Mines Department of the Board of Trade.

Civil Estimates, 1932. – in the House of Commons on 5th July 1932.

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £144,595, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1933, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Mines Department of the Board of Trade.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.

I am moving this Amendment notwithstanding the 'admirable speech of the Secretary for Mines on 3rd May. We thought when that speech was made that at last we had discovered a Secretary with understanding, vision arid some sympathy, and we want in this Debate to ascertain whether he possesses the other qualification of a Secretary for Mines, namely, courage. Understanding, vision and sympathy without courage are like a bone without meat. The hon. Gentleman will know that he is, to a large extent, responsible for the well-being of 850,000 miners, with their wives and families, and at this moment they are not only suffering hardship, destitution and degradation, but, many of them, demoralisation also. The Debate on 3rd May centred largely on the question of safety. To-day we wish to concentrate attention more upon the economics and some of the social aspects of the industry rather than safety, always in the hope that the hon. Gentleman will continue to do his best in regard to safety measures. The exact power of the Secretary over mines has been disputed time and again. I am going to submit that he has a great deal more power than has been exercised by past Secretaries for Mines. If there is no power to compel, at least they are able to initiate and to influence, and very often have the power to bring recalcitrant coalowners into a sane frame of mind, both for their own self-preservation and for the sake of the men for whom they are responsible. This Debate has very largely been brought about by what has appeared in the "News-Letter," a small publication circulated, presumably, on behalf of the Prime Minister. We are not sure whether the Prime Minister subscribes to all the views expressed in that document, but here is a paragraph taken from the last issue: With five years of production stability now assured to them, the leaders of the industry have no excuse for delay in reviewing the whole position, bringing to their aid the best knowledge and experience available, envisaging an ultimate policy and devising a succession of measures designed to realise it stage by stage. How far Government action or control will prove to be necessary, whether to enforce amalgamations or to bring about a wider reorganisation, or to protect the community, will depend upon the response of the owners to the present needs and the temper and spirit in which their policy is devised and worked out. That rather indicates that for five years more the mine workers and their families are to be dependent upon the action or inaction of the coalowners. We have had some experience of the progress they make in the past. Commission after Commission has attempted to initiate action in the right direction, but we have discovered always that unless Parliament superimposes its will some section of the coalowners always refuse to do what is necessary. Therefore, the review given by the Secretary for Mines on 3rd May, which was a good background to any mining Debate, is sufficient justification for us to raise this question once again. The hon. Gentleman told us how output had fallen from 287,000,000 tons in 1913 to 219,000,000 tons last year, how exports had fallen from 98,000,000 tons to 61,000,000 tons, the number of workpeople been reduced from 1,105,000 to 840,000 and the number of mines in production reduced from 3,289 to 2,243. On top of that he informed us that individual output had increased during the period, the relative value of wages had decreased, the security of the mine-workers had gone, profits had almost reached vanishing point, and, to use the hon. Gentleman's own words it was a "melancholy record of serious retrogression." Presumably that melancholy record must persist unless something is done by the Government. I do not ask for legislation, because I know that to do so would be out of order, but I do ask and insist that something shall be done to prevent further retro- gression during the next five years, apart from waiting for voluntary activity on the part of the mineowners.

Photo of Mr Isaac Foot Mr Isaac Foot , Bodmin

The hon. Member has put into my mouth the statement that the security of the workers had gone. I have no recollection of saying anything that would bear that interpretation.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

I should hesitate to misinterpret the hon. Gentleman, but think his statement of the number of mines which had closed down, and that with a potential capacity for an output of 300,000,000 tons, the total output was only 219,000,000 tons, must indicate that there is no security for any man in the industry to-day;,so that while the hon. Gentleman may not have used those exact words the implication was clearly there throughout the whole of his speech.

Photo of Mr Isaac Foot Mr Isaac Foot , Bodmin

The arguments I then put forward dealt with the security of the owners as well as the miners—with the general security of the industry.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

That, of course, only strengthens our argument. Because the mineowners, or some of them, have apparently been so stupid, have formed a sort of mutual suicide club, they have almost destroyed the million mine workers. I want to say to the hon. Gentleman that during his term of office we shall always be grateful for information, and shall ourselves be willing to supply what information is at our disposal, and we know that he will always help if he can, but that is not sufficient. We want the hon. Gentleman to use the power he has to help us despite any hostility he may encounter from certain sections of the coalowners. The hon. Gentleman said on 3rd May: I sometimes wonder what would happen if for a period of six months Members of Parliament and editors of newspapers had to spend an apprenticeship in the mines. I think that there might be some change of emphasis in the leading articles, and perhaps legislation might have taken a different course.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1932; col. 985, Vol. 265.] We entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. We hope that his Department is not going to be only a sort of agency for collecting and distributing statistics but that, having satisfied himself that certain weaknesses and defects are inherent in the present organisation of the system, he will use the power at his disposal to influence and initiate reforms and, browbeat if need be, the coalowners into real activity.

The first thing we want to submit to the hon. Gentleman is that the Mines Act of 1930 has been proved to be only a partial success. We think it must be amplified by central selling agencies before there can be any sort of guarantee either to the workers or to the investors in the industry. The claim of the workers is as simple as it is just. All they claim is that the commodity they produce shall be sold at such a price as will guarantee to them a civilised existence. The coal question can be divided into two compartments. We consume approximately 70 per cent. of the output in this country, and we export approximately 30 per cent. As to the 70 per cent. consumed here, we declare that consumers ought not any longer to expect to buy their raw material at an uneconomic figure, but ought to be willing to pay a price that will at least guarantee the workpeople a reasonable wage consistent with the dangers they encounter and the physical effort they put forth.

How can the hon. Gentleman assist us to achieve this end? We say that central selling agencies are the first essential. While we have quota regulation with individual selling there can be no such thing as security either for the work-people or those who have money invested in the industry, for in the past 10 years we have witnessed, alongside an increase in individual output, a persistent decrease in the wages of the workpeople, and yet the demand for coal has remained inelastic. In spite of all the reductions in wages the demand for coal has not increased. If the men worked in the pits for nothing it is doubtful whether we should be able to increase our sales in present circumstances. The wage sacrifices have been made in vain. We submit to the hon. Gentleman that, without legislation, he can go to the Mining Association, who can approach the several units of which the association is made up, and he can insist 4.30 p.m. on behalf of the Government and the workpeople that they shall not only set up central selling agencies, but see as quickly as possible what economies are possible in that direction. Not only do we suggest central selling agencies, but we suggest that enormous economy can be effected by means of transport. Coal could be directly delivered to the consumers from the nearest collieries to any large unit and in that way we should bridge the gap between producer and consumer, and there would be less trouble in disposing of inferior coal. The larger the unit the less trouble in that direction. We are convinced that with more central selling agencies there would be a nearer balance between the quota of requirements than there is to-day, when each individual colliery has to dispose of its own minerals. The Westphalian experience shows that if there are central selling agencies amalgamations and groupings are almost inevitable.

