in 1914 was £83,000,000—I take round figures—and in 1919, £211,000,000. In 1913 the average wage for man and boy employed in the coal industry was £82 per annum. In 1919 it was £190 per annum, and, with the recent advances, the estimate for this year is £220 per annum. When we are dealing with facts and figures, I suggest that we should deal with them fairly and frankly, and not hide the true facts as has been done this afternoon. It is all very well to talk about the hazardous experiences of the miners. I suggest, knowing something about another industry, that the casualties in the mining industry are not nearly as great as in the shipping industry. The plea of casualties is always brought forward every time that we discuss the coal situation, and is always urged as one of the reasons why we should have nationalisation, and why every Bill brought in by the Government to deal with the industry should be discarded. Private enterprise apparently is incapable of exercising that amount of control and care for the individual employed in the industry which nationalisation, if brought into effect, would secure. That is nothing less than a slander on the private individual, because there has never been a suggestion brought forward by the Rome Office or by the men themselves or by their leaders which has not been met in every possible way by the colliery owners
We have to deal with another thing. We have seen an advance in wages of 250 per cent. during the last five years. There is not a single Member of this House who would argue that an advance in wages was not due to the miners. Anyone who knows the South Wales coal fields as I know them, and who knows the conditions under which the men have lived and live to-day, will agree that a substantial increase in the standard of living is justified. But with that increase of wages, from £82 per annum in 1914 to £220 per annum in 1920, there has been a decrease in production of 20 per cent. That really means that the increase of wages has been nearly 300 per cent. on the amount of coal produced. It is all very well for hon. Members on this side of the House to say it is due to the owners because they have not given the facilities to the miners for developing the coal face. I agree to a very large extent with the miners and their leaders that they are not responsible for the lack of production. Government control from 1915 right through has been the cause of the lack of development of the coalfields. There is no getting away from it. What incentive is there to any private owner to-day to develop his mines when he knows full well that he can take nothing more than a certain given set standard? The individual who puts money into extending his collieries takes a risk Does the miner take any risk when he goes to work on Monday in respect of his wages? Not at all. He is assured of his wages. They are a first charge, in the event of failure, upon the assets of the company, but a man who sinks his money, for his individual profit I admit, into industry with the prospect of extending his collieries and thereby creating employment, is not given any consideration.
We have to face this coal situation. The Bill in my opinion is thoroughly bad in every respect because it is neither fish, flesh, fowl nor good red herring. There is nothing in it except a continuance of the policy we have had for the last five years, pull devil pull baker, and in the end you are going to satisfy the people who come to you with a big show of force and threaten that they will do this or that unless you give in. We are either going to have nationalisation or we are not. It is one thing or the other. Let us have a clear, definite statement on that point. This Bill is a half-way measure to that. It takes away from the owners of property. Clause 22 says specifically:
The expression 'management' in relation to a coal mine includes the manager, under-managers, technical and administrative staff, officials and deputies, firemen, and examiners of the mine.
What rights have shareholders in colliery companies got? They do not exist. From examination of colliery companies' lists of shareholders, there is a very great
number of miners interested in the ventures in which they are working. They have a share in the management, and the management have rights and responsibilities to them. Under the Bill the shareholders have no voice. There is a sort of half-hearted attempt, in the advisory committee, to protect the general public, but it is only a sort of half-concession. Let us take the area committees, the district committees, the pit committees, and the National Board. They comprise to the extent of 50 per cent. workmen's and 50 per cent of owners' representatives. In South Wales the examiners and firemen, who are supposed to be on the side of the owners' representatives, are men who have been compelled in a great many cases to join the Miners' Federation, and yet they will be under the Bill termed owners' representatives. It turns the whole Bill into a farce. It puts the control and administration of the mines in the hands of a committee. If I thought for a moment that control of the mines was going to pass into the hands of a committee representing the opinion of a majority of the workers I should not object to it at all, but those who are associated with industrial districts like South Wales know that the average man does not take the trouble to bother—it is his fault, possibly—to go to vote, and the result will be that every man representing the workers on the committee will be one of those who represent the extremist section. I hope the House will regard the Bill as something which is going to lead to grave disaster. It can only, in any event, lead to the continuance of the Coal Control Department, and anyone who has had any experience of that Department will tell you that nothing has ever been brought into being in this world that is any worse than that. There have been many Departments created since 1914, but nothing rising to the height of—I might almost call it indecency.
Imbecility is probably better. Take the latest Order relating to the limitation of exports. I had brought to my attention recently the case of a certain colliery. It produced more than its quota for export during June. It wrote to the Coal Controller's Department and asked if it should sell the coal for export. They said, "No. Find an inland market." They said they could not find an inland market. Then they said, "Put it into barges." We said, "We cannot. The barges are full." Then they said, "Shut down your pit." That was the reply.
It came from the Coal Controller's Department. I will give another instance of the Coal Controller's Department, and we are going to have a continuance of this under the present administration. Some few months ago an Order was issued that no coal was to be shipped from Hull. One of my steamers was at Hull discharging, and was ordered to go to the River Plate to bring cargo back to this country. I formally applied to the Coal Controller's Department for sufficient bunker to take her to the River Plate and back to St. Vincent. They told me it could not be done, as they did not ship any bunker at all from Hull. I made another application, and if the hon. Gentleman wants to know the particulars I can give the name of the gentleman in the Department who dealt with the matter. He told me no bunker coals were shipped from Hull. He said they never did it. My London office had a steamer for French account, and she was discharging at Hull, and they gave her, although she was not coming back to this country, sufficient bunker to take her to the River Plate and back to France. They told me we could not have it for a British ship and my ship went to the Bristol Channel and was held up 21 days, with four other ships, waiting for bunker. There was plenty of coal at Hull, but because of the Regulations and red tape of the Department, nobody could move. This Department is to be glorified by having a halo put round the head of its present chief. Probably a seat will be found for him or his successor and he will come here as a glorified Minister of Mines. The administrative staff of the Board of Trade and of the Home Office and of other Departments concerned in mines will have a nice new building, probably in St. James' Park, or perhaps some hotel which will be thoroughly equipped, and a nice Department will spring up on big, broad lines to administer the Ministry of Mines. What are we going to get for it? If we are going to get a continuance of the restrictive legislation and Orders which we have had for the past four years, we are going to stifle the coal industry altogether.
