(1) There shall be constituted a Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission (hereafter in this section referred to as "the Commission "), which shall consist of three commissioners appointed by the Board of Trade for such period and subject to such conditions as may be determined by the Board, and the Board shall appoint one of the commissioners to be chairman.
(3) A commissioner shall within three months after his appointment sell any securities which he may hold in his own name or in the name of a nominee for his own benefit in any company carrying on the business of coal mining or supplying or selling coal or the manufacture or sale of by-products of coal or machinery or plant for coal mining; and it shall not be lawful for a commissioner while he holds office to acquire for his own benefit any securities in any such company, and if a commissioner, under any will or succession or otherwise, becomes entitled for his own benefit to any securities in any such company he shall sell them within three months after he has so become entitled thereto.
(4) If a commissioner becomes disqualified for holding office, or fails to comply with the provisions of the last foregoing sub-section, or becomes in the opinion of the Board of Trade unfit to continue in office or incapable of performing his duties under this Act, the Board shall forthwith declare his office to be vacant, and shall notify the fact in such manner as they think fit, and thereupon the office shall heroine vacant.
(6) The Board of Trade may appoint a secretary to the Commission and the Commission may employ such officers and servants as the Board may, with the approval of the Treasury, determine, and there shall be paid by the Board such remuneration to the commissioners and to the secretary, officers, and servants of the Commission and such other expenses of the Commission as the Board may, with the approval of the Treasury, determine, and any expenses of the Board under this sub-section shall be defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
We now approach one of the most important parts of this Bill, the new Clauses dealing with amalgamation, and, with the leave of the Committee, I will deal with the points as briefly as possible covering the proposals contained in all these Clauses. The question of amalgamation was considered at very great length by the Royal Commission in 1925 and also, if I remember rightly, by a Commission in 1919 over which Mr. Justice Sankey, as he then was, presided. The arguments are summarised in one of the chapters in the Report of 1925, and on that occasion attention was drawn to the fact that there were 1,400 separate undertakings engaged in British coal production covering about 2,500 separate units of production; that that was very much higher than the number of units for a corresponding production in the Westphalian area; that in other countries the numbers were similar, and that where it was found possible both in the public interest and in the interest of the industry and its prosperity, amalgamations should take place.
I need not weary the Committee this afternoon with the arguments which were employed upon that occasion. They were arguments which apply practically to any scheme of co-operation, being on the one side the advantages of large scale production, the elimination of a great deal of redundant capital and direction, the ability to employ greater skill by the offer of higher wages, and the increased offer improved bargaining power partly in the distribution of the product and in other directions that would come from a larger scale unit by amalgamation of the kind which is now proposed. On the other side, of course, attention was directed to the fact that we were not here dealing with an industry which, from many points of view, lent itself very readily to amalgamation, as other industries in the State. There were an infinite variety of pits, to say nothing of the variety of geological structures, and we were dealing with what was in the main a wasting asset, although the life-time of the pit might be very long. In short, with such a great mass of material it was very difficult for any Royal Commission or any body of outside opinion to make up its mind. While all this is true, on the merits of this case the Royal Commission in 1925 recommended that amalgamation should be encouraged, and, in the main, should be encouraged at that time [...] voluntary lines. But that Commission also indicated that if, after a trial period of two or three years, little or no progress was being made in the fusion of these tinder-takings, then it would be for Parliament or the country to consider what form of compulsion should be introduced. That is essentially the problem which we approach this afternoon.
Perhaps hon. Members in all parts of the Committee will bear with me while I try to give as clear an explanation as I can of the leading provisions of the Act of 1926, because they are fundamental to the new Clauses which we have on the Paper. It seemed to us that if amalgamation was to be approached at all, it would be very much better to take the structure of the Act of 1926 in its leading Clauses which contain, first of all, the provision in the first Sub-section, which I will call a provision for fusion or amalgamation on purely voluntary lines. That provision lays down that where in any district owners can agree that in the interests of the economical and efficient working of the industry there should be amalgamation they can present a scheme to the Board of Trade which, if approved, would become operative.
I want to point out that, in the next place, there is in the following Sub-section a provision under which, if any individual owner or group of owners in any district wish to promote amalgamation to which the other parties are not favourable, that scheme, after being considered by the Board of Trade, would be sent to the Railway and Canal Commission, who would take all the facts into account; and if they were satisfied that the scheme was in the public interest and fair and equitable as between the parties, it would come into operation. In other words, there was contained in the Act of 1926, which was passed by our predecessors in office, following the recommendations of the Royal Commission Report in 1925, a compulsory provision to the effect that when you had the initiative of one or two owners or a very small number, what I will call compulsory measures could be brought into play, and in due course those amalgamations would take effect. I would remind the Committee that there was a trial period of two or three years to consider whether compulsory amalgamation on a larger scale was desirable.
Two Reports have been presented under the Act of 1926. The first was presented in November, 1928, at the expiry of the period mentioned in the Act. The second Report was presented in December, 1929. I think it will be common ground that whatever view we rake of compulsory arbitration, these two Reports show the very small progress that has been made, either under the voluntary provisions of the Act of 1926 or under the form of compulsion that that Act provided under Subsection (2) of the first Section. It is true that the latest Report suggests that 149,000 workers in the mining industry have been covered by amalgamations, but I think those figures are very misleading. A large number of men may be employed by one undertaking which absorbs a small one, and those figures do not convey any true indication of the progress which is being made by the amalgamation of those undertakings. If anyone considers this afternoon the basis of the Act of 1926 and what was contained in those two Reports and asks himself whether the conditions laid down by the Royal Commission have been satisfied, I think he would be bound to reply in the affirmative. While great changes have taken place in practically all other industries in this and other countries relatively slow and very little progress has been made so far as coal mining is concerned. On that basis, we approach the precise proposals which are proposed in these new Clauses. The essential thing is that there is here provided a definite provision that it no longer rests on the purely voluntary basis or on the initiative of one or two owners. That is subject to the qualifications which I will describe relating to the new body known as the Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission.
If hon. Members will allow me, I will try to anticipate the innumerable questions which will probably suggest themselves to Members of the Committee. First of all let me make it perfectly clear before I attempt to define the constitution of this body that we do not rule out any amalgamation or fusion under the ordinary Companies Acts. There is nothing in this Section which rules that out; but there might be very considerable doubt in regard to the position of any amalgamation in the event of the Commissioners appearing on the scene. There may well be a strengthening of the voluntary principle. Many owners would say that it was perfectly clear that at some time these Commissioners would reach their districts and accordingly it would be better that they should put up schemes which were consistent with the spirit of what is now in mind, and that they should get them approved if possible on voluntary lines.
There was a general concession under the Finance Act of a year or two ago to the effect that in amalgamations of that kind no Stamp Duty would be payable on the old capital but only on the new capital which was essential for the purpose of the amalgamations. That capital was not subject under the new conditions to any additional charge. So much for the ordinary Companies Acts Clauses. I come now to the Act of 1926. This scheme does not rule out the contribution to amalgamation under the first Section of that Act. If schemes are submitted to the Board of Trade they must conform to the kind of conditions which we have in mind but they need not run the whole process of the provisions of those Clauses. Having regard to these facts it is clear that instead of merely compulsory amalgamation there may be a strengthening of the voluntary contribution. If schemes are drawn up in the spirit of what we have in mind they should get approval on voluntary lines. If those schemes are approved by the Board of Trade there is a provision that they will get the benefit of exemption from Stamp Duty without going through the procedure of appearing before the Railway and Canal Commission.
The compulsory element which we now propose is a manifest development of the compulsory part of the Act of 1926. I have already explained to hon. Members that under that Act if one or I two colliery owners stood out it would be possible to proceed with a scheme compulsory in character, but now the Commissioners appear on the scene and can take the initiative. It is their duty to survey the whole position of 1,400 or more undertakings to find out what is best for the economic and efficient production of coal and to satisfy themselves that the proposals are in the financial interests of the industry. Approval rests in the last resort with the Railway and Canal Commission; the Reorganisation Commissioners have to propound a scheme approved by the Board of Trade, whether the rights of further appeal beyond the Railway and Canal Commission are exercised or not. It may be that, as the schemes are developed and the ground is surveyed owners will reach agreement, a change of attitude will come about and those schemes then take their place in the voluntary category to be approved by the Board of Trade and come into operation, and enjoy the benefit of the exemption from Stamp Duty to which I have referred.
The other class is that of the obligatory or compulsory scheme. In that case the process is roughly this: The ground is surveyed by the Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission, which goes down to a district, or which takes evidence from that district to find out what are the best groups or the best forms of amalgamation, and it would have regard to the conditions of marketing in the industry in that part of the country. It would look to the capital of each undertaking and to its present position and all the rest, and it would say that such and such undertakings should be amalgamated in that particular district, and it would recommend a scheme on those lines to the Board of Trade. All parties have ample rights of presenting their views before the Statutory Commissioners which are to be set up under this Clause. If any owners are still in dispute, they have, of course, the right to carry their case to the Railway and Canal Commission, and, in a matter of that kind, while probably in substance the verdict of the statutory commissioners would be final on the facts of the case, the Railway and Canal Com- mission would still have to determine whether the scheme was in the national interest, and whether it was fair among the parties involved; and, if the Railway and Canal Commission were satisfied as to these two conditions, they would approve of the scheme, subject, of course, to the rights of appeal in law beyond the decision of the. Railway and Canal Commission which any of the parties might have. By that time, presuming that no further right of appeal in law was exercised, the scheme would become obligatory, and all the owners in that district would be bound by the proposal which had finally obtained the approval of that body. I do not think I need detain the Committee at greater length by describing the process which is followed
Oh no, not at all. There is provision of course, for great elasticity. All the circumstances must be considered by the statutory commissioners, and, beyond that, by the Railway and Canal Commission, and no one could ever tackle a great problem of this kind in an industry of this importance on any other basis. I will now say a word or two about the constitution of the Commission itself. The proposal of the Government is that three com-missioners should be appointed and that they should be aided by an adequate technical and other staff, which would in fact overtake a large part of the work. There is some difference of opinion as to whether we should have three or five commissioners. If the commissioners are to be on a part-time basis, then, perhaps, there is no particular objection to there being five. If, on the other hand, they are to be on a full-time basis, it would probably be very much better that the number should be restricted to three. But the Committee will observe at once that, in order to get a contribution of the kind which is necessary in a matter of this importance, the very finest skill must be at the disposal of the Government, and, if that be a condition, it might be very difficult, short of very heavy payment, to get full-time service on a commission of this kind. In any event, that is a detail to be considered when we come to the analysis of the Clause.
Whether the number be three or five, the intention is that we might include a lawyer who is really familiar with industrial and commercial practice, someone who is familiar with administration as related to the colliery districts, and familiar also with the bearing of problems of this kind on the buying community, and probably also someone who would command general confidence on the industrial side, who had already had experience of amalgamations in other industries—in short, a commission such as would be thoroughly representative of all-round experience in order to give practical effect to these proposals. It is, of course, necessary that certain conditions should be attached, such as that they should be free from any personal interest, in terms of the regulations that we propose to lay down in the first of these long Clauses this afternoon. The Clauses define the duties of these commissioners in regard to surveying the field, but they must of course be assisted by an adequate technical staff, and in my judgment a large part of the work will be overtaken by the technical assistance at the disposal of the Commission.
I have already in a short statement on the Financial Resolution, mentioned that the Government estimate that the annual cost of this Commission will be at a rough approximation, about £250,000 per annum. The only basis that we had for an estimate of that kind was the cost of certain recent amalgamations, written down, so far as we could roughly write them down, to a common figure, excluding elements which in my judgment should he excluded, and trying to estimate how many amalgamations would be overtaken: but, of course, that is all in the realm of purely provisional estimate, because no one can say at this stage how rapidly these commissioners will work, and what amount of work will fall to them, since that will be regulated to a large extent by the voluntary contribution, which this compulsory element itself may stimulate, under the Act of 1926.
Could the right hon. Gentleman give an outline of how this £250,000 will be divided between the different sources of expenditure that the Commission will have to meet, such as the salaries of experts and their own salaries, and what will be the nature of the other expenditure?
No; I am afraid I could not give the hon. Baronet more than a very general reply. The remuneration of the commissioners would probably be a comparatively small element, and by far the greater part of the expense would relate to the legal, technical and other assistance involved. The hon. Baronet will, however, recall that it is provided in these Clauses that a sum equal to the cost of that technical assistance is recoverable from the concerns amalgamated under this Bill, so that the cost of this Commission to the State, assuming that there was a recovery on those lines, would in substance be the salaries of the commissioners together with any other expenditure that could not be recovered under the head which I have just described; but I should not imagine that that would be large—indeed, the hope is rather that it would be comparatively small. The third of these Clauses outlines the nature of the operations in which these commissioners will be engaged, and I should like to refer very briefly, and almost in conclusion, to the basis on which the amalgamation is to proceed. It has been assumed in some quarters, I think quite wrongly, that, if the Government proposals had remained as they are on the Paper, there might have been great amalgamations in terms of existing nominal capital, or on some basis of that kind—in other words, a mere linking up—and that that might have exposed the industry to capital and other burdens which it could not carry with success, having regard to the recovery of the industry which is urgently necessary, and the very difficult conditions which it has to meet. I do not think that that is the case for a single moment, because the Commissioners would be under the obligation to take steps to see that a proper basis was laid down. But there is not the slightest objection—on the contrary, there is probably a great advantage—in putting the basis beyond any shadow of doubt in the Bill itself, and, accordingly, the Government are willing favourably to consider a Clause which is on the Paper in the name of certain hon. Members opposite, providing that the basis of valuation for the purposes of amalgamation shall be that as between a willing buyer and a willing seller, and that the value attributable to Part I of be present Bill, that is to say, the marketing scheme, or, indeed, to any other portion of this Bill, will be definitely excluded. It has been suggested that the fixing of the standard tonnage and the allocation of the quota might give an artificial value to a colliery which, in the absence of a provision of this kind, would be taken into account for amalgamation, and that that would be a highly undesirable process. In order to remove any doubt on that point, we take the basis on the lines that I have described, that is to say, as between a willing seller and a willing buyer, excluding any influence due to this Measure, but endeavouring to arrive at a strict value of the undertaking on what it is worth as a going concern, what it is worth from the point of view of real earning capacity—in short, adopting many of the principles which I think were laid down in different parts of the House at the time when the Companies Bill was under discussion a year or two ago.
I have given a brief summary of the provisions which the Government propose, and I trust that I have made it as clear as a difficult subject of this kind can be made. I do not suggest that it is going to remove all the difficulties which confront coal production at the present time. I know that many amalgamations have taken place in industry within recent years which have been of no real benefit to industrial efficiency, which have, in fact, included capital and other arrangements which could not be effective on any strict economic analysis at all. But if this basis is taken, and if the work is done in the colliery industry on sound lines, I hope that we are going to achieve a different and a better result so far as coal is concerned. At the same time, there is no hon. Member who can place any value per ton on this contribution at the present time. I do not think that anyone would commit himself to a firm estimate of any description. Nor could anyone say how rapidly these commissioners are likely to overtake their work. There are hon. Members who believe that in a short space, probably some two years, the great bulk of the British coalfields will be covered in amalgamation schemes. There are others who believe, with equal sincerity and conviction, that a much longer period will be required. But in any event I should think that in two or three or four years' time substantial progress will have been made, and of course that progress will be accelerated to the extent to which this compulsory element stimulates, so to speak, a voluntary contribution. With this explanation I beg to move the Second Reading of the Clause.
The right hon. Gentleman has explained this series of Clauses to the Committee with characteristic clarity, but even he has not been able to state with any great degree of precision what these commissioners will do or what they will not do. Indeed, I think that even he would admit that the large amount of suspicion which undoubtedly has been aroused by these Clauses has been aroused because of the very general and sweeping manner in which they are drawn, and, although he has pleaded with us to-day with a sweet reasonableness that is very disarming, what the Committee have to consider is, if I may respectfully say so, not the very reasonable speech of the right hon. Gentleman, but the Clauses to which we are now asked to give a Second Reading. If we turn from the right hon. Gentleman's speech to the actual terms of the Clauses, we find that they are so wide that there is hardly anything which these commissioners might not do. I do not think for a moment that the right hon. Gentleman has any great belief in the magic of amalgamation as such; indeed, his speech has been a very tepid, well-weighed commendation of amalgamation. It is the carefully selected, the carefully chosen and thought out amalgamations that he is really commending to us.
I am not at all sure that that is the kind of amalgamation that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) wishes to commend to the House. I am not at all sure—he will correct me if I am wrong—that he does not look forward to some wholesale joining up of every pit in the country, throwing battalions together, whatever may have been their regimental history in the past. Upon lines of this sort, really, nothing but disaster lies. I am quite sure that the last thing in the world that one can dogmatise about are amalgamations. Good amalgamations are, of course, quite admirable, but bad amalgamations are worse than useless. Quickly strung together amalgamations, amalgamations thrown together without adequate consideration, whether by company promoters or by commissioners with a job of work to do, are not going to be good for the coal industry or for industry in general. Therefore, I would submit, as a first condition, that you can lay down no hard and fast principle about amalgamations, but that any single ease has to be considered on its merits.
I would lay down a second proposition, that the last thing we want out of this is promoters' amalgamations. If any amalgamations are to come, let them be producers' amalgamations, or manufacturers' amalgamations, but not promoters' amalgamations. With that I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is in agreement. You can get promoters' amalgamations not solely by people in the City being ready to promote something. You can get promoters' amalgamations quite as easily by getting some inefficient colliery anxious to promote an amalgamation with a more efficient one, and that is just as bad from the point of view of the trade as an amalgamation made by any company promoter who seeks to get some quick advantage out of it. Indeed, I am not at all sure that in some cases it is not worse, because a company promoter, at any rate, has to convince the subscribing public that there is a business proposition, and the public are getting more cautious. He has to persuade the public that there is something that is going to be a money-maker in the future, whereas the owner of a dud pit, if I may use a slang expression, can perfectly well come forward and propose an amalgamation with a strong, efficient undertaking which is merely going to give him a longer life. Therefore, when I say I am against promoters' amalgamations, I am not only against company promoters' amalgamations from outside. I am equally against promoters' amalgamations if they are promoted by inefficient people who merely want to strengthen their already debilitated position in the industry. A great deal of nonsense is often talked about amalgamations. I have been very keen in promoting and helping on amalgamations where I have thought they could do good, but I have never over-rated the economies you can get out of amalgamations, particularly in the coal trade. Economies in production are not much, as a rule, except where you close pits. The economies you get are probably much more in selling than they are in actual production.
I would lay down another proposition. The best judges in most cases of whether an amalgamation is going to be good business or not, and is going to produce economies or not, are the people who are going to be amalgamated. I should like to ask very definitely whether it is proposed that these peripatetic commissioners are going to be restrained—if so, they must be restrained by Amendments—from trying to force amalgamations when none of the parties to the amalgamation are willing that it should take place. I have no objection to the limited amount of compulsion that found its place in the Act of 1926. I do not like compulsion at all, but I think, on the whole, it is reasonable, if you have a sound amalgamation to which the great majority of the parties agree, and the terms of which are fair to everyone concerned, to compel a small dissentient minority to come in on fair terms. But that is not this proposal. This proposal would give power to compel, not only a dissentient minority, but a complete aggregation of people, every one of whom dissented, none of whom thought the position was going to be improved by such an amalgamation, to come into it. That is really expropriation without compensation. I could understand it if you were to say, "I think I can run the coal trade much better than the people who are running it." The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to present that proposition to the House, and, if he carries it a stage further and says." I propose to send some of my staff to propose certain amalgamations of pits, and, if I find people do not like it. I propose to buy those pits out and run them as a State undertaking "—with all his abilities I am not sure that he would be very successful, but it would be a logical and a not wholly unfair proposition, however unsound we might think it in economics.
But what he really is not entitled to do is to go to these people, and say," I think I know how to conduct your business much better than you do yourselves, but I am not going to take it over and run it. I am going to compel you to run it as I want you to run it, and not as you think you can run it yourselves, and I am going to give you no sort of guarantee or compensation." That seems to me to be national control without the State assuming any form of responsibility I think it is extremely unfair. I want to know what guarantee the right hon. Gentleman is proposing in these wide general provisions, which someone other than he may hereafter have to administer, that that kind of thing may not happen. Will he agree to this, that amalgamation should not be proposed except on representations from some of the coalowners? What is he going to do when he finds some coalowners, and the least efficient, anxious to amalgamate with their neighbours? I should very much like to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman) on this point. He has conducted a very successful business in difficult times. How would he like it if the next Measure the President of the Board of Trade were to introduce was one for the compulsory amalgamation of shipping lines? I could find a great number of shipowners who, under a Bill like this, would be only too anxious to promote an amalgamation scheme with him. What is sauce for one industry is sauce for another, and I really do not see why we should be asked to apply this kind of principle to the coal industry if those of us who are engaged in other industries would look very much askance at having it proposed in them. Many of these weak and inefficient undertakings would be only too anxious to come forward with proposals of amalgamation with their stronger neighbours. I cannot imagine anything which would give them a better chance.
I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen Sir H. Samuel), who is rather a stepfather to this new Clause, and to that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Borough? (Mr. Lloyd George) on the Second Reading. They were criticising the quota provisions of the Bill, because they said you must not give a bad pit a vested interest. What bigger vested interest can you give to an inefficient pit than to amalgamate it compulsorily with another stronger undertaking, against the latter's will. Look at the liabilities that you make a strong pit undertake. There are the leases to start with. There is a weak colliery which might go into liquidation before long. It has a number of leases outstanding. If it is wound up, the landlord has to come in and prove for what he can get. That pit seeks to amalgamate with some fine strong undertaking with large reserves. What a vested interest you are giving to the landlord! What was a Coalowners Relief Bill to start with is becoming a Landlords Relief Bill. [Interruption.] It is not my Bill. It is yours. On any amalgamation, all these leases which are held by a weak company are transferred to the new, strong, robust amalgamated undertaking, and the result is that the landlord, who to-day would probably have to give pretty generous terms to the colliery company to go on working his coal, is suddenly going to find, that, in place of a very doubtful financial tenant, he has a strong new tenant who can perfectly well discharge all the obligations for the remainder of the lease.
Then what about the banks? They seem to me to be going to get something out of this. Take an undertaking with a large overdraft. It is very ready to be amalgamated with another undertaking with large reserves. What is going to happen? The reserves are to be amalgamated, the undertaking is taken over with all the liabilities attaching to it, and the banker, who has had a doubtful overdraft of perhaps £200,000, is suddenly going to find that he has a new security of £500,000 which he never expected to have. It is a Coalowners Belief Bill, a Royalty Owners Relief Bill, and a Bankers Relief Bill. It is a most extraordinary proposal that is being made.
The right hon. Gentleman on the Second Reading, explained that the real problem of the coal trade was that you had a potential production of 330,000,000 tons and a probable consumption of 250,000,000 or 260,000,000, and that some of these pits must go out of production. Which first ought to go out of production? The bad inefficient pits. What are you going to do with them under this Bill? They will perhaps amalgamate with strong pits so that these potential producers can go on living a life which they never thought before that they would have. It is futile to put in some proposals that they are to be taken over on a valuation as between a willing buyer and a willing
seller. What is the valuation that a willing buyer would put on it when the last thing the buyer wants to do is buy? How are you going to administer that? [An HON. MEMBER: "No value at all!"] Then is it part of the proposal in this Clause that a large number of pits are going to be transferred for nothing? [An HON. MEMBER: "I hope so!"] An hon. Member hopes so, but the right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I hope the unity which was so evident last time when we debated this Bill is not going to be lost. It is not only that the thing may have no value. In some cases it may be a liability. I remember being told on one occasion that Lord Chalmers, having heard a very eloquent argument advanced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs during the Insurance Bill as to how certain incalculable benefits would accrue if a certain course were adopted, said:
A liability properly envisaged becomes an asset.".
It would require something more than second sight to envisage some of these liabilities in the form of assets. I would ask another question. What is going to happen in composite businesses? What is the proposal where you have, say, a steel works which owns a colliery which is entirely ancillary to the operations of the steel works? Is that to be at the mercy of these gentlemen? Is the risk to be that that shall be taken from them? We want to know where we stand upon that matter.
I am bound to say that I was rather alarmed at one of the things which was stated by the right hon. Gentleman. He said that it would be the duty of these commissioners to survey the whole conditions. That looks as if they have to make propositions covering the whole of the country. If all that the right hon. Gentleman is proposing—he will have to propose it in very different terms from those which find their place in these Clauses—is that in suitable likely cases where amalgamations are hanging fire because somebody is a bit unreasonable over the terms, a little combination of ginger and tact is all that is wanted to bring it off, if that is the kind of thing which is going to happen, it may not be so bad. It might in some cases do some good. But these people are to go round surveying the whole country. Are they going to do much or little? It may be said that if they do not produce much they will not do much harm. I am reminded of a description which the late Lord Haldane once gave of a parish bull. He said that though it never begat a calf, this sanguine animal was always conscientious and regular in the exercise of its functions. I am not at all sure that these commissioners are not going to be rather like that. If you obtain part-time men it may be better. If you say that there are certain cases on which you want advice and then you bring these people in, you may even do good in cases like that. For that purpose, you do not want the tremendous machinery of all these Clauses, but a proposal to appoint these three commissioners to go on working all the time and make them whole-time people seems to me to be much more dangerous.
It is dangerous for two reasons. If you make them full-time commissioners, you will not get the best men. In order to get any good at all, you want to get the very best advice, whether from accountants or mining engineers. Also, if you have whole-time people, they will have to keep busy the whole time. The real question which attaches to these Clauses is: Who are you going to appoint, and how are they going to discharge these functions? If really they are to go round trying to force unwilling people into geographical amalgamations, that the whole position is going to be far worse than if you had left the matter alone?
As regards the Liberal Amendments, I do not see that they add to or detract from the proposal, except that they add to the number of the commissioners and make them whole-time paid commissioners. For the reasons which I have given, that seems to me to be a mistake. I am bound to say that, approaching these Clauses not on the lines of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman but from the point of view of the powers to be given, which is what we have to consider, and not any explanation of how one Minister would like to exercise them, I am very doubtful as to whether the House ought to give these wide powers.
The right hon. Gentleman has said that we must not exaggerate what these Clauses can do. I am quite sure that we should be very unwise to exaggerate any benefit which these Clauses can give. He himself said that we might have to wait two, three, or four years before we saw amalgamations take place. We have to consider them in relation to the rest of the Bill. It is quite plain that these Clauses are no sort of substitute, in his opinion, for Part I of the Bill, and that they form no sort of counter poise to the Minister's case for the shortening of hours. I would make it plain that, though I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman on a good deal that finds a place in these Clauses, I agree with him on one thing, and that is that there certainly can be no substitute for Part I. I think he is fully justified in saying to his allies below the Gangway, that having voted for Part II of the Bill, and having voted against my right hon. Friend's very reasonable Amendment to give an overspread in hours, it is a poor offer to the miners to give them these Clauses, and that they are morally bound to support him in Part I, the dear coal part of his Bill.
The Committee is now approaching one of the most important parts and, in many respects, the most important part of the Bill. The proposals constitute a very large development of policy. Although it is true that they are based upon the precedent set by the late Government in the Act of 1926, they go very far beyond that precedent. As the proposals were not under consideration by the House as part of the Bill in the Second Reading Debate, it is very necessary, I venture to suggest, that the Committee should consider them thoroughly from the point of principle before it accepts proposals, with which, however, I, for one, find myself in very complete agreement.