The central selling agency is a pivot around which the Secretary for Mines ought to be working. I shall be able to show in a moment that, whatever individuals may say in this Parliament, the Miners' Federation of Great Britain who are not without experience, and the Mining Association of Great Britain are both in favour of central selling agencies. Yet, for some unknown reason, individualism still prevails to the detriment of those connected with the industry. The Miners' Federation of Great Britain have summed up their views in a very few words as follows: Firstly, that the forces which make for a reduction in the demand for coal also have the effect of rendering that demand inelastic in so far as price reductions are concerned do not increase the total demand.Secondly, that those forces must of themselves exert a most powerful influence on the general level of coal prices and tend to keep that level down.Thirdly, that when the industry is menaced by such powerful external factors, it is folly to allow its position to be lowered by competition from within. At such a time it becomes more important than before to remove internal weakness. The Secretary of the Mining Association of Great Britain, representing the coalowners, makes this statement in the Colliery Year Book for 1930: The…surplus of productive capacity over present demand, both in the inland and export market, has brought down coal prices far below the general level of prices. They have reached a point at which the economic operation of the collieries is impossible, and the capital resources of the industry are being gravely impoverished. Those are the two sides of the industry, containing all the essential elements in the industry, and yet no solution has been found for this very difficult problem. We suggest that not only the Secretary for Mines himself, but the President of the Board of Trade, and also the Prime Minister if need be, ought to be called in to insist upon the coalowners setting up their central selling agencies, and guaranteeing to their workpeople not only some element of security but the earliest possible meeting place whereby the output may be concentrated upon the most economic units, and consumers will not be called upon to pay higher prices for their minerals.

I have an extract here from "O'Connell's Coal and Iron News" of 10th September, 1931. I do not wish to read it except to explain that here is one of the many sources whereby the industry is drained, and consumers are exploited, after the mineral has left the pit top. In this case, they refer to a case where shipowners to the Canary Islands are obliged to have coal for bunkers. The price of this coal at Cardiff is 16s. a ton and with 7s. for freightage that makes 23s. a ton. The price charged to the shippers for bunkers on the Islands is 34s. per ton. That seems to the shipowners, and it seems to me, to be an exhorbitant profit. The profit per ton taken by the people on the Canary Islands is three times as much per ton as a colliery receives in Cardiff for producing the ton. That is one direction where the hon. Gentleman can get into action at once. The Prime Minister can go to the United States, to Lausanne, to Geneva, to Ottawa and elsewhere, but there is every reason why we should expect him to call together the recalcitrant elements in the coal industry in this country so that order may be evolved out of chaos. The export trade is a different proposition. I submit to the hon. Gentleman that the export trade in coal is much more political than industrial. The hon. Gentleman said a few days ago that quotas, licences, subsidies, restrictions, special freight charges, Government guarantees and the Import Duties Act all affect adversely the transport of coal from one country to another, and merely to leave this question of the export trade exclusively in the hands of the coalowners means that there can be no solution of it outside a European agreement. What did the hon. Gentleman tell the Committee? He said: The extent to which the price-cutting tactics in Poland has gone is shown in the fall of the f.o.b. price of their large coal from 17s. 3d. in December, 1929, to 12s. 6d. in February, 1932, the f.o.b. price for comparable British coal on the latter date being 15s. 4½d. per metric ton." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1932; col. 975, Vol. 265.] Can the hon. Gentleman see any solution of this problem outside a European agreement? We do not think that there is one. Consequently, we call upon the Mines Department, the Board of Trade, and the Government in relation to this export trade to make it a primary duty on their part to secure a European agreement at the earliest possible date. We know that there must be unity in the industry before we can negotiate abroad. If central selling agencies were to be set up here that would be the first step that would make a European negotiation possible. If a European agreement could be propounded by this Government, and, inspired by the Secretary of Mines, could be carried to Geneva and fought for among the nations until finally the warring elements of all coal-producing countries could be brought together, his name would go down as one of the greatest Cromwellians that this or any other Parliament has ever known. We say that this cut-throat competition, internal and external, means death and destruction to the coal trade of Europe. We ask the Secretary for Mines to think on the lines of a European agreement where markets can be equitably obtained, where prices can be fixed equitably between producer and consumer, and where you can get an element of tranquillity and peace in the industry, not for five years, but for many years ahead.

The next point I want to raise is that of a National Board. Disputes, lock-outs and 'strikes in this country are all sufficiently familiar to every Member of the Committee to justify us in demanding from any Government that whatever lies within their power to bring the mine-owners' and miners' representatives together for the purpose of negotiating uniform agreements, they ought to do. They ought to exercise every power at their disposal. The Miners' Federation have already declared in favour of a National Board bringing representatives together with an impartial chairman. That has the virtue of avoiding compulsory arbitration. It also has the virtue of setting up a body that would exact more uniformity and more agreement in the mining industry than has characterised it for the past generation. I hope the hon. Gentleman will use all the influence at his disposal, both with the coalowners and with the miners' representatives, to bring them together at the earliest possible moment, and to influence them to accept such a board. For Scotland to attempt to live apart is impossible; for South Wales to attempt to live apart is impossible, and the same is true of Northumberland or Yorkshire, or any of the individual units. If the export trade is in a parlous plight for the moment, the other districts are bound to suffer because of the competition of the coal which would be otherwise exported. While one district might be termed an inland district and another an export district, they all have a unity of interest, and for that purpose they ought to come together for wage agreements settled on a uniform basis, so that we may be free from disputes for a very long time.

I want to raise the question of scientific utilisation of coal. We have a great deal about low temperature carbonisation and hydrogenation, and the latest form, that of colloidal fuel. I know the hon. Gentleman will probably tell me later on that our research station in Greenwich holds out a helping hand to any inventor who seems to have a proposal worth examination. We want the hon. Gentleman to do more. We are not content any longer that the Mines Department should be a recording agency. We have reached the stage when we have got beyond being like Micawber waiting for something to turn up. We think that it would not be out of place, and that the time is not inopportune even in these days of economy, for the Government, of its own volition, to recruit a body of experts, supply them with the necessary funds, and impose upon them the duty of finding the best possible scientific means of utilising coal in this country. We think that that would be sound economy. That would be the best thing that could possibly emerge during this period of industrial depression.

No longer ought we to be content to accept very trivial replies to questions, such as the reply which was given by the First Lord of the Admiralty a few days ago, when he said, in answer to a hon. Member, that if the colloidal fuel was sufficiently colloidal the Navy might use it. We want something more than that. We want the Government to make itself responsible for the greatest of all problems confronting the mining industry. We are convinced that if you select the right men, supply them with funds, give them an idea, the same type of man as those who have conquered the air and the sea and have annihilated space can also solve the mysteries of coal. We want the hon. Gentleman to do something in that direction instead of waiting for some inventor to come along with some half-baked scheme and then finally to tell the House all about the millions of pounds that have been lost by financial brigands by one system or another. We think that this is a national responsibility, and the Government ought to encourage inventors to do their best. If they set up their own Department and their own establishment we are convinced that great things can be done.