I would remind the House of a thing which has been forgotten. The Argentine took from us prior to the War and in the early days of the War, 4,000,000 to 5,000,000 tons of coal per annum, and that coal was urgently required for the bringing of grain from the interior of the Argentine down to the coast to be ex ported to this country. We are sending to the Argentine at the present time exactly 969,000 tons of coal per annum, or 80,000 tons a month. One railway alone in the Argentine ordinarily took from us 700,000 tons per annum before the War. The Argentine cannot export their grain to us because they cannot get coal to move the grain to the coast for export to this country. I am not saying anything about the limitation of the export of coal for the purpose of protecting the interests of the consumers of this country, but it is carried to such great lengths that we are face to face with this serious problem, that with the shortage of grain and wheat throughout the world, unless we put ourselves in the position of supplying those who need coal with a certain quantity of coal, we shall have a certain shortage of grain in the winter. Instead of putting up an ex- pensive Ministry and instead of bringing in a Bill which is going to establish a Department which will get to work probably this time 12 months, we should take some immediate steps to see how much coal we require in this country, how much we can really send for export, and we should look further ahead than the administrative officials of the Department look at the present time. I shall vote against this Bill on the principle that I will never vote for anything which I think is against the best interests of this country, and I hope sincerely that every hon. Member will give due regard to the provisions of the Bill and vote according to his conviction.
I do not rise to oppose this Bill, because many of its provisions were offered by the Mining Association, through Lord Gainford, at the Commission last year. In particular, the committees were offered to the Miners' Federation in a sense of conciliation and friendship towards them, because we thought that it would be a means of bringing us closer together than we used to be before the War, before we had any control, in order that we can carry on the industry for the benefit of all parties. Although I am not going to oppose the Bill by voting against it on the Second Reading, there are many objectionable features of the measure which I would recommend my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to amend in Committee, if he wants to see the Bill pass its Third Reading. I have listened with great interest to the speeches of the leaders of the Labour party, and especially to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brace) who moved the rejection of the Bill. As far as I can see, he had only two arguments. One was that this Bill did not mean nationalisation. That is no argument at all, because the Government have declared, in no uncertain terms, that they do not mean to have nationalisation. The second argument was that, because we had area boards which may settle prices, the miners cannot agree to it. This idea was also expressed by other speakers, including the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh). To prove their argument they produced a White Paper which showed that in certain districts large profits were made, but in the rest of the coalfields losses were made. Therefore they argued that it could only be through the extreme generosity of the miners in South Wales that the rest of the miners of the country could get the same wages and get justice. These hon. Members forgot to tell us that this White Paper is four months old, and that its statisics were only made up to the end of that particular quarter.
Quite so; but you forgot to say that since these figures were brought out the miners' wages have been raised and prices have been raised. If you really wanted to give any fair presentment as to whether one district was gaining and another district was losing per ton, you ought to get the figures of the next quarter before you can really speak with any authority upon the subject. The real reason why the Government raised the price of coal was because these districts were losing, but I imagine that my right hon. Friend will tell us that the question has been put right since. The reason why there were only about four districts that were actually paying was because those districts were exporting coal, for which they got high prices. Now that we have raised the price of inland coal in the other districts you will find that most of them are paying their way. From personal experience that I have had I know that it was the intention of the Coal Controller to bring the price of inland coal to such a figure that the coal could be raised economically, with a fair profit to the owner and a fair wage to the worker. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Brace) found great fault with the control and said the mining industry would never get on until the mine owners had some inducement to forward developments; that while these uncertainties lasted there could be no development and that there would not be the same amount of tonnage per year per man brought out. I do not quite follow him in this argument, because he says that the pooling must continue. That is the argument of the miners' leaders now. They want pooling to continue so that the weak mine can have its deficit made up by the strong mine. So long as you have pooling there will be no inducement to the mines to better themselves. There will be no more development so long as pooling goes on. Pooling is one of the worst things as regards the development of mines, because there is no inducement to a man to lay out more money in development if he is not going to get some profit out of it, and if the extra money he is going to get from the development is going to be taken away from him to bolster up mines which cannot economically pay otherwise. It is not an economical thing for the country to bolster up unpaying concerns at the expense of other mines, because that stops development.
There are several provision which I think will require alteration in the Committee stage. There would be great opposition to more money being spent in the institution of a fresh Ministry. The mining industry, masters and men, would be satisfied to continue under the Board of Trade, with the present control without setting up any more expensive machinery to run the show. Under this Bill by Resolution of the two Houses of Parliament it is possible that this control may be continued indefinitely. The owners can never agree to that. We want to see some finality to this control. We are just as much interested as my hon. Friend opposite in having development. As long as we have control we shall never see development as it used to be. You cannot go to the general public and ask for money to sink pits, because they will not find it so long as control goes on. This is what has killed development during the last four years. No one is more aware of that than my right hon. Friend, and therefore I advise him to delete Clause 3, Sub-section 4. I also find great fault with the centralisation, with too much power given to what is called the National Board. We want to get back to the old conditions under which we can approach our men personally and settle differences with them. As my right hon. Friend opposite. knows, we were able, in the federated area especially, to settle all our differences, and if it had not been for troubles in South Wales the federated area would never have been controlled. There is too much done under this Bill by Regulations. We want to know how the members and committees of these different boards are going to be appointed. We want to be quite certain that we in the districts shall be able to have our own representatives. We do not want to have any interference by a Minister of Mines, or any advisory committee outside, but wish that all those engaged in the industry should work together for the good of the industry locally. Then I do not see why we should say in one particular Clause that the representatives of the men shall be at least half. I cannot see why the men should have more than the masters.