There are three points. First, is there a case for amalgamation at all? Secondly, if there is, ought it to be applied in any degree compulsorily? Thirdly, if by compulsion, under what conditions? The world in these days is passing through a second industrial revolution. The first substituted machine labour for hand labour, and the second is substituting large units of production for small units. There is as much difference between the Ford factory in Detroit and some of our small motor car factories
here as there was between a Lancashire cotton mill and a hand-loom weaver's cottage. In all industries in all countries this process has become more and more apparent. After a very prolonged inquiry the Balfour Committee came to this conclusion:
British industries' organisation and equipment must be subjected to a thorough process of reconditioning. There must be an active will to reorganise.
After their prolonged inquiry into all the conditions of industry and trade, that was their main conclusion. A few days ago, in a very interesting leading article in the "Times," the matter was summarised in these words:
Enlightened public opinion is by this time thoroughly convinced that the only real cure for industrial depression lies in radical reorganisation, and in almost every one of the basic exporting industries determined efforts are being made by the more far-sighted leaders to initiate schemes of rationalisation from within.
Every inquiry into the coal industry has emphasised that this process is needed there as much as, possibly more than, in any other industry. The Statutory Commission which sat 10 years ago—the Sankey Commission—resulted in four separate reports. All these reports, except that of the coalowners themselves, strongly urged some measure of concentration of the industry in one form or another and amalgamation on a large scale. The Royal Commission of 1925 came quite definitely and emphatically to the same conclusion. Let me remind the Committee that that Commission included Sir Herbert Lawrence, who is a senior partner of Glyn Mills, and one of the best known financiers in the City of London, and the man who was appointed to rescue the great undertaking of Vickers from the plight in which it found itself and who successfully performed that task. It included also Mr. Kenneth Lee, who is one of the heads of a great Lancashire textile business, and, curiously enough, of a successful textile business, and Sir William Beveridge, one of the foremost economists of this country, who has also had great experience as a practical and successful administrator. That Commission was unanimous in drawing the conclusion from its prolonged inquiry of six months that amalgamations were essential. We had special statistics obtained from all the coal undertakings in the country.
We most carefully analysed those statistics, and we were convinced that they proved that the large scale undertakings were definitely more prosperous and more successful than the small undertakings.
That is not all. Subsequently the late Government appointed another Committee. It was presided over by Sir Frederick Lewis and consisted entirely of business men. They reported unanimously, except for three coalowners, that amalgamations were necessary in order to promote successful marketing. It was outside their Terms of Reference to take into consideration the question of amalgamations in general, but they reported that the industry should be consolidated by amalgamation into a much smaller number of units, for the sake of better marketing. They also reported that that plan was urgently necessary and desirable. In addition, as I mentioned on the Second Reading, experts like Sir Adam Nimmo, Sir Richard Redmayne, and Sir Arthur Duckham expressed opinions in the same sense. The Labour party have twice declared in favour of that policy, both in their official pronouncement "Labour and the Nation," and at the Blackpool Conference in 1927. After special researches into the problems of the coal industry they came to the same conclusion as the authorities which I have quoted. The Labour party are, therefore, not only authorised to promote legislation of this kind' but they are pledged to promote it. They have not only a permission from the electorate but they have a mandate for this. It is a question not only that they may do it but, according to their pledges, they must do it, and it is well that they should do it now rather than later.
What are the reasons which have led all these various authorities to arrive at this conclusion? I suggest that the opinions of these authorities cannot be set aside as of no account. Again and again, inquiry after inquiry have come to the same conclusion. What reasons have led them to these opinions? There are not only the direct advantages of amalgamation, producing on a large scale as against a small scale—that applies to almost all industrial concerns and it, is of great importance—and you have all kinds of economies in methods of production by means of amalgamation. Not only that, but you are able to secure a much higher standard of efficiency and management, and in a vastly complicated business like coal mining that is of the greatest importance. It is all the difference in the world if you get a general manager of the £5,000 a year standard instead of a general manager of the £1,000 a year standard or the £800 a year standard. Again, in these days the industry is being transformed by mechanisation. Mechanical production and mechanical haulage are transforming the industry very rapidly. A very high standard of technical capacity is required in the direction of the industry, and financial strength and stability are also required in order to undertake the large expenditures that are involved. Similarly, in the cleaning and preparation of coal. In all these things the great corporation, with large capital at its back, is far more efficient than the small one.
What is the position when the coal leaves the mines? In the matter of transport at the present time there is the most disgraceful waste in every direction. The British system of mineral transport is verging almost on a scandal compared with the systems in force in other countries. Following the Report of the Royal Commission, the late Government set up a special Committee, in accordance with our recommendations, to deal with mineral transport. A Joint Committee of the Department of Mines and of the Ministry of Transport, with all the various interests concerned, was appointed, and that Committee has recently reported in urgent terms as to the need of wide reforms. One of the first reforms they mention is that the present ownership of coal wagons, now in the hands of 5,000 different people, ought to be concentrated into the hands of, possibly, 200 concerns. That course would be immensely facilitated if the enormous number of separate mining establishments that we have to-day were concentrated into a smaller number. By that means we should effect great economies. Then in the methods of distribution, the vast number of agents who are now employed absorb a great part of the proceeds of the industry as they come from the consumer. The proceeds trickle away when they leave the consumer before they arrive at the mines, with the result that the miners and the mineowners get much too small a proportion of the total proceeds. Anyone examining this industry with an impartial mind must come to the conclusion that what it needs is to be much more closely knit and more coherent and effective, instead of having a vast, shapeless, unorganised industry sprawling all over the coalfields.
I come to perhaps the most important of all the reasons favouring large-scale productive units, and that is the introduction of more effective and more scientific methods for the utilisation of coal. Until recent years, coal was regarded just as if it were a finished produce—just coal, and nothing more. We extracted it from the soil, and transported it to where it was required, burnt it, and there was an end of it. Nowadays, however, it is realised that coal is the rawest of raw materials, and that to draw from it its full value is far more important than the question of labour costs in extracting it. It is the chemist and the engineer who must rescue the coal industry, Research has proceeded much more actively in recent years than previously, but it has not by any means achieved its full results; far from it. The matter is immensely complicated, and the proper utilisation of coal can only be effected by large corporations, employing large capital. It cannot be done by the 1,200 undertakings which now conduct the coal industry in this country, nor even by the 600 which produce almost the whole of the supply, omitting those concerns which employ less than 100 men.
I would like to draw the attention of the Committee to a most important aspect of the question, namely, the experience of other countries, which bears directly upon the Clause now before the Committee. There is a common opinion that the plight of the British coal industry is due to world-wide economic forces over which we can have no control. There is the substitution of oil for coal, there is the use of water power in various parts of the world, there is the development of electricity, resulting in a much smaller use of fuel to obtain the same amount of energy, and people say: "No wonder that since before the War the coal production of this country has, dropped by 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 tons," or whatever the figure at the moment may be. That would be very consolatory if it were not for the fact that every other coal producing country in Europe has increased its production since before the War. France, Belgium, Holland and Poland, as well as the United States of America, all show increases in coal production as compared with their pre-War figures. Take Germany, for example. Germany has lost several coalfields—in Alsace-Lorraine, and in the Saar, for the time being, and in Polish Upper Silesia, coalfields which were producing before the War 50,000,000 tons of coal. In spite of such losses, Germany is producing in her more restricted area more coal than she did before the War. Partly it is lignite, soft brown coal, which has doubled in production from 87,000,000 tons in 1913 to 175,000,000 tons in 1929, and it is very profitable production. Apart from that, there has been an actual increase in several coalfields. This is due to the very high standard of technical development and qualification of those who are the heads of the industry, and of the industries attached to coal-mining.
Take the use of mechanical conveyors underground. In Great Britain 12 percent, of our coal is now conveyed underground, mechanically. In the Ruhr, according to a book which I have been reading recently, written by Mr. Smart, a mining engineer and mine manager, it is stated that not 12 per cent. of coal is conveyed mechanically underground, but that all the coal is conveyed mechanically, except where the high inclination of the seams makes that unnecessary. In the question of the transport of coal by rail, the Germans get out of their coal wagons more than twice the user that we get out of our wagons. Take another important point. The Royal Commission strongly recommended that the industry should consider the standardisation of qualities of coal and a proper system of sampling and analysing, so that the calorific values could be ascertained and the coal sold with a guaranteed calorific standard. Nothing has been done in regard to that, except that we have had a statement that the matter is under consideration. I think the Mines Department is somewhat to blame for not using drive and initiative in pressing this important matter forward. In Germany, the Federal Coal Council has 33 chemists continually at work analys-
ing the coal and giving constant supervision of the calorific standard of fuel, so that it can be sold after systematic analysis. It would make all the difference in our sales if we had a system at all comparable with that of the Germans. These are all factors of great importance. Here, may I quote from the book which I have mentioned, which says:
The intense and careful attention given to the coking and by-products industry, coupled with organisation and salesmanship, has resulted in the earning capacity of the Ruhr mines being increased by 13 per cent. In the German steel industry "—
this probably accounts for one reason why our steel industry finds it very difficult to compete with the Germans—
the cost of coke is nil, due to the sales of by-products, and any number of collieries are coking from 50 per cent. to 70 per cent. of their products.
One authority whom I might quote, Mr. Hann, a well-known mine manager in South Wales, has reported in the same sense as to the development of the Ruhr mines in recent years. After the Royal Commission had reported, the National Fuel and Power Committee was set up, a highly technical Committee, presided over by Lord Melchett, and they reported, after a careful and expert examination:
The coke oven plant of the country is, in general, far below the standard of efficiency that our needs require. The owners should, in many cases, consider plans for reorganising their oven plants as soon as possible into installations serving a number of collieries, and equipped with a modern type of oven.
All these things have been greatly facilitated in the Ruhr by the concentration of production in a small number of units. While our coal production has decreased, theirs has increased, and they now produce nearly half the coal output of Great Britain. We have 584 separate establishments, and they have 50. But those 50 are far more capable of carrying through the great modernisation improvements to which I have referred.
It is not, therefore, through overwhelming economic forces that our coal industry finds itself in its present plight.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
The Royal Commission invited suggestions from the coalowners, and we were profoundly disappointed to receive none. No suggestions of any importance came from
them as to any reform in the industry. Their only proposals were lower wages and longer hours. They were convinced that if wages were lowered and hours were lengthened, and the cost of production were reduced, prosperity would be restored to the industry. Wages were lowered far more than anyone anticipated. Hours were lengthened up to the standard the coalowners desired. Was prosperity restored to the industry? Last year was the worst year that the coal industry knew, and a charitable nation had to provide hundreds of thousands of pounds for eleemosynary relief for hardworking, respectable working-class households, who hate the very notion of charity and were only too anxious to secure a livelihood out of their skilled work in their own industry. What was the next method adopted? The first proposal was to take it out of the miners—longer hours and lower wages. The next proposal was to reduce the rates by three-quarters and make up the deficiency out of the taxpayer. No doubt industry was overrated very considerably, and that rating reform was long overdue, but that relief of rates is only one side of the account. There is the debit side to be mentioned, and that was all done at the expense of the taxpayer. Now the proposal is to take it out of the consumer by a general method of raising prices to recoup the industry for the additional charge due to the shorter hours. Above all, they say, "Leave us alone." Leave us alone, to do what? To do nothing. I feel sure that the nation is not prepared to accept that policy.
I hope I have carried the Committee with me so far that amalgamation to reduce these hundreds of organisations into a smaller number of hands is essential. The question arises, should it be compulsory? I am strongly of the opinion that voluntary combinations are better. They are preferable, and the Royal Commission came very definitely to that conclusion. We have had three years during which the industry has had an opportunity to reorganise itself on these lines, but the outcome, as the President of the Board of Trade said on the Second Reading, has been negligible. Although there are powers of compulsion in the Act of 1926, owners probably feel that it is rather invidious and difficult to adopt measures of compulsion against their neighbours with whom they are on friendly terms, and for personal reasons of varying kinds the process of amalgamation has been exceedingly slow. Some of the amalgamations which have taken place have been merely financial, and have not been on the lines which the economics of the industry require. Any advantages have been almost neutralised, indeed wholly neutralised, by the payment of excessive prices for particular collieries and by being saddled with an exaggerated capital. Then the question is asked, if we cannot leave the matter alone, if amalgamations are desirable, if compulsion is to be applied, why is it that in this industry alone you are going to make amalgamation compulsory? The right hon. Gentleman has asked, are you going to do this with regard to shipping? The Federation of British Industries has just issued a pronouncement opposing this Measure on the ground that it would have serious effects, possibly, elsewhere.
The coal mining industry by its very nature is different from all other industries in the country. It is unique. A factory may be established anywhere, a ship can be built in any shipyard, and it can sail to and from any port. If a factory is badly managed it fails, and in due course disappears. If some new enterprising person feels himself able to compete effectively he car build a new factory, and when the old one disappears the workers can go from the old factory to the other. But with coal mines it is entirely different. There you have a natural and inevitable monopoly in the working of any particular piece of coal, and the people who are in possession, who have a lease of it, cannot be superseded. No one else can work that particular piece of coal in competition with them. They may possibly work other coal somewhere else, but, as far as that particular coal is concerned, there is a monopoly, and the working population on that particular piece of coal is entirely dependent on those particular employers.
The reason why the State is bound, in the present circumstances to intervene and take action in this matter is, that our coalfields have come into existence almost haphazard; they have never been properly planned. The disposition of the mines, the number of the mines, and the size of the mines, depend upon historic causes, upon the interests of the surface owners and the disposition of the properties among the landowners. In fact, our present mining system is not the result of a particular economic cause, but of historic and personal causes. It is planned not for geological but for genealogical reasons. This cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely. We are indeed the only important coal-producing country in the world, except the United States and our own Dominions, where there is no national communal control over the mineral itself. Everywhere else it is regarded as a matter of social interest. We recommended that royalties should be taken over by the State, and we hoped that by that acquisition the State would be able to reorganise the coalfields on modern scientific lines. I regret that the Government have not begun at that end. They have begun at the wrong end. They should have started with the foundation, that is the mineral itself, and I feel sure that when the reorganisation commission is appointed and gets to work they will say that they must be given powers to deal with some of the leases and with the whole question of royalties.
I invite the Committee to come to the conclusion that there should be amalgamation, and that it cannot be left indefinitely to voluntary effort. There must be a measure of compulsion such as is now proposed by the Government. But that compulsion should be subject to two conditions. First, it cannot be uniform. You must not have any kind of machine-made scheme enforced upon the country, irrespective of the actual conditions. The industry is exceedingly diverse. It has been said that the only generalisation that is safe about the mining industry is that no generalisation is possible. There is every possible degree of efficiency and quality of mine. Just as in the case of vehicles, which may vary from a Rolls-Royce in Bond Street to a broken-down cab plying for hire in some countryside station, so the coal mines vary from the magnificent, splendidly equipped, modern installations, with millions of capital, to the smallest hand-worked mine in some out-of-the-way district. In the Rhondda Valley there was a mine employing two men, who dug out by their own labour, from an adit in the side of the hill, a little pocket of coal left behind by someone else, and one
mine we visited, employing 24 men, had a capital of £350. It is quite possible that these mines would be left alone. They are probably doing no harm and may be doing some little good, and it is essential that there should be the utmost elasticity in the handling of this problem. Let me quote one sentence from the Report of the Royal Commission:
Any general measure of compulsory amalgamation on arbitrary lines would be mischievous. The action to be taken should be elastic, and should enable each ease to be treated individually.
That is precisely what is now proposed. You will have a Commission which will take into account all these considerations. In some cases they will propose amalgamation, but some small mine of no importance may be left alone. You may have a mine near an industrial town, old-fashioned and uneconomic, yet, nevertheless, making a profit because it is able to sell its coal to the people round about the pit-head. You have every variety of circumstances, which will have to be taken into account in administering this new proposal. If there was any suggestion of any measure of uniformity I for one should oppose it, and if I support the proposal it is because I am convinced that it will allow the necessary elasticity in bringing about the results required.
The other condition is that the mines to be dealt with "hall receive their fair value and no more. The right hon. Member for Hendon (Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister) made great play with the inequality and injustice of paying large sums to mines that are almost derelict, inefficient, and losing money. Surely the re-organising commissioners will have intelligence enough to recognise that. They will not pay whatever sum is demanded, and it is far more economic to get rid of those excessive mines, which ought to be closed, for a small payment on their real value, rather than allow them to go on year after year an incubus on the industry and causing largely the uneconomic conditions in which the mining industry finds itself to-day. It is more economic to get rid of them by this process than by the system of the quota, which will make an efficient mine pay Is. 6d. per ton for coal, which they have to mine themselves, by buying a quota from some other mine and paying them for not mining coal. That is an exceedingly wasteful business. Therefore, in these Amendments we suggest that it should be made clear that the valuation to be paid should be a fair price and no more, as between a willing seller and a willing buyer. One advantage of insisting upon that is that in future amalgamations there will not be the watering of capital which has undoubtedly taken place in the past.
When this Commission has been appointed and is at work, I anticipate that there will be many more voluntary amalgamations in anticipation of its action. There will be a strong moral pressure and personal relationships will lead them to overcome difficulties which have hitherto hindered amalgamation. The Commission may find before it comes round, that a great deal of amalgamation will have been effected. I remember 20 years ago, in connection with the campaign of Lord Roberts for military service, many people saying that what was wanted was "compulsory volunteering," and in the coal industry we shall find a good deal of compulsory voluntary amalgamations. Those are the reasons which lead us to support the proposal of the Government. We believe that in a few years time, if they are carried into effect, the whole aspect of the situation may be transformed. With the further legislation which is promised for bringing royalties under public administration, when the undertakings producing the bulk of our coal supplies, instead of being as at present any such number as 600, conform to a more appropriate number of perhaps 100—I do not suggest any arbitrary figure—with more scientific methods, more economical transport and distribution, we believe that the British coal industry will be able to work reasonable hours, pay a proper wage, give a fair return to capital and will once more be able to take its place as an effective competing force amongst the coal industries of the world.
The right hon. Gentleman, in his interesting speech, has said many things with which we on this side are in agreement. He has said that the Labour party are committed to compulsory amalgamation. We have never denied that, and we on these benches would welcome the idea of nationalisation because of the chaotic conditions which exist at present in the production of coal in this country. We support amalgamation because we recognise that there will be economy in production and distribution. It is a step in the right direction. Constant changes are taking place in the industry. There is no doubt about it that mining is changing to-day and will change rapidly in the next 10 or 15 years. In some of our modern pits there is scarcely need for the skill that the collier of 20 years ago had to show, when he had to sit down in the heading and put a yard of coal out in order to earn a day's wages. That was exceptionally hard work, and machinery is largely doing such work now.
I am sure the Committee will agree with me when I say that all this unification that is taking place in the industry is bringing with it a problem, from the point of view of the mine workers, that ought at least to be stated here. Since 1926 there has been a good deal of voluntary amalgamation. The right hon. Member for Hendon (Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister) suggested that many coalowners are suspicious of these proposals. Let me tell him that a good many mine workers are suspicious of what is taking place in the present day amalgamations. I can quote instances where voluntary amalgamations have bought up pits for no other purpose than to close them and to do away with competition. I am not arguing that, from the economic side, that is not right. Remember that what has happened is that villages are being left derelict and that men are being displaced right and left. These men and boys are not being transferred to the other parts of the combine.
The particular point that I am anxious to bring out is this: These amalgamation proposals when in operation will no doubt displace men. They are largely the middle-aged and the aged men who are being left on the roadside to-day. Men of 45 years of age and 50, or 60 in some districts, know that they will never get a day's work underground again. Why? Because when amalgamations have taken place and men have asked whether they were to be transferred to the other scams they have been told "No." If men have had nystagmus or a serious accident, if they are not quite as strong as they used to be, they have been passed by. Cannot we have alongside these amalgamation proposals some machinery for dealing with the men who are displaced? Am I asking for anything that is unreasonable? Take the position of the man of 55 or 60 who knows that he cannot get a job. It is no use saying that these proposals are impracticable, because they are not. Let it be said to the credit of one combine in Yorkshire that it has a pension scheme in operation at the present time, and one which, if other colliery owners were as desirous of meeting the difficulties of amalgamation, they would institute also. A maried man of 65 at this pit gets his income made up to a maximum of 30s. a week. That sum comes in with regularity and security, and, coupled with the knowledge that each eight weeks he gets a ton of coal free, it makes that man and woman more happy than they would be if the man was working for 35s. a week with the certainty of being unemployed at some time. The cost of that scheme is one penny per week per man, and one halfpenny per boy. This sum the colliery company doubles and limits to a maximum of 2d. a week.
I would have in these amalgamation schemes a certain amount of money set aside in order to provide for the men who are displaced. I would have it arranged in such a way that a man would have no need, when he had reached a certain age, to begin going from pit to pit in the effort to get a job. I ask the President of the Board of Trade to keep in mind the human side of this problem, and to remember that in our coalfields villages are being left derelict and men and women are being broken. I ask him to consider whether or not we can have attached to these amalgamation proposals some means for providing for these men. The Turner-Melchett conversations, which took place some time ago in order to secure industrial peace and to get some satisfactory way of reorganising British industry, had this question before them and made certain recommendations. I am satisfied that there is a majority in this Committee that would give support to any practical proposal that could be moulded. As a matter of fact when amalgamations have taken place directors have been compensated for displacement from office, and it has long been an established custom of the public service to give men compensation for displacement. Why not for the ordinary working man, for the man in the mining industry?
As has been said, the mining industry is different somewhat from other industries. Men have gone to certain villages with the intention of staying in those villages as long as they live. I happen to have one member of my family who for 87 years has never lived out of the house in which she was born. She has brought up her sons and grandsons to work in the pit. They have lived and brought up whole families in one area. Why cannot these people have some consideration when amalgamations take place? By all means let us have economy in production: by all means let us have a commodity produced at the cheapest possible cost; but do let us have regard to one other factor, the human factor, to which in all these discussions there has been very little reference either in general or in particular. I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will consider whether, alongside these proposals, we cannot have some financial provision for dealing with the men who are displaced. If that were done it would bring satisfaction to many who are in anxiety in the coalfields at this present time.
I am sure that the whole Committee has listened with a great deal of sympathy as well as interest to the speech which has just been made. The problem to which the hon. Member referred, the problem of districts which are left derelict, is one which we have to confront. Undoubtedly it is a matter which will have to be taken very seriously into consideration in connection with Government policy. I turn to the speech which was made by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir II. Samuel). I listened as carefully as I could to all that he had to say. I heard what seemed to me to be a very good Second Beading speech covering the whole Bill with much of which I agreed, but I heard almost nothing at all directed to the particulaar problem that is before the Committee this afternoon. We are dealing with a definite part of this Bill, and unless it can be shown that certain definite results are to accrue from it, it seems to me that it cannot be said that a case has been made out for it.
There was nothing in the Bill originally with regard to amalgamation. Proposals on that subject were inserted at a later stage, not because the Govern- ment wished to put them there, but because the Liberal party desired that amalgamation should be put into the Bill. Why were the Liberals anxious to have this system of amalgamation? Not merely for the reason put forward during the Second Reading, and not very carefully defined this afternoon by the right hon. Gentleman, but because something had to be provided instead of Part I to meet the increased costs which would be imposed on the industry by the passing of the shorter hours provisions of Part II. I do not know whether that is still the Liberal point of view. So far as the speech of the right hon. Member for Darwen was concerned, we have not had a single argument which can convince anyone or even suggest to anyone that a mitigation of costs is likely to be brought about to any adequate amount-by this inclusion of amalgamation. The President of the Board of Trade told us that it was impossible for anyone to give any idea at all as to how the industry was going to benefit now or at a future time under the proposals of this Clause.
I must make my own position perfectly clear. I am not one of those people who are against amalgamations in business. I have consistently advocated amalgamations. I am a believer in what I understand to be rationalisation, a term which is very loosely used sometimes but certainly does include the creation of amalgamations in order to reduce the running cost of your business and enable you to decrease the price of your commodities, and to increase the earnings which the business will have to distribute in wages and profits. Not only do I approve of that, but I am myself very largely concerned at the present time with some very big amalgamations. I have been concerned in the organisation of others and I have initiated some which are only now coming into being and will do great good to the industry with which they are associated. I am in general a believer in the large unit instead of the small unit in industry.
I am very l0th to differ from the right hon. Member for Darwen who had several months' experience as chairman of the Coal Commission which made an elaborate investigation of the coal trade a few years ago. But I have some little claim to speak in this matter, because it was my fate for several years to be actively concerned in the direction of a set of amalgamated coalfields, and it was my task from week to week to consider the developments that were proposed, the prospects of benefits to be derived from them, how the pits were to be financed, and what in general should be the policy of the company. I began this task with no preconceived opinions because I had had nothing to do with the active conduct of the coal trade before, and I finished it with no prejudices of any kind, I am talking out of actual experience when I give the opinions which I formed as to the benefits of amalgamations in t he coal industry.
The result of my experience quite definitely is this: You can achieve savings by central selling of the product that you produce. I have no doubt at all about that. You can make a far more efficient selling agency for a great group of mines than for one unit alone. For the other side of the costs in an undertaking of that kind it can be said with equal truth that you can gain far less by amalgamation of coal-producing units than you can gain by amalgamations in any other form of industry with which I am acquainted. I think the reasons for that will be very obvious to hon. Members and I shall go Into them more fully later on, but I may at this stage point out that pits vary very much from district to district and even from one pit to another. The problems with which you are confronted in the way of upthrows and downfalls, gas, dust, water and other troubles to which mines are liable are such that you cannot argue from one pit to another and you cannot organise undertakings in a group in the same way as you might do it in connection with any other business. Hon. Members acquainted with the mining industry know—at any rate it was my own experience—that each of your pits as a rule is a problem in itself. You cannot lump your pits into one problem; neither can you lump your personnel into one organisation. One of the great benefits as regards reduction of costs in connection with large mergers is that you can contract your organisation, and can do the general work of your undertaking with far fewer men both at the top and below than you require for a series of independent units. It is not so in the case of coalpits. The law of the land compels you to have for every pit which produces an appreciable amount of coal a complete organisation and you cannot by uniting one pit with another get rid of a single manager or under-manager. You have to conduct your business with just as big an organisation as before and you can achieve little or nothing in reduction of costs either by limitation of your general organisation or of the personnel of the pits. The Committee will therefore understand how difficult is the problem in connection with coal pits as compared with other businesses.
What in the main are the advantages of amalgamation in ordinary businesses? One is that you may determine to conduct at some central place of business the work which you had conducted previously in a series of factories. But you cannot do that in connection with the coal industry because you have to take the coal where it is found. That is the only place where you can mine it. Again, in ordinary business you may decide in a merger to shut down operations in one place for a time and to conduct them at some other part of your undertaking, but if you decide to suspend work at a coal pits what is your situation? Your running costs are still heavy. The maintenance of the ways in the pit if you are ever going to work it again is a very considerable expense and you cannot avoid or evade it. It is perhaps news to some Members of the Committee that during the three months of the strike—or the stoppage of work to use a neutral phrase—in 1926 it cost the coal pits of this country £11,000,000 merely for maintenance. I agree that that is a larger sum than probably would have to be expended if you determined as a matter of business to suspend a number of pits for a definite period, but in the figure which I am about to give there is, I am perfectly certain, no exaggeration. If you take a pit which is producing 500 tons of coal per day it will cost at least £50 per day to keep that pit merely in a condition of maintenance while it is not working.