I want to ask the Secretary for Mines, in the parlous plight of the mining industry, and the constant decrease in the demand for coal during this period of world depression, what part he has played in the Board of Trade when they have been considering questions of credits to Russia. Does he constantly remind the Board of Trade that such credits would be invaluable to the mining industry, that, of all countries, none has a greater potential value to the mining industry than Russia? Without dwelling on that subject, I want to ask the hon. Gentleman whether he will play his part in the councils of the Board of Trade to secure the maximum amount of trade for steel and such other equipment as will provide the maximum amount of work for the mines of this country. We think that that is his duty, and that he ought not to rest content until every one of these avenues has been explored, and the maximum power at his disposal has been used in these directions.

On the 3rd May I referred to the question of miners' lamps. The Department, I know, is fully equipped with all the knowledge relative to this subject, and has been endeavouring to secure better lighting in mines. There have been divers expressions of opinion as to whether nystagmus is due to bad lighting or to the presence of gas, but, be that as it may, we are convinced that, the better the lighting, the fewer would be the accidents, arid, in all probability, the greater the output per person. Two recognised valuable lamps, reaching the standard which I believe the Mines Department desires to reach, have been on sale in this country for a few years. They are very costly lamps, and are in no way in competition with any other lamp sold in this country. I believe that one of the two, hitherto imported from Germany, is now largely produced in this country. The other is the Wolf lamp, some parts of which are imported from Germany. If we want to encourage this firm to produce their lamps in this country, we ought not to aim a deadly blow at them in the interim before we have given them a chance.

I know that the hon. Gentleman has no power with the Tariff Advisory Committee, but we think that, if the Department insist upon improving the lighting in mines, as this is one of the only two kinds of lamps available that will fulfil the Department's standard, it would not be out of place for the hon. Gentleman, although it would be apparently supporting a plea for a private firm, to make representations to the Advisory Committee to deal with this question from the point of view of lighting, as distinct from the point of view of the individual sale of any particular kind of lamp. I know that the hon. Gentleman needs no tuition on this matter, that he knows a great deal about it, and that probably his officials know great deal more than either I or he knows about the subject; and, if they can be instrumental in, expediting the decision of the Advisory Committee, they will be helping themselves and the miners by improving mine lighting.

The question of gas detection has been raised very often in the House. Some four months ago, the hon. Gentleman undertook, with the Executive of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, to have certain further tests applied. I would merely ask him whether those tests have yet started, and, if so, where they are taking place, and whether he has any report yet as to the results. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to make some statement upon that matter when he comes to reply to the Debate.

I received a day or two ago the monthly ascertainment for the Yorkshire area, that is to say, the statement indicating what profit, if any, has been made, the output per person, the collective output, and all the relative figures. One thing that strikes one is that output is slightly improving all the time, and I should be the last to declare that individual collieries, as far as they can be efficient, are not efficient. But, with all their efficiency, and with the terribly low wages of the miners in the Yorkshire area, which is supposed to be a sort of El Dorado—their wages are only very slightly above the pre-War wages—they ran up a deficit, that is to say, a debt to the coalowners, of about £10,000,000. When the coalowners realised the impossibility of that debt ever being paid off, they cancelled it out, and started another agreement on rock-bottom wages; and, under this latest agreement, they are now in debt to the coalowners of the Yorkshire area to the extent of £4,457,000, in addition to the £10,000,000 which was disposed of some time ago. If the mine workers are never to expect an improvement in their position until this deficit is wiped away, what has the miner in Yorkshire to live for or hope for? There is not a chance in life for him, and demoralisation has become complete. Therefore, anything that the hon. Gentleman can do to expedite any sort of selling arrangement internally, and European agreements externally, would place him on a very high pedestal in the estimation of the miners of this country.

I should have failed in my duty had I omitted to refer to the very vital question of an Hours Convention. It almost slipped my memory, but I want to make a brief reference to it. The hon. Gentle-roan told us on the 3rd May that, unless and until all coal-producing countries reached agreement to apply a perfectly uniform convention simultaneously, there were no hopes of this country agreeing to it.

Photo of Mr Isaac Foot Mr Isaac Foot , Bodmin

The hon. Gentleman is not now referring to the Debate on the 3rd May, but is referring to a Debate on the Coal Mines Bill later on.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for that correction; I believe it was on the Second Reading or at some intermediate stage of the Coal Mines Bill. We think that it is the duty of the Government, realising all the difficulties, to leave no stone un- turned until they have secured an Hours Convention. We have already had experience with regard to the Washington Convention. Government after Government, whether Conservative or Coalition, has always said, "There is some difficulty in the way. We appreciate the legitimacy and humanity of the proposition, but, until we can get absolute unanimity on the part of all nations, there can be no ratification of the Washington Convention." We have listened to such statements for 14 years. The Labour Government did introduce the Bill; they did square out almost every problem that could be squared out, with railwaymen, with those people who work over the week-end, and so on; but we had not the necessary majority to push that Bill through, and, therefore, the Washington Convention is still a theory, and is not in practice. If we are to take as our guide what has already happened, we shall be asking for an Hours Convention in the mining industry 14 years hence, unless some Secretary for Mines does a great deal more than has been done, shall I say, during these past nine months, or even the period prior to the Labour Government taking office in 1929. We have said, and we repeat, that, if we wait for the coalowners to agree among themselves, there never will be a, Convention. I have proof of that here in the report of the Mining Association of Great Britain for 1930–31. After referring to the appointment of their delegates to Geneva, this is what they say: The instructions which the Association gave to its representative were directed primarily to avoiding, if possible, the adoption of any form of Convention. That is the feeling of the Mining Association of Great Britain. They send their delegates to Geneva mandated to avoid any form of convention whatever. That is a very unlikely ally for the hon. Gentleman, and he has always to recognise, therefore, that the coalowner is hostile to any step forward. That is recorded in this annual report, which says, further: But, failing that, to preventing the reduction of working hours below the level prescribed in the Coal Mines Bill, which was then under discussion by Parliament, and securing universality of application of the Convention throughout not only European but other coal-producing countries. Therefore, the coalowners of Great Britain still stand officially for seven and a half hours down the mine plus one winding time, making eight hours and five minutes in all. That is in excess of the hours worked by approximately 4,000,000 people who work on the surface in this country. We say to the hon. Gentleman that he has some responsibility in these matters. If he will start, as I started this afternoon, with central selling agencies, culminating in amalgamations and grouping, and will proceed to Geneva for the purpose of trying to secure—with the assistance of the coal-owners if possible, once they can be unified—some European agreement on the allocation of markets and price fixation, it may be that they will see, with 300,000 miners out of work in this country, possibly permanently, and many miners out of work in other coal-producing countries, also possibly permanently, the wisdom of a Convention which will reduce the hours all round.