Clause 9 gives the right of interference with more things than were recommended by the Mining Association and Lord Gainford. We went before the Commission and recommended that those pit committees should be instituted to look after
the safety, health, and welfare of the workers,
and that they should make recommendations where necessary as to the improvement in the method of getting coal, but we did not advocate that they should have anything to say to the wages. That has always been left to the districts before and should be kept in the districts. Then paragraph (e) goes much farther than we think necessary. It says,
any other questions and matters relating to the mine which may be prescribed by regulations.
The owners do not want to give the new Mines Minister power to specify by regulation any mortal thing he likes these pit committees to settle. The words are much too wide, and I would recommend my right hon. Friend to consider the advisability of cutting out that particular bit. I cannot see why the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brace) should object to these wages questions being settled by the area board. They always did it before, and there was no trouble about it. They did it in South Wales as between the masters and men, and we did it in the federated area, and the districts of the federated area. Why do you want to have it done now by the Miners' Federation direct with the Minister or the National Board? My hon. Friend let the cat out of the bag.
Yes, he did it to some effect this evening. He told us that the effect of this Bill would be that nothing would be left to the Miners' Federation. Therefore we can see why there is this strong opposition from these heads of the Miners' Federation, and particularly from Mr. Smillie and Mr. Hodges, because if we are able to settle all differences by an area board composed of masters and men with pit committees and district boards Mr. Smillie and Mr. Hodges would lose their job.
You are not going to get nationalisation. Lord Gainford never recommended that these things should be compulsorily set up. They should be done voluntarily between the two parties. The right hon. Gentleman would be well advised to drop Part 2 altogether. As to Part 3. I would like to draw attention to the fact that we have on one hand an undertaking by the Prime Minister that when he nationalises the royalties he is going to take a certain proportion of the money which would come to the mineral rights owners, which you are going to use for the social amenities of the miners. Now we find in this Bill that the mineowners are going to be mulcted of 1d. a ton as well for these particular objects. So it is going to be done twice over. I do not know how the right hon. Gentleman will explain that it is necessary to take the money twice over. He is going to get £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 in five years under this Bill, and if the money is going to be devoted to housing, why should the wretched mining companies have to find a penny a ton towards housing in their particular districts when they already pay 1d. rate to their particular district council like everybody else? There is no other trade in the whole country treated in the same way. I cannot conceive why the mining industry should be thus penalised. Perhaps it is because as masters we have been very amenable to squeezing. Of course, we were patriotic enough during the War to suffer control and to give up a great deal of our profits so that the industry could be carried on and all the poor mines could be worked. We did that voluntarily, but I do not see why, because we gave in then, we should be treated now differently from any other trade. I can say, in conclusion only, that if my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade will be reasonable in the Committee stage, I shall be very pleased to back him on the Third Reading of the Bill.
I think it is fairly evident to the House by this time that we shall enjoy the rather unusual spectacle of the coal owners and the representatives of the Miners' Federation joining hands to oppose the Government on a Bill which deals with the reorganisation of the coal industry. As far as I gathered from the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for St. Ives (Sir C. J. Cory), he intends to lead one contingent into the Lobby, for the reason that the Bill interferes too much with the coal industry, and the right hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace) intends to take his contingent into the Lobby, because the Bill does not give sufficient powers of interference with the coal industry. I do not know to what extent that unholy alliance will be carried into effect to-night. I do not for a moment want to pose as a representative of any of the class of experts who have spoken to-night. I am not a coal owner or a shareholder, and I am not connected with the Miners' Federation; but I have lived the greater part of my life among miners, and I have the honour to represent a constituency which is predominently mining. Apart from that, I think we are all interested in this basic industry. If anything untoward hap pens to it, all other industries come down with a crash. I listened with peculiar pleasure to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace). He rightly complimented the President of the Board of Trade on his admirable and lucid statement, but he also, in a sort of half-accusation, said that the right hon. Gentleman had made a very adroit and very agile speech. I think the President of the Board of Trade, when he replies, will be inclined to say that the right hon. Member for Abertillery excelled himself this afternoon.
We are dealing here with the first serious attempt ever made to reorganise, legislatively, the coal industry. There has been such a thing as a Royal Commission on this question. In all previous Debates in this House on the question of nationalisation I remember very well that we have had the Commission Reports thrown at us from every quarter of the House where there was a nationaliser, but during this Debate we have heard very little indeed about the Coal Commission Reports. Is not this Bill an attempt on the part of the Government to put into operation the greater part of the agreed portion of the Report of the second stage of the Coal Commission? It is a rare misfortune that in discussing the Coal Commission Reports people have fastened on their divergencies rather than on points of agreement. As a matter of fact, the points on which they agreed are far more numerous and far more impotant than the points on which they differed. Take, for instance, the question of the nationalisation of mining. royalties. The four different Reports agree on this point. Some of the objections brought against the present system are really objections against the private ownership of coal. There are 4,000 private owners of coal. Under nationalisation you would get a single owner. Take such questions as barriers of coal left un-worked, central pumping and drainage, irregular and arbitrary boundaries, and so on. All those important matters would be dealt with under a Bill to acquire mining royalties and all the Reports of the Royal Commission agreed on that very essential point. Take the second part, which relates to the reorganisation of the industry. I may be misreading it, but Part II of this Bill seems to be neither more nor less than an attempt to incorporate all the substance of the agreed Reports of the Royal Commission. They all agreed, the employers, the representatives of the workmen, the experts, and Mr. Justice Sankey, that the present system stood condemned, and they all agreed that by some system, by a system which is substantially the same as that laid down here, namely, a hierarchy of administrative councils, starting with the Pit Committee and ending with the Ministry of Mines, the whole industry could be reorganised with profit to the community and everyone interested.