The right hon. Gentleman has given a figure referring to a three months' stoppage in 1926. Is he actually referring to three months or seven months? I think it was a seven months' stoppage.
If the right hon. Gentleman corrects me the figure which he gives is probably right. I do not insist on the figure of three months. I only give that general figure as an indication that for a period of that kind whatever its exact length the mere cost of maintenance is something which does not apply to any other industry. The other figure which I have mentioned is, I am perfectly certain, well within the mark. It would be much greater in South Wales. That being so the Committee will realise that you cannot deal with amalgamations of coal pits as you would with ordinary amalgamations and you cannot secure the advantages which are to be gained by ordinary mergers. Supposing that you decide to stop work in a pit altogether. You may in the case of an amalgamation of factories decide to give up one factory; you can probably sell that factory to somebody else to be used for some other purpose and you have no more charges in connection with it. It is not so in connection with pits. You cannot sell a pit which has been absorbed in a compulsory amalgamation. In the next place you do not get rid of your obligations in connection with it by shutting it up because you still have all the obligations of your leases. You have rents to pay and, when you have given up the pit the probability is that there will be large sums of compensation payable in connection with putting the ground back into the condition in which you got it. Accordingly you are still loaded with charges which you would not have to meet in the amalgamation of engineering works, or cotton mills or other undertakings of that kind.
What has been the experience with regard to the amalgamating of coal pits? I am not going to enlarge upon the ill-success or the misfortunes of some of the large amalgamations about which one knows, but at any rate there are few that can be used by any hon. Member as examples which would encourage us to go in for compulsory and wholesale amalgamation. Let me illustrate my argument in a way which will reflect upon nobody. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen said it was the large units which were doing well to-day. Therefore he argued let us get them all into large units. I take the case of York- shire which has the largest units in this country. It has to be said with regard to Yorkshire that they have a fresher field in which to work and that most of their pits are, at the present stage at least, being worked not so far from the pit bottom as the average mines of this country. Therefore in any comparison between Yorkshire and any other part of the country we have to keep in mind that they have these advantages which tend to the mitigation of their costs. Let me compare that situation in Yorkshire with the situation in a country which I know very well—that is Scotland.
I am not referring to any particular amalgamation at the present time. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that there are several undertakings there which are working in co-operation at the present time. I do not wish to refer to any one individually, but I am taking Yorkshire as a whole. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen said that in these places where there were large amalgamations there was a tendency to go in for more scientific mining and to use more machinery than one found in other fields. Let me instance the case of Scotland. It is a country, above all others in Great Britain, where there are a great many small units. How do they stand in comparison with Yorkshire as to the amount of machinery which they use? Keep in mind that the seams in Scotland are in general very thin. They are working many seams which run from 22 inches to 26 inches, as against the great thick seams of Yorkshire, and those thin seams are infinitely harder to work with machinery. Just as Scotland is mountainous on the surface, it is full of undulations in its underground strata, and the seams go up and down more than the Yorkshire seams. But the position is that, in spite of those disadvantages, Scotland is mining 59 per cent. of its coal by machinery, as against 32 per cent. in Yorkshire—a figure which does not even apply to the whole of Yorkshire, but to the best part of it.
Another illustration which the right hon. Gentleman gave was the use of electric power. Scotland is using three horse-power of electric power per man, compared with three-quarters of one horse-power in Yorkshire. Again, turning to the amount of output, how does that stand? In Scotland they are producing, or were producing last year, 335 tons per man per year as against 259 tons in Yorkshire. I agree that they are working half an hour per day longer in Scotland, but that is not nearly enough to explain that enormous discrepancy between the outputs of the Scottish miner and the Yorkshire miner. I say, on the basis of such comparisons, it is quite erroneous to suggest that by the formation of large units and great companies you are necessarily going to get a bigger output or a more efficient mining service. It is not so.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to Germany and spoke of the wonderful advance that had been made there. He said that the great amalgamations there made for more scientific uses of coal. He mentioned coal as the rawest of raw materials which required to be worked up before use. We also know something about that. We know about the use of pulverised fuel and the use of coal after carbonisation and the extraction of by-products. We know also of the hydrogenation process which was invented by Dr. Bergius. But does the right hon. Gentleman say that the people of this country, the coal masters of this country, do not know just as much about those processes as is known in any other country?
The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that nobody has yet invented a process on the lines of these discoveries which can as yet be used to commercial advantage on any large business scale. So far as knowledge is concerned, this country is just as much alive as any other portion of the world. The fact is that nobody has had an opportunity of putting these things into extensive operation, because nobody in any country has yet devised a lucrative method of exploiting them on any large scale. I am not personally involved in the coal trade, but everybody is waiting to see these schemes developed in a way which will enable them to be used, and the right hon. Gentleman cannot argue that because we have not put some of these things into active operation the coal trade in this country is behind the coal trade anywhere else, and that therefore we must go in for large amalgamation. What about Scotland, the country of small units, which has got 120 firms who sell on the average 300,000 tons a year each? The Ruhr, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and which he said had 50 units turning out something like two million tons each—what is the state of the Ruhr, that country of large amalgamations, as compared with Scotland? They do not use any more machinery than they do in Scotland; they do not use any more electric power per man than in Scotland, and the cost of production in the Ruhr is higher than it is in Scotland. They work longer hours and they pay less wages. [HON. MEMBERS: "Question!"] Oh, yes, they do. The right hon. Gentle-man can look at the most recent figures of the Geneva Conference. I admit that the difference in hours is not very much, but it is in favour of Scotland. They work a shorter day than in the Ruhr; they are paying lower wages in the Ruhr than in Scotland, and the production costs in the Ruhr are higher than they are in Scotland. I say from these illustrations that it is impossible to deduce that you ought immediately to go in for large amalgamations. There is no foundation at all for the suggestion that it is necessary that we should send a commission round this country compulsorily to enforce such amalgamations.
The proposal before us involves the most pernicious principle that could be applied to any industry, and which the right hon. Gentleman admitted he would not think of applying to any other. It would be far easier to make amalgamations among financial houses than among coal pits. Would the right hon. Gentleman have liked that? Would he have liked being compulsorily forced to amalgamate with one of the firms which has recently been in the public notice? He does not suggest that anybody will have any choice in the proposed amalgamations. You are to be forced into association with a man whose methods of working you may heartily despise, simply because he happens to be next to you on a coalfield. How are the Commissioners going to judge of the working out of compulsory amalgamations as between the higher personnel of the businesses? Are people who are antipathetic to one another to be forced to work together? Is that the way to get efficient working in the coal industry? Would the right hon. Gentleman himself like to be forced, as a matter of business relations —
I have always attributed to the right hon. Gentleman some merit of that kind. The right hon. Gentleman and myself might work well together if we were allowed to come together voluntarily, which we might possibly never do, but at any rate we should work very badly indeed if people forced us together. I am certain that looking at it merely from the personal point of view as between one team and another, if people do not wish to work together and would rather be apart you will not make a successful business by forcing them to sit on the same board.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to such other things as the question of wagons. I agree that there is a misuse of wagons, but you have got to deal with that trouble by some other method, not by forcing coalowners and others to amalgamate in order that subsequently they be subjected to some different measure to amalgamate their wagons. It is also suggested by the right hon. Gentleman that a great deal of money is lost between the pit and the consumer. Of course that is true, but that would not be affected in any way by amalgamations of the coal pits. It is your selling agencies that come in question when you consider how the coal after it has been mined should be dealt with, and if the Committee will allow me I will indicate the kind of savings that might be obtained by the amalgamation of selling agencies. I have had recently before me a case in which a large colliery organisation employed a selling agency instead of doing its own selling for itself. What was the amount that the selling agency got? It got under this contract 3d. a ton, and that 3d. had to cover not merely the business of selling, but also all risk of bad debts, all demurrage charges, either on wagons or on ships at ports, and all discounts and all risks of exchange, so that the Committee will see within what limits you can make a saving by central selling. If you think of the advantage you are going to get so far as selling costs are concerned, by the amalgamation of collieries, it must all come out of that small ambit of 3d. a ton covering all these other varieties of risk.
My hon. Friend probably knows, like me, that there are many differences in the practice of the various collieries. For example, some sell direct from their own colliery office, some sell through a broker, and some sell through such an agency as I have described, which takes many other risks than —
I will give my hon. Friend the name of the company that is doing it after the Debate is over. I do not want to bring them into public notice by naming them now, but I will give to the hon. Member afterwards the name of the case to which I refer. What I want to point out is that that 3d, a ton covers a great many other things as well as the business of mere selling, and such investigation as I have been able to make shows that putting it at its very largest figure, you cannot hope to save more at the very outside than 1d. a ton by anything you may do in the way of amalgamating selling agencies. Further that 1d. a ton does not cover the whole trade. It is only saved insofar as regards the small business that you bring into the larger one, and therefore your 1d. a ton becomes a mere fraction when applied over the whole trade of the country.
I heard something mentioned in regard to the cost of directors. What is the cost of the directors of coal companies? It amounts to one-third of 1d. per ton over the whole coalfield of this country, and therefore, if you cut out a half of the cost of directors, you come down to a half of one-third of 1d. per ton saved. At what then do we arrive from this proposal of my right hon. Friend? Because, after all, it is his proposal; it is not the proposal of the Government.
My figure as I understand covers the whole of the directors. Let us really see what there is in this proposal. I am not at all surprised that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade looked askance at this question of amalgamation from the beginning. He knew as well as anybody that it did not begin to meet the increased cost which is to be imposed on the coal trade by the reduction of the hours of work, and it was only under the duress of the Liberal party that he finally put it on the Paper. He knows he has to depend on Part I if he is going to get anything at all to meet the wage cost that he must face in the summer, and what we are new discussing is really the proposal of the right hon. Member for Darwen. He gave me no figure. He does not even suggest what the actual costs are that are likely to be saved, and I venture to say that what you can save—although everything is worth saving—is absolutely infinitesimal as compared with the burden created by the shorter working day.
I am not saying, and nobody would regard me as saying, that all amalgamations are bad, and that no amalgamations are good. What I do say is that the people of this country know their own interests well enough to make the amalgamations where they think will serve them, and if you think they are such fools as not to do that, at any rate there is the Act of 1926 in operation, which enables any one man in a district to go before the Railway and Canal Commission and ask that the others in the district should be compelled to amalgamate with him. If you cannot get one man in a district to make such a proposal, what shall be said for the theory that it will benefit them to compel an unwanted amalgamation. The reason why we have not got more amalgamations under that Act is because people realise that there is nothing to be gained in these cases. I hope many more will take place, but at any rate you can gain nothing by trying to push people into amalgamations which they do not want. You might as well send a Commission roving around the country to arrange suitable marriages for people who do not want to marry.
I would like to point out two other considerations which seem to me to be of importance. In the coal trade you are dealing with an industry which is very speculative. It is perfectly true that great fortunes have been made out of coal in this country, but it is also true that great fortunes have been lost, by taking risks. Here is an instance that has been before my notice. There was a colliery in this country bought for a very large sum of money running into hundreds of thousands of pounds, ft was sold the other day, I may tell the Committee, for the sum of £10,000. It had been worked to advantage on one side of the property and was supposed to have a very rich field beyond a particular fault. The company spent a very long period of time at great expense in working through that fault, with the expectation of finding the rich coal on the other side. The skill of mining engineers brought to bear upon this subject gave quite reasonable expectation that coal would be found there, but still it was a speculation. A large sum of money was spent in following up this project but there was nothing on the other side of the fault when they reached it. [Interruption.] I am giving the Committee a true instance. Supposing your Commission to arrive at a pit like that to consider the subject of amalgamation at a time when people were driving through this fault, when they are led to believe by mining engineers that there is likely to be a rich seam of coal to be found on the other side. How will they estimate the value of a property like that, when it is being pushed into amalgamation with others? Are you going to force the others into an amalgamation with that pit, to take up the risk of the speculation at the price which the original company has spent in testing it; and if you are not going to do that, how can you justify yourself in taking the pit out of the hands of those who have been risking their own money, and who believe it will yield something very lucrative to them in the end? I submit that in cases of that kind you are sending your Commission out on an absolutely impossible adventure.
Let me take another instance. What is the case in this country that most requires dealing with at the present time? What are the pits that you would say most needed to be amalgamated in order to put them into a prosperous condition? They are collieries which, in the main, have been unsuccessful through this period of depression, and are already under very heavy obligations to their bankers. Any person who has to do with banks in these days knows the great extent to which the colliery industry of this country is being supported at the present time. The money from the banks has been lent to these collieries in the belief that they will make a profit, a belief which may well be justified when good times come again. But what are the Commission going to do unless they can amalgamate these pits with something stronger? And on what basis are they going to amalgamate them? Are they going to say, "This colliery has been losing steadily in the last five years, its debt to the bank has piled up and up, and, therefore, it is not worth anything to the man who has to take it over." The bank may have lent many thousands of pounds. Is that money to be forfeited?
I submit that you cannot deal with cases of that kind upon any fair or reasonable principle. But unless you are going to deal with these cases, you will do nothing for the industry. These are the cases which are keeping back progress to-day because of vicissitudes and misfortunes. Are you going to cut them off and say that they must stop? Will the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen say that all these pits must be cut out? Is all the money which they owe to-day to be put as a burden on to the concerns that are to take them over, or is it to be written off, so that the people who have lent it will get no redress at all? Private people can deal with their own money as they like; they can risk it as they choose, but what will the Government Commission do in cases of that kind? How possibly can they regulate them. I say to the Committee, with full conviction in my heart, that you are sending this Commission out on an impossible task, and that they will achieve nothing at all commensurate with the trouble they will cause.
What will happen if these Clauses appear in the final Act of Parliament? I know some things that will happen, which will be very disadvantageous to the coal industry. The first is this. What is a colliery company going to do which still has considerable liquid resources, and which knows that it will be threatened with amalgamation with weaker members round about it? What is it going to do? There will be a great temptation to distribute its liquid resources before ever amalgamation comes upon it. What is the other thing that will happen? Everybody knows that there have been times in this country when, so to speak, the eyes of the pit have been picked in order to get quick wealth. Everybody knows that that is the worst thing you can do for the enterprise, and that you ought to arrange your work in a mine on a progressive system, which will yield returns over the whole period of the life of the mine in more or less regular amounts. You ought not to take a large amount this year and pay a large dividend and leave the bad regions for your operations in years to come. But what are those colliery companies which know that they are likely to be pushed into some enforced amalgamation in the immediate future, going to do? How are they going to safeguard themselves? One thing is certain; it will be a great temptation to them to cease the regular and progressive methods of work which they ought to be adopting, and go in for the development of those parts of the mine which will yield them such a revenue that, when it comes to the assessment of their valuation in the amalgamation, they will get a large sum for their share. Is that not obvious to anybody who thinks of this question?
This problem in its practical aspects has never been thought out. I have been in negotiations with regard to amalgamations, and, believe me, it requires infinite adjustment in order to bring about arrangements which will work, and adjustments not merely of the material interests of the company, but of the personnel which is at the head of such companies. Many negotiations have broken down because the people at the head could not agree. How are you going to make them agree? Will the right hon. Gentleman select the boards that will operate in future, or will he say who is to be pushed off the boards and who shall stay? I am not talking about cases where one man is recalcitrant and one reasonable, but where both are reasonable although they have different views as to how their concerns should be operated. How are you going to compel such people to work together? It is impossible to do it. I can understand a scheme of nationalisation; that is at least a logical idea for you take over the coalfield and manage it by the State. But there is no logic in this scheme. Not only is there no logic, but no possibility of working it out. I apologise for having occupied the time of the Committee so long, but I am sure that what is being embarked upon, so far as I can judge the situation, is something which will not only not benefit an industry on which the whole fate of the country depends, but will bring about nothing but disaster.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) suggested that my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) had not made a single suggestion as to how the mining industry would improve as a result of amalgamations. I can only conclude that the right hon. Gentleman could not have listened very carefully to what the right hon. Gentleman said. Before touching; upon those points I want to refer to the Yorkshire coalfield, and I think that I shall be able to dispose of the suggestion which the right hon. Gentleman made that there was no point in any of the submissions of the right hon. Member for Darwen on the question of saving money from amalgamations in regard either to selling agencies or to the utilisation of machinery, or to any one of the things to which he referred in his speech. Let us look first at the illustration which the right hon. Gentleman gave when he compared Scotland with Yorkshire, and spoke of the thin seams of 20, 24 or 25 inches thick, as compared with the very thick seams of the fields of South Yorkshire. It may be of interest to the right hon. Gentleman if I tell him that in the thickest seam in South Yorkshire coal-cutting machinery is absolutely useless, and that in scarcely any of the collieries which are part of any one of the amalgamations few or any coal-cutting machines are used, merely because hand-cut coal, in the Barnsley seam in particular, is infinitely superior to machine-got coal. Therefore, that argument as to the number of machines used in Scotland in the thin seam, as compared with the number of machines used in the South Yorkshire thick seams, has no basis in fact, and I hope that no Member of the Committee will be misled by an argument of that description.
Then the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to illustrate the output per person where there was machine-got coal in Scotland as compared with the output per person by the South Yorkshire miner inside the amalgamation scheme. If the right hon. Gentleman wants the exact figures for Yorkshire, I can give them according to the ascertainment for December, 1929. I am unable to give the exact number of days worked during the whole of last year, but the output per person for every man and boy working in the coal pits and on the pit tops in Yorkshire is slightly over 24 cwts. per shift. So on the basis of 50 weeks of five days per week, the output per person—man and boy above and below ground—is 300 tons a year, and not 259 as mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman.
It is for the whole of Yorkshire. These figures are from the ascertainment provided by the joint auditors employed by the coalowners and the miners' union, and they cannot, of course, be disputed. With regard to the point about selling possibilities of amalgamations, the right hon. Gentleman quoted a scheme whereby 3d. per ton was obtained for selling the coal. May I remind him of the Goal Commission's Report? On page 92 he will find a reference which is as follows:
Such selling agencies are commonest in South Yorkshire, where the coal disposed of through them is more than a third of that sold independently, and in South Wales. Of the anthracite, more passes through associated selling agencies than is sold in dependently, while for other coal in South Wales, the proportion is more than a quarter. As a rule the work is done on a commission basis—6d. per ton to the agency being a common figure—though considerably more is charged in some cases"—
It is too high. That passage shows that amalgamations in the best form in Yorkshire produce and sell coal at 6d. a ton. You can sell /it much less in other parts of the country.
The right hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong. The Doncaster Collieries Association do charge a figure of 6d. per ton, but the paragraph concludes:
though considerably more is charged in some cases "—
some cases which may or may not be attached to amalgamation schemes.
The right hon. Gentleman will have to admit that the 3d. illustration which he gave will not carry any weight with the Committee. I want to remind the right hon. Gentleman of one or two other things for which some of these amalgamations are in existence, that is, where a combination of collieries attempt to serve themselves in diverse ways. The right hon. Gentleman said that in the buying of materials savings might accrue, but efficient production would follow amalgamation, and there would undoubtedly be elimination of waste; there would be capital available for the purpose of providing the latest washing plant for the preparation of coal for sale; and there would be marketing possibilities that did not exist with the present competitive methods. It was suggested that the utilisation of coal was an important factor, and would become more important as the years roll by: and it was suggested that mechanisation, as and where possible in these schemes also provided great possibilities. Under amalgamation, where the common purpose would be the elimination of waste and the attainment of the highest point of efficiency, it seems to me the mining industry is bound to improve. If amalgamations have not been successful, will the right hon. Gentleman explain the wonderful production which has been achieved in Germany, and why they have been able to surmount during the past few years what appeared to be almost insurmountable problems I Throughout his speech the right hon. Gentleman appeared to suggest that the Government ought to do nothing with regard to the mining industry—
—that the Government ought to leave the mining industry just where it is, and that we ought to content ourselves with voluntary amalgamations only where the coalowners themselves think amalgamations ought to take place. In a word, the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied with things just as they are. Like his right hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister) he tried to show certain defects under these Clauses which do not exist, but, as usual, he concluded his speech without any suggestion of what we ought to do with the mining industry so as to provide consumers with coal at a price which would enable all dependent industries to be carried on successfully, the owners of the mines with a profit, if you will, and the mine workers with a civilised standard of wages. The right hon. Gentleman continues to-day, as he did in 1926 and will, I presume, to the end of time, to suggest that we ought to leave things where they are, adopting a policy of doing absolutely nothing at all. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the policy of leaving it to the coalowners to amalgamate as and when they will is a policy that no Labour Government could possibly pursue. It is quite true as the right hon. Gentleman suggested that our party are committed not alone to amalgamation in the sense that amalgamation is to take place under the terms of this Bill, but to something infinitely bigger. We are committed to nationalisation, and the right hon. Gentleman knows full well that any programme of amalgamation arising out of this Bill will be the first step leading towards nationalisation.
It is only after every politician and every economist, man, woman and child, on the face of the earth, has discovered a thing that the right hon. Gentleman seems to realise that it exists. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) has told the House time and time again that the variations, county by county and colliery by colliery, are such that at any time we have some collieries losing shillings per ton and some losing pence per ton, others making pence per ton profit and others making shillings per ton profit. We have what are called efficient mines and inefficient mines. I should like either the right hon. Member for Hendon or the right hon. Member for the Hillhead Division to tell us what is an efficient mine and what is an inefficient mine. The right hon. Gentleman argues that because the outlook and the temperament and the general manner of certain colliery owners is different from that of their next-door neighbours they ought not to be driven into any central amalgamation scheme. Surely we are not to be prevented from having an efficient industry because of some thickheaded colliery owners, or of some domestic quarrel between two individuals who hold in their hands the livelihood of 6,000 or 7,000 mine workers and their wives and families. I submit that the suggestion that things ought to be left as they are and nothing ought to be done can be summed up in the words of the present Secretary for Mines when in one of his more humorous moments he said, "There's nowt for nowt."
The right hon. Gentleman put what he conceived to be posers to the President of the Board of Trade, asking "What is going to be the form of compensation if you get amalgamation? Are you going to provide a vested interest for an inefficient colliery which is to be amalgamated with efficient collieries? If so, are you not giving a vested interest to some landowner and making this a landowners' relief Bill? He said first of all that it was a coal owners relief Bill; now it is a landowners' relief Bill, it is going to provide relief for royalty owners and relief for banks and in fact, it is, going to be a universal provider Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman had read the Liberal Amendment, namely, that in any group which is compulsorily amalgamated the price fixed would be the price at which a buyer would be ready to purchase at that particular moment, he would see that this is not creating a vested interest either for the coalowner or the royalty owner or the banks or anybody else.
The right hon. Gentleman's point was that if we have an inefficient colliery in an area where there are efficient collieries, and all are compulsorily amalgamated, we are going to give the owners of that inefficient colliery something to which they are not entitled. If the Amendment referred to is accepted, the price at which the colliery can be purchased if it is a hopelessly inefficient colliery and cannot make a profit will be so small as not to give benefits either to the landowner or the royalty owner, the banks or to anybody else, and therefore that argument falls to the ground. The next question the right hon. Gentleman submitted was, "What are we going to do with a steel company which owns collieries? Are we going to take their collieries away from them, and, if so, what is to be the basis of compensation?" I presume that if the organisation committee feel disposed to amalgamate a large number of collieries, one of which is owned by a company which also own a steel plant, the price paid for that colliery would be based on the price at which it could be sold at any given moment. Our personal experience has gone to prove that as soon as some such colliery is driven into an amalgamation, so that the truth about it can be brought to light, the better it is for all concerned.
There is in my Division a colliery which has been working for approximately 15 or 16 years and employing nearly 3,000 people. It is in the heart of the coalfield of South Yorkshire. It has never been known to make a profit since it began. It so happens that all the shares of that colliery are owned by a coal and iron company which produces steel at Staveley and purchases every ton of the coal as it comes out of the pit—at what price, nobody knows. All we do know is that while no profits have ever been made at the colliery, the steel company make a normal profit—or did before 1926—of 15 to 17½ per cent. I am prepared to give the name to any hon. Member who cares to call for it. It seems to me that ancillary undertakings which are part and parcel of a colliery undertaking may very well come inside one of these amalgamation schemes.
There is a classic example of two collieries fixing up a third company which buys the small coal from the two collieries at a very low price and produces electricity which it sells to the two collieries at a very high price. Neither of the colliery companies makes any profit, but the third company makes a very large profit. In the first year of operations it provided a 50 per cent. profit and paid 50 per cent. bonus to its shareholders. In the interests of fair play and efficiency, therefore, it seems to me that amalgamation is very necessary, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen will be as enthusiastic about Part I of the Bill, with a quota, as he is about this particular part, because the two things are absolutely united. The sooner we can get to it the sooner the fears expressed by the right hon. Gentleman on Second Reading will be removed, and any defects in the quota system will be removed, but the two things are complementary.
We believe this amalgamation scheme to be necessary for the general purpose of improving the buying arrangements at all collieries; for improving efficiency of production; for eliminating waste and providing the necessary capital to ensure that the lastest washing plant can be purchased and the coal properly prepared for the market, and for introducing a marketing scheme so that the maximum value can be secured for this commodity. We think it will be the first step in the direction we have to go ultimately to secure nationalisation. We ask all those hon. Members who are interested in the mining industry and in the future prosperity of the industrial life of the country to support the Clauses on the Order Paper.
The hon. Member who has just spoken with great knowledge of production in Yorkshire would have enlightened the Committee still more if he had told of the experiences of some of the older collieries where they have worked through all these problems, but, unfortunately, have only come to disaster and a shrinkage of employment. Yorkshire is a standing example of the efficiency which comes from large scale production. It has certain natural advantages, but, as many of my mining friends know, it has certain natural disadvantages. Recently, when some of our Durham miners went to Yorkshire, they found the Yorkshire mines so infernally hot that they went back to Durham; but those are disadvantages which have been largely sot over by efficient en- gineers, who have shown high devotion and first-rate skill in the exploitation of these coalfields. There is no doubt that amalgamation or working on a large scale in Yorkshire is most effective. The Report of the Royal Commission draws attention to the fact that throughout the country the undertakings with the lowest output are those which mine at the greatest cost, while those which have the largest output mine at the greatest profit and at the lowest cost. There is no use trying to get over those facts. We have to face them, whatever our views may be about voluntary or compulsory amalgamation. Indeed, in the evidence before the Royal Commission, Mr. Markham, who has had a lot of experience of Yorkshire, declares that the advantages gained in consequence of large-scale production under a single control are very great. A higher technical staff can be employed, consisting of mining engineers, surveyors, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, draughtsmen and housing experts. Those advantages, he said, had also been increased by centralised organisation of railway and shipping transport and the production of electricity.
With that evidence before us and such knowledge as we each of us in larger or smaller degree possess of the working of concerns on a large scale, we are bound to come to the conclusion that we have already proved in this country that large-scale production is on the whole the most profitable, that it is most likely to keep men in constant employment, and that it is most likely to be able to sell coal to advantage abroad and at the lowest price. That cannot be disputed, but I doubt very much whether my right hon. Friend, who speaks with unrivalled knowledge of the coal trade from without, could possibly put down the whole of the misfortunes of the coal trade in this country to the incompetence of our mining engineers and managers. I cannot think that that was what he meant in his comparisons with the output in Germany, France, and Belgium. There is no doubt that since the War the output of Germany has increased while ours has gone down, but that is due to local causes. He included, I think, brown coal in his figures and the development of the lignite industry in Germany has been most remarkable. The development has also been due to the cartel arrangement in Germany. I would not like to see a cartel arrangement introduced in this country.