We shall be grateful to the hon. Gentleman for anything that he will do in that direction, but we shall not be content in future with mere, expressions of sympathy; nothing less than action is going to satisfy this very small Opposition. The House will be adjourning in a few days' time for three months. We know that when we return to our constituencies we shall see our own people suffering from destitution, poverty, misery, hopelessness and complete demoralisation. We want the hon. Gentleman to stand to attention and not be like a Micawber. We want him not to be content merely with understanding the problem, but to visualise the needs of the future, and even to sympathise with the mineworkers. We want him to act; we want him to use the power at his disposal; and, if the Government retard what he thinks is helpful, positive action in these directions, we want him to manifest that courage which we know he possesses, and to come out of the Government and help this small Opposition to compel the National Government to act.

Photo of Mr Isaac Foot Mr Isaac Foot , Bodmin

My reason for intervening now is not to deal generally with the questions raised by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) but to deal in particular with two of them. I think that, if two main questions can be dealt with now at the beginning, it will, perhaps, leave the field more free for many of the important questions that he raised, and for subjects in which, I know, a great many Members of the House are very much interested. I thank the hon. Member for his speech, although, of course, I regret that it was in support of a proposal which might reduce my salary by £100, and he concluded with a proposal which might, if I acted upon it, result in my losing my salary altogether. I am sorry, indeed, that any references to what Burke termed "the gross lucre and fat emoluments of office" should have been imported into this Debate at all. But he said some very kind things about me, and I still hope 5.0 p.m. that I may be able to stand upon that pedestal which he has in preparation. I think the hon. Gentleman will find that I am with him in the desire to meet what are the special needs of this distressed industry, and later on, when I speak at the end of the Debate, I shall deal with some of the points which he has raised, although I think he attributed to me greater power than I possess, and, when he was suggesting that I was to control the prices of coal in the Canary Islands and deal with some other matters, he ought to have suggested an increase in my salary rather than a reduction. I have not, as far as I know, power in that direction.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

I think the hon. Gentleman must have misunderstood me. I was indicating one of the weaknesses inherent in the present methods of selling, but, if a central selling agency were in existence, it might very well be that they themselves would be responsible for selling coal to shipowners instead of merchants or middlemen resident in the Canary Islands or elsewhere.

Photo of Mr Isaac Foot Mr Isaac Foot , Bodmin

I think the hon. Member will agree that, although we may have power within our own territory as far as the King's Writ runs, it would be difficult for us to take any responsibility for any territories outside that area.

I want to pass away from many of the most important matters that have been raised to two which I think are the outstanding questions mentioned by the hon. Member. I want to make reference to what has happened in relation to Part IV of the Act of 1930. That has an immediate relevance because, while the recent Coal Mines Bill was passing through the House, a deputation headed by the President and secretary of the Miners' Federation was received by the President of the Board of Trade and myself, and they made certain practical suggestions following upon what has been the virtual breakdown of the machinery set up in Part IV of the Act of 1930. I am not going to apportion blame for the breakdown of that part of the Act, but it is generally acknowledged that the ideals that prompted the late Mr. Graham in bringing that into his Bill have not been accomplished. He was not responsible for that failure. It was set up in good faith, a machinery within which there might have functioned friendly negotiating arrangements but, owing to certain objection taken in some quarters, that part of the Act has never achieved what was intended. When Mr. Peter Lee and Mr. Edwards came before us on that occasion, they made certain proposals, and the President of the Board of Trade said they would receive our sympathetic consideration and, as far as we could, we would use our influence to bring them, or something like them, into effect. We expressed no opinion upon the proposals themselves, but with the general purpose we were in full agreement. On the Third Reading of the recent Bill I promised to do what I could to secure that bringing together of the owners and the workmen. I am not able as yet to report any satisfactory results. I have been in communication with Mr. Edwards upon the matter. He has written me officially, and I have replied to him officially, but I cannot say as yet if we shall be able to secure what I believe is the desire of all Members of the House who think about it, that owners and men should be able to come together to discuss questions that concern their mutual interests.

There are real difficulties. I am not putting this as a debating point, but I want hon. Members to appreciate the difficulties with which I am confronted. If we had legislation, admittedly it would involve something like compulsory arbitration. No one wants compulsory arbitration. On the other hand, I think we are agreed that we ought to have nothing that would undermine the autonomy of the districts. The autonomy of the districts is a principle for which the workmen will stand as determinedly as the owners, and what we have to look for is some possibility of national discussion which will not impose compulsory arbitration, and will not endanger the self-government of the districts. If that is to be done, I very much doubt if it can be done by statutory enforcement. I believe it can only be done by voluntary arrangement between the parties and, if only we could have a voluntary arrangement between the parties, I should be content to leave Part IV of the Act of 1930 and let it stand without any statutory alteration or any attempt to bring in new legislation. It did not achieve its purpose, but there let it rest and let us proceed with this voluntary arrangement by which the two parties can come together. They ought to come into consultation, in my opinion, upon the many matters concerning the industry, and from that consultation working conditions and wages should not be excluded. We know very well how easily misunderstandings arise and very often they arise between those who are friendly disposed to each other if they are, far apart from each other. Sometimes misunderstandings arise when there is correspondence which would never have arisen if what had been said had been said face to face. The whole purpose of our international conferences is that, although misunderstandings arise between one nation and another, they can best be dealt with not by the slow processes of diplomatic negotiation but by the discussion between the several representatives face to face and around one table.

This is the philosophy which underlies Lausanne, Geneva and Ottawa, and here, surely, we are dealing with an industry in which all have their common interest. The owner has in it his capital, his skill and his business management, but there are the 850,000 people who have invested in it a heavier stake, and that is their livelihood. I cannot understand why those who have this common interest cannot meet together to discuss their common concerns. A most frequent complaint has been made that Parliament is interfering with this industry. This is the way to take it out of politics, and I think the opportunity was never more favourable than it is to-day. Some of the old hard-ribbed differences are not so apparent now. Moderate counsels are prevailing and I believe, if the opportunity is now taken, this controversy may be lifted out of politics, it may be for five years and perhaps for a generation. My earnest hope is that those who have responsibility in the matter will seize the opportunity that now exists and will remember that, if they fail to negotiate with Mirabeau, they may have one day to meet Robespierre. Will the House for give me if I give the mineowners a quotation from Edmund Burke, which ought to be in every governmental chamber. It was this: If there is any one eminent criterion which, above all the rest, distinguishes a wise Government from an administration weak and improvident it is this—well to know the best time and manner of yielding what it is impossible to keep. I am sure that in 10 years' time our successors will look back with surprise upon the difficulty of settling a question of this kind. I am sure, too, that public opinion will not for ever tolerate a refusal on the part of whoever may be responsible to come together to discuss not only common interests affecting the industry, but interests which, in the end, affect every part of our national life.