Anyone, whether he be representative of the miner or of the general public, incurs a great responsibility in rejecting this first serious attempt by Parliament to deal with a very difficult problem. I am not forgetting that the Royal Commission did disagrgee radically upon one question—the ownership of the coal mines. Members who represent the views of the Miners' Federation said that the coal mines should belong to the State; some others reported to the effect that they ought to remain under private ownership. The paragraph in Mr. Justice Sankey's Report recommending the nationalisation of the mines is very instructive. It is as follows:
I recommend that the scheme for local administration hereinafter stated, or any modification of it adopted by Parliament, be immediately set up with the aid of the Coal Controller's Department and that Parliament be invited to pass legislation acquiring the coal mines for the State, after the
scheme has been worked for three years from the date of this report.
My point is that the learned Judge, were he a Member of this Assembly now, would, I am perfectly sure, vote for this Bill.
Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the machinery proposed by Mr. Justice Sankey excluded from every one of the committees all the employers in the country and gave them no representation at all? That is fundamentally different from what is proposed here.
My reading of the Reports does not coincide with that of the hon. Member. I still say that in substance there is very little difference 10.0 P.M. between any of the Reports as far as regards the central matter of the organisation of the industry by means of a hierarchy of committees. This Bill, and I know this will be very disagreeable to some hon. Members, is undoubtedly a step towards nationalisation. If a Bill were to be brought in by hon. Members for the nationalisation of the coal industry they would have to incorporate, clause after clause, a great deal of what is included in this Bill. Therefore, when that time comes, if it comes, the step to complete nationalisation will be a comparatively short one. For that reason, although they know their own business best, it seems to me that the representatives of the miners are not well advised in rejecting out of hand this attempt which goes a great deal more than half way to meet the demands they have been making in recent years as to the organisation of the coal industry.
I am not an out-and-out opponent of nationalisation, and I do not regard it as the terrible bugbear which it evidently is to a great many hon. Members. To me it is not a question of principle at all, as such, but a question of business, of balance sheets, profit and loss. In any case, it is a big step to take, and at present with the knowledge we now have. The energy, enterprise and scientific ability, and the moral and financial courage that have gone to the creation, through many generations, of the great coal industry cannot be superseded in a day without hazard to the interests concerned. I think we would be well advised to move slowly; for, after all, we are moving on. We did not get political enfranchisement in a day or in a generation. I do not think it is reasonable to expect that we should have a complete industrial democracy at one bound. Progress in all industry must be slow and progress in re-organisation of any industry must be slow. We are moving into unknown territory; we have practically no experience to guide us, and the little there is is of doubtful value. It is in the interests of the whole country, including the miners, that we should move forward step by step and consolidate the position as we move along. This afternoon we had a great many arguments as to the immediate need for nationalisation, and amongst them the question of safety was mentioned. I think the point made by an hon. Member that under nationalisation the mines would be less safe than they are at present is very serious, and, I am afraid, a very true one. The reasons which were given for that opinion were, I think, solid. I disagree with an hon. Member who spoke about the risks attendant upon men who go underground. I think they are terrible risks. The casualties amongst the coalminers are terrific. There are, I believe, about 1,500 deaths per year, and ten times as many casualties. I saw it put down that the casualties in our coalmines during twelve months were equal to the whole of the casualties of the Expeditionary Force at Gallipoli. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] At any rate, the figures are sufficiently terrible. If I knew that nationalisation of the coal mines meant the saving of a single life, I would vote for it to-night and all the time until we had it. I do not think that safety in the mines is going to come along that way. After all, the inspectors are under the Home Office; their instructions are written from official quarters, and safety in the mines has been, and is to-day, a nationalised obligation. You cannot make it more so under a system of nationalisation of the mines. I do not think we have really been dealing with the heart of the problem. I am afraid that during this debate we have had too many excursions into technicalities, and so many contributions by experts—of whom I do not claim to be one—that we have wandered from the heart of the problem, and it is this. The miners—I live among them and represent them—have made up their minds that it is unfair to them, and naturally unjust, that they should risk their lives daily while other people only risk their money, and yet get a disproportionate reward, and are without sufficent control or voice in the conditions of their working lives. They demand two things. The first is a larger share in the fruits of their industry. The second is a more effective share in the control of the conditions of their working lives. With both of these demands I am profoundly in sympathy, and if I thought that nationalisation would meet these demands, I would vote for it, but I do not think it comes altogether to that. It is a far more difficult problem. I do not think that it is simply a choice between private ownership and sheer unadulterated, cast-iron nationalisation. I would like to see some scheme of profit-sharing and co-partnership, so that the men would begin to feel that there was a real partnership of hand and brain in the industry. The miners ask for a higher status. I think this Bill will help to do that. They do not want to feel that they are treated merely as wheels and the spare parts of a great machine. They ask to be treated as human beings, and to feel that they are free to develop their personalities to the full. The present system does not allow them to do that. Nationalisation, I am afraid, cannot do it. It would paralyse initiative, sap enterprise, and retard development. Because this Bill makes a stride in the direction of more closely associating the miners with the control of the conditions of their daily lives, it is with great pleasure that I shall vote for it.
I rise as representing a mining constituency. I have listened to Debates on several Bills since I have been here and I have never heard such a variety of reasons given for the rejection of a Bill as have been put forward for the rejection of this Bill. The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) said he rejected it because he would not like to see his constituents earning more money than the miners in other parts of the country.
I am glad to hear that. The miners in North Wales are only too glad to get more, and that is one reason why I am prepared to support this Bill. I wish to see the prospects of the miners in my constituency improved. I thought the hon. Member was a Welsh Nationalist as he belongs to the same party as I do. One of his reasons is that he is afraid some of his constituents may derive too much benefit from it. That is certainly an extraordinary reason.