There are complaints that this Bill is drafted for the producer and not for the consumer, but, if the cartel arrangement were introduced, the consumer would be entirely at the mercy of the producer, and I hope that cartels will never be operated here. The difference between Germany and this country is that their coalfields are much younger than ours, and they were therefore able to go into coal production at a higher stage of mining science. They have not our history behind them. If you compare our newer coalfields with those of Germany, Belgium, and France, we can bowl the whole lot over. It is still possible for us to boast that the British mining engineer is the best in the world. Those who have seen the coalfields both abroad and at home will agree with that statement. I am not depreciating German success, but I am pointing out that as a matter of fact, they are not dealing with the age-long problems with which we are confronted. I do not know what they would do if they had to take over some of the collieries of Durham or Fife or Lanark. They would find themselves faced with difficulties with which they are not faced at home.
I am inclined to put aside the problem of Germany and to deal with the problem here purely on its merits. Have amalgamations succeeded? That is my first question. I must confess that in some other industries with which I am acquainted amalgamations have not been a success and that great and disastrous failures have occurred. Some hon. Members would wish to say that that was entirely due to the fact that they were financial amalgamations. No amalgamation can be free from that, and, as I hope to prove before I sit down, unless the finances are sound, the whole thing will end in disaster. Whether these amalgamations I have in mind were purely financial or not, the fact remains that in a large number of cases where amalgamations have been tried they have not been successful.
There are cases in the coal trade itself. There was one case with which I had a connection. I sat in this House for four years for the capital of the anthracite coalfield. I do not see any success from the amalgamation of the anthracite collieries. They are not paying, they are not making a profit for their shareholders, and, unless they do that, they will not be able to provide the capital to improve their mines. At the moment they are meeting with very serious competition from foreign countries which they are ill-equipped to meet. It is said that you must sweep that on one side, because it is a financiers' amalgamation. That may be so, but there never was an amalgamation in this country with better geographical or geological reasons for amalgamation, and those are the reasons needed in every amalgamation. It is true it is mixed up with finance, but you cannot get collieries to come together without attaching a value to them, and you cannot do that without considering the interests of the shareholders and seeing that they have fair play. Under the compulsory amalgamation Clauses such as those down on the Paper, they would have to accept the terms made for them. Would that have improved the working of the great amalgamation scheme in that area? I see no reason to suppose that there would be greater efficiency in the working of those anthracite mines under a compulsory amalgamation than there would be, and has been, under a voluntary amalgamation. There were some great concerns amalgamated immediately after the War, and they went down, as a rule. The larger the concern the larger the smash. The worst of it was that they took with them the livelihood of a large number of people. Amalgamations are not invariably successful, because they depend absolutely, first and last, on the personal ability behind them.
I come now to the personnel in these schemes. You are not going to get rid of inefficiency unless you can bring the best brains of the country into the coalmining industry to make it succeed. You are faced with that all along the line. During the whole time I have been in business I have seen some curious developments, especially in the South Wales coalfield. One of the disasters to South Wales was that some of their best and brightest brains were turned to the selling side, the marketing of coal, and brought away from the actual mining of coal. Those who were design- ing the reorganisation of the industry in those days believed that by improving the selling organisation, by putting the brightest young men into it and telling them that therein lay their future, they would be benefiting the coal trade. That was the direction taken by many of the cleverest young Welshmen, with the result that mining was neglected and selling-received more attention than it actually merited. It would have been better for the South Wales coalfield if the brains had remained in the mines and if the coal trade had depended upon straightforward, honest, common-place men to do the selling. [Interruption.] I am speaking, of course, only as a purchaser.
Let me see how we can best get the personnel into all these schemes which will come up for amalgamation. In the first place, what is the object of amalgamation? It is, in the view of some, to eliminate the inefficient colliery. I have not heard that point stressed to-day, but it is in the minds of a good many hon. Gentlemen. They say you cannot get rid of the inefficient colliery under the quota system and that you had better do it under the amalgamation system. They think that in an amalgamation system these inefficient collieries can be put down like an old horse. I do not like to hear that. First, because they employ a considerable number of men who are extremely difficult to move from one district to another, and therein is a social problem as well as an economic problem involved. The second point is that in times of boom, when all other industries are clamouring for cheap coal and need it for their furnaces, it has always been in the past that the only means by which prices were kept down to reasonable level was the constant overflow of coal from these so-called inefficient collieries. They were inefficient in bad times, but they were a boon to the consumer in good times. It is said that they are now to be got rid of and that one of the objects of amalgamation is to eliminate pits. If so, I doubt if we are very much further forward by means of amalgamations than we would be under the quota system.
Now an obviously good reason for an amalgamation is a reduction of overhead charges, so that you can buy on a much larger scale, and thereby your store account goes down. In the same way, you can sell on a wider scale and can combine within your own units on large scale contracts in the way that is done on the Continent and in some cases in this country. There are undoubted advantages in some amalgamations which are of a geographical and a geological character—geographical in that they can get over the lines of other collieries down to the ports and reach the markets, and geological because in many parts the boundaries are ridiculous and bear no sensible relation whatever to the problems of the coal trade. Then comes the question of the production of by-products. That, it is said, can be better achieved on a larger scale than on a smaller scale, which is true. The production of by-products has never been successfully achieved by small units.
In every one of these cases, the reduction of your overhead, your better staff, your better buying or selling, it is personal ability that counts in the long run. You must have a man who knows how to buy with great knowledge of the markets, a man who has a tough jaw and is able to drive a good bargain, a man skilled in knowledge of what are the movements of the industry and what is the course of prices in the world, a man who knows whether to buy ahead or to buy short. Ability counts there; ability counts also in the geographical and geological problems. There is also your engineer to take into account. The engineer mentiond by the right hon. Member for Hill-head (Sir R. Horne), whom I hope I am not misrepresenting, is one whom I would not care to employ in any large scale collieries. Unless you have a first-class engineer, you cannot possibly make a success of an amalgamation merely because it is large. It depends, not merely upon size, but upon ability. Ability is needed in the capture of byproducts and in the difficult and highly technical problems of the coal trade.
The old idea of using coal just as it-comes out of the pit is quite out of date. People wish to have their coal in a handier form. If the coal is liquid, so much the better. If it is not in a liquid form, then let it be turned into dust so that they can spray it into their furnaces. These changes are all coming rapidly. The production of all sorts of chemical products from coal has increased enormously even in our own lifetime. These things can be done in our own concerns, but they depend upon first-class chemists, upon first-class Merchants and upon first-class managers. It is the ability of the individual that really counts. How far are we going to make sure of getting the best ability out of these amalgamations? I do not think that we shall do it by eliminating the possibility of a large, personal profit. That is one of the reasons why, though I am in favour of amalgamation in the coal trade, I am always drive n back to say that you are hardly likely to get the best ability in the coal trade unless you provide great prizes.
Lastly, the personal element must have behind it the element of capital. I have noticed that in all these discussions it is always taken for granted that when you have drawn together these units which must, I presume, vary according to the different conditions in the different parts of the country, you have solved your problem. You have not, you have only begun to do so. If by-products, for instance, are going to be the salvation of the coal industry, then it must have capital, and it must be able to put up its plant, not in tens of thousands of pounds, but in hundreds of thousands of pounds. Where is it to some from? Do you think that it may come from the banks? They have dealing only with the deposits of other people, and they cannot make permanent investments. Can the money come from trusts? Trusts are like personal shareholders; they only put up the money if they think that they are going to get interest upon it; and they will not find the money if they think that we are dealing with the coal industry as a political concern. I do not know where the money is to come from for distillation plant and all these new concerns which are going to make experiments in low-temperature carbonisation of coal about which there has been more nonsense talked than anything else I have ever heard of. Unless you can give confidence to the investor, he will not put his money into the industry. It may be that amalgamation is one way of getting that confidence. I hope it is, because amalgamations are apparently proceeding even voluntary every day; but unless the investor can be satisfied that the amalgamations will produce a profit, it will be impossible to draw capital into the industry. Without that capital, we shall be beating the air. We may amalgamate until we get the whole 1,200 collieries into a very small number of groups, say 100, but if those 100 are not solvent, they will require capital to develop their resources, and, unless you can make sure of getting the necessary capital, it will be no use joining them together. Capital is one of the first essentials, and the only way to make a permanent success of the coal industry is by attracting the best brains into it.
I would like to tell hon. Members opposite straight away that I am personally interested in the coal trade, so that they will be able to discount as much as they think fit of my speech on that account. I listened very carefuly to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman), and I entirely failed to discover whether he was supporting or opposing this new Clause. That may be due to my own stupidity, but I am unable to say on which side he came down, although he dealt with this question in an interesting and delightful way. I do not agree with what the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) said about the state of the industry in my native county of Yorkshire. I want to correct a statement which was made by the hon. Member when dealing with the question of the price of coal from various collieries. One statement he made was that the coal from a certain colliery in his constituency was sent to the ironworks and nobody knew at what price the coal was sold.
The hon. Baronet knows as well as anybody that the auditors are sworn to secrecy, and although the Yorkshire Miners' Association pay the auditors' fees, it is more than the auditors dare do to inform the Yorkshire Miners' Association of any of the figures they discover.
Then the auditors are nobody. I know that they go round and make careful and exhaustive inquiries as to the transfer price, and they check that price with the price of similar coal in the open market of which they are perfectly well aware. A little time ago a firm with which I am acquainted changed their auditors. Since then they have had two sets of fully chartered accountants.
Then they have two sets of competent auditors and highly-skilled chartered accountants looking into these things. It has been said again and again that nobody knows the price at which the coal is sold, and it is always imagined that something nefarious is going on. Surely, if there was anything wrong, it would be discovered by these chartered accountants. The statement has been corrected time after time, but, notwithstanding that, it has been repeated to-day.
I will now deal with the question of amalgamations. First of all, I want to ask a question to which I hope I shall get an answer. How is it that since 1926 such few amalgamations have gone through? The Act of 1926 provided for free stamping. If the amalgamations which took place under that Act were so desirable as was stated at the time, surely hard-headed business men would have looked into this matter very carefully to see if there was anything to be made out of amalgamation. Those matters were looked into, and people surveyed the situation to see whether amalgamations would result in a profit, but the obstacles and disadvantages in almost every case were greater than the advantages likely to be gained. I think hon. Members opposite will agree with me when I say that it is not the technical side of the coal trade on which there is very much wrong, but what is wrong is on the selling side. Those interested in the coal trade have gone into the question of amalgamations, and, finding that there is very little to be gained by amalgamation, they have turned their attention to something else. They have taken steps in the direction of acting more together on the selling side, and they could achieve a good deal more in that direction but for the opposition of a minority in the various areas, which is stultifying their efforts.
I am not one of those who look upon Part I of this Bill with the disfavour which has been shown by some of my hon. Friends. These amalgamations have not gone forward very rapidly in the past, and the results have not been very successful where amalgamations have taken place. The hon. Member for Don Valley will recognise an amalgamation of four concerns with which I am going to deal. One of those four concerns was a very good one which had paid good dividends for a long time. Another was a good concern which also had paid dividends in the past practically up to the date of the amalgamation. The other two were comparatively new concerns. One of them had suffered nothing but trouble and disaster but in the other case there were great hopes for the future. I have had some holdings in one or two of those concerns and from one I received a dividend. Those concerns were amalgamated, and since that time not a single penny has come out of it for any of the shareholders. The one that was a good concern was valued highly and was given a large number of shares, and the very bad one was valued low, but it does not matter how high you put the value of the good or how low you put the value of the bad if you are going to get nothing out of them at all. That is one result of amalgamation.
With regard to one of those concerns, and possibly two, I feel certain that they would have paid dividends but for the valuation and here you have good concerns pulled down with the bad concerns. I know of a prosperous concern in which the shares increased to well over 20s. in £ but to-day they are down at 12s., and it has not paid a dividend.
The name is Powell Duffryn. I do not like to give names, and there are cases in which I cannot give the names. I have given the reasons why some of these amalgamations have not gone ahead. Personally, I am not opposed to amalgamations, because I know some which have beer, successful although there are some which have been great failures. When you come to the question of compulsion, it is quite a different matter. Under compulsion, you come to someone and say, "We are going to take you and your property and combine it with the property of somebody else, who probably does not wish to work with you." I think this is the first time that there has been such an attack upon the individual rights of anyone holding property in this country. In the past, the State has had the right of taking from its citizens property which the State needed for its own use, but in every case where the State has taken such property it has paid compensation for it. In this case, the State is not offering to pay compensation, and we are simply saying to these owners of property: "For the good of the community, we are going to throw you in with other people, and you must do the best you can, and you cannot get out of it." Compared with a proceeding of this sort, nationalisation with compensation is an infinitely better proposal. It is a wrong thing to ask people you do not know to work with you. That does not make for the success of any concern, because it is necessary in such amalgamations that people must work amicably together.
There is another point n connection with the extreme unfairness of forcing a good concern to amalgamate with an inefficient one. This point has never been answered, and, if anyone on the other side can do so, I shall be glad to hear what the answer is. Take the case of a concern which has been provident in the past, and, knowing that its life will not last more than the allotted span of that particular colliery, has set aside, out of its depreciation, funds which it intends at the end of the period to pay back to its shareholders. There are such cases. Those funds may be invested in War Loan or other securities entirely outside the business. They constitute reserves properly put aside to meet the ultimate end of the colliery. The neighbouring concern next door has paid away every penny in dividend. Then, when bad times come along, and losses are made, they have had to go to their bankers, and have accumulated an overdraft equal to the amount of their neighbour's reserves. Is there any fairness or equity in combining these two concerns together, and taking the reserve fund of the prudent concern in order to pay off the bank overdraft of the imprudent one? If anyone can justify that to me in honesty or in equity, I shall be delighted to hear what the justification is.
In my view this form of compulsory amalgamation is bad. I know that there was some form of compulsion in the Bill of 1926, and I regret that it was there. The only thing that I can say is that it has never been used, and also that the old excuse may be advanced that at any rate the power of compulsion which was there was only a little one. In the present case, commissioners are to be appointed who are going to do a great deal. It is estimated that £250,000 a year is going to be spent. They are going all over the land, and it will be in their interests to justify themselves by finding, everywhere that they can, suitable cases for amalgamation. It is perfectly certain that anyone who sets out on a heresy hunt will find heresy, and, in the same way, if these commissioners are sent out to find subjects for amalgamation, they will find subjects for amalgamation, and these things will be forced through, whether they are fair or just or whether they are against the interests of the trade as a whole.
I do not believe that this is the way in which the coal trade can be put straight. Rather than have these amalgamations and reorganisations, I would take the recommendation that Sir Arthur Balfour made in a speech in Yorkshire a little time ago, when he said that he did not care for all these restrictions and amalgamations in industries which were tin a bad way, but what he would like to see would be a few healthy bank- ruptcies and liquidations. That is a far better method of straightening out. If the bankers would only come down firmly and say that they would not bolster up these firms which owe them large sums of money, and would refrain from selling them for an old song to somebody else, things would go much better. I agree that marketing can be done on a large scale; I agree that selling can be done on a large scale. If these proposals related to selling agencies, I should not be opposing them, but it is the physical amalgamations, the getting together of concerns which are really better kept apart, that I oppose. I would remind the Committee that a very long time ago there was a successful attempt at compulsory amalgamation in the wine trade of Jezreel. In that case, which was not as bad as this, I understand that the promoters of the amalgamation did tell the independent owner that they would buy him out at a fair price. Here the Government are not offering to buy us out at a fair price, but are going to force us to be amalgamated—to out-Ahab Ahab.
In the few remarks that I desire to address to the Committee, I want to keep to my own practical sphere, in regard to what is occurring in the county of Durham, which is probably as well known to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman) as it is to myself. I want to refer to an amalgamation which was carried out by a colliery company in Durham, and which, so far as I know, has been very successful. In 1900, there were some collieries which were on the point of being closed because they were not paying. This company took over those collieries, and from that day to this they have been a very successful and paying concern. Since then they have added others that would have ceased working if they had remained in the hands of other people. Altogether there were 13 collieries in this amalgamation, and they have been worked and are working successfully to-day. Later on, yet another was added to this group, I believe for geological reasons, which form, in most cases, very good grounds for amalgamation. These collieries are now employing thousands of men who would have been down and out long ago if they had not been taken over and formed into one group, thus saving an immense amount in overhead charges, and resulting in better selling facilities and better buying facilities. Indeed, the Durham coalfield as a whole would have been in a very much worse condition than it is to-day but for these amalgamations.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) told us that a great part of the proceeds have been frittered away. When I knew the Durham coalfield first, the manager of the mine was the man responsible, but to-day that good old system has become obsolete, and, over the head of the manager, who knows his work, are now put men who call themselves directors, and who know nothing about the work. They have taken from the industry much of the money that ought to have come back in profits to the owners and in wages for the men. We want a different system; we cannot go on as we have in the past. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are ready to argue in favour of the present-day position, but what is happening is that these concerns go on as long as they can, and then, immediately they are in a difficulty, they come to the men to seek reductions in wages or longer hours in order to enable them to get out of it. We know full well, as far as exports are concerned, that coal is being sold at less than cost price, and the miner is asked to bear the whole burden. Wages have been cut to the very lowest point, and huge debts have been piled up which will have to be met in the future before the men can have a wage that will enable them to keep themselves and their wives and families in decency. After all, the wealth of this nation is greater than that of any other in the world. We hear arguments in favour of the very few who say that they own the mines, but no account is taken of what it means when thousands of men are rendered unemployed and the country has to do something to keep them alive.
The coal trade can be reorganised and made a paying concern. I should welcome the day when nationalisation came about, though I suppose I should be out of order in arguing on that subject now. In my humble judgment, however, the fewer hands in which the coal trade is, the better for the industry, and the better the prospect for the workers of getting their fair share of reward for producing coal for the benefit of the nation. Even in the home market, so we have been told, coal has been sold by collieries to concerns in other industries for inland consumption, at the same price as has been charged for export coal in the hope of getting back the markets that were lost during 1926; but that whole argument, when examined carefully, will not bear the light of day. The men are the only people who have to make sacrifices in order to keep the coal trade going, bad as its condition is. I trust that the House of Commons will give these proposals an opportunity of being carried out. Those who are opposing this Clause know full well that we cannot go on in the future as we have in the past. Those days are absolutely ended, and something more must be done by Parliament than has ever been done before to put this trade on its feet again.
Marquess of HARTINGTON:
The President of the Board of Trade introduced these proposals with characteristic clearness and lucidity, but, with characteristic wisdom, he refrained from attempting to advance one argument to show that they will in any way whatever improve the position of the coal trade. If any of us on this side of the House could share the opinion of the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. E. Richardson), that compulsory amalgamation would bring either prosperity or any measure of improvement to the coal industry, we should most certainly not be opposing it; but, in my view, it is almost impossible to imagine how anything more than the most trifling reduction in the cost of production can possibly be effected by amalgamations such as are contemplated in this proposal. As has already been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) and other hon. Members the coal industry differs from almost every other industry in the country, and one of the ways in which it differs is that it is less suitable, and not more suitable, for amalgamation than almost any other industry that can be imagined.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), who so warmly commended these proposals, for which he is popularly supposed to be responsible, complained bitterly that our coal industry sprawled untidily over the country in England. It is no good blaming the managers in the coal trade for that. The right hon. Gentleman should really blame Jehovah, who put the coal seams sprawling untidily over the countryside. When you come down to facts, it is the case that every pit has its own problems, every pit must have its own managerial staff, must have its own underground manager, must have its own separate problems of pumping, ventilation, gas, haulage and many others; and it is scarcely conceivable that anything more than the most trifling reduction of overhead charges can possibly be effected by amalgamating these pits. A pit, after all, remains a pit, whether you call it a pit or whether you call it a fiftieth part of an amalgamated undertaking.
It is quite true, as the President of the Board of Trade observed, that there was a Clause in the Bill introduced in 1926, by the party to which I belong, which contemplated some measure of compulsion in regard to amalgamations, but that proposal differed very widely indeed from the proposal which is now before the Committee. If I may carry a little further the analogy of my hon. Friend the Member for Eccleshall (Sir S. Roberts), the proposal was that, if a colliery undertaking, for some reason or other, desired amalgamation and met with obstruction, it could go to the Railway and Canal Commission and obtain assistance; that is to say, we envisaged the use of compulsion in order to enable Ahab to obtain his vineyard. The new proposal goes very much further than that. Various undertakings may be carrying on quite quietly and peaceably, casting no covetous eyes at the property of their neighbours, and the House of Commons seriously contemplates setting up, at a cost of £250,000 a year, a body of men who will have the power of travelling round the coalfields with such secretaries, servants and officials as they, with the Treasury's consent, may see fit to appoint, forcing people who do not want to amalgamate, who are content to carry on their own undertakings, to combine. I regard it as a most dangerous and preposterous proposal. One can at least understand the theory of nationalisation. Most of us on this side do not believe in it, but it is a coherent theory. This would enable an irresponsible authority to go round compelling people to run their business in a way in which they have no wish to run it against their will. It is not nationalisation nor capitalism. It is no coherent system that ever existed out of Bedlam.
There is one ground only on which I could support the proposal. Miners are paid on a profit-sharing basis. Profits are arrived at, not on the basis of the individual pit, but of the whole of the mines in an area. Men employed in a pit that is making a profit of several shillings a ton may come under the ascertainment of a district which is making a loss possibly of a few pence a ton, and they are paid on that basis. It never seemed fair to me and I often wonder that the miners do not object more to it. There are insuperable difficulties in the way of working out your profit-sharing basis for each individual pit, and I believe that would not be a practicable suggestion. The only ground on which I should contemplate supporting a scheme of compulsory amalgamation of this kind is that, by means of geographical amalgamation of undertakings, it might be possible to work out a fairer basis for the ascertainment than obtains at present. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will consider that suggestion. It is unfair that men who are paid on a profit-sharing basis should not receive a wage commensurate with what their own pit is earning, but have it drastically cut down by pits which are not doing so well because they happen to be situated at the other end of the same county.
I want to deal with some of the arguments that have been advanced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen, who is so far the only Member who has spoken wholeheartedly in favour of the proposal. I resented his easy assumption that the difficulties of the coal industry are due to the incompetence of the managers. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead to some extent traversed the assumption that the industry is far better conducted in the Ruhr than in this country. There are many other factors to account for the increasing competition by foreign countries besides the fact that they have large scale amalgamation. Possibly the greatest of those causes is legislation that has been passed at various times by the party to which the right hon. Gentle- man the Member for Darwen belongs, and there are a very large number of factors even besides that. There is the factor, for instance, that for some years during the concluding stages of the War, and after the War, there was an acute coal famine in Europe, and we in this country enormously stimulated production by charging immensely high prices where we could. The right hon. Gentleman was wrong also when he said the only result of the action of the Conservative Government in 1925 had been to reduce the coal industry to greater and greater poverty. Last year was one of steadily increasing prosperity. The number of men employed increased by very nearly 50,000, and the weekly output rose steadily throughout the year. We are creeping back into our export markets, and to destroy, as this Bill must, the security of those who are engaged in coal undertakings and to introduce a fresh disturbing element which has already had more than its share of disturbance, is a piece of gross and wanton folly.
I very much hope the Government will seriously consider dropping these proposals. They complain that amalgamation has not gone ahead quickly, that the machinery set up by the Conservative Government to facilitate amalgamation has not worked well, and that this further measure of compulsion is necessary. I would beg them to go carefully into the facts and figures of the amalgamations which have taken place. There is a very simple reason why amalgamation has not proceeded more quickly, that there is really not very much advantage in amalgamation. People have not gone into it because they do not see the advantage. There are well defined limits within which amalgamation is an economic advantage, and it is going ahead. The hon. Member who spoke last quoted a case in Durham where it had been an immense success. He was really arguing against the Bill and not for it. If amalgamations are taking place, it is a thousand pities to upset a normal, healthy process which is proceeding by voluntary means and to introduce this wholly disruptive element, which must destroy the security that exists in the industry. It must set a premium on the distribution of profits up to the hilt. It is impossible that people will pursue a prudent financial policy if at any time they run the risk of being compulsorily amalgamated. It-is impossible for them to take an equally far-sighted view about the development of the seams they are working. There is the one condition I have mentioned, of working out the wage ascertainments on a smaller basis, which I regard as of such advantage that I would almost contemplate voting for this compulsory amalgamation, but in the absence of such a proposal I regard this as a very dangerous Clause.
Hon. Members opposite have made it clear that they support these proposals on the ground, among other things, that they regard them as a step towards their ultimate objective of nationalisation, while hon. Members on this side above the gangway have opposed them on the ground that they are an assault upon the rights of property. These are the shibboleths of the eighties and I do not propose to detain the Committee with them. I desire rather to bring it back to a consideration of what is the real problem with which we are confronted. It is not a political, but an industrial problem. It is how in these days of overproduction and diminished consumption we are to concentrate the industry. I believe an artificial system of permanent and compulsory quotas will not achieve the object in view, and it will bring evils in its train. It is merely tinkering with the problem, and the situation of the industry is so inherently unsound that mere tinkering is of no use at all. Quotas may be useful (I express no fixed opinion) as a temporary expedient in each district but as a temporary expedient only. It is to amalgamation alone that I believe we must look to go to the root of the matter. The quota system would not enable various undertakings to pool their financial resources.
I bow to your Ruling, Sir, and at once turn my negative into a positive. The system of amalgamation will serve the object of assisting in the reorganisation of the industry by enabling financial resources
to be pooled, by increasing facilities for the pooling of wagons, by making it possible to establish joint power plants, and also they will enable coal reserves at present controlled by one company to be re-allocated so that they can be worked more efficiently by neighbouring collieries belonging to the amalgamated group. Amalgamation would make possible the abolition of the limits at present existing between the underground workings of collieries and would give flexibility to the boundaries between collieries: in other words what is required is the drastic operation of Part II of the Mining Industry Act of 1926, to which little or no reference has been made. Amalgamations give an opportunity for large scale cleaning, breaking and washing plants and, of course, they give opportunities for research on a scale commensurate with the importance of the industry and the object to be achieved. Again, they enable purchases and sales to be centralised. I am sorry my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman) is not still here, because I should have wished to some extent to join issue with him in his suggestion that undue importance is being attached to marketing. In the old days our coal sold itself. The problem of the mining industry today is, as much as anything, how to sell our coal. That which previously sold itself has now to be sold. No one should under-estimate the difficulties of selling coal. Nothing less than the best brains that we can afford are required for the marketing of our coal, the grading of it, and for all the ancillary purposes. Although I realise all these advantages in amalgamations. I should not like it to be believed that amalgamations should be pursued at all times and on all occasions irrespective of particular circumstances, and still less should I like it to be assumed that I for one would favour the policy of size at any price. One is apt to be misled by the mere size of a new undertaking into believing that because of its size it must be effective. As was pointed out in the final report of the Balfour Committee:
It has been supposed that because large-scale production makes for certain forms of efficiency, all small-scale undertakings should be incited or compelled"—
that is the present proposal—
to combine. The history of recent years furnishes many examples of industrial concerns, which were misled by the abnormal experience of war conditions into embarking on elaborate schemes of new equipment and amalgamation without due reference to commercial cost and market limitations.