The coal industry is being challenged as it was never challenged before. It is challenged at home by rival sources of heat and power and it is being challenged abroad, and, if the challenge is to be met, all the resources of the industry will have to be mobilised. Every ounce of energy that is available will be needed to meet this challenge. We cannot afford any dissipation of that energy, and I believe we should lose if, instead of meeting this industrial challenge, we dissipated our strength in political differences. It is in the termination of these differences, which is now within our reach, with a wise statesmanship and with a generous gesture, that we have an opportunity of giving added strength to the industry to meet the vicissitudes of the time. I hope that what may be said here to-day by those who follow in the Debate will, perhaps, reinforce what I have tried to say so that we may within a, reasonable time get an assurance that the desire of the President of the Board of Trade expressed in his interview with the Miners' Federation and the desire that has been expressed by the federation since to me, that they are ready to meet the owners upon every question affecting the industry, may be fulfilled.

There is one other subject that I should like to dwell upon before we get to the general part of the Debate, and that is the request for a Commission to deal with the wider uses of coal. I notice in the "Times" this morning a report that I received a deputation last night and came to a certain decision. I was not conscious at the time that I met five of my hon. Friends that I was receiving a deputation. I thought that we were having just a friendly talk together—although, of course, deputations need not be unfriendly—having regard to the Debate to-day. But I have received some rather disturbing messages from the country, including a telegram from South Wales, because in that report it is said that I have considered the question of a Commission and decided that the request should be refused. That is not just the position. I have not the power to say whether a Commission shall be set up or not. Certainly it was never intended in any conversation that I had last night to express any decision on behalf of, the Government. All I can do in the matter is to advise the Government. I have been in consultation with those in the Government who are concerned with this matter, but no decision has yet been arrived at. I am going to put before the Committee some of the reasons that influence my mind in the advice that I have given and the advice that I propose to give. I cannot see at present that the purpose in the mind of hon. Members will necessarily be served by setting up this form of inquiry. I am influenced in coming to that conclusion by what I know of the work that has already been and is being done. I ask hon. Members to take that into their consideration.

The main facts in relation to the wider use of coal and the way in which coal can meet the severe competition of gas, electricity and oil have been recently under our investigation. The Samuel Commission, which reported six years ago, devoted a great deal of time to the subject of fuel utilisation and research, and hon. Members will probably know that more recently the National Fuel and Power Committee, a body set up in pursuance of the recommendation of the Samuel Commission, has been bringing the subject further under review. The main facts of the case, therefore, have recently been investigated. Hon. Members will recollect that on 3rd May I spent a good deal of time in the course of my speech upon the Estimates of my Department in dealing with the work which we had in hand. On 21st April of this year a very powerful and representative deputation from South Wales, a district which has been very heavily hit by the recent depression, waited upon the Lord President of the Council, and I was invited by the Lord President also to be present when the deputation was received.

The deputation spoke upon many things, and upon what is popularly called the back-to-coal movement. Something was then said about the use of coal by the Navy, but I am not qualified to give an opinion upon, that question. The decision does not rest with me, but necessarily rests with the First Lord of the Admiralty. But the general question of coal utilisation is the business of my Department. On 3rd May I dealt with the competition with which coal is faced, with the other sources of heat and power, and with the efforts which were being made to meet that competition. Hon. Members will remember that I spoke of the splendid efforts being made in many parts of the country to secure the better cleaning and grading of coal, the use of pulverised fuel, and the possibilities of obtaining oil from coal by low temperature carbonisation and hydrogenation, and also of the efforts both by high and low temperature carbonisation to produce a good smokeless fuel for use in the open domestic fire.

Active steps are being taken in numerous ways by the Government and by private concerns to explore all the possible means of improving the efficiency of coal-burning appliances and the use of coal products so as to secure a wider use of coal. Attention has been drawn to this subject within the last few weeks, particularly by two developments. My hon. Friend referred to colloidal fuel, and questions have been put in the House upon that subject by some of the Members who represent mining constituencies. Colloidal fuel is an intimate mixture of fine coal and oil in certain proportions which can be used as a boiler fuel. A good deal of work has been done upon this subject during the past few years. It is not something which has suddenly appeared over the coal horizon. It is something with which we have been concerned during the past few years, and work has been done at the Fuel Research Station.

The matter has been given a very healthy and considerable prominence by the experiments which the Cunard Steamship Company recently announced they were carrying out on one of their ocean-going liners. It is claimed that a fuel of this kind has most of the advantages of oil fuel as regards ease of handling and control when it is being used. My Department has been closely in touch with the Cunard Company, who have been good enough to supply us with confidential information with regard to the experiment which they have made, and they have also promised to let the Department have the results of the trials when these have been ascertained. I should like to take this opportunity of congratulating the Cunard Company upon their enterprise in conducting these experiments, but I would ask hon. Members to realise that the experiment as yet is only in its early stages. It would, obviously, be impossible for the Government at this stage to reach any decision as to possible directions in which they might be able to help the development of this new process. The fact that one of the main constituents of colloidal fuel is pulverised coal emphasises the importance of the work which is being done in connection with pulverised fuel generally. I do not expect that many hon. Members interested in the coal industry know anything of the extent to which pulverised fuel is now being used. The developments in that direction have been very considerable.

Another subject which has been calling public attention to this important matter lately is the use of compressed gas for motor transport. The idea of using coal gas as a fuel for high speed engines is not new. It is well known that for a considerable time this form of fuel has been employed by many of the leading motor manufacturers for running in their engines, and, further, during the period of the War coal gas was used to a very considerable extent for the propulsion of vehicles primarily designed to run on petrol. The gas was contained in large flexible bags usually housed on the roof of the vehicle. The results of the tests carried out at that time proved that satisfactory results could be obtained, and the thermal efficiency was of a very high order. Those acquainted with the subject will remember that the main difficulty which presented itself at that time was the limited capacity of the storage which resulted in the radius of the action of the vehicle being limited, but recent developments have tried to overcome that difficulty. They are designed to secure the supply of coal gas in steel cylinders under high compression, and it is the question of the strength of the steel which is one of the important elements in this matter.

During the last few years a considerable amount of experimental work has been carried out in Paris, and at the present time two large gas undertakings in this country are undertaking experimental work. The enormous development of motor transport represents to a large extent the creation of an entirely new demand for fuel, and should the experiments which are now in hand prove successful, they will offer to the coal industry the possibility of securing a share in this new demand. Apart from the technical problems associated with the new development, there also arises the question of the relative costs of coal gas under the conditions specified compared with the cost of petrol. At the annual general meeting of the Institute of Gas Engineers, which was recently held in the North of England, this subject was discussed at some length, and I would refer hon. Members who are interested to the Debate which took place. It is a development which obviously is of interest to the coal industry, and we shall watch it with every sympathy and encouragement.