Another Member for Cardiff objects to it because it is "Neither fish, flesh, fowl nor good red-herring." Certainly a good many red-herrings have been drawn across the path of this Bill to-night. Our attention has been diverted from the real object of this Bill. What is the object of this Bill? It is to bring contentment to the mining industry. We are suffering in this country from a shortage of coal. The world is suffering from a shortage of coal. The only way to get an increased output of coal is to bring contentment to the mining industry. Nationalisation is not going to do it. I am against nationalisation root and branch. I fought my election on that very issue. My opponent, who was the Secretary of the North Wales Miners' Federation, and who advocated nationalisation during the election, put it forward with all the strength he could command, and said that he represented the miners of North Wales in putting it forward. I advocated, roughly, the policy incorporated in this Bill, and that is the policy of co-operation between all parties concerned. You have here committees which are representative of all those interested in the industry, and the workers are to have at least half of the representation. Surely that is the largest measure of control that has ever been offered to a body of workers in this country, and I say that at least we should give this Measure a trial.
When you come to boil down everything that has been said against this Bill on the part of hon. Members who call themselves representatives of Labour—I consider myself a representative of Labour just as they do—those who object to this Bill really object to it because it does not give them nationalisation. That is the crux of the whole thing. The hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Simm) said very truly that nationalisation is not to be decided by any trade union in this country. It is to be decided by the British people as a whole, and this is not the time to object to a measure of this sort on the ground that it does not give nationalisation. I believe that it is going to be the means of increasing the output of coal. It is going to be the means of raising the status of the miner. It is not going to inflict any injury upon the coalowner, and, in my opinion, we are going to have under this Bill a measure of contentment in the mining industry which we have not enjoyed for many years, and I shall certainly vote for the Bill.
I hope the House will extend to me the indulgence which I know it is always prepared to extend to Members when, for the first time, they rise to address this House. I think it is only fair that, as a working miner of 40 years' standing, I should have a word or two to say in this Debate. I am prepared to support the Second Reading of the Bill, not that I believe that everything within the pages of this Bill is exactly what it ought to be, but if it passes the Second Reading and goes to Committee, those opposed to various Clauses will have the opportunity of bringing forward their Amendments. But I certainly think the Bill is intended to benefit the mine-workers of this country, and, as a mine-worker, I want to say frankly that if I thought for one solitary moment it was aimed at doing them an injury I would be the last person in the world to support it. So far as mine-workers are concerned, if I have not acquired some knowledge of their exact position, I have spent those 40 years very badly indeed.
If there were no other recommendation in the Bill that would secure my support it would be Clause 14. That, I may say incidentally, is the ideal of a lifetime with me. It may be an offence. Hon. Members have laid stress on that point. But I say to such hon. Members if they knew of what value a Ministry of Mines would be to the men of the underworld in safeguarding their lives and welfare, they would not begrudge a penny piece needed to establish that Ministry or to forward its operations. To my view in Clause 14 there are tremendous possibilities for the future. The last word has not been said in the interests of the miner and his welfare. I am longing for that day to come along when the mine-worker will be put into a position of greater safety than he is in at the present time. I am prepared to say that during the last 10 years the question of the safety of the mine-workers has made a tremendous stride. As the result of being an agitator for the better safety of the men in the mines during that period, I have been boycotted by the employing section for the last 18 months. They said I was an agitator and wanted too much from the mine-owners of the country. But I have felt that the lives of myself and my comrades were at stake. There is much to be done to make the underground worker still more secure, and I am longing for the day when the Ministry of Mines will be established, and when by the decision of the district or area boards the management will be able to accept any recommendation that has been arrived at by the joint bodies, for I honestly want to see the day when every deputy who has examined his district before the men go into the mines shall be a State-paid servant, and be able to do his duty to those whose lives are committed to his care without incurring any disfavour on the part of any employer.
I am also anticipating another reform if this Bill gets through the House of Commons, and that is that there should be compulsory pit-head baths for the miner. Here and there in the country we have them. At present, however, the matter is left between the men and the management to establish such baths with a certain charge per man. If, however, they are beneficial to the mine-worker, I see no reason, according to the Bill, why the joint committees, when set up, should not join hands and make this recommendation to the Ministry of Mines, and so eventually have the baths established. There is still another point—I speak of pensions. I want to see the time when the mine-worker will come into his own at the end of the strenuous life. To-day the mine-worker is the most neglected person there is in the Kingdom. There are pensions for all sorts of people; yet we find men of over 70 dragging themselves along to work in order to eke out their existence. My opinion is that if the man who invests his capital in the mining industry is entitled to such remuneration as will enable him to carry on in a glorious position, the men who produce those profits should be provided for in such a way that he has no fear in his old age that he will fall into the grave earning his living. The last few years of a man's life should not be dragged out strenuously. It is because I believe that there are in this Bill provisions that will lead to a better state of things in the mining industry that I shall support the Second Reading and use all the influence I possess to secure the passage of this Measure.
I congratulate the hon. Member who has just spoken upon his speech, because he has a good deal of technical knowledge upon this subject. I wish to make a few remarks in regard to what has been said about the danger to life amongst workers in mines. Nobody knows better than I do what the dangers of mining are, but I think it is a mistake to say that the miners are not themselves very largely responsible for that danger. If hon. Members would compare the statistics of accidents in mines with the number of accidents in some other trades, I think it would be found that the comparison is very much to the detriment of the miners. Many hon. Members have had experience of Petty Sessional Courts in mining areas, and my experience in the County of Durham shows that scarcely two months ever elapse without one or more prosecution taking place in which miners are summoned for being found in the pits with matches. It will be within the knowledge of hon. Members that the great objection to the use of the Davy safety lamp in mines was made by the miners themselves, and it was with great difficulty that the managers of mines could induce the miners to use Davy lamps, because they insisted upon going to work with naked lights. A very grave accident happened at Wingate, and it is stated that the accident was caused by a man firing a shot at the wrong place entirely disregarding the regulations. With regard to this particular Bill, it is unacceptable to hon. Members of the Labour party, but I should have thought that they would accept it as a sort of half-way house to nationalisation, because the Bill is certainly that. The proposition to put a tax of one penny on the ton is not only to tax the consumer but it means a tax on the man who invests his money in the coal industry. Why should he be taxed to a greater extent than the man who invests his money in ordinary enterprises? That tax I venture to think will be a direct incentive to the diminution of output. I cannot help thinking that output under this Bill will decrease to a more marked degree than it has during the last few months. I want to raise a point with regard to the committees. There are four committees set up by this Bill. I cannot understand on what basis the right hon. Gentleman has chosen the representatives who are to act on the Advisory Committee. There is one element of the community which is absent from all committees—the royalty owners. After all, the ownership of royalties has been recognised by the law of the land from time immemorial, and that being so why should this Bill, which is to regulate the management of this particular industry, and which is to create machinery to deal with it, ignore the royalty owners. It is both unjust and unfair. With regard to the pit committees, they are the worst of the whole. They are made up of representatives of the managers and representatives of the workers. Among the representatives of the managers are supposed to be officials of the collieries, who have a union of their own and are quite distinct from the men. Before this Bill was brought in a number of colliery officials came to me and asked me to impress on the right hon. Gentleman the importance of their having representation on these committees. I am not going the length of voting against the Bill, but it is not looked upon with any great favour by those of us who have to do with coal.