With the proviso that the reorganisation committee which it is proposed to establish must give due consideration to commercial costs and market limitations, the advantages of amalgamations would, I believe, in due course, become obvious. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home) and other hon. Members following him have asked, "Why not leave it to the owners? The Act of 1926 has been on the Statute Book now for upwards of three years and the results have been small indeed. Apart from the Anthracite Amalgamation to which reference has already been made, and the Ocean Coal and Powell Duffryn amalgamation in South Wales, the Carlton Collieries in South Yorkshire, and the Lancashire-Manchester Colliery merger, there have been very few, if any, mergers since 1926. It is to be observed that all these schemes were by agreement. In no single instance, were the compulsory powers of the Act of 1926 invoked, and I believe I am right in saying that in no single instance was the Board of Trade called in to assist in the preparation of schemes as contemplated by the Act. The Act of 1926, indeed, did what hon. Members above the Gangway desire to be done to-day. The Act of 1926 left the initiative to the owners, and the initiative, save in South Wales, has simply not been forthcoming.
I heard the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) point out, and I crave leave to repeat it, that we in this country are now producing 255,000,000 tons in 584 undertakings. The Ruhr is producing 120,000,000 in 50 undertakings, and Pas-de-Calais 25,000,000 in 15 undertakings. I was one who believed, when the 1926 Act was introduced, that it would never become effective unless behind it there was the compelling force of the big stick of the State, and time has proved that I was right. The big stick is now held in terrorem over the owners under the amalgamations Amendment proposed by the Government to this Bill.
It would be misleading ourselves to suppose that amalgamations can be brought into existence speedily, or that the results can be observed speedily. The time factor is of importance. As I understand the proposals before the Committee, there is only one Commission suggested—a Commission of three, or, it may be, five members. They have to survey the situation at large. They have to make up their minds as to the industrial structure as they wish to see it, and then they have to get to work on individual schemes. It is all going to take time. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade was rather optimistic when he suggested that there would really be a new picture—that was the suggestion—within three or four years. I think, speaking with some experience of these matters, that it will take considerably longer. When you have your amalgamations, you will still require a further period before you can see the results. It will take time for the amalgamations to shake down. I do not think that I shall be a false prophet if I suggest that it will be found that in the early days of the amalgamations, costs will increase. They always do in the early days, but, after a time, when there has been a shaking down, when all those concerned have come together and have felt their feet, the rewards of the effort will be observed, and the ultimate results will be both valuable and permanent.
There are a number of limiting factors in connection with amalgamations, and I would repeat that it will be important that the Commission should not be obsessed by the idea of size at any price. There are all sorts of imponderabilia whether amalgamation is compulsory or voluntary, but they must necessarily be especially apparent where amalgamation is compulsory. Anyone who has been in close contact with amalgamated businesses, whether in the mining industry or any other, knows that when you have your amalgamations, all sorts of unsuspected stresses and strains develop. It is rather like the case of an engineering invention which may in model form be admirable upon the bench but which does not work at once as you would have expected when it is turned out in the factory, or like the chemical compound which fulfils its purpose in the laboratory, but, when produced on a commercial scale, has at first rather different results from those which were first anticipated. But, if the bringing together has been undertaken with due regard to all the surrounding circumstances of finance, industry, and marketing, these stresses and strains and difficulties will disappear, and the results of the new arrangement be felt.
There are the personal factors to which reference has already been made, but there is one factor of a personal nature to which I have heard no reference even from the benches opposite. I wonder whether those who are intimately concerned with the mining industry will agree with me that even a mine has its own personality, and that you cannot treat every mine simply by one rule and by one method. Every mine with its special problems requires to be considered separately. It takes a little time to discover the personality of the mines in the amalgamation. Further, there are the personal difficulties, the personal frictions of those who have not been too anxious and perhaps actually unwilling to be brought together. That often applies even when amalgamations are voluntary. How much more so must it be the case when they are compulsory? You have to introduce new managers to undertake the old jobs because the old jobs have increased in their importance, their complexity and difficulties, and the man who may have been long in the service of the enterprise, well qualified to run the mine before the amalgamation, may not be equally qualified and sufficiently up-to-date and sufficiently versed in modern methods to enable him to fulfil a similar function under the new conditions for a larger production. I am not a technical man, but I believe that it is well recognised that there is a limit of tonnage which any one manager can control, I think that it is rather over 1,000,000 tons. Then there are many old customs and habits which have grown up in the various enterprises, and those have to disappear, and be thrown into the common pot and new methods introduced. Hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway seem to think that I am bringing forward these difficulties as a reason against amalgamations. Not a bit of it. Never did hon. Gentlemen above the gangway make a greater mistake. They are simply caveats which I enter against undue optimism about immediate results, but that the results in the end will be satisfactory, and that the results will be those which the Amendments are designed to achieve I entertain no doubt at all.
There is one other factor to which I think no reference has been made, and to which I would earnestly direct the attention of the Secretary for Mines, and which, I think, it is essential that the proposed Commission should take into consideration. I refer to the question of the man-power at the top. It is necessary to keep these enterprises within a certain scale of size, because the number of men of ability and experience that we have in this country who can carry on the daily conduct of business on the largest scale is extremely limited. I see the Secretary of State for War on the Government Front Bench. It is very much as, during the War, when our Generals were accustomed to commanding small units or divisions. They had no experience in training or knowledge and they had no tradition in the commanding of great armies on a continental scale, and we suffered many difficulties because of that lack of knowledge, training and tradition. The caveat in this respect that I would enter is that it is essential to keep the size of the enterprise within the limits of the comprehension of the ordinary man who is available for taking on the job at the top. It is largely upon wisdom in fixing the size of amalgamations that the success of these proposals will depend.
The Act of 1926 provided for a tribunal, the Railway and Canal Commission, to give its assent to any scheme of amalgamation where it was satisfied that it was in the national interests. In deciding whether or not it was in the national interests the Railway and Canal Commission are called upon to exercise a judicial function. In the proposals now before the Committee the new Commission, the Reorganisation and Technical Commission, is called upon to decide whether schemes are in the national interests, but under the Amendments it will be an administrative function. I would suggest to the Secretary of Mines that it is impossible to have two sets of persons deciding the test of national interest or no national interest. Upon that matter the President of the Board of Trade, in his opening remarks, was silent. It is a question of fact. Surely, the Re-
organization and Technical Commission must have laid down for it by this House some guiding principle upon which it is to ascertain and form its opinion as to whether this or that proposal is or is not in the national interests. Let me quote one sentence bearing upon this subject:
This question is more fitting for the High Court of Parliament than for the High Court of Justice.
Those are the words of the present Lord Chancellor when, as Mr. Justice Sankey, he spoke in his capacity as President of the Railway and Canal Commission under the Act of 1926. What are the tests to which Mr. Justice Sankey and his colleagues subscribed? I would suggest to the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary for Mines that they should be the guiding principles of the Commission which it is proposed to set up. The tests are:
Is the scheme in the national interests or not? It is in the national interests if the workers, whether manual or clerical, who are engaged in the undertaking receive not merely a living but a reasonable wage for their exertions; where those who are willing to risk their capital in such undertakings receive a reasonable return for the money they lend and, last, where the persons who are to use the article produced, that is, the customers, are able to get such article at the lowest rate, having regard to the first two propositions.
Those, again, are the words of the present Lord Chancellor. I found myself upon those words, and I conclude by saying that they indicate the guiding principles which the Reorganisation Commission should hold before themselves, and if they are faithfully and strictly applied, the scheme for amalgamation will have the results which its friends expect of it.
The hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken has not shown any undue enthusiasm for the Amendment which he began to support. He has put forward so many objections to the scheme that there is very little left for me to say. He reminded us of the great need for care in limiting the size of the amalgamations, and the great drawbacks of an undertaking getting beyond the proper limits of control. He explained that amalgamations would mean new management, and that new management very often leads to trouble. He described amalgamations in one sentence as tinkering, and in the next as going to the root of the matter. The hon. and gallant Member is like the right hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman) in this, that it is difficult to know whether when hon. Members speak on those lines they are going to support or oppose the proposal with which they are dealing. The peculiar thing is that we have had these divided views from hon. Members below the Gangway, and it is well to remember that this is their proposal. It took them a very long time to convert the Government to the proposal. The Government had months of negotiation and hard work. We are glad to see that the Secretary for Mines retains his perennial youth, considering the hard work that he has had to do during the past few months.
It never occurred to the Government until the last moment, when the Liberal party came along and imposed duress upon them, that this proposal was any use whatever. The hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. R. Richardson) appealed to us to think of the low wages and the hard work and bad conditions of the miners. If I believed that one-half the benefits are going to come from this Clause that the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring suggested, I would be inclined to support it rather than to oppose it, as I intend to do. The reason why I oppose the Clause is because I do not believe that it can do any good. I look upon it merely as a bit of eye-wash, but eye-wash which may be extremely expensive. Even if it turns out to be something more than eye-wash, it may be a real mischief and danger. The Government never saw any merit in this proposal until the Liberal party came along with it. Although they may have all the enthusiasm of recent converts, it is only natural that there must be considerable objections to it on their part.
The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), who is, of course, a great authority on this matter, and has been chairman of a Royal Commission dealing with the coal industry, went at great length to explain the theoretical advantages of amalgamation. We all admit that. What is the use of arguing a case which everybody admits. The whole point is whether the amalgamation is founded on the agreement and the goodwill of those taking part in it, who see advantages to be gained from amalgamation and are prepared to make those advantages complete. If you have an element of compulsion you at once introduce a difficulty which must be obvious to anybody who has considered the subject. Speech after speech to-night has described the difficulties which will accrue if you try to compel unwilling persons to run a business together, and everybody knows how absolutely necessary it is for the success of any business that those engaged in it should work amicably find do their best to promote the success of the undertaking.
The right hon. Member for Darwen referred to Germany. Nobody will pretend that the Westphalian Syndicate was based on the compulsion by the Government of owners who did not wish to enter. Anyone who has studied the history of that undertaking knows that it was a combination among the owners themselves and that the Government did their very best to defeat it. The Government saw the coal trade getting into the hands of this group and they did their best to work against it. They even worked pits at a loss, and I commend this as one of the many instances of failure which can be quoted to show how badly Governments manage commercial undertakings. The Government pits in Prussia were completely knocked out by the Westphalian Syndicate and eventually the whole thing had to be brought into the Syndicate itself. That was done by the goodwill and with the desire of the owners concerned. In the Act of 1926 we admitted the desirability of amalgamation where people are willing to take part in it. But this proposal is that Government should coerce a majority who are unwilling to enter into such amalgamations and I think the risk and the danger, the injustice and the unfairness, of such a proposal does not justify any support.
One hon. Member alluding to this Clause and to the Bill generally described it as a big stick which the Government are holding over the coal-owners. I object to the idea that the Government are going to send these superior people around the country to teach coalowners their business. Amalgamations can only have good results if they are worked by men who are willing to work them. We have proved that under the 1926 Act. Though its operation has been slow, though it has not produced widespread results, yet such results as were obtained were based on goodwill and were on thorough business lines; and if that Act had been given a fair chance, if the Government would give the owners a chance of doing for themselves what you can never compel them to do, there would have been a far greater result from that Act and we should have cleared away many of the small obstacles which still stand in the way.
The question has been asked, and so far has not been answered; who is going to be responsible for losses which may be made by amalgamations which may be forced? What is going to happen if the Government succeed in bringing about amalgamations against the will of those who will have to take part? What is going to happen if they result in complete failure; if heavier losses are incurred than were incurred before amalgamation took place? Are the Government going to offer compensation to those who have been forced into the amalgamation? There have been many instances where amalgamations, which had every apparent advantage and which were brought about by men with every prospect of success, have turned out to be failures. It may be that the great majority of the amalgamations which these commissioners will bring about may be complete failures also. You may get the most eminent men who will make the most of their job, and if they are keen they will do their best, but I do not believe, even with all the advice we have had from Liberal Benches, that they can teach the coalowners much that they do not already know. If yon give the Act of 1926 a chance these amalgamations will increase and will have some prospect of success; but I do not believe that by forcing amalgamations against the will of those in the industry, possibly without full knowledge of the conditions under which they have to work and without full knowledge of the past conditions under which the individual undertaking has been working is the way to success. It will add one more difficulty to the many difficulties which the coal industry has been suffering from, and so far from being helpful it will be mischievous and dangerous.
I view with great alarm the Amendment which is before the Committee at the moment. It is one further instalment of this part of the Bill which, in its operation, will prove inimical to the best interests of this country. I fear the repercussions which will come over the whole of industry and commerce as a result of putting into operation the powers under this Clause, including the one we are dealing with to-night. The Lord Privy Seal has expressed the opinion that the only hope, of curing unemployment is by reducing costs in the export trade in order to capture foreign markets. I am perfectly satisfied that compulsory amalgamation in the mining industry is a step which will culminate in an increase in the price of coal to all industries in the country. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) made a special plea for the industrialists of the country. I say unhesitatingly that the industrialists in the North of England, which has suffered very considerably during the past few years from industrial depression, will not support this part of the Bill. I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. T. Smith) delivered with great sincerity when he pleaded for those people who are pensioners to-day of the various coal mines and asked what their position would be when amalgamation became an accomplished fact. There is nowhere in this world a more soulless thing than a Government Department. Surely the experience of the hundreds of workmen who have been thrown out of work as a result of the closing of the dockyards at Pembroke and Rosyth—
I realise that I was treading off the path, but still my point has already been made and hon. Members have heard it. I am satisfied that when these amalgamations take place, we cannot hope for a moment that there will be the same consideration shown to these pensioners as has been shown by some of the privately-owned coal mines which have the pensioners on their lists now. What does this scheme of compulsory amalgamation mean? If anything, it means an increase of the huge army of officials, who will come into this industry—the introduction of a large number of officials who have no incentive and no ambition and who will not make any effort at progress as they would do in an individual concern; and we shall see the dead hand of officialism in the coal industry, as we see it in so many phases of national affaire. It is remarkable that all over the country there is so much opposition to this compulsory amalgamation. Even coalowners in the Midlands, who control an output of about 10,000,000 tons per annum, have expressed their disapproval of it, as have mineowners in South Wales who control an output of 11,000,000 tons per annum. Many of the greatest industrial organisations of the country have expressed their disapproval, such as the London Chamber of Commerce, the Associated Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of British Indus tries, the National Confederation of Employers' Organisations, the National Union of Manufacturers, the Conference of Public Utility Undertakings, and—
The interests of the mining industry are bound up with the success and prosperity of the other industries of the country. Surely, if the heads of these organisations, which control an enormous number of industries throughout the country, are desirous of seeing success in their own industries, that success must be followed by some measure of success in the coal industry. I plead with hon. Members on the Government side to realise that in bringing forward this system of compulsory amalgamation we are running the risk of bringing nationalisation and inertia and lack of initiative into the coal industry. The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) spoke of the benefits of amalgamation. I read with a great deal of interest that in connection with the returns obtained for the Samuel Commission, there was disclosed the fact that there was no relation whatever between the size and profit of colliery concerns. Yet the main portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was directed to the claim that we should get more efficiency by compulsory amalgamations in greater units.
The President of the Board of Trade stated that an uneconomic pit is difficult to define. If compulsory amalgamation took place, the good and economic pits would soon be able to find the uneconomic pits which were foisted upon them. What is to happen to the people who are either preference shareholders or ordinary shareholders in sound pits to-day, if those pits are amalgamated with uneconomic pits which are not prosperous? Is the Government going to give them some kind of guarantee that their holdings which have been paying certain dividends in the past, are to be maintained, or are the shareholders to take the risk of joining up with concerns which had not been successful in the past? Are these people to be compelled to go into this compulsory scheme? Is there any precedent in legislation for such an action?
I say unhesitatingly that if we put the case to the various industries that are outside the coal industry, we would have an overwhelming vote of strong opposition to the compulsory acquisition of pits and their amalgamation into great units. We have no proof whatever that by amalgamating and creating greater units we shall have any greater efficiency, or produce coal at a lower price. We shall have these Commissioners going to various parts of the country and interfering at various pits which have been worked in days gone by by men who know intimately the intricacies and the difficulties of those pits I hope that the Committee will not pass the Clause. I for one shall certainly vote against compulsory amalgamation.
I wish to turn the attention of the Committee to the special features that are connected with the application of compulsion to amalgamation. In no country has there been any attempt in any industry, so far as I know, to apply compulsion to the amalgamation of different concerns. In this matter we are entering a region far more unknown than anything that can be described as compulsory marketing. It is a fact that cannot be contradicted, that where you apply compulsion to the structure and the capital and the permanent existence of separate concerns, you are introducing a principle which has never been applied in any Act of Parliament in any country in the world; and when you select for this experiment one of the largest industries of the country, one of the industries whose recent history has been far from satisfactory, I suggest that you are taking a step, the gavity of which cannot be too much emphasised. Unless we realise the gravity of the experiment which we are making we cannot approach this problem with a proper sense of proportion.
The second general observation which I wish to make is as follows. It must never be forgotten that there is a crucial and vital difference between applying compulsion to marketing, and applying it to amalgamation. If you introduce a faulty system of marketing, you can improve it, because marketing only deals with the annual product and is capable of alteration if necessary. But if you make an error in regard to amalgamation you cannot un-amalgamate. You are dealing in the one case with the permanent structure of an industry and in the other case merely with the product. There is a great deal to be said for the view that a time may come when for the efficient marketing of industrial products some compulsion will be necessary and it has been familiar in other industries in one form or another.
Everyone acquainted with agriculture knows that there is a growing feeling that in certain circumstances some degree of compulsion with regard to the marketing of products may be necessary. But when it comes to applying compulsion in a matter affecting the permanent structure of an industry it is an entirely different matter. You are then dealing with a topic which should be kept entirely out-with the realm of compulsion, at least until you are satisfied as to the effects of compulsion. If you take the view that some measure of compulsion is necessary—and I do not propose to argue the larger qeustion now—then the Government adopted the better course originally, in saying that compulsion should only be applied in regard to marketing. I hold that that was the commonsense and logical method of procedure, and I regret sincerely that the Government have been forced into the far more dangerous and far less remediable action of attempting to apply compulsion to the structure of the industry.
With these general observations, let me turn to another aspect of the matter. I do not propose to discuss the flimsy evidence upon which we are asked to believe that amalgamation in itself will be of financial advantage to the industry, but, as far as I know, one may search the Samuel Commission Report and the speeches which have been made so far both from the Government Front Bench and from the Liberal party Front Bench, without finding the slightest attempt at an estimate of the financial value of amalgamation to the industry. I put this point with confidence to hon. Members on the other side. If any two of us were proposing to amalgamate even the smallest business concerns, say, small newspaper and stationery shops, would we not try to estimate for ourselves and to each other the financial results of such an amalgamation? If any two Members of this Committee who tried to combine two tiny businesses would regard that as a necessary preliminary, how much more should it be necessary when we are proposing to introduce compulsory amalgamation into one of the largest of all our industrial processes? Yet no real attempt has been made to indicate, even in the most shadowy way, or in the most approximate degree, the financial results of amalgamation in this case.
Perhaps my right hon. Friend who is in charge of the Bill has been warned of the fate of the estimates which were made regarding railway amalgamations. The Committee may remember—and, if not, it is worth while to turn up the record in the OFFICIAL REPORT—that when a railway amalgamation Measure was in Committee, the Minister in charge said that in six or seven years the amalgamation would save the railways £25,000,000. We do not require to be interested in railways, either as directors or employés, to know that no such figure of saving has ever been reached and I venture to say that no such figure will ever be reached. In this case, as I say, no attempt has been made to give the Committee a figure of that kind. No more unbusinesslike method has ever been adopted in asking the House of Commons to take a step of the gravest economic importance. No more frivolous or flimsy way of proposing a vital alteration has ever been followed. Neither the real father of this proposal on the benches below the Gangway, nor its unwilling godfather on the benches opposite, can give us any figure to show what the result will be. I am not in a position to fill that gap. I cannot give the Committee such a figure, but I most sincerely say that if whoever replies for the Government wishes to treat this Committee as a body of business men and of sensible people, he ought to place the Committee in a position to judge for itself and to make up its mind as to what will be, even approximately, the financial result of the Government's proposal.
Not being connected with the coal trade and having no data upon which to supply the deficiency of the Government, who have failed to give us any figure showing the advantage of this proposal to the industry, I turn to the immediate prospect. I confess I regard with the greatest alarm the immediate results of compulsion. In my judgment, long before the commissioners have begun to go round particular districts—the industry knowing that these visits are about to happen—evil economic effects will have begun to flow from those arrangements. I would like to draw the attention of the Committee and of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill to the immediate economic effects which will result from the passage of these compulsory arrangements and which will become apparent even before the commissioners proceed to put those arrangements into operation. In my view, the following economic results must ensue when you introduce compulsion. They were touched on by my right hon. Friend. In the first place, you let loose an inevitable tendency that the firms which have liquid reserves will tend to distribute those reserves before the risk of amalgamation with an uneconomic or burdened company comes to pass. Is it good for those companies which are adequately supplied with reserve capital that you should set up in the industry a tendency to make those reserves disappear? Of course it is not.
The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) said that more capital was needed and that amalgamation would draw in more capital. Compulsory amalgamation will make capital flow out of the industry, and I cannot imagine a more desperate and immediate result. As was said in more detail by my right hon. Friend, what chance is there that any particular colliery company will continue a long-distance scheme of development? One does not require to be connected with the coal trade to appreciate the force of the observation that if the life of a prosperous colliery is going to be endangered by an early amalgamation, it will seize the opportunity that remains to make an immediate profit of the very highest kind it can out of the coal which it possesses, and I believe—and I say this, not from my own practical experience, but from conversations with people on whose judgment I place great reliance—that it is a fundamental principle of the sound working of the coal of this country that any considerable amount of coal under the control of a colliery concern should be developed on a long-distance scheme, and that nothing is more uneconomic than, as my right hon. Friend says, to pick the eye out of a colliery and to leave it blind for the rest of time.
That is not all. What chance is there, pending amalgamation, and compulsion having already been introduced, of more capital being brought into the industry? If it was a question of any hon. Member here lending £100 to a colliery concern, who would be so willing to lend it if he knew that within one, two, or three years an amalgamation which might entirely undermine the security for his loan, the chance of his getting any productive results from it, might be brought about by compulsion? This has nothing to do with the special features of the coal industry. These are economic factors which, if you introduced compulsion, would immediately begin to operate in any industry, and that is why I venture to mention them. You cannot do a worse bit of work for the coal industry, vital, basic, important, widespread as it is throughout this country, than to introduce into its body economic elements of such dangerous tendencies as those which I have described. There is much more than I would wish to say, but that I do not think it proper, in a Debase of such importance, that any private Member should unduly delay others from speaking, and I wish to conclude with one observation only.
It is admitted that, so far as amalgamation is concerned, its results, even if beneficial, will only operate on a wide scale over a long period of years. The three or five Commissioners, trundling round the country, distributing fear and alarm among all the coal concerns of the country, will only be able to do their job slowly, and if there is to be any real improvement, assuming there is any economic advantage, it can only take place over a long term of years. That kind of legislation is of no use to-day. Looking at the world, looking at our economic situation from such a position as being a Member of this House gives one, with such opportunities of knowledge as one has, in my judgment this country is far nearer the danger of a complete economic collapse than anyone is aware of or ever admits, and I must say—far be it from me to use this in any party sense; I do not—that in my judgment the year 1930 is bringing us nearer a more serious economic state of affairs in this country than we have known for many generations. I am sure that those who are at the seat of knowledge, those who have to control affairs, with all the information before them, would be the last to deny what I have just said. Is it possible to imagine any step more rash, if that proposition be even approximately true, than that you should introduce compulsory proposals which must to some extent shake confidence, as I have attempted to show, in one of these basic industries? I say to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade that he has made a grave mistake in giving way to the compulsory proposals of the Liberal party. It is because compulsory amalgamation goes to the structure of the industry, and does not deal merely with its annual product, that it is so dangerous and so desperate a proposal.
For my part, if this Bill ever reaches the Report stage—and I am hound to say that it looks as if its fate were becoming more and more doubtful, but one cannot expect the right hon. Gentleman to turn in his tracks in the middle of the Committee stage—I hope he will think well, think deeply, and think honestly—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—Everybody knows what I mean, and how easy it is on economic subjects to be led away by a superficial view and thought instead of doing your best to penetrate into the real recesses of the problem. Nobody in this House is more capable than the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade of penetrating into the real recesses of any economic problem, but I beg him to do it, and you do not do it if you introduce pro- posals which are based, not upon sound economic thought, but upon the necessity of getting support from the benches occupied by the Liberal party below the Gangway. That is not an atmosphere in which deep economic thought is produced, but I ask the right hon. Gentleman to think twice before he permanently introduces into this Bill a provision of compulsory amalgamation in the structure, a provision which, when he framed the Bill, he rejected, and which, when it is analysed, nobody can say will have any financial advantages. When its immediate economic results are analysed, they are shown to be universally dangerous, and when you look round the whole economic situation of this country, you find above our heads, in this year of grace, clouds of such depth and such heaviness as the country has not recently known.
I wish to put my views before the Committee in a very few words. I intend to oppose this Clause for two reasons. The first is on account of the element of compulsion that has been introduced. That question has been well aired already to-day, but I feel that I cannot let this opportunity pass without expressing my view, as one connected with this industry, that this element of compulsion will have far more serious effects than hon. Members opposite realise in proposing it. We are proposing to-day to create a new profession in this country, the profession of whole-time compulsory amalgamators. Such a thing has never been proposed before, either in this country or in any other civilised country that we know of—a whole-time compulsory amalgamator, who will have full Parliamentary powers to coerce buyers and sellers, to make them willing, whether they intend to be willing or not.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), who speaks with some authority on the coal trade, has frequently, during the Debate on this Bill, produced a copy of the report of the Commission of which he was Chairman, and read passages from it with an air of tremendous finality, as though they were passages from Scripture. I am not prepared to accept what is contained in the report as if it were inspired throughout. My faith in it has been considerably shaken by one or two things. The Commission's estimate of the prices
which would be obtained for coal were so wide of the mark that it weakens the whole structure of the report and of the proposals which were made. The estimate given in the report of the selling price which would be obtained for coal in Scotland in the years following the report was 14s. 5d. a ton. The coal-owners made an estimate at that time of 12s. Id. The Commissioners refused to accept that estimate, as they thought that it was too low, and they fixed their estimate at 14s. 5d. The actual price obtained during 1928 was 12s. 1¼d., or within a farthing of the coalowners' estimate. It sometimes happens that those engaged in a trade know better about what is going to happen to their business than those who are called in from outside to advise upon it. Therefore, I cannot accept the literal inspiration of everything contained in this volume. Yet, as the right hon. Gentleman uses it, I am entitled to quote from it on the question of compulsory amalgamation. On page 60, the report says:
The fusions that are desirable must be effected with great care, and with intimate knowledge of the physical and financial considerations that are involved in every case.