I spoke just now of the work which we are doing. There are some people, I think, who assume that there is no Government organisation which has the responsibility of watching all that is being done in the country by way of experiment and getting into touch with it. The hon. Member suggested that we ought to watch, encourage, and stimulate. Really, that is what we are trying to do at the present time in our day-to-day work. There are two Government Departments at present charged with this responsibility. I hope that it will not be considered a dull contribution to this Debate if I explain what we are doing in this respect. There is the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research on the one side, and the Mines Department on the other. The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research is responsible upon the technical side, and the Mines Department is responsible upon the commercial side. The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research keeps in close touch with all research throughout the country, and also carries out its own research. It not merely collects the information obtained from other parts of the country, but it carries out its own research at its own fuel research station. The work which is done by the Fuel Research Station is brought under the review of the Fuel Research Board upon which is represented not only the coal industry and its ancillary industries, but also the Mines Department. The report of that Board is published every year, and it is an amazingly interesting document. I do not think that it is read as widely as it ought to be. That may be a point to be taken up later, but to anyone who is interested in this subject a very romantic story is told by these annual reports. In addition to the annual report, periodically as the circumstances make it necessary, there are technical papers upon the various aspects of the question. That is the work which is done on the technical side.

On the other side we have the Mines Department working in close association with them. We do not do technical work, but we seek to put the work which is secured as a result of scientific experiment into direct touch with the commerce of this country. I should be happy if any deputation from the House would inquire as to the steps taken from day to day in that direction. We make our inquiry, and see that the information is made available to those who are "up against it" every day in industry. If you take pulverised fuel, supposing a commission for which some Members are asking were set up, I wonder what information they could get more than we have got. I suppose that the first thing that such a commission would do would be to call the evidence which could be given by the various officials in my Department whose lives are devoted to securing this information. Some weeks ago we made an inquiry from all firms in the country using pulverised fuel, asking them to let us know the circumstances in which it was being used, and what they had discovered as a result of their own experiments. The provisional information which we have is of great interest, but that complete in- formation will be at the disposal of all who can make use of it. That work is being done, and hon. Members may be interested in what we have learned from the returns already received. The provisional figures which we have received indicate that about 3,000,000 tons of pulverised fuel are being used annually in this country, a much greater quantity than is generally assumed.

One direction in which in recent years oil has been substituted by coal is the heating processes in the metallurgical industry. It is believed that pulverised fuel can in many instances be as readily used as oil. The present inquiries show that progress in this direction is being made. In 1929 there were 17 undertakings in the metallurgical industry using pulverised fuel, and in 1931 the number had grown to 39. For technical advice in these matters the Mines Department is able, as a result of the close co-operation between the Departments, to secure the help of the Fuel Research Section of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research., so that there is no duplication of technical staff. As I mentioned just now, the Under-Secretary for Mines is also a member of the Fuel Research Board. This work is not done without considerable expenditure. The Fuel Research Board has a programme of research costing about £100,000 a year. That is the work which is being done, and do not know what work of a Commission would be comparable with it. Nearly the whole of the expenditure is concerned with the efficient utilisation and development of the use of coal and its products. When the Lord President of 5.30 p.m. the Council received the deputation from South Wales he said that the Fuel Research Board would be very glad to consider any proposals put before them and to carry out experiments if that course was justified. On the 13th June I had the opportunity of meeting representatives of the industry at one of their functions and I then gave them the same assurance.

There has been a very interesting development since I spoke in the House on the 3rd May. The Mining Association and the other coal trade interests, including the interests of the workmen engaged in the industry, have decided that steps should be taken by the industry to provide an organisation for research and propaganda in regard to the extended and progressive use of coal and its products. I had an opportunity of speaking to them at their first assembly and I said, what I think all hon. Members will agree was the right thing to say, that I regarded that decision as of first-class importance. I gave to them the assurance that had been given by the Lord President of the Council that the Fuel Research Board was not carrying out some academic inquiry which concerned no one, but was intended to be used by those who wanted experiments to be carried out. The work that is being done by this organisation, by the mining industry, and by the Government ought to be complementary and supplementary. I give it as my considered opinion, subject again to what may be the arguments used in this House, that the steady pursuance of this work, perhaps more extensive than hon. Members appreciate, from day to day, will have more effective results than the setting up of an ad hoc committee of inquiry will achieve by way of investigation.

Yesterday I had the opportunity of meeting some hon. Members of the House and they said: "It is all very well that this work is done, but there is not enough publicity. Whatever you may do in the fuel research station and elsewhere you may get your results but you do not 'get them across.'" As to publicity, there are advantages and disadvantages. The experience of the Government in the past has not been in getting publicity but in preventing undue publicity. Sometimes undue publicity relating to important experimental work has set back the hopes that had been engendered and which were not justified when the wider experience was secured. I have not spoken about these new experiments in any lyrical strain to-day, because it is not wise in the initial stage to speak with too great enthusiasm. We have had so many setbacks in the coal industry that I do not want us to rely upon hopes until we have a sure basis for them. I will give two instances where too optimistic publicity during the experimental stage was harmful. The development of low temperature carbonisation before it could be operated on a commercial scale was rendered very much more difficult a task for those who were trying to develop the process commercially on a sound basis by certain publicity which caused a serious reaction, because of the early optimistic reports of what was expected when it came into commercial practice. The result was that the work of low temperature carbonisation was set back for years.

The second instance was in connection with pulverised fuel. This process was making steady progress and receiving a great deal of attention from shipowners until, again by unduly optimistic publicity at too early a stage, it received a setback. One shipping firm converted one boiler of a ship for the use of pulverised fuel, and at the end of a single voyage they gave great publicity to the results of the experiment, claiming for it enormous advantages. They announced their intention of converting the remaining boilers of the ship for the use of pulverised coal, and that ultimately they intended to convert the whole of their fleet to the use of pulverised coal. They proceeded with the conversion of the remaining boilers of the one ship, but further experiment exposed unexpected difficulties, with the result that instead of carrying out their announced intention of converting the whole of their fleet, they reconverted the one ship to hand fuelling and ceased to take any interest in the process. Those are the two instances that I would submit to the Committee for their consideration. I think those who know a great deal more about the coal industry than I pretend to know would accept this as being a fair proposition, that when an experiment has reached a stage when it is a commercial success publicity is no longer necessary. The problem has largely solved itself when the question of commercial practicability has been settled. Publicity is then no longer necessary, because it will in those circumstances be able to find a very ready market.