I feel that I must vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, if only because I think my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has made out an unanswerable case for the continuance, for a limited period, of some kind of control. As for the setting up of a Ministry of Mines, I am grateful to him for having adopted the least grandiose of the proposals that have been made, but I wish he had adopted a less grandiose title. "Down with Ministries" is a sort of slogan in certain quarters, and I do not think the public distinguish between "Ministry" and "Minister." All new Ministries are anathema. If my right hon. Friend had called this a "Department of Mines," I think it would have aroused much less criticism and opposition in the country. I also think that there is some substance in that criticism, because the mere fact that this is called a Ministry does tend to raise the ideas of those concerned with its administration, and rather forces them to seek new functions and, perhaps, increased staffs, to which this House is at present strongly opposed.
I warmly welcome Part III. of the Bill. I am not one of those who take the view that the leisure of the workers is no concern of those who employ them. That I am not alone in my opinion is shown by the work that is being done by many employers throughout the country in connection with the recreation and welfare of their workers. Only the other day a scheme was brought to me which had been prohibited by the local housing authority for building a great hall or institute for the workers of a certain large firm. It included a gymnasium, lecture room, a number of billiard tables, bathrooms, and rest rooms, and, from a hasty glance at the plans, I judged that a building of that kind could not be put up now for less than about £25,000. It is asked why this particular industry of coal should be picked out and a charge put upon it for the welfare of its workers. Personally, I attach so much importance to the provision of more means of recreation for the workers that I should be prepared to support an extension of this principle to other industries, and even to all industries, if methods could be devised by which that object could be attained. I have had some experience of trying to raise money for this purpose, and I know the difficulties of doing so. A beginning must be made somewhere, but I think there are special reasons why this industry should be picked out to give a lead in this respect. In the first place, the coal industry is often the principal, and sometimes the only industry in its locality, and, therefore, if there is a moral obligation upon the employers to provide for the welfare of the workers in the district, it must fall upon the coal industry in particular. I do not know whether I am doing coalowners an injustice, but it rather seems to me, from my own observations, that they have not done very much in this direction up to the present. At all events, in the coal districts which I have visited I have not seen very much trace of it. When I was recently visiting South Wales for another purpose, one of the things that particularly impressed me was the large number of men who were standing about in the streets doing nothing, and, apparently, not knowing what to do with themselves when they had finished their work. I think that that is a dangerous state of things to the community, and I should be glad, therefore, to see provision made, by Statute, if necessary, for opportunities of sensible and healthy recreation for these people.
As to the purposes to which this fund is to be applied, I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Bilston (Brigadier-General Hickman), who protested against its being used for housing. Housing is already provided for under another scheme, and it seems to me that there is ample opportunity in other directions for the employment of any money which may be provided by this fund. The question of the provision of baths has been mentioned as one thing to which this money might very properly be applied. In many cases miners do not live close to the pithead; they live some distance off, and, if the schemes with which my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff is concerned come to fruition, the probability is that the miner in the future will live further away from the pithead. I want to suggest that my right hon. Friend should consider whether it would not be worth while in the allocation of this money that, in addition to pit committees, the local authorities should be given some portion, and should be asked to submit schemes to the Ministry of Mines.
Part II seems to me a sort of combination of Whitley Councils and profit-sharing. I do not object to that; I always thought that the two went very close together, because, if the workers are able to suggest new methods of management and new ideas which result in greater efficiency of work and greater production, then it seems to me only right and fair that they should share in the benefits that results therefrom. What has been the reception that this proposal has had from the Labour Benches? My right hon. Friend (Mr. Brace) says that the miners will not work the scheme, because it is not nationalisation, and that they could not work it if they would, because those miners in districts where coal is being worked at a loss are not prepared to stand by and go without the advantages which will come to those who happen to be in districts where coal is worked at a profit. Nationalisation is not an issue which will be decided in this House. It is an issue which sooner or later will be decided by the country, and, whatever the decision, I shall be prepared to abide by it. My right hon. Friend has put his finger upon the objection to all compulsory profit-sharing schemes. They work very well when a profit is made, but they will not work the moment that there is a loss. Therefore, I am against compulsory profit-sharing, and I suggest to my right hon. Friend who is in charge of the Bill that, seeing his proposal has been definitely rejected by the representatives of the miners who are so deeply interested in it, he would do well after the Second Reading of the Bill has been passed to drop those Clauses which provide for compulsory Whitley Councils and compulsory profit-sharing. He will not thereby prevent the formation of such councils or such profit-sharing schemes if they are voluntarily agreed upon by the owners and the workers, but he will avoid the serious danger of knocking the heads of employers and workers together, by forcing them to come into a scheme to which neither of them are prepared to agree.