We may appoint three commissioners with tremendous powers, but only Providence can endow them with a sense of perception not vouchsafed to those men who have to make their living out of this business. Only Providence can endow them with the perception of local knowledge of the coalfield, and yet the Commissioners say that only with "intimate knowledge of the physical and financial considerations" are amalgamations to be imposed. On the same page of the report, the Commission say:
The necessary elasticity, and harmonious working, can best be obtained if the initative came from within the industry itself.
By the proposals which we have before us, we are going to take away that initiative by the very fact that we are setting up a whole-time Commission with nothing to do but to devise and plan schemes. In that connection, we should do well to hark back to the Commission. Before that Commission a distinguished body gave evidence. I refer to the Institution of Mining Engineers. The coal-owners had very hard words said against them, because they were interested in
profits, but that cannot be said of the Institution of Mining Engineers. They are the highest skilled technical body, and must be regarded as in a different category. Their evidence v. as based purely on their scientific knowledge in the matter. They dealt at considerable length with various technical points, such as power, barriers, pumping, and centralisation of administration in regard to amalgamation. The Institute of Mining Engineers—and we admit that our mining engineers are second to none in the world—summed up their evidence on the question of amalgamations in these words—and I should like the Committee to pay very close attention to them:
A decision as to the desirability or otherwise of grouping a number of individual collieries in a given area is a question involving a very close practical acquaintance with and experience of the working conditions of the collieries concerned ….In the opinion of the Council any attempt to group collieries compulsorily would be an unsound policy to adopt. It would have the effect of creating uncertainty, with the result that the investment of the capital necessary to maintain the industry in a healthy condition would be checked, and it would furnish an additional unknown faetor in deciding the future development and equipment policy of any individual undertaking.
I wish to turn to another aspect of the question which has not been touched upon to-night; it is a very important aspect. I believe that true rationalisation of industry, which is coming and is bound to come, does not run on the lines of topographical grouping of mines. It does not run on the lines of horizontal amalgamations; it ratheruns on the line of grouping together, or welding together, the interests of the producer and the consumer. The Ruhr coalfield has been spoken of as an example of efficiency. I can give certain figures in regard to the Ruhr coalfield and what is happening in Germany. The coal and steel interests in Germany are being welded together into a vast economic and metallurgical unit, and we know of it by the competition which we have from Germany in the steel trade. In 1913, there were 221 undertakings in the Ruhr. To-day, we find that 65 per cent. of the coal in the Ruhr is produced by eight undertakings. Those eight undertakings are not coal undertakings alone; they are coal and steel undertakings, and I feel that the proposals which we are
considering may cut right across true rationalisation in this country.
I would like the Committee to give earnest attention to this question. Rationalisation is going on. There have been great groupings on the Tee-side and other parts of the country in the iron and steel industries, and I fear that we may find, as a result of these proposals to set up a commission to deal with groupings in the coal industry, that the process of rationalisation in the iron and steel industry will be definitely interfered with. I fear that, as a result, our competitive powers may be lessened. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen said, "It is the chemist and the engineer who must come to the rescue of this industry." I say, let the chemist and the engineer come to the rescue of this industry by welding together the interests of the consumer and the producer in the way in which I have spoken. Let the chemist and the engineer come to the rescue of the industry, as they are doing at the present time in the process of rationalisation, and do not attempt by political influence or otherwise from Whitehall or wherever these newly-appointed commissars may sit, to enforce, pending the application of science to the question, what is simply the rule of thumb. It is my earnest wish to let the Committee understand that I see in these proposals for grouping in the coal industry alone a serious menace to the true rationalisation of industry in this country.
After the lamentations of the Jeremiahs opposite I think it is time someone said a word on the other side of this case. One would imagine from the speeches to which we have listened that all the troubles through which this country has passed in the last few years are to be only an introduction to more serious troubles in the future. I would remind the hon. Member who has just spoken that at least 40 years ago there were iron and steel firms in this country which owned collieries. What has been taking place in the Ruhr has been taking place in this country for many years. It must be obvious to any reasonable human being that if we can secure a better system of organisation along those lines, the iron and steel firms who are already in the coal business may be brought into these larger schemes; though from what has been said one would imagine that the door had been completely closed in that direction. It is an hallucination to imagine that the present condition of things will go on for ever. Changes are inevitable in every industry. All the development of modern years has been along the lines of creating greater units of production, and this scheme will accelerate that tendency. All the speeches from hon. Members opposite have been based on the assumption that all is well in the coal mining business, if only we will leave it alone. But is all well?
The history of the coal industry in this country has been as painful as anyone could imagine—it is not my business to apportion blame for it—but surely it is the business of this House to consider not only those who are running the collieries, but also the interests of the 900,000 or 1,000,000 men who earn their Jiving in the industry. Surely the condition of the industry has been sufficiently bad in the past to justify the Government taking some action not only in the interest of the miners who are in the industry and must make their living out of it, but in the interests of the great mass of the people as well. When the Conservative Government were in office and there was a subsidy going about, no protests were heard then about State interference; both hands were held out for the money. But because this Government takes a line in another direction and there is no money to be given out, all kinds of opposition is raised to the proposal. One hon. Member opposite suggested that the Government ought to get out an estimate of the economies likely to be effected by amalgamation. I have a vivid recollection of the estimates which were given when the miners' Eight Hours Bill was passing through this House. We listened to some wonderful stories of what was going to happen. I suppose hon. Members opposite have now forgotten all about those prophecies. We were told that if only we would lengthen the hours of labour we should reduce overhead charges, the price of coal would go down, orders would flow in and all the miners would be fully employed.
I would ask the hon. Member to correct that statement, because he knows it is quite untrue. We never said that all the miners would be employed. It was said that if that Bill were not passed more miners would be thrown out of employment.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman did not hear all the speeches. It may be, as far as he and his leader were concerned, that that was their point of view, but the impression which it was sought to create was that that Bill provided the way of salvation, that if only we travelled along that road all would be for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Does the hon. and gallant Member for Midlothian (Major Colville) himself think that the results have been satisfactory? I venture to say that the coal industry has never gone through a worse period than that which it has experienced recently. It is the industry itself which has brought itself into its present position. It has been proved to demonstration that the people running the coal industry have failed to manage it successfully. We hear a good deal about private enterprise. Here is a wonderful illustration of what private enterprise has done. In my opinion private enterprise has made just about as big a mess of the mining industry as it is possible for any set of human beings to do. Those running it have impoverished themselves as mining companies, brought great difficulties on the mining population, and involved millions of people in trouble, difficulty, uncertainty and uneasiness.
In view of this state of affairs, it is obvious that something had to be done. There is plenty of scope within the Bill for voluntary amalgamations, and if the colliery companies like to get on with the job good luck to them! The movement for creating bigger units of production is going on in other countries. I sometimes wonder whether the Conservative spirit which seems, in so many cases, to dominate the great companies of this country, will permit them, if they are left to themselves, to assist this country to recover. One hears sufficient in this House to justify people all over the world in believing that this country is down and out. There is no spirit of optimism among those who speak on be- half of the mining industry—in this House at any rate. It is obvious that the industry is ripe for this great change, a change which can be justified up to the hilt, and the only change which, in my judgment, will enable the mining industry to be placed on a really economic basis to the advantage of those running the industry, to the advantage of the people engaged in it, and to the advantage of the consumers of coal.
The President of the Board of Trade has been the recipient of a good deal of sympathy from the Conservative benches, and has been regarded as one led away by hon. Members on these benches; but as he is only now putting into practice what is the declared policy of his own party—because I gathered from his Second Reading speech that amalgamation was always present to his mind, and it was only a question of the precise moment and manner of its introduction I do not think he need be greatly perturbed by any of those criticisms. One definite complaint has been made which might at first sight seem to be of some substance. It is that, in discussing the benefits from the scheme of compulsory amalgamation, no kind of financial estimate of the detailed sums to be gained had been made. That complaint was made very bitterly by the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Skelton). I cannot believe that the hon. Gentleman can really have looked at the Amendment dealing with amalgamation. This is not in the least comparable wish the railway amalgamation scheme, where the whole thing was done by the companies themselves. In that case, knowing what the units would be and knowing what the alterations were to be, it was possible to make some kind of estimate, but here the whole question of amalgamations is referred to the commissioners themselves. Their whole business is to go up and down the country finding out what amalgamations are necessary and then setting them on foot. They may never have to use their compulsory powers at all, but, until they have surveyed the ground and discovered in detail what kind of amalgamations are necessary, and on what scale, it would be quite impossible for the President of the Board of Trade or anybody else to put forward any estimate of the amount of saving.
I am bound to suppose that the prejudice which exists above the Gangway have driven hon. Members to suppose that the commissioners are going to act in a way devoid of any kind of common sense. They are not going to be given credit for as much common sense as would be given to any Member of this House who considers the matter after much less close study. No one should suppose that they are just going to make large amalgamations for the sake of size. The quotation that has been made from the Report with regard to the size of amalgamations is perfectly true. Mere size in itself is no gain, as has been pointed out. The commissioners are not going to be guided by size. They will go into all the details and arrive at schemes of amalgamation on the lines which their study suggests.
A very remarkable appeal was made by the Noble Lord the Member for West Derby (Lord Hartington) when he implored us not to interfere with the security of the coal industry. That was really a pathetic appeal. Where is this security and who exactly in the industry is getting it? Is it security in the lives of the miners, or in their wages, or even security for the profits of the owners? The only security there seems to be is security in the royalties for minerals as long as the mines are being worked at all. That really does illustrate the entirely false basis of arguments upon which hon. Members above the Gangway have asked us to proceed. We have been told that we are making an experiment of the greatest gravity. Of course, we are. No experiment that was not of the greatest gravity would be of the slightest good in face of such an abnormally grave situation. The hon. Member for Perth warned us of the gravity of the situation and went on to say that this country was on the very brink of economic collapse. Apparently we are to sit on the brink until we slide off. When one is on the brink, generally action of some kind is needed, and it is being taken here.
We were told very frankly by the right hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Lane Fox) that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) had laboured the point unnecessarily in trying to make out the advantages of amalgamations. He said that it was plain to everybody that amalgamations were a good thing, but he said the advantages were theoretical unless the amalgamations were voluntary. He said how splendid they had been in Westphalia just because they had been voluntary. Of course, no proposals like these would have been brought forward at all, and indeed would never have been necessary, if amalgamations had been going on voluntarily on any kind of sufficient scale, but the line taken up has been that this is a good thing but the owners will not do it and so you must wait for ever for this good thing or for some kind of change of heart to come over the owners in some miraculous way. Everyone would like to see it done voluntarily, but voluntary action is not being taken on any sufficient scale and some kind of compulsory powers are necessary, even if they never have to be put into force and only operate as a warning and an invitation.
The Commissioners have been announced as superior persons who are going to go about the country imposing their lack of knowledge on those who know everything. It really does seem as if it were time for some kind of superior person to step in and do something to help the industry. We were ourselves treated to long lists of quite superior persons, such as the Federation of British Industries, and all sorts of bigwigs of that kind. I suggest that this body which is going to be set up to study matters intimately is to be trusted. We are not to assume that they are going entirely to disregard all the essential things. Action is absolutely necessary. It has been admitted that amalgamation in itself is a good thing, and I would ask that those who do not believe that amalgamation will solve the whole problem—and I do not believe myself it will do everything—at least to agree that these powers should be given in order that we may move along the right road and take what will be a considerable step to bring the industry out of the chaos in which it labours at present.
The birth of these proposals has not raised any very great enthusiasm as far as I have been able to observe in any quarter of the House. Of course the child is faced with the fact that it was not wanted. Had it been, it would have been born before Christmas. I am bound to say I think the father of the child has been remarkably shy in attending to it. I concede at once that a great deal depends on how these amalgamation commissioners go about their job. If we are to have men of ability who are going to go down to the coalfields and discuss the matter amicably and we can point out to them what the drawbacks of amalgamations are and they can point out to us what will be the advantages, there may not be very much harm, but what we have to face is the intention which lies behind these proposals. The declared intention here is to concentrate production. We are all agreed on this side of the House that the problem of the industry to-day is one of concentrating production, with a capacity of 330,000,000 tons and a market of 250,000,000 tons. There is an absolute necessity to concentrate production and get the most economic conditions because even the good pits to-day have not got a market for their coal. In his Bill the right hon. Gentleman proposed a perfectly flexible and elastic and to my mind economic method of concentrating the production of coal.
The proposals which have come from below the Gangway and which he has since introduced into his Bill are intended also to effect concentration. They are intended to take the place of that concentration provided for by Part I of the right hon. Gentleman's Bill. So we have to face this fact, that amalgamations will only concentrate production over a much smaller area than the proposals of the President of the Board of Trade. His proposals will concentrate production over whole districts and maybe over the whole country, while the proposals of this Bill can only concentrate it over the area of the amalgamation. Moreover, in order to concentrate production at the economic pits, you have to bring the uneconomic pits into these amalgamations. I have never been able to understand the violent abuse which the quota system has met with from hon. Members below the Gangway. It is most extraordinary to hear the protests which have come from below the Gangway on this question, because, while they condemn the quota system economically, they demand the quota system politically. If it be true that the quota system bolsters up the uneconomic, props up the inefficient, and fails to eliminate those whom the beneficent action of nature ought to eliminate, surely the argument
of right hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway will rebound upon them at some future date. As for the economies to be achieved by amalgamation, I think the results of amalgamation of collieries in practice has been exceedingly disappointing. They are what Sir Josiah Stamp described in speaking of the railway amalgamation as
The glibly given and blithely estimated economies of the politician.
I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) has returned to the House, because he has pressed these amalgamation proposals more strongly than anyone else. I searched through the speech which the right hon. Gentleman made on the Second Beading of this Bill in order to see what economies he claimed for amalgamation, and he mentioned two of them. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen said that amalgamations would conduce to the more scientific preparation of coal for sale, and he went on to describe the economies to be effected in distribution by eliminating 750,000 toy trucks. I ask those Members opposite who have had experience in the coal industry what economies are to be obtained by amalgamation in regard to the more scientific preparation of coal for sale. What does it mean? The collieries have screening plant, washeries, and dry cleaners, and how amalgamation is going to help the more scientific preparation of coal for sale is an absolute mystery to me.
I wish to refer to the 750,000 toy trucks which are running about. I know that the Standing Committee on Mineral Transport has suggested that after a certain date no more of these trucks should be built, but does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen not know that, as a result of the remission of the passenger duty, the railway companies are spending £6,500,000 on railway improvements, and a substantial part of than money is being spent on the building of these toy trucks, which are 12-ton trucks for the use of mineral transport. That proposal has the approval of the Lord Privy Seal, who I think knows more about railway management than anybody else. The question of storage is very important to a colliery company. The other day I heard of a single colliery raising 7,000 tons by means of one pair of shafts in a day. That only shows the need, to organise a large-scale production, for a constant supply of trucks. It is far less wasteful to have a large reservoir of trucks as a cushion between the production of coal and the consumer than it is to lay coal on the ground and pick it up again because you are short of trucks.
I want to deal with what I consider the most dangerous feature of compulsory amalgamation. We have been told that it is proposed to take uneconomic pits into the amalgamated groups. I want to remind the Committee that the coalowner is not in the position of the ordinary owner of a manufacturing business. He is essentially a tenant holding a very long and onerous lease running for a period of anything from 60, 80 to 100 years. The coalowner has a lease of the surface. He is a tenant of the surface, of his shafts, and of the coal, and his liabilities are very heavy. In the first place he is under a liability for the duration of the lease to pay a minimum rent of so much per acre of all the coalfield which he intends to work, and usually that rent is £l per acre. Sometimes as much as £2 per acre, and at a mine of ordinary size the minimum rent would be £2,000 a year. In the case of one of the big South Yorkshire collieries the minimum rent would be at least £10,000 a year. To-day between one-fifth and one-fourth of the companies operating coal mines are on the verge of bankruptcy, and at those collieries the Security of the landlord for the payment of the minimum rent is a very bad one. All hon. Members who are engaged in the law are aware that mineral landlords give concessions to their tenants, the coalowners, to enable them to carry on the coal industry in bad times, but in one-fourth at least of the collieries of this country the landlords' security is an exceedingly poor one at the present time.
What will compulsory amalgamation do? It inevitably improves the security of the landlord; it turns a very doubtful security into a good security, if you are going to link up the bad pit with the good in order to secure concentration of output. This is a most extraordinary proposal to come from hon. Members opposite. They are going to be faced eventually with the question of purchasing these royalties, of buying out these Landlords, but before they do so they are going to turn this poor security into a very good one. We all remember that, at the time of the Coal Commission, the Duke of Northumberland, Lord Bute, and other big royalty owners, were put in the witness box and drastically cross-examined by some hon. Gentlemen opposite. I should think that the very last thing that the Duke of Northumberland would have looked for when a Socialist Government got into office would be to find that his poor securities were going to be turned into gilt-edged ones.
Let me give hon. Members opposite an analogy which I think holds good. In the case of all the shops in Regent Street, the freeholds belong to the Crown. The shops are let to separate tenants under leases with onerous covenants—covenants to repair, covenants at the end of the lease to rebuild in accordance with certain plans, and so on. Now suppose that the retail trade in London had been for three years in a disastrous condition, as the coal trade has been, and suppose that many of these tenants were on the verge of bankruptcy; and then suppose proposals to amalgamate them compulsorily, to link up the big good shops with the poor little ones, and make the security of the landlord, which was bad before, into a first-class security. That is an analogy with the present case.
I want to give hon. Members one or two practical examples of how this works out in colliery management. In the Don-caster area we have a company that is frequently mentioned, called the Don-caster Collieries Association. It came in for a good deal of praise from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen at the time of the Royal Commission. But that is not an amalgamation in any sense of the word; it is a selling company. The collieries comprising it are six entirely separate and individual companies. It is perfectly true that they were all brought into being by the genius of the late Mr. Charles Markham; but Mr. Charles Markham knew perfectly well that the only safe way to manage collieries under our present system is to keep each one of them a separate company. Then, if any one of them has a disaster—if the coal should turn out to be bad, if the coal should be found to be full of faults, or if there should occur a disastrous explosion—you can limit your liability, you can limit your loss to the one colliery. But if you are going to have compulsory amalgamation, it cuts clean across the system of sound colliery management. [Interruption.]
Take, again, the Cambrian group of collieries in South Wales, managed by Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds. We had the interesting spectacle about a year or 18 months ago of Guest Keen's putting a number of colliery companies there into liquidation. Why? In order to get rid of these extremely onerous liabilities to the landlords. This is nothing but a dole to the landlords. It is a dole to a class, and to a very limited class—not to landlords in general, but to the mineral landlords. And it is a particularly bad dole, because it is not a dole at the expense of the State, at the expense of the community, but a dole at the expense of our most distressed industry. It is the coal industry that will have to pay this dole.
If the State were to come in and give a dole to the mineral landlords, we should have no objection, but what is the proposal here? The proposal is, first of all, to add £250,000 per annum to the overhead charges of the coal trade, because that is going to pay the costs of the technical agents, the Commissioners, and so on, in connection with the Reorganisation Commission. We read that it is hoped to recover most of that expense from the coal industry. And not only is £250,000 per annum going to be taken from the coal trade generally, but every colliery which appears before the Railway and Canal Commission will incurenoromus bills of costs. This will represent a magnificent harvest for mineral agents, solicitors, expert witnesses, and everybody else who gathers round when the corpse comes to be preyed upon by the carrion crows. I do not think that hon. Members opposite believe in this proposal, and I invite them to have a little more courage, and to back their own horse. After all, they believe in Part I; it has some good things in it. Let them go on with it, let them have a little more courage and get on with what they really believe in, and drop these amalgamation proposals.
I would not have intervened had it not been for the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for North Midlothian (Major Colville), but before I say what I wish to say with regard to his speech, I should like to point out that, according to the last speaker, one of the serious objections to the proposal under discussion is that men like the Duke of Northumberland will have an increased value added to their royalties. I presume that that is why the Duke of Northumberland runs a Conservative paper—in order to denounce the Labour Government and prevent it from bringing in proposals which will increase his emoluments.
The hon. and gallant Member for North Midlothian, so far as I could follow him, based his strongest argument on the ground that the tendency in industry today was vertical rather than horizontal amalgamation and unification, and I took his argument to be that there was in horizontal amalgamation something contradictory to the ordinary development of industry. I suggest to him that horizontal amalgamation and unification and vertical unification are not at all antagonistic, but are, indeed, complementary, and that they are proceeding to-day. The hon. Member himself believes in that, and practises it. [Interruption.] He is interested, not only in coal, but in steel and iron, and his steel industry has been amalgamated and unified horizontally. He does not believe that horizontal amalgamation there is bad. But he has been getting below the basis of his iron and steel trade, and has been unifying vertically in coal. Therefore, he himself is practising both principles, and he does not find nor does his firm find, that they are mutually destructive, but, on the contrary, that they are complementary.
I am talking of the principle at the moment. My second point is this: I want to attack the hon. and gallant Member's idea that, if you carry out an amalgamation in one branch of a vertical industry, and if that branch is carried on horizontally, therefore, you may have a grievous interference with another branch of industry. The hon. and gallant Member knows. I think, that I had an interest in his steel and iron works even before he had. As a youngster I drove a steam winch in the works of Messrs. Colville Ltd. at Motherwell, so that I knew his industry long before he knew anything about it; and my recollection of Messrs. Colville's works at Motherwell is that they used, not only a great deal of coal, but also a great deal of water. The comparative cost of the coal and the water does not come into my argument, but what I want to point out is that, whatever may be the comparative costs of these two elements in steel and iron production, each is equally necessary, and you have now a horizontal amalgamation or unification in water supply under the ownership and direction of the County Council of Lanark. That horizontal amalgamation and unification of the water supply has not seriously interfered with the business development of the firm with which the hon. and gallant Gentleman is associated.
That is perhaps a light argument, but it establishes the principle. If you had outside the iron and steel industry a horizontal amalgamation in coal, there is no difference in principle at all between the hon. and gallant Gentleman receiving his coal through an outside body and receiving his water through an outside body in the manufacture of steel. There might probably be this essential difference, that when he gets his water through a horizontal amalgamation owned by the County Council of Lanark he has to pay the same price as everyone else for it, and if there were a horizontal amalgamation in coal, he could still get his coal supply, but he would not get it cheaper than anyone else. There might be a measure of control determining that the iron and steel trade, no matter whether it was amalgamated vertically with other industries or not, had to pay a fair price for its coal, and I think there has been evidence in the past, particularly before the Sankey Commission, that the iron and steel trade were not paying a fair price for their coal when there was merely a transfer from one branch to another.
As the hon. Member is referring to specific firms, and to my firm in particular, the transfer price of coal is the ordinary price paid in the district.
I am putting my general argument, and I am certain that when the Sankey Commission was taking evidence—and it had before it a wider range of iron, coal and steel firms than myself and the hon. and gallant Gentleman combined—it arrived at its conclusions on that evidence. The amalgamation of the coalmining areas is not only a proper process but it is an inevitable process. There is no escape from it. I am glad that our Liberal friends are coming in a Socialist direction, if not from conviction, from sheer economic compulsion. I accept the principle of amalgamation as leading inevitably towards my final idea, in which there will be two great ideas running through industry, a horizontal trust, which will be national, and a vertical trust in industry, which will also be national so far as control and direction and co-ordination are concerned. Therefore, I hope the Committee will accept the Amendment.
I think it is a sad indication of the trend of modern thought and public morals that we in this home of freedom and liberty should be discussing the desirability of depriving people of the management of their own property without giving them any adequate compensation or security for it. [Interruption.] I quite realise that hon. Members are in an advanced field of thought, but when it comes to this Committee discussing whether we should deprive people of what has always been looked on as sacred, that is the ownership and management of their own private property, it is farther than this House has ever gone before. That is striking enough, but it is still more striking when we find that the one time champions of individualism and individual rights should be bringing forward and forcing these suggestions on the Government of the day. The hon. and gallant Member for North-East Bethnal Green (Major Nathan) objected to the opinion being expressed on our benches that this Clause was an interference with private property. He waived it on one side and said that was one of the shibboleths of the 'eighties. When we find Members of the Liberal party waiving on one side the rights of private property and describing that as one of the shibboleths of the 'eighties, the advance of thought is going very rapidly indeed. Throughout the Debate, in watching the faces of the occupants of the Treasury Bench, I did not think they were entirely happy at the trend that the Debate has taken. They have been rushed into this question of amalgamation. They have been induced, after the Bill was printed, to introduce these new Clauses, to bring in the desire of the Liberal party in the form of amalgamation. I think they have heard some hard arguments. I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) must have given them cause for thought, and put before them many facts that they had not previously considered.
I admit that I have never been engaged personally in business or commerce and, therefore, I have not had the opportunity of seeing what advantages there might be to industry itself in bringing about these combines, but I do not think they are going to solve the whole of the difficulties of industry. I have always looked at it perhaps from the consumers' point of view, and I realise that, whereas well designed combinations within the industry may be good for the industry itself, it very often happens that what is good for the industry is not so good for the great mass of people who have to pay increased prices sometimes or otherwise suffer from the result of these big combinations. We know it with regard to the amalgamations of the railway companies. Will anyone really suggest that the members of the public have reaped any great benefit? Certainly not in regard to fares. Certainly not from the point of view of service or of the number of trains, whereas with regard to freight charges we know only too well that every industry in the country is finding them one of the heaviest burdens they have to bear. It was one of the heaviest burdens that the coal industry had to bear until relief was given to it some 12 months ago. That is one of the examples where amalgamations, which were greatly recommended, have not proved of that inestimable value to the people of the country that was thought at that time.
I will not go into the examples of the other great combines and trusts, the meat trust, the tobacco trust and all those kind of trusts. I do not think that there are many consumers in the country who really think that those big trusts are an advantage to them. When we see that in this Bill under the quota and price-fixing arrangements indirect taxation is going to be put on, I do not think that it is going to be to the benefit of the consumer that, by effecting big amalgamations, there will be the possibility of greater pressure being put upon them, but rather that, because of these combinations, there will be the possibility of the price being forced oven higher against the consumers in this country.
The main thing in these Clauses to which we object is the question of compulsion, compulsion upon people to make combinations of collieries where none of the owners agree. It has been pointed out by the President of the Board of Trade that under the Act of 1926 there was a certain kind of compulsion given. That is perfectly true. That compulsion was given where one or more concerns in a district, wishing to form an amalgamation, could prove that it was necessary to bring in certain others who were not agreeable. When that was done certain compensation was allowed to the people who were absorbed. That came under the heading of an absorption scheme. That was under the voluntary principle. The real hardship under these Clauses is that people who are not willing and do not wish to combine together may be forced to combine and work together. I do not believe for a moment that any such combination can possibly be successful. I can realise the position of the Government in being forced to enter into, say, a temporary marketing scheme with the Liberal party, but I can never believe that those two parties would ever allow themselves to be driven into a compulsory amalgamation or a compulsory absorption scheme. That is quite impossible of realisation, especially when one visualises the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in the position of managing director of the combined service. Hon. Members have to realise that we have all the financial and economic difficulties which have been dealt with so fully this evening, and that above all, we have the personal difficulty, and I might almost say in some cases the antipathy as between those owners who might under this Measure be brought together and be forced to work together.