I have spoken longer on these two questions than I had intended. I do not want anyone to get the impression that we do not regard this side of the work as of immense importance. The work of the scientist and the chemist is of vital importance. It was by their inquiries, carried on over many years, that what was regarded as waste has been turned into wealth. Coal tar was formerly a waste product. I was reading the other day in the Trade and Engineering Supplement of the "Times" of 4th June what was said by Mr. E. J. Grant. Speaking of what was a waste product not many years ago he said: Coal in the past has been regarded simply as a fuel. But science looks at coal as a progressive raw material. This angle of approach has led the scientist to find new means of treating it such as hydrogenation and low-temperature carbonisation, and to extract numerous products, such as synthetic resins, drugs, lacquers and wood preservatives, from that Aladdin's cave of industry, coal tar. Speaking to the coal industry some time ago, at one of their meetings, I said that the battle of the coal industry had to be fought in the laboratory. I hope that we shall be able to redeem some of our losses by our successes there. Some of the greatest battles in the history of the world have been lost in one part of the field and won in another. At the battle of Naseby, the Parliamentary forces on the left were swept away by the shock of Rupert's cavalry but the centre was sustained and saved by the indomitable Ironsides of Cromwell on the right. It may well be that that will be the experience of the coal industry. If we mean in this House to dwell upon the restrictions that are always being imposed upon us, the tightening of quotas abroad and so forth, the whole industry will be paralysed. Recognising these difficulties let us have the determination to overcome them. There is a hopeful sign in the direction of scientific investigation and inquiry, and it may well be that one man whose name we do not yet know may before long solve one secret that may mean everything for our coal industry. There are immense issues at stake.

The chemists and the scientists have the joy of discovery. It was that joy of discovery that made Archimedes cry "Eureka!" Here, however, is something more than the joy of discovery and that is meeting the needs of the country and meeting the needs of a great industry. We would like the scientists and the chemists, doing their work from day to day in many places through the country, to know that the Government and this House watch their work with great sympathy. It may be that they will be stimulated in their work by the knowledge that they may be able to do something that will lift the shadow of unemployment that rests upon thousands of the homes of their fellow-countrymen and that one man, by his persistent, unfailing work, may give a message of hope to the coal districts of this country. That is my hope. My desire is that as a result of our Debate to-day we may lay emphasis upon this side of the problem. Although at present I do not see that we should serve the cause by setting up a Commission, if I thought that would help us forward, I would give advice to the Government upon that line. I believe the best thing is to make the fullest use of the work that is being done, to see that it is co-ordinated and to send out some message of encouragement to those who may have in their hands the redemption of this distressed industry.

Photo of Mr Joseph Batey Mr Joseph Batey , Spennymoor

I want to express my disappointment at the speech of the Secretary for Mines. If the coal industry was in a normal condition, if miners were working for reasonable wages, if we had no unemployment we could very well afford to sit and listen to the sort of speech that we have heard to-day. We remember that miners are working for disgraceful wages, that there are 300,000 miners unemployed, and yet the Secretary for Mines has not said a single thing that would give encouragement either to the men who are working or to the men who are unemployed. He has dealt with the National Industrial Board, and has expressed the hope that under that board a voluntary agreement will be reached. If that is his hope, he might as well never speak about it again. If he believes that we do not need statutory enforcement attached to the National Industrial Board, then he had better cease to give attention to the question altogether. If he is going to depend upon a voluntary arrangement between the owners and the miners to make effective the work of the National Industrial Board, he is doomed to disappointment.

He also dealt with the question of the Commission considering collodial oil, but on that subject he left us in thin air. We had hoped in the past that we were going to get something from low temperature carbonisation that would help our people, that we should get some help from the hydrogenation process and something that would help from pulverised fuel, but we have got nothing from any of these things because we have had a Ministry of Mines that has been absolutely useless. We get no further forward. The Secretary for Mines to-day has shown himself hopeless in face of these new processes. He says that we must wait, and that something may turn up. We cannot afford to wait, because our people are in such a bad condition. For years we have taken the opportunity of raising this question before the Adjournment for the Summer Recess, in order to impress upon the House the necessity of something being done for the mining class. We have done that year after year but things have become worse. They are becoming worse every day, and they will become still worse. The President of the Board of Trade went to Newcastle arid said that by the end of 1932 things would be far better than they were at the end of 1931. They are going to be far worse; and the Secretary for Mines holds out no hope for industry so far as these new processes are concerned.

Nine years ago I went down to Greenwich to see the research station which had been erected. We were led to believe then that there was something in research which would help the coal industry, but we are no farther forward to-day than we were then, and all the money that the Government have spent on research might just as well have been thrown in the sink for all the help it has been to the industry or the mining classes. They are in the same poverty stricken condition now as they were nine years ago. Science has proved of no use to the industry. I regret the helplessness of the Department of Mines. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in 1925 proposed its abolition, and it was the miners' Members who saved the Department. We went to the then Prime Minister and impressed upon him what it meant to us. It might just as well have been abolished then for all that it has meant to the mining classes. It seems that we are to go on year after year without getting any improvement. I consider that on a mining Debate we should have not only the Secretary for Mines but a representative of the Cabinet on the Front Bench. It is not sufficient for Members of the Cabinet to be away enjoying themselves in Lausanne. [interruption.] Yes they are. The President of the Railway Union made a very sensible remark when he said: Our elder statesmen are luxuriating in Lausanne and the old guard of British statesmen will shortly congregate at Ottawa. The Prime Minister has scarcely been two hours in the House during the last 12 months. Either he wants to be away or the Conservative Members want to have him away. So long as he has an opportunity of taking the big chair and enjoying himself he has never troubled a little bit about this House. [Interruption.] I know that he has been an invalid. The Chancellor of the Exchequer suffers from gout—and then there is the Lord Privy Seal. We have a Cabinet of chronic invalids. And during all this time the wining population of this country is sinking deeper and deeper into poverty while the Government make no attempt to help them. The mining classes are in a worse condition now than when the Government came into office. I regret that the Secretary for Mines is content to wait until something turns up as a result of this experiment. I should like him to have taken hold of the matter, not wait until some company promoter comes along and takes possession; because if that happens the mining classes will get no benefit. If it is going to be a success, as we are told is likely, then we want the benefit for the mining classes not for company promoters.