The discussion to which we have listened has been very valuable, not only from the point of view of the Second Reading, but, I hope, also from the point of view of the Committee stage of the Bill. To me the later stages of the Debate have proved the most profitable. In the earlier part of the afternoon we had speeches from the extremists upon both sides. We had the views of those who would not accept any scheme which did not begin with nationalisation. If it began with nationalisation they were prepared to accept anything. On the other hand, we had speeches from those who still believe that it is possible for the world to return to the position in which it was in July, 1914. I think, for the most part, these speeches cancelled each other. I do not find in the speeches to which I have referred that very much remains for me to make any reply to. But in the later stages of the Debate we have had some very fruitful suggestions put forward. I would refer in particular to the speeches of the hon. Member (Mr. Chamberlain) and another, to which the House, I am sure, listened with great pleasure, from the hon. Member (Mr. Lewis). The hon. Member (Mr. Chamberlain) has made certain suggestions with regard to the profit-sharing part of the Bill. I fully recognise the criticism which he has made on that portion of the Measure, and no doubt, to a certain extent, it chimes in with the comment that was made upon it by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brace). It is a view to which the Government must give consideration, whether it is a necessary part of the Bill that the profit-sharing scheme should be included. It is obvious that the Measure would meet with far more acceptance on the part of Labour Members if that section of the Bill were entirely dropped, and between now and Committee I undertake that we shall look with perhaps a different eye at the provision which the Measure suggests in that respect. But, on the other hand, the references of the hon. Member (Mr. Chamberlain) to the scheme for a series of committees cannot meet with the same point of view from the Government. The representation of employers and workmen according to the methods which are there suggested is one of the fundamental ideas upon which the whole Labour policy of the Government has been based. It is true it is possible to get such committees set up by voluntary means, but on the other hand, if you have in a measure such as this a distinct statutory provision for the establishment of such committees, and if, in addition, what you could never have in a voluntary scheme, an arrangement by which recommendations made by representatives of employers and workmen may obtain the formal sanction of the Minister, and by that means become part of the law of the land, then, I think, you have reached an entirely different stage in our Labour legislation from any we have previously attained, and it may be setting up a system which may prove of the greatest possible efficiency in the future.
I want to make some reply in connection with Clause 11 to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brace). He trounced the proposals of the Government and poured scorn upon the suggestions in the Bill. He said that this Clause was the whole Bill, and it was useless, therefore the Bill must be withdrawn. The whole of my right hon. Friend's attack was made under a complete misapprehension; or if it was not a misapprehension it was a very adroit—if I may use his own word—line to take in criticising the measure. He referred to a series of figures which had been produced from the Coal Controller's Department, giving the earnings of the coal industry during the first three months of this year, and he pointed out, that if the proposals of the Government were to be enacted, you would immediately have several districts, which at present are represented as losing money, attacked on the ground that the wages must now be reduced in order that the working cost could meet the income. He must know that that particular Schedule of returns to which he referred has no reference to the conditions which now prevail, and to which this Bill will apply. In the first part of this year the condition was that coal to inland customers was being sold at a loss. To industries coal was being sold at a loss of 4s. 2d. a ton, and to the household consumer at a loss of 14s. 2d. a ton. Accordingly, that return to which he referred shows an enormous divergence between the revenue of those collieries which were supplying coal for inland consumption and those that were lucky enough to supply coal for export. On the one hand the exporter was getting the world's price for coal while the man who supplied coal for home consumption was getting less than the cost price. Therefore, you had this absurd divergence with which my right hon. Friend made that easy play to which we are accustomed from him. All that has disappeared. Coal is now being sold to the inland consumer at a sufficient price to pay all the costs and to yield a profit which has been agreed upon with the owners through the Coal (Emergency) Act. Therefore, the divergence will disappear as soon as these returns begin to come into the account. The reply goes much further than that. At the present time the export of coal is controlled, and the Bill provides that so long as the export of coal is controlled no order shall be operative which would allow of the area committees beginning to fix wages. That means that so long as we have the shortage which compels us to control export, so long shall we have the present arrangement for distributing the profits of the industry throughout the whole of the coalfields of the country. Therefore the situation during which my right hon. Friend deprecated could never arise. When will control cease? It will cease when things have become normal again.
He would be a rash prophet who would say exactly how long that will be. Before the War export prices and inland prices were practically identical. There was a difference of 1s. a ton; it certainly was not more. Accordingly, when we get back to normal times, which, I hope, we shall do as soon as possible, and when the miners produce all the coal we require, and we can export to the same extent that we used to do, we shall get rid of the trouble, and there will no longer be any artificial differentiation between high export prices and low inland prices, which led to the criticisms of my right hon. Friend.
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why Australian coal, which pays a freight of £8 10s. a ton, can take the trade from this country in Norway at a cost of £10 a ton?
Coal is being shipped from Sydney at present at 22s. 6d. f.o.b., and, with a freight of £8 10s. a ton, is cutting out the export trade of this country.
It is not a question of cutting out the export trade at all, because, if we had the coal to supply to Norway, that would be one of our markets. All our difficulty arises at present from the shortage of coal. The more coal we get the more we can export, but we cannot export more than the surplus that remains after we have fulfilled our home requirements. The hon. Member (Mr. Gould) made some suggestion about a dislocation in the exporting arrangements in his district. I do not know how far his criticism went, but any statement that the Coal Controller stopped any pits from working is without foundation.