The President of the Board of Trade, in dealing with those compulsory schemes, said that the finding of the Reorganisation Commission on questions of facts would, in all probability, be taken as final. Then the case would go, after the settlement of facts, before the Railway and Canal Commission, and the finding of the Railway and Canal Commission would be binding on all owners. How does he suggest that when all owners are objecting he is going to enforce a finding of the Railway and Canal Commission that those people are to work together? Under the Act of 1926 there was an alternative to absorption, but if all owners dissent from the scheme who is going to be absorbed? If you have one or two who are willing, certainly they can absorb the dissentient bodies, but when all of them are dissentients, how is the scheme to be brought into execution? I would like to know whether the Government are suggesting that the Reorganisation Commission should not only form the scheme, but should have the power of appointing a board of management and forcing a compulsory amalgamation or absorption when there is no agreement. If none agrees and none is willing to carry on, the proposal either falls to the ground or some other steps must be taken.
With regard to the actual effect of absorption or amalgamation on the question of values, my right hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister) has dealt with the question of what might be the values of certain mines which might be taken over. Some hon. Members seem to assume that every mine, however bad it may be, or however non-productive or uneconomic it may be, must have a value. I would point out that in many cases the value of a mine would be a negative value, that its prospects of making money would be practically nil. It would be heavily burdened with bank interest, mortgages, and rent which would still have to be paid to the royalty owners. With all these liabilities, such a concern being put into an amalgamation or an absorption scheme would really be of a negative character. You would have no real value of any kind, and it would be a question of the Government in equity handing over certain compensation money to the amalgamated concern for having taken over such a heavy liability.
I do not think that the hon. Member will dissent from my proposition for one moment that at the present time there are some concerns in the country which are so burdened with debt and liabilities of all sorts that they are not worth anything as far as a price fixed by a willing buyer and a willing seller is concerned, that they have no value of any kind, and that if attached to an amalgamation scheme they would merely be a liability and not an asset. That is the point which I am making with regard to values. If such a concern as that is amalgamated with great prosperous concerns with reserve funds and with prospects, and with coal-working facilities, it is going to add to the costs of production and to the overhead charges, and still further prejudice their chances in the market. I do not believe that these compulsory powers will do any good to the industry. Quite apart from that, we have to realise the time which is bound to elapse before they can come into force. The hon. Member for North-East Bethnal Green (Major Nathan), in trying to support the Government in these Clauses said that he thought the estimate of three or four years was far too short; that from his knowledge of amalgamations it would certainly take more than three or four years for these schemes to develop.
I do not know what the hon. and gallant Gentleman means by "a complete picture." Does he mean before the mines of the country have been either voluntarily or coxnpulsorily brought under some scheme and tied together?
I meant by that phrase that it would take upwards of three or four years before these amalgamations would be effective in the way that the Reorganisation Commission might consider desirable.
Will the hon. and gallant Member agree with me as to his descriptions of the losses which he anticipates. He said that in the early stages of these amalgamations there would be increased cost and nothing to show for it, and that there would in all probability, be loss, because there usually was loss in the running of amalgamated concerns.
I do not want to misrepresent the hon. and gallant Member. This Clause is the Liberal substitute as an alternative for Part I of the Bill, and when we get Members of the Liberal party saying that the amalgamations are going to take a long time before we get the complete picture, and that when the amalgamations did come into operation they are bound to increase costs, it does not look as if a proposition of that kind is going to provide more money with which to pay for the reduction in hours. The real cause of this Bill is the reduction of one-half hour in the hours of work. The Government have been quite frank about that. It is a question how the money to pay for the shortening of hours is to be found. The Government proposed that it should be paid for out of Part I of the Bill, but they were persuaded by the Liberals to postpone Part I in order that this scheme of amalgamations could be brought in as a substitute for Part I. That has been the Liberal hope throughout. They are going to try to get the compulsory amalgamation scheme through, and then induce the Government to drop Part I, or else defeat them on it.
Seeing that that is the position, the suggestion that these compulsory amalgamations are going to do anything to replace Part I in meeting the extra cost of the reduction of hours, is absurd. The President of the Board of Trade has pointed out that it is impossible to have a reduction in hours unless some arrangement is made with the coalowners. Unless he can provide some means by which they can meet the increased cost, they would have to reduce wages, which is the last thing that the President of the Board of Trade and hon. Members opposite want to see. That is why this new Clause is brought forward as an alternative to Part I, not on its merits, because it has no' merits, and we have the proposition for compulsory amalgamations as against the proposals of the Government. I think both proposals are bad. I am certainly opposed very strongly to the proposed compulsory amalgamations under this Clause.
I think hon. Members will agree that we have had one of the most interesting Debates upon a large industrial question that has taken place within recent times. I do not want to occupy more than a few minutes in replying to one or two important points, and more especially in defining the attitude of the Government with regard to Part I of the Bill and its relation no the amalgamation scheme. Before I come to that may I refer to one or two matters which have been raised in the discussion? Hon. Members on the Conservative benches have made a good deal of the fact that this is a large and comprehensive scheme of compulsion applied to the amalgamation of collieries in the country. I made it perfectly plain in my introduction that that step, for all practical purposes, was taken in the 1926 Act, because while it is true that under the first part of that Act there is provision for the presentation to the Board of Trade of purely voluntary schemes, which afterward come into operation, it is provided immediately afterwards that if any singe owner in a district takes the initiative he may march from that point through virtual compulsion to the Board of Trade, and beyond that to the Railway and Canal Commissioners, who have to decide whether the scheme is in the public interests and fair to the parties concerned.
The proposals we are discussing now have been built in a very simple but I think effective way upon the Act of 1026. The right hon. and gallant Member for Paddington South (Commodore King) has put the case with conspicuous fairness because he recognised the element of compulsion that is contained in that legislation. It is true, of course, that we have proceeded beyond that, and the real difference is that, whereas there might have been a doubt about the initiative in any district in the past if any one individual might not he forthcoming for the purpose of recommending any amalgamation at all, it will be the duty of these new Statutory Commissioners to supply the initiative. It is their duty to start a scheme, but from that point all the voluntary rights under the legislation of 1926 remain, and, as regards compulsion being carried to the last ditch, there is the right of appeal to the Railway and Canal Commissioners, and beyond them, on points of law, to the Court of Appeal. That is the machinery in this matter, and is it an effective reply to a great deal of the discussion to-night and to the contention that we should leave this industry alone.
The truth is that the community has a direct interest in an economic analysis of the coal situation. The failure of the industry in the past to put its house in order and take those steps which are necessary and urgent in every large industry in this country, has cost the taxpayers large sums of money and has inflicted serious loss on the community. It is easy to show that a fair part of the expenditure on social Services in these mining areas is directly traceable to the economic weakness of the industry in organisation and the failure to put its house in order for the disposal of coal abroad at remunerative prices. That is the overriding financial and public interest in this proposition, which no Government can escape. It is true, as I made plain to the Committee, that from the beginning we had intended to introduce the amalgamation proposals in a separate Bill which was to follow, if that arrangement had been maintained, very soon after this present Bill.
Let me turn to the charge which has been made by many hon. Members; that we have provided no estimate of the saving in cost per ton of production to the industry, or in any other direction in which this saving could be measured under the colliery amalgamation schemes. I refuse to make an estimate of that kind, because no one can make an estimate which is worth anything at all, and it is perfectly idle to draw any kind of comparison between the proceedings which surrounded the Railways Act in 1921 and the proposals on which we are now engaged. I remember very well the circumstances of the Railways Act, because some of us in this House spent nine weeks, in one of the warmest summers of recent years, in a Committee upstairs in prolonged analysis of that Measure.
Let the House observe the great differences which exist between the railways amalgamation and what we are now proposing in coal. These railways had been controlled during the whole of the war period, or practically the whole of it. They emerged from that period with vast claims, which were investigated by a Committee under Lord Colvin, on which some of us served, and they got an award made of £51,000,000, or £60,000,000 in round figures, which was the contribution under that Act and did a great deal to cover the situation for the railways in this country in succeeding years. But they went very far beyond that. They had arrived at what was practically an agreed plan for the amalgamation of more than 100 constituent railway companies into four large amalgamations, and a body of three was set up under that Act, not to find out whether amalgamation was desirable, but very largely for the purpose of adjusting the details—not details only, but details compared with the large proposition of the amalgamation of the whole structure of the railway industry. In due course the four amalgamations took place. Not only that, but under that Act of 1921 there was set up a Rates Tribunal with a specific direction so to fix the rates and charges as to give, under efficient working, the standard revenue of 1913, plus certain allowances for capital expenditure while that remained unremunerative.
Can any hon. Member in any part of the House establish any real connection between that state of affairs in the railway industry and the proposal now confronting us with coal? There is no analogy at all. But I will say this—that it is true that large estimates were made at that time of savings of £15,000,000 to £20,000,000 which would accrue from these amalgamations. I do not want to introduce any political or personal friction, but, after all, these estimates were made by a Conservative Minister both at this Box and in Committee upstairs, and I suppose that he would say to-day, if he were still a Member of this House, that the made those estimates in all good faith. But what neither that Minister nor anyone else saw at the time was that these railway amalgamations were going to operate on eight or nine years of industrial depression, during which that form of guarantee was hardly effectual, and during which the railway industry was exposed to the growing competition of road transport and of one hundred and one difficulties in the industrial and commercial systems.
So that I think we need not worry, on this question of making a comparison between the Railways Act and this Bill, to supply any kind of estimate as to the saving which will follow from the amalgamations now recommended. We are operating very largely on uncultivated territory in coal so far as amalgamation is concerned. The two documents to which I have referred previously do not give information necessary for an estimate; what they set out represents only an infinitesimal part of the amalgamations necessary or desirable. There is no estimate of the economic saving to be derived from that, because the material is not nearly sufficient for that purpose.
Hon. Members on the Liberal benches have been perfectly frank in pointing out that no firm estimate can be made at present and that leads me to the third point which I regard as a very important point and on which I want to make the Government's position perfectly plain. Both the right hon. Gentleman my predecessor at the Board of Trade, the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken and, I think, the hon. and gallant Member for North Leeds (Captain Peake) alluded to the suggestion that these amalgamation schemes can be a substitute for Part I of the Bill. I am not going to embark on any discussion of Part I to-night, because it would be out of order, but I think I am in order in replying briefly to the contention which bas been advanced and it is important in the interest of this industry that I should take this opportunity of putting the position beyond all doubt.
The hon. and gallant Member for North-East Bethnal Green (Major Nathan) together with other speakers, pointed out that even if these amalgamations under the Commissioners proceed quite rapidly, it will be at least three or four years or some period like that before you have anything approaching a complete picture or any kind of effective application of amalgamation such as would, in my view, give you an economic contribution or saving which you could measure for the purposes either of reducing the hours or improving the wages or making any other change applicable to working conditions which any hon. Member may have in mind. I believe that to be a perfectly fair statement of the position. From beginning to end during the discussion of this Bill I have refused to rate this proposal one inch higher than it will go, and I have run the risk of making statements which appear to tell against the Measure and even against the Government in order that neither the industry, which is still in a critical condition, nor this House should be under any misapprehension whatever. There will not be an early contribution from these amalgamation schemes such as would enable us to deliver this half-hour to the mining community without some risk of an inroad on wages or upon other conditions in order to effect that change. I put that, as far as the Government is concerned, beyond the shadow of a doubt in this Debate. What is the repercussion on Part I of the Bill? I merely repeat that we regard Part I, as the hon. and gallant Member for North Leeds put it, as an adjustment of output to the known demand and to any improvement in that demand, which we all hope to see. The adjustment of that output to the demand is proposed in Part I of this legislation. It remains our considered view that it is only when you have by an arrangement of that kind kept off the market the coal which you cannot sell at a remunerative level, that you have laid the foundations of a safe position for the reduction of working time without an inroad upon the wages of the miners; and that has been supplemented in what the Committee has already passed by way of safeguard or inquiry in the National Industrial Board. To that position to-night we strictly adhere.
I have never closed the door and I do not close the door to-night upon any further investigation of the quota—I will not mention it further because this is getting near to the borders of Order—such as will safeguard the public. But I want to remove at once certain misapprehensions current outside this House which may do great damage to the industry, even in one week of uncertainty during which I will be engaged or another subject elsewhere. That is our attitude. I want to see agreement regarding the difficult parts of the rest of this legislation, but we are passing now through the first stage of these amalgamation schemes. I believe that they will be necessary in the interests of the industry. I am satisfied that the three or five mining Commissioners will do their work on sound lines; that legitimate interests will be taken into account and safeguarded but that no illegitimate interests will get anything under this proposition. It will be three or four years before a contribution is forthcoming from that source, and accordingly the Government rely, and must rely, upon Part I of this Bill, which we regard as essential and which in due course we shall defend in this Chamber.
The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has made a speech of very great importance. He has said that the putting into operation of these amalgamations may take three or four years. I want to safeguard my position by saying that I do not think it will, but I agree with him that there may be an intermediate period between the passing of this Bill and the putting into full force of these amalgamations. The right hon. Gentleman said he regards Part I of the Bill as being essential to enable that intermediate period to be covered. I only want to safeguard myself again—and I speak only for myself—by saying that however that intervening period may have to be covered or carried over, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not go away with the impression that the opposition which has been expressed in this House and outside to that principle is the only possible way of covering that interval.
I was hoping the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade would explain a point that has been puzzling me during the whole Debate. This afternoon, in his opening remarks, he said these Clauses formed one of the most important parts of the Bill. How has it come to pass that a gentleman of the great intelligence and lucidity of the President of the Board of Trade should have introduced a Bill eight weeks ago missing one of its most important parts? It has taken eight weeks to discover that an important part of it is missing, and the right hon. Gentleman puts that part in at the last moment. The inference is irresistable that when the right hon. Gentleman introduced the Bill he did not believe in these Clauses, and I find it difficult to believe that his mind has changed in eight weeks. No doubt the Liberal party were delighted when they heard the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) declare that, in his opinion, which I presume represents that of the mining Members, these amalgamation Clauses are a stepping stone to nationalisation. In a little book which I have here, and with which hon. Members below the Gangway are acquainted, there are remarks on nationalisation which make your flesh creep.
The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade made one more remark to which I should like to call attention. He said there is a great distinction between the Act of 1926 and the present Bill, and that in this Bill the initiative comes from outside. I understand that these amalgamation Clauses have the support of the Liberal party. If I may adopt the simile which was used by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Leeds (Captain Peake), they were put on his doorstep as an unwanted child, and he has taken it in and is keeping it because he thinks he will get something out of it. The Members below the Gangway, who are responsible for these Clauses, have in this little book, from which they draw their inspiration, dealt with this matter of amalgamation, and this is what they say:
It is much bettor that the initiation of schemes for amalgamation or re-grouping should come from inside the industry.
The book is called "Coal and Power," and it is one of those books of the Liberal party which, like Joseph's coat, are of many colours. It is disconcerting to find that a book on which one relies changes its principles at the last moment. It would be interesting to discover to-morrow how many times the blessed word "amalgamation" has been used during this Debate, and to find what it really means. I listened with great interest to the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) and the right hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman), but I leave the task of reconciling them to other people. It struck me, if I may say so without disrespect, that they represented the contrast between the academic and the practical. The admirable speech delivered by the right hon. Member for Darwen rather reminded me of a brilliant essay written by a Balliol scholar, whereas the speech of the right hon. Member for St. Ives
was like the memorandum of a practical business man who has been through the Bill, done his amalgamation studies, and seen the results.
There seems to me great danger in anything of the nature of forced amalgamations. What is going to happen to this Commission in a year or two, when the present Government will probably be still in office? What will happen when the President of the Board of Trade wants returns as to how the amalgamations are progressing? I can imagine suggestions being made to the Board of Trade that the business is not getting on very well, and there is a great danger that a Commission appointed by the Board of Trade,
|Division No. 160.]||AYES.||[10.44 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Ede, James Chuter||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Adamson, w. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Edge, Sir William||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Enmunds, J. E.||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Kelly, W. T.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Kennedy, Thomas|
|Ammon, Charles George||Elmley, Viscount||Kinley, J.|
|Angell, Norman||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Kirkwood, D.|
|Arnott, John||Foot, Isaac||Knight, Holford|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Forgan, Dr. Robert||Lang, Gordon|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Freeman, Peter||Lathan, G.|
|Ayles, Walter||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn)||Law, A. (Rossendale)|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Lawrence, Susan|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Lawrle, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Gibbins, Joseph||Lawson, John James|
|Batey, Joseph||Gibson, H. M. (Lancs. Mossley)||Lawther, W, (Barnard Castle)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Gill, T. H.||Leach, W.|
|Bennett, Captain E. N.(Cardiff, Central)||Gillett, George M.||Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Glassey, A. E.||Lee, Jennie (Lanark Northern)|
|Benson, G.||Gossling, A. G.||Lewis, T. (Southampton)|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Gould, F.||Lindley, Fred W.|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Lloyd, C. Ellis|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Bowen, J. W.||Granville, E.||Longbottom, A. W.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Gray, Milner||Longden, F.|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||Lovat Fraser, J. A.|
|Bromfield, William||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Lowth, Thomas|
|Bromley, J.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Lunn, William|
|Brooke, W.||Groves, Thomas E.||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Brothers, M.||Grundy, Thomas W.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||McElwee, A.|
|Buchanan, G.||Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||McEntee, V. L.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||McKinlay, A.|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Hardle, George D.||Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Maclean Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||MacNeill-Weir, L.|
|Calne, Derwent Hall-||Haycock, A. W.||McShane, John James|
|Cameron, A. G.||Hayday, Arthur||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Hayes, John Henry||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Mansfield, W.|
|Chater, Daniel||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||March, S.|
|Clarke, J. S.||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Marcus, M.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Herrlotts, J.||Markham, S. F.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Marley, J.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour.||Hoffman, P. C.||Marshall, Fred|
|Compton, Joseph||Hollins, A.||Mathers, George|
|Daggar, George||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Matters, L. W.|
|Dallas, George||Horrabin, J. F.||Maxton, James|
|Dalton, Hugh||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfleld)||Messer, Fred|
|Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Middleton, G.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||Millar, J. D.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Mills, J. E.|
|Devlin, Joseph||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Milner, J.|
|Dickson, T.||Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint)||Montague, Frederick|
|Dudgeon, Major C R.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Morgan Dr. H. B.|
|Dukes, C.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Moriey, Ralph|
|Duncan, Charles||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Morris-Jones. Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Strauss, G. R.|
|Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Salter, Dr. Allred||Sullivan, J.|
|Mort, D. L.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Sutton, J. E.|
|Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)||Sanders, W. S.||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)|
|Muff, G.||Sawyer, G. F.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Muggeridge, H. T.||Scott, James||Tillett, Ben|
|Murnin, Hugh||Scurr, John||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Nathan, Major H. L.||Sexton, James||Toole, Joseph|
|Naylor, T. E.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Townend, A. E.|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L, (Exeter)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Turner, B.|
|Noel Baker, P. J.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Viant, S. P.|
|Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Sherwood, G. H.||Walker, J.|
|Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Shield, George William||Wallace, H. W.|
|Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Watkins, F. C.|
|Owen, H. F. (Hereford)||Shillaker, J. F.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Palin, John Henry||Shinwell, E.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Paling, Wilfrid||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Welsh, James (Palsley)|
|Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Simmons, C. J.||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Perry, S. F.||Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)||West, F. R.|
|Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)||Westwood, Joseph|
|Phillips, Dr. Marlon||Sinkinson, George||White, H. G.|
|Picton-Turbervill, Edith||Sitch, Charles H.||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Pole, Major D. G.||Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Potts, John S.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhlthe)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Quibell, D. J. K.||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Rathbone, Eleanor||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Raynes, W. R.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Richards, R.||Snell, Harry||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Winterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)||Wise, E. F.|
|Ritson, J.||Sorensen, R.||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Romeril, H. G||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Stephen, Campbell||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Rothschild, J. de||Stewart, J. (St. Roltox)||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. T. Henderson.|
|Rowson, Guy||Strachey, E. J. St. Lot|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel.||Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd|
|Albery, Irving James||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston S.-M.)||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J.(Kent, Dover)||Everard, W. Lindsay||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Atkinson, C.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)|
|Baillie-Hamliton, Hon. Charles W.||Ferguson, Sir John||Muirhead, A. J.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Fermoy, Lord||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G.(Ptrst-ld)|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Felden, E. B.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Bainlel, Lord||Fison, F. G. Clavering||Peake, Capt. Osbert|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Ford, Sir p. J.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Ganzoni, Sir John||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Birehall, Major Sir John Dearman||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Bird, Ernest Roy||Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)||Purbrick, R.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Boyce, H. L.||Gower, Sir Robert||Remer, John R.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Buchan, John||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Butter, R. A.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hamilton, Sir George (llford)||Salmon, Major I.|
|Castle Stewart, Earl of||Hammersley, S. S.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hartington, Marquess of||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R.(Prtsmth, S.)||Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd, Henley)||Savery, S. S.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A.(Birm., W.)||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome|
|Christle, J. A.||Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Colville, Major D. J.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Iveagh, Countess of||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Smithers, Waldron|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Crookshank, Capt, H. C.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Stanley, Maj. Hon. D. (W'morland)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Tinne, J. A.|
|Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Liewellin, Major J. J.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Lymington, Viscount||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Mac Robert, Rt. Hon. Alexander M.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Margesson, Captain H. D.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Dixey, A. C.||Marjoribanks, E. C.||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Duckworth, G. A. V.||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Wayland, Sir William A.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Wells, Sydney R.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)||Womersley, W. J.||Captain Sir George Bowyer and.|
|Sir Victor Warrender.|
|Division No. 161.]||AYES.||[10.55 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Gill, T. H.||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Statt., Cannock)||Gillett, George M.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Glassey, A. E.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Gossling, A. G.||McElwee, A.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Gould, F.||McEntee, V. L.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||McKinlay, A.|
|Angell, Norman||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)|
|Arnott, John||Granville, E.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Gray, Milner||MacNeill-Weir, L.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne).||McShane, John James|
|Ayles, Walter||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Groves, Thomas E.||Mansfield, W.|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Grundy, Thomas W.||March, S.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Marcus, M.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Markham, S. F.|
|Bennett, Captain E. N.(Cardiff, Central)||Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||Marley, J.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Marshall, Fred|
|Benson, G.||Hardle, George D.||Mathers, George|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Matters, L. W.|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Maxton, James|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Haycock, A. W.||Messer, Fred|
|Bowen, J. W.||Hayday, Arthur||Middleton, G.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hayes, John Henry||Millar, J. D.|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Mills, J. E.|
|Bromfield, William||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Milner, J.|
|Bromley, J.||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Montague, Frederick|
|Brooke, W.||Herrlotts, J.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Brothers, M.||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Morley, Ralph|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield)||Hoffman, P. C.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Hollins, A.||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)|
|Buchanan, G.||Hopkin, Daniel||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Burgess, F. G.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Mort, D. L.|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Horrabin, J. F.||Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Muff, G.|
|Caine, Derwent Hall-||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||Muggeridge, H. T.|
|Cameron, A. G.||Isaacs, George||Murnin, Hugh|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Charleton, H. C.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Chater, Daniel||Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint)||Newman, Sir R. H. S D. L. (Exeter)|
|Clarke, J. S.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Noel Baker, P. J.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Oliver, P. M. (Man. Blackley)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)|
|Compton, Joseph||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Owen, H. F. (Hereford)|
|Daggar, George||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)||Palin, John Henry|
|Dallas, George||Kelly, W. T.||Paling, Wilfrid|
|Dalton, Hugh||Kennedy, Thomas||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)||Kinley, J.||Perry, S. F.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Kirkwood, D.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Knight, Holford||Phillips, Dr. Marlon|
|Devlin, Joseph||Lang, Gordon||Picton-Turbervill, Edith|
|Dickson, T.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Lathan, G.||Potts, John S.|
|Dukes, C.||Law, A. (Rosendale)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Duncan, Charles||Lawrence, Susan||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Ede, James Chuter||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Edge, Sir William||Lawson, John James||Raynes, W. R.|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Richards, R.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Leach, W.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)|
|Elmley, Viscount||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Ritson, J.|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Weish Univer.)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Romeril, H. G.|
|Foot, Isaac||Lindley, Fred W.||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Forgan, Dr. Robert||Lloyd, C. Ellis||Rothschild, J. de|
|Freeman, Peter||Logan, David Gilbert||Rowson, Guy|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn)||Longbottom, A. W.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Longden, F.||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Lowth, Thomas||Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)|
|Gibson, H. M. (Lancs. Mossley)||Lunn, William||Sanders, W. S.|
|Sawyer, G. F.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Scott, James||Snell, Harry||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermilne)|
|Scurr, John||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Sexton, James||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Sorensen, R.||Welsh, James c. (Coatbridge)|
|Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Stamford, Thomas W.||West, F. R.|
|Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Stephen, Campbell||Westwood, Joseph|
|Sherwood, G. H.||Stewart, J, (St. Rollox)||White, H. G.|
|Shield, George William||Strachey, E. J. St. Loe||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Strauss, G. R.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Shillaker, J. F.||Sullivan, J.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Shinwell, E.||Sutton, J. E.||Williams, Dr. J. H, (Llanelly)|
|Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Simmons, C. J.||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)||Thurtle, Ernest||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)||Tillett, Ben||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Sinkinson, George||Tinker, John Joseph||Winterton, G. E.(Lelcester, Loughb'gh)|
|Sitch, Charles H.||Toole, Joseph||Wise, E. F.|
|Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)||Townend, A. E.||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhlthe)||Turner, B.|
|Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||Viant, S. P.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Smith, Rennle (Penlstone)||Walker, J.||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. T. Henderson.|
|Smith, Tom (Pontefract)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Albery, Irving James||Ferguson, Sir John||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.)||Fermoy, Lord||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Fielden, E. B.||Purbrick, R.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J.(Kent, Dover)||Fison, F. G. Clavering||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Atkinson, C.||Ford, Sir P. J.||Remer, John R.|
|Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Reynolds, Col. Sir James|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Balniel, Lord||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Gower, Sir Robert||Ruggies-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Bellaire, Commander Carlyon||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Grattan- Doyle, Sir N.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bird, Ernest Roy||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Boyce, H. L.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Savery, S. S.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hammersley, S. S.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Hartington, Marquess of||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Buchan, John||Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd, Henley)||Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Smith Carington, Neville W.|
|Butler, R. A.||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Castle Stewart, Earl of||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Stanley, Maj. Hon. O. (W'morland)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Iveagh, Countess of||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A.(Birm., W.)||King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Christle, J A.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Colville, Major D. J.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Liewellin, Major J. J.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Lymington, Viscount||Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||MacRobert, Rt. Hon. Alexander M.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Margesson, Captain H. D.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Marjorlbanks, E. C.||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Dixey, A. C.||Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Duckworth, G. A. V.||Muirhead, A. J.|
|Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G.(Ptrsf'ld)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Captain Sir George Bowyer and|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-S.-M.)||Peake, Capt. Osbert||Captain Wallace.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
I beg to move, in line 2, to leave out the word "three," and to insert instead thereof the word "five."
Really, there is still a good deal of difficulty with regard to the question of compulsory amalgamation, and the Commission which has to inquire into it must be the strongest body that it is possible for the Government to appoint. I realise that the President of the Board of Trade has that desire, and he himself mentioned in his speech that the three commissioners whose appointment is provided for in the Clause should be men who have had a good deal of experience of business, and a good deal of experience of the mining industry, and he paid my profession the compliment of saying that there should be on the Commission also a lawyer with commercial and industrial experience. Before the Commission can initiate and carry out any portion of a scheme, they will have to consider not only the best means of production—
Having to consider all these, I should suggest that the Commission would best be composed of five gentlemen having experience of all these matters rather than leaving it in the hands of three.