The two statements are entirely different. There were some collieries out of work for a particular day. The statement of the hon. Member (Mr. Gould) was totally different. He said that the Coal Controller stopped the pit, and that is a statement which I could not accept until I get facts to justify it. Coal export arrangements are no longer in the hands of the Coal Controller, but of the Coal Committees which are dealing with the matter, and if any exception is to be taken it must be to the action which the local committees have seen fit to adopt in any particular instance, but I shall be glad to inquire into any case in which my hon. Friends think the matter has not been correctly carried through. There never has been, so far as I know, uniformity of coal rates or coal earnings throughout the whole Kingdom. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Brace) seemed to demand a system which would bring about variations of rates in different districts. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend can find many districts in which the rates are the same. I have looked through the list of the districts again since he spoke and I find in the various districts of the country the standard minimum wage varying from district to district, and the earnings varying from district to district. So it is idle to say that, because of an arrangement by which wages should be based upon profits, therefore you are introducing into the coal trade an element of difference which did not previously exist. It has always existed so far as I know. I do not know that anybody
The hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Betterton) asked whether non-ferrous miners would have free access to the Minister of Mines under this Bill. They undoubtedly would; whatever representations they had to make they would be able to make just the same as a pit committee or district committee under the Bill. The hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. R. McLaren) asked whether shale miners would come under the Bill. The answer is in the affirmative. The hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mr. Leslie Scott) asked whether the Government would be prepared, before going on with this Bill, to give a guarantee that they would treat, pari passu with it, a Bill coming from the House of Lords, dealing not at all with material, but with a Sanctioning Authority for the working of minerals throughout the country. It is perfectly obvious that to complicate this measure with the controversial provisions which occur in the measure referred to would imperil the passage of this Bill within the time at our disposal. Therefore, I am afraid that I cannot give any assurance on the matter. I would like to conclude on the same note as that chosen by the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. T. A. Lewis). I am not deterred or dismayed by any of the criticism which to-day has been passed on the Bill. The more the Bill is studied the more will the benefits of its provisions be recognised. I look forward with the greatest possible hope to the proposals of the Bill for bringing employers and workmen close together, working in cooperation for the benefit of their common industry and their common interest.
|Division No. 167.]||AYES.||[10.58 p.m.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Baird, John Lawrence||Betterton, Henry B.|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bigland, Alfred|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Banner, Sir John S. Harmood||Blake, Sir Francis Douglas|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Barnes Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals)||Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith|
|Amery, Lieut.-Col. Leopold C. M. S.||Barnett, Major R. W.||Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Barnston, Major Harry||Brassey, Major H. L. C.|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Barrie, Charles Coupar||Breese, Major Charles E.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Bridgeman, William Clive|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Brown, Captain D. C.|
|Burden, Colonel Rowland||Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Pratt, John William|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere||Prescott, Major W. H.|
|Campbell, J. D. C.||Howard, Major S. G.||Purchase, H. G.|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Rae, H. Norman|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Hurd, Percy A.||Randles, Sir John S.|
|Casey, T. W.||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.|
|Cautley, Henry S.||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Jephcott, A. R.||Reid, D. D.|
|Child, Brigadier-General Sir Hill||Jesson, C.||Renwick, George|
|Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Clough, Robert||Johnson, Sir Stanley||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Johnstone, Joseph||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Rodger, A. K.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Royden, Sir Thomas|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, Mid)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirk'dy)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool Exchange)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Seager, Sir William|
|Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Simm, M. T.|
|Davies, Sir Joseph (Chester, Crewe)||Lloyd-Greame, Major Sir P.||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Lorden, John William||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry||Lort-Williams, J.||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. G. F.|
|Dockrell, Sir Maurice||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Stanton, Charles B.|
|Edge, Captain William||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Stevens, Marshall|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Lyle, C. E. Leonard||Stewart, Gershom|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||McLaren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester)||Sugden, W. H.|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram G.||Macmaster, Donald||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||M`Micking, Major Gilbert||Taylor, J.|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Macquisten, F. A.||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Mallalieu, F. W.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell-(Maryhill)|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Martin, Captain A. E.||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Gange, E. Stanley||Matthews, David||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Mitchell, William Lane||Waddington, R.|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Waring, Major Walter|
|Glyn, Major Ralph||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash||Weston, Colonel John W.|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Morrison, Hugh||Wheler, Lieut.-Colonel C. H.|
|Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y N.)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Whitla, Sir William|
|Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Murchison, C. K.||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Greer, Harry||Murray, Lt.-Col. Hon. A. (Aberdeen)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Greig, Colonel James William||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Murray, Major William (Dumfries)||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Hailwood, Augustine||Nall, Major Joseph||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W.(Liv'p'l,W.D'by)||Neal, Arthur||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, West)|
|Hanna, George Boyle||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Harris, Sir Henry Percy||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Haslam, Lewis||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Hayward, Major Evan||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John||Wood, Major S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||O'Neill, Major Hon. Robert W. H.||yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Parker, James||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Hickman, Brig.-General Thomas E.||Peel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Perring, William George||Younger, Sir George|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)|
|Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central)||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hope, J. D. (Berwick & Haddington)||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Lord E. Talbot and Mr. Dudley Ward.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cope, Major Wm.||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Hartshorn, Vernon|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Hayday, Arthur|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Dawes, Commander||Hirst, G. H.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Hogge, James Myles|
|Billing, Noel Pemberton-||Finney, Samuel||Holmes, J. Stanley|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Forrest, Walter||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Galbraith, Samuel||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.|
|Bromfield, William||Ganzoni, Captain Francis John C.||Kenyon, Barnet|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Glanville, Harold James||Kidd, James|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Gould, James C.||Knights, Capt. H. N. (C'berwell, N.)|
|Cape, Thomas||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Lawson, John J.|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Gretton, Colonel John||Lunn, William|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Malone, Lieut.-Col. C. L. (Layton, E.)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Mills, John Edmund|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Grundy, T. W.||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.|
|Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Royce, William Stapleton||Tootill, Robert|
|Morgan, Major D. Watts||Sexton, James||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Myers, Thomas||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)||Waterson, A. E.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Captain Hon. W.||Sitch, Charles H.||Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.|
|Palmer, Charles Frederick (Wrekin)||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Spencer, George A.||Wignall, James|
|Raffan, Peter Wilson||Spoor, B. G.||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Ramsden, G. T.||Steel, Major S. Strang||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Rendall, Athelstan||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Swan, J. E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.|
|Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)||Mr. Tyson Wilson and Mr. Neil Maclean.|
|Robertson, John||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Rose, Frank H.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
Question put, and agreed to.