I really cannot see why on earth we should insist on spending more money than we need with a proposal which has not been very enthusiastically received. This is a very bad Amendment. [Interruption.] I did not realise that it was a maiden speech. The Amendment has been proposed in a very charming manner, and I hope we shall very often hear the hon. Member again, bringing better proposals before us. The argument that is advanced for this is that we must have five just men because three are not enough. Why are three not enough? You could have one a lawyer, one an accountant, and one an engineer. Apparently, these must be reinforced by two more. The Court of Appeal consists of only three people. If you are to have this done at all, I should have thought it could very well be done by one competent man. If I wanted to know whether an amalgamation in an industry ought to take place, probably the best way of finding it out would be to get some really first-class accountant thoroughly experienced in these matters and say to him, "Advise me. Is it a sound proposition to go into this amalgamation or is it not?" He would bring in whatever engineer or other people he wanted. Apparently, although this is not going to bear any fruit for three or four years, and not very much then—it is a tree of slow growth—yet we must proceed in a spacious manner. We must have three people, and they are to be well paid.
Provision is made to spend £250,000 a year. The President of the Board of Trade is asking for any amount of technical staff—engineers, accountants, writers, and so on. But this is a tribunal of inquiry. What real reason and justification can be advanced to us to pay a very large salary to five people when even in these most strenuous days the President of the Board of Trade said that three would be enough? I hope that we shall have some sense of proportion in this matter and some due regard to the expenditure which is to come out of the public funds, and that if we must have a tribunal at all, we shall limit it, at any rate, to not more than three.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to refuse this Amendment. In accepting these proposals as the price between a willing buyer and a willing seller, I hope that hon. Members below the Gangway will see that the price which is paid is not extortionate or exorbitant. I think that if this proposal is acceded to it will be found to be definitely exorbitant. We have talked in this House quite recently of the size of committees. I think there is a general opinion on all side of this Committee that the smaller the committee the more the work and the more quickly the works gets done. Personally, I would sooner see this is a committee of one, but if it is to be more than one, I hope that, on the grounds not only of economy but of efficiency and of expedition, and in the hope of getting some results out of this rather extraordinary body, it will be as small as possible, and that the right hon. Gentleman will limit it to three.
Personally, I do not want to see this Commission at all but we cannot deal with that subject now. If we have to have a Commission, it should be as small as possible. Hon. Members who have experience of boards of directors and have to sit on boards of directors that are larger than is necessary will know how much easier it is to get business done when you have a small board than it is when you have a board consisting of a great many people, some of whom think that they must make themselves heard. We might almost say the same of Committees in this House sometimes. It is much easier for the small Committee properly selected to get work done than it is when you have a large Committee. I am not certain if I heard the President of the Board of Trade correctly this afternoon when he moved his new Clause. From what I gathered, his proposal was to have three persons on this Commission who were legal or quasi-legal. I think that we on this side, if we are going to have this Commission, would like to see it divided so as to get a ministry of all the talents—perhaps a legal gentleman, a chartered accountant, and an engineer or mining engineer. If we have to have a Commission, a Commission set up with qualifications of that kind would be far better. If we are going to have a. Commission of five instead of three we shall get into all sorts of difficulties, and the Commission will be too large to do the work that is required of it. If we have a Commission of three it will, of course, be extremely difficult to divide it
There is nothing in the new Clause to say whether the Commission is to sit as a whole always or whether it is to be divided. It is very difficult to divide three. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] It shows the advantage of universal education that we are agreed upon that point. If we have a Commission of five, it could be divided into three and two. The Commission could be divided and could go to different parts of the country. For instance, the right hon. Gentleman might find that the Commission was not working as quickly as he would like, and he might suggest that it should be divided and set about amalgamations in different parts of the country. That would be a great mistake. I think that three would be a much better number than five. It has never been brought out whether the Commissioners are to be full-time paid men, or not. We have Amendments to elucidate that point. If they are to be full-time paid men, it is important that we should not unduly enlarge the Commission. If we are to have a Commission, the number of three is infinitely superior to five. Therefore I shall vote against the Amendment.
The Committee have already decided by a majority of two to one that there shall be a Commission. It is only a question of whether the Commission shall be really effective for its task, which will be a very onerous and difficult one. Anyone who is aware of the difficulties of the problem must realise that the Commission will be faced with difficult work. If there are a large number of schemes presented, the Commission may prove to be a bottle neck and may be overwhelmed with the amount of work which will have to be accomplished, particularly if it has to visit the different districts. The hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken has pointed out by means of arithmetic how the Commission might be divided. I would point out that a Commission of three might be divided by two and one, and a Commission of five might be divided into two-two one. That would enable two Commissioners to visit one part of the country and two to visit another part, and one might be on sick leave. We have to consider the possibility of sickness. If we have a Comsion so small as three, it might be found that the whole machinery was being held up through the inability of the Commissioners to get on with the work pressed upon them. That is the reason why it is suggested that there should be five Commissioners. If the Committee accept the five commissioners, perhaps my hon. Friend will not press his later Amendment that all the members of the Commission shall be full-time officers. It might be found convenient, if there were five Commissioners, to appoint some to be part-time officers, persons who are distinguished in other professions, and giving part of their time to the work of the Commission. If there were only three Commissioners obviously, they would all have to be whole-time officers.
In an introductory word may I congratulate the hon. Member upon his maiden speech in moving this Amendment. I wish it had been delivered at a much earlier hour. There is no bargain or suspicion of a bargain in connection with this Amendment. Earlier in the day I indicated that the Commissioners might be either three or five, very much as we determined whether they would be full-time, or to some extent part-time officials. As a matter of practical politics the Committee recognises that for a task of this kind we must get the most eminent men who are avail- able, and it is an over-riding impossibility to have outstanding men on a full-time basis. There is no reason why I should not say quite frankly to the Committee that it would be quite impossible to pay men in that position what they would lose by abandoning their own profession for a task of this kind. But, of the expenditure of £250,000 attributable to this Commission, only a relatively small part will apply to the commissioners. The great bulk will be in respect of technical assistance, which will be recoverable from the amalgamated concerns. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) gave what is plainly the reply. If we are to have a board of men who are to give part of their time to this service, then I unhesitatingly say that five instead of three is the appropriate number. When we proposed three, I had in mind three gentlemen who would give their full time, or at any rate a large part of their time; but I think now that there would be great difficulty in obtaining such services. Accordingly without the slightest suspicion of a bargain—[Interruption]—the Government are quite willing to accept the Amendment on the distinct understanding that while they will go about this work with all the enthusiasm and devotion they can apply to it part of the services at least must be on a part time basis.
The President of the Board of Trade has now given us a wholly different picture of what the Commission is to be from that of the Mover of the Amendment. The Mover of this Amendment in a most interesting speech said that this was to be a tribunal of great importance; that it must command universal respect and confidence, and that therefore three people were not enough. We must have five men of outstanding ability. That is what he contemplated. Obviously he considers that every case put forward will be submitted to this Commission and he thinks there should be five opinions instead of three. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade puts a wholly different proposal. If I wanted to know whether an amalgamation was a good proposition I should go to a man like Sir William McLintock and ask his advice. But the right hon. Gentleman says that whether he is to have five or three depends entirely on whether they are going to be full-time people or part-time people. The right hon. Gentleman contemplates something quite different from a Commission of three people sitting as three who are to investigate these matters. He looks forward to bringing in now one expert, then another expert and to get these experts to make inquiries. If that is not the proposal I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman does mean. First of all he said that he contemplated getting three men who can give the whole of their time to this work. Then he said, "If we are to get men in very large practice, they will not be able to give the whole of their time, and, therefore, we must have mom than three on whom to call." I put this to him: What is in his mind when a case for amalgamation is proposed? Is that case to go before, and be investigated by, and be reported upon by, three commissioners, or fewer than three I That is the conception presented to us—a report by a commission of three. Now it is a report by five. If it is to be a report by some expert called in, I should say that the Board of Trade could make an early investigation with the assistance of such experts as they might call to their and. Would the President of the Board of Trade tell us what is the body that is to decide this matter?
The President of the Board of Trade said than there would be great difficulty in finding three people who could give up the whole of their time for such salaries as he would be able to afford, and that, therefore, he proposed to appoint five people, presumably because they could take up the work as part-time work. I notice that in Subsection (5) of this new Clause the Commission will have "power to regulate their own procedure, and may act notwithstanding a vacancy in their number." As I read that, I do not think it would give the Commission power to act with three of their number only, and I do not observe in the Clause any power given to the Commission to sit in different divisions. I do not think there would be power to sit with fewer than five members, or to sit in two or more divisions. I see no reason for accepting the Amendment.
The Committee is in complete confusion as to what is the nature and function of this Commission. The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) explained what was in the mind of the Liberal party—two Commissioners in one part of the country and two in another, and even then there would still be one left over. In fact, the Commissioners were to have a kind of roving mission, and the more there were of them the more they could roam. We ought to know definitely whether the Commission can divide itself into any number of sections. I always thought that the Liberal party were the great party of economy, but the first thing they do on this Clause is to move an Amendment which will increase the cost. Not content with the already high cost involved in their amalgamation proposals, before we have got into our stride they bring forward a proposal to increase the number of Commissioners from three to five. We are told that each of these Commissioners must be a great expert and that they are to be whole-time Commissioners. That is the effect of another Amendment on the Paper in the name of hon. Members of the Liberal party. Coupling these two Amendments together, they make me shudder to think of the possibilities before the country.
I am quite incapable of working up anything like the excitement of the hon. baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) on such a simple proposition. I do not see that the country is going to be ruined by the appointment of these Commissioners. In reply to the questions of the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne) I think the real solution is to be found in Sub-section (5) which gives the Commission power to regulate their own procedure. They can, if they find it more convenient, sit in two divisions, and they may act notwithstanding a vacancy in their number. We do not want to specify all the details; we must attribute some measure of common sense to five very eminent people, and I have no doubt that they will be able to discharge their duties in a very efficient way. The right hon. gentleman the Member for Hendon (Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister) asked me whether this was to be a kind of tribunal, or a commission. Strictly speaking, it is a body of men who will have very great initiative in these amalgamations. They will have to survey the field and take all the circumstances into account and decide with the technical assistance at their command, whether it is an appropriate amalgamation scheme. But of course it is plain to the Committee that the great bulk of the work must be done by the technical and other experts whom they employ. If we have five people and if the Committee agree that it is reasonable to have five who can give full time to the work, then it will obviously be a much more elastic and convenient arrangement, because we shall have two additional people on whom to call. That is the only object of fixing the number at five instead of three, and I really think the subject is not worthy of further debate.
I am sorry to differ from the right hon. Gentleman. I think the proposition before us is of more consequence than he says. After all, his New Clauses are drawn up on the assumption that the Commission is to act as a Commission. He now proposes that it should be enlarged so that it may act, not as one, but as several Commissions. That was the express reason given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) for desiring the addition which has been proposed. If you accept that new theory of what the Commission is to be, namely, not one body examining all schemes which may come before them, but different bodies examining different schemes, you have no guarantee that those different bodies will proceed on the same principle or that the application of the law will be comparable in different parts of the country.
What I had in mind was that, if you had a Commission of five, they might detach two members to visit one coalfield and two members to visit another, to report to the Commission as a whole, which would then consider the schemes that they might recommend and review the whole matter as one body.
Then the right hon. Gentleman intends that though the numbers shall be raised to five, every scheme should be considered by the five together and passed by the five sitting as a tribunal. But that is not what the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade said. He proposed that the Commission should break up, so that its output might be increased. He proposed that the numbers should be increased so that the tribunal should consist at one moment of A, B, and C, and at another time of C, D, and E; at any rate, with variations among the five, so that you would have different tribunals sitting to consider different schemes in different districts or perhaps even different schemes in the same district. I repeat that that would be a body fundamentally different from the scheme and the Clause which the right hon. Gentleman has on the Paper, that it is no longer one Commission which decides as a whole, but a series of Commissions which perhaps decide on different principles, bring to bear different views and different inquiries, and produce an entirely chaotic result. I venture to say that the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade has shown in his last speech that it is wholly unnecessary. He himself has said, what is indeed evident to all, that to assist the Commission a large staff of experts will be provided, that of a sum of £250,000 only a poor fraction will go to the Commission, but the rest will be swallowed up by the large staff of experts of various kinds whom they would require, and he went on to say that it is those experts who will have to prepare the schemes and work out all the details, and it is they who will naturally go to make preliminary inquiries in particular districts and to prepare the matter for a sitting of the Commission as a whole in the district, if necessary, or to carry on in between the sittings of the Commission. My submission is that the right hon. Gentleman, in the first place, is proposing totally to change the new proposal which within the last few days he has produced; that, in the second place, he is justifying it by a line of reasoning which shows it to be wholly unnecessary; and that, in the third place, the new arrangement which he proposes is likely to produce chaos and not similarity of conditions.
I am sorry to intervene again, but I must have expressed myself very badly indeed for the right hon. Gentleman to have reached the conclusion which he has just submitted to the Committee. The kind of thing which he has described is not what the Government have in mind, and probably I can make the matter quite plain if I say what is intended by this proposal. We have a Commission of three, four, or five people—five, if this Amendment is accepted—and I imagine that their first duty, after this Bill become" an Act of Parliament, is to meet and decide generally what line they are going to take in approaching this question of amalgamations in the colliery areas. They will have certain principles in mind, and very soon afterwards the kind of sub-division suggested by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) would be applied. Two might go down to a particular area, and two to another, or three, as the case might be. They would survey that area, and they would have at their disposal, not a vast staff such as the right hon. Gentleman has suggested, but an adequate staff, for advice on the conditions.
They sub-divide in that way and schemes are put up on the basis of the technical investigation, together with the report of the Commissioners, and they come back to the main body. The main body means the four or five Commissioners, but the sub-division must be made if the whole body is not forthcoming, and that is fully covered by this proposal. There would, first of all, be an understanding about numbers, and, whether they worked in two or threes, their proposals would be submitted and brought into line. There would be no question of chaos, and I have no doubt that the five people would arrive at a very practical result.
We want to get this matter quite clear. The President of the Board of Trade is now speaking with the number five in his mouth the whole time, as though five were the original idea. We know perfectly well that this Clause came into existence about six weeks after the Second Reading of the Bill, and I presume that, in going through it, and in any consultations he had with the Liberal party, he went into this question as to the n amber required to carry out the work. Having given that consideration, he put in the number three, and he should give some better reason than he has given why the number should be increased to five. In referring to Sub-section (5), which says that the Commission shall have power to regulate their own procedure, the right hon. Gentleman said they might regulate their procedure by one going to one place and another to another place, and that they might split themselves up into three divisions. Is he still considering that if he makes the number five, and if one is absent, the remaining four can split themselves up into four divisions? It is treating the Committee rather lightly not to give a further explanation when the provision must have been very carefully considered. It has been considered all these weeks, and now, because an Amendment has been put down to increase the number, the President says: "Yee, I will accept it." I hope we will have a sufficient explanation from the right hon. Gentleman.
This Debate has proved to the satisfaction of the whole Committee, and not least to the President of the Board of Trade, that there is involved a question which is much more important than the question whether there should be five or three on the Com mission. It brings up the whole question of what the functions and operations of this Commission are to be. It is all very well for the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) to give his opinion that five can be divided into two should one be sick. The people most likely to be sick are the coal operators in the districts where these "nosy Parkers" [Interruption]. This is a matter of important principle. You can divide these five up into one and one and one and one and one. Are we going to have a series of individual "nosy Parkers" going round on their own in five areas simultaneously, with power to act by themselves? Do hon. Members opposite realise what they are inflicting on the coal industry I We want to find out, and this Amendment provides the opportunity for us to do so, what really is to be the modus operandi of this Commission. If the Commission can divide itself up into a series of units, each with the power of decision, there is no guarantee of coherence in their schemes; only on the understanding that the Commission sits as one whole can such an assurance be ours. The conception of the President of the Board of Trade, as I understand it, is that there are to be investigations by permanent officials, who will absorb a large portion of the £250,000, to get at the actual facts, and that ultimately the schemes must be brought before the Commission. This is not, however, on all fours with the conception of the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel). This scheme has been brought forward to facilitate amalgamations in the different districts. Why? In order to break the possible blow to wages as a result of the reduction in the hours.
The President of the Board of Trade has pointed out that, however excellent the whole scheme may be, however efficient the Commissioners may be and however prompt in giving their decisions, there can be no prospect of definite results throughout the industry within a period of two, three or four years, which entirely cuts the ground from under the argument put forward by the right hon. Member for Darwen. If the work of the Commission is to be speeded up by sending the individual members of it about the country to force schemes on the districts as rapidly as possible, then the work of the Commission must lack coherence; but if the Commission must act as one body nothing will be gained by allowing them to split up in this way. I notice that there is nothing in these provisions to say what is to constitute a quorum on the Commission. I have made a very close study of all the implications and I say that in spite of all the explanations offered by the President of the Board of Trade no member of this Committee can have any clear idea of how the Commission will operate. The right hon. Gentleman has proved to his own satisfaction that there has been no bargain about this proceeding. I suppose he has broken up this Clause as an afterthought—for some reason or other which it would be improper to suggest but which we can all guess. He had no time to think out all the implications; he was under a threat; it was a case of "all or none," and he has taken it all. But, late as the hour may be, it is the right of the Committee to try to understand what the implications are which are in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman.
The hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Mills) comes here bearing the scars of a previous intervention outside and might be content not to intervene here. While there is complete and remarkable agreement between the Front Ministerial Bench and the Front Bench below the Gangway, there is a divergence of opinion apparently as to how this Commission is going to function. I think we are entitled to know before we pass what has been described by the President of the Board of Trade and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen, as the most important Clause in the Bill. It is the most important part. It is the Clause known as the "C.O.D." Clause, that is to say, the "Clause-on-Delivery." When the President of the Board of Trade delivers the Clause, the right hon. Member for Darwen delivers the votes. The rest of us want to know exactly what the Clause means, and also the meaning of the votes which are being delivered.
It comes in very vitally, because the question whether the Commission is to consist of three or five members brings up the whole question of its functions and procedure. If this is
the most important part of the Bill, as has been stated, it is of vital importance that we should really understand what we are doing and precisely how it is going to operate—not only in the mind of the President of the Board on Trade, but actually when it becomes an Act. From what we have heard to-night there is nothing clear about it, and, as we follow the Bill through, and the Amendments one by one, unless we find out exactly how the Commission is going to function, we shall find ourselves involved in very great difficulties, because the President of the Board of Trade has accepted this without full thought as to its general implications. Therefore, we are entitled to have a more detailed outline of how it will work and what are the intentions of the Government.
|Division No. 162.]||AYES.||[11.54 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Dalton, Hugh||Hayday, Arthur|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)||Hayes, John Henry|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Dickson, T.||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Dukes, C.||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)|
|Angell, Norman||Duncan, Charles||Herriotts, J.|
|Arnott, John||Ede, James Chuter||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Edge, Sir William||Hoffman, P. C.|
|Ayles, Walter||Edmunds, J. E.||Hollins, A.|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Hopkin, Daniel|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Elmley, Viscount||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)|
|Batey, Joseph||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Foot, Isaac||Hutchison, Maj. Gen. Sir R.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Freeman, Peter||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)|
|Benson, G.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint)|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Gibbins, Joseph||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)|
|Bowen, J. W.||Gibson, H. M. (Lancs. Mossley)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Gill, T. H.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Gillett, George M.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Bromfield, William||Glassey, A. E.||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.|
|Bromley, J.||Gossling, A. G.||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)|
|Brooke, W.||Gould, F.||Kelly, W. T.|
|Brothers, M.||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Kennedy, Thomas|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Kinley, J.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Granville, E.||Lang, Gordon|
|Burgess, F. G.||Gray, Milner||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||Lathan, G.|
|Caine, Derwent Hall-||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Law, A. (Rosendale)|
|Cameron, A. G.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Lawrence, Susan|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Groves, Thomas E.||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Grundy, Thomas W.||Lawson, John James|
|Chater, Daniel||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)|
|Clarke, J. S.||Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||Leach, W.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour.||Hardle, George D.||Lewis, T. (Southampton)|
|Compton, Joseph||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Lindley, Fred W.|
|Daggar, George||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Lloyd, C. Ellis|
|Dallas, George||Haycock, A. W.||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Longbottom, A. W.||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Longden, F.||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)||Smith, Rennle (Penistone)|
|Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Palin, John Henry||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Lunn, William||Paling, Wilfrid||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Perry, S. F.||Sorensen, R.|
|MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. w.||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|McElwee, A.||Phillips, Dr. Marlon||Stephen, Campbell|
|McEntee, V. L.||Potts, John S.||Strauss, G. R.|
|McKinlay, A.||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Sullivan, J.|
|MacLaren, Andrew||Raynes, W. R.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall. N.)||Richards, R.||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le Spring)||Taylor, w. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)|
|MacNeill-Weir, L.||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|McShane, John James||Ritson, J.||Tillett, Ben|
|Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Romeril, H. G.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Toole, Joseph|
|Mansfield, W.||Rowson, Guy||Townend, A. E.|
|Marcus, M.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Turner, B.|
|Markham, S. F.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Wallace, H. W.|
|Marley, J.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Marshall, Fred||Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Mathers, George||Sanders, W. S.||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Matters, L. W.||Sawyer, G. F.||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Maxton, James||Scott, James||West, F. R.|
|Messer, Fred||Scurr, John||Westwood, Joseph|
|Millar, J. D.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Mills, J. E.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Milner, J.||Sherwood, G. H.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Shield, George William||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Morley, Ralph||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Wilson, J, (Oldham)|
|Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Shillaker, J. F.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Shinwell, E.||Winterton, G. E.(Lelcester, Loughb'gh)|
|Mort, D. L.||Simmons, C. J.||Wise, E. F.|
|Murnin, Hugh||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Nathan, Major H. L.||Sinkinson, George|
|Naylor, T. E.||Sitch, Charles H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Noel Baker, P. J.||Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)||Mr. William Whiteley and Mr.|
|Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhlthe)||Charles Edwards.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Everard, W. Lindsay||Remer, John R.|
|Albery, Irving James||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Ferguson, Sir John||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Atkinson, C.||Fison, F. G. Clavering||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Ford, Sir P. J.||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Balniel, Lord||Ganzoni, Sir John||Salmon, Major I.|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Bird, Ernest Roy||Gower, Sir Robert||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Phllip A. G. D.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Savery, S. S.|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome|
|Boyce, H. L.||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Hamilton, Sir George (llford)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Butler, R. A.||Hartington, Marquess of||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Castle Stewart, Earl of||King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.)||Leighton, Major B. E. p.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Llewellin, Major J. J.||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Christle, J. A.||Lymington, Viscount||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Mac Robert, Rt. Hon. Alexander M.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Margesson, Captain H. D.||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Marjorlbanks, E. C.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Muirhead, A. J.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Peake, Capt. Osbert||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F, (Somerset, Yeovil)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Duckworth, G. A. V.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Power, Sir John Cecil||Sir George Hennessy and Sir|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Victor Warrender.|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-S.-M.)||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Division No. 163.]||AYES.||[12.2 a.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Remer, John R.|
|Albery, Irving James||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Ferguson, Sir John||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Fison, F. G. Clavering||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I.of Thanet)||Ford, Sir P. J.||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Balniel, Lord||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Salmon, Major I.|
|Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bird, Ernest Roy||Gower, Sir Robert||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Savery, S. S.|
|Boyce, H. L.||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Butler, R. A.||Hartington, Marquess of||Smithers, Waldron|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Castle Stewart, Earl of||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R.(Prtsmth, S.)||King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Todd, Capt. A. J|
|Christle, J. A.||Llewellin, Major J. J.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Lymington, Viscount||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Colman, N. C. D.||MacRobert, Rt. Hon. Alexander M.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Marjorlbanks, E. C.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey. Gainsbro)||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Croom-Jotinson, R. P.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Cunliffe Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Muirhead, A. J.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Peake, Capt. Osbert||Womersley, W. J.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. P.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Duckworth, G. A. V.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Power, Sir John Cecil||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.-|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Sir Frederick Thomson and Captain|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-S.-M.)||Ramsbotham, H.||Margesson.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Dickson, T.||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Hoffman, P. C.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Dukes, C.||Hollins, A.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Duncan, Charles||Hopkin, Daniel|
|Alpass, J. H.||Ede, James Chuter||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Edmunds, J. E.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph|
|Angell, Norman||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.|
|Arnott, John||Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Elmley, Viscount||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Ayles, Walter||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint)|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Foot, Isaac||Jones, Rt. Hon Leif (Camborne)|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Freeman, Peter||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Batey, Joseph||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Gibbins, Joseph||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.|
|Benson, G.||Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Gill, T. H.||Kelly, W. T.|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Gillett, George M.||Kennedy, Thomas|
|Bowen, J. W.||Giassey, A. E.||Kinley, J.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Gossling, A. G.||Lang, Gordon|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Gould, F.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Bromfield, William||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Lathan, G.|
|Bromley, J.||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Law, A. (Rosendale)|
|Brooke, W.||Gray, Milner||Lawrence, Susan|
|Brothers, M.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne).||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield)||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Lawson, John James|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)|
|Burgess, F. G.||Groves, Thomas E.||Leach, W.|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Grundy, Thomas W.||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)|
|Calne, Derwent Hall.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)|
|Cameron, A. G.||Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||Lindley, Fred W.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Lloyd, C. Ellis|
|Charleton, H. C||Hardle, George D.||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Chater, Daniel||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Longbottom, A. W.|
|Clarke, J. S.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Longden, F.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Haycock, A. W.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hayday, Arthur||Lunn, William|
|Compton, Joseph||Hayes, John Henry||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Daggar, George||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Dallas, George||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||McElwee, A.|
|Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||McEntee, V. L.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Harrlotts, J.||McKinlay, A.|
|MacLaren, Andrew||Phillips, Dr. Marlon||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)||Potts, John S.||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Sorensen, R.|
|MacNeill-Weir, L.||Raynes, W. R.||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|McShane, John James||Richards, R.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Strauss, G. R.|
|Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)||Sullivan, J.|
|Mansfield, W.||Ritson, J.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Marcus, M.||Romeril, H. G.||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Markham, S. F.||Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)|
|Marley, J.||Rowson, Guy||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Marshall, Fred||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Tillett, Ben|
|Mathers, George||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Matters, L. W.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Toole, Joseph|
|Maxton, James||Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)||Townend, A. E.|
|Messer, Fred||Sanders, W. S.||Turner, B.|
|Millar, J. D.||Sawyer, G. F.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Mills, J. E.||Scott, James||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Milner, J.||Scurr, John||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Morley, Ralph||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Sherwood, G. H.||West, F. R.|
|Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Shield, George William||Westwood, Joseph|
|Mort, D. L.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Murnin, Hugh||Shillaker, J. F.||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Nathan, Major H. L.||Shinwell, E.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Naylor, T. E.||Simmons, C. J.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Noel Baker, P. J.||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Sinkinson, George||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Sitch, Charles H.||Wilson R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Palin, John Henry||Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)||Winterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Paling, Wilfrid||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhlthe)||Wise, E. F.|
|Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Perry, S. F.||Smith, Rennie (Penlstone)|
|Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Sir William Edge and Major Owen.|