In reply to a question the Secretary for Mines said that 19 collieries in Durham have been shut since 1st January this year and 7,360 men thrown out of employment. Those are the kind of facts which make us feel bitter with the Government as to the way in which they are dealing with this question. Twelve months ago the then Secretary for Mines, also in reply to a question, said that from 1924 until that date no less than 70 pits in the county of Durham had been stopped, and if you add the 19 pits which have been stopped this year it will be found that we are building up a colossal figure of pits stopped and of men unable to get work anywhere else. Yet nothing is being done. Let me say a word or two on the question of foreign quotas. The other day I asked a question on this matter and it was answered by the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department. I do not know why there should be several Departments dealing with the mining industry. We have the Board of Trade, the Mines Department and the Overseas Trade Department. Instead of having two or three Departments interfering in this question it would be much better if all questions were dealt with by one Department, the Mines Department, and it may be that the reason why we are unable to make any progress in regard to foreign quotas is because the question is handled by various Departments in this country. Generally, when we ask questions on this matter we are told that the Department is considering the matter; and week after week that is the only answer we can get. If we ask whether they have made any progress in their negotiations with France or Germany or Belgium the answer is that they are considering the question; and it is the same answer for many months. In a reply which was given last week concerning the German quota it was said: Negotiations are still in progress. His Majesty's Government will reply at an early date to the proposal of the German Government that the matters in dispute should be referred to arbitration. The reply which was given by the Secretary for the Overseas Trade Department to-day did not carry the matter any further. It seems to me that the Government should have sent an immediate reply to the German Government, which several weeks ago proposed to submit the quota proposal to arbitration. I cannot understand why such a long time is allowed to elapse before a reply is given. If the industry was in a normal condition there would be no need for hurry, but there is now every need for hurry and an answer should have been sent to the German Government long before this. No time should have been lost. An answer has not even yet been sent. Some of us have contended that the coal industry is being injured by the tariff policy of the Government and we have illustrated our point by referring to the reprisals of France, Germany and Belgium. Hon. Members opposite have disputed it, but the French restrictions upon the import of coal proves that they are due to the tariff policy of this country. Last August they were 100 per cent., and on 1st September they were reduced to 80 per cent., on 1st December to 72 per cent., on 1st February of this year to 70 per cent. and on 15th May to 50 per cent. On 15th May the Secretary for Mines said: The position was greatly improved by the withdrawal of the French 15 per cent. surtax on coal on the 25th February, 1932, and was further improved by the changes of 15th May, 1932, in the quota arrangements which made the position of British coal imports into France much less unfavourable, in comparison with coal imported from all other countries. The question of improving the machinery for the issue of licences is at present under consideration by the trade interests concerned."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th June, 1932; col. 1622, Vol. 267.] I do not consider that there is anything very beneficial to the coal industry in that. I hold that we are suffering because of the tariff policy 6.0 p.m. of the Government. I understood that tariffs were put on in order to be used as a bargaining power. If tariffs are to be used for bargaining, we cannot afford to wait until after the Ottawa Conference. It is quite clear that from Ottawa there is no prospect of anything that will better us. In the "News-Letter" of 25th June there appears this statement by the Dominions Secretary: Recovery in our export trade is vital to us, and even if the Dominions and all the rest of the Empire purchased from us everything they wanted from outside, we should still need markets in other countries. We cannot afford to enter into agreements, however favourable they might otherwise be, at Ottawa, which will cut us off from our foreign trade. Why should the use of bargaining power be delayed until after Ottawa. The condition of the industry is such to-day that we need to be in a hurry and we cannot afford to wait. One other subject with which I wished to deal is the prospect of new industries being started in this country. I maintain that the coal industry has no hope from any of the new industries. The Government have repeatedly said that as a result of our tariff policy hundreds of new industries would be started in this country. In the distressed area of the County of Durham not a single new industry has been started and there is no hope for Durham from new industries. I urge the Secretary for Mines to make up his mind to be something more than a mere cog in the wheel at the Ministry. He should make that Department some use to the industry so that it can be used to benefit the conditions of the mining classes.

Photo of Viscount  Castlereagh Viscount Castlereagh , Down

I would like to take this opportunity of paying my humble tribute to the Secretary for Mines. I am sure that no one works harder than he does in the interest of the whole industry. Furthermore, I believe that when his term of office is over we shall find the coal industry much improved. When I say, "improved" I not only mean that it will be improved effectively on the managerial side, but I believe that the relations between coal-owners and men will be much improved as well. I am one of those who believe that the relations between the owners and the men at, the present moment are much less strained than they were. I sincerely hope that that is so. But the men are earning very low wages and the owners are making heavy losses, and it is quite clear that anything in the nature of a stoppage would mean only the starvation of the men and bankruptcy as well.

I do not suggest that it is merely economic necessity that is drawing the owners and the men together. I believe that there is a general desire in all quarters in the industry to cut out strife that would break the industry in half, and that there is a desire on the part of the owners to make use of the machinery of the Coal Mines Act and to get the industry out of the realm of politics. Some of the public may think that the coalowners and the men are on bad terms. I suggest to anyone who says that, that he should go to the districts and see for himself. I believe that in the districts he would find the owners and the men working very hard to come to an amicable agreement. There is what I might call an underlying feeling of suspicion that has been going on for a great number of years. One side thinks that if it makes a concession the other side may take advantage of it and use it merely as a stepping-stone.

Unluckily disputes have gone on over a great number of years. I was reminded of that in the Debate on the Second Reading of the Coal Mines Act by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham). He told the House about the action of a certain ancestor of mine in dealing with a stoppage at his collieries. I agree that in the light of modern days the action of my ancestor could only be described as very deplorable. But he lived a very long time ago. I would remind hon. Members that he was one of Wellington's Commanders in the Peninsula War, and, frankly, I do not see that it is any use going back as far, except to point out that the employer is more enlightened to-day than he was 80 or 90 years ago. It is often said that the coal-owners are a stupid and reactionary body. Perhaps they are. In my humble opinion, and I speak from a limited experience, they are a great deal more capable than many colliery owners on the Continent and in America.

It is also said by some that they are making no efforts to work out details under the Coal Mines Act. People say they spend their entire time looking for new evasions. My own view is that the coalowners of Great Britain are well aware of what the Coal Mines Act means. They know that under the Act they have machinery to effect complete reorganisation and rationalisation of the industry. They know that if they make use of that machinery they will be able to meet with the men's representatives and keep the industry out of the realm of politics.

With regard to the first part of the Act, I have been told by my friends of the Mining Association that they are working very hard now in preparing a scheme whereby evasion can be cut out. We all know what harm is being done by a few unscrupulous owners in the matter of evasion. There is the combining of the sale of coal and cake, question of subsidiary companies, the manipulation of freights, and, worst of all, the manipulation of quality. There, to my mind, is a most fruitful field of activity. These irregularities make it very hard for the owners who are trying to play the game, to compete against unfair competitors. The Mining Association are working hard to effect a solution of these problems.

At the same time I am told that they are working out the details of a scheme by which co-operative selling on a more unified basis may be brought about. The Mining Association have seen in the past the exploitation by certain exporters before minimum prices were fixed. They see now what different results are brought about because the foreigner knows beforehand what is the minimum price for export coal. The Mining Association are working hard on a scheme to obviate those difficulties. They are working hard on other schemes which I need not quote. What I want to emphasise is that the owners are not shirking their responsibility. They are determined to make full use of the machinery of the Act, and are determined thoroughly to rationalise their industry.

So far, so good. But I would like to see the owners go a step further. I do not know how far their schemes have materialised, but I suggest this very important point, that they should meet Mr. Edwards and his colleagues of the Miners' Federation and ask for co-operation and help in setting up schemes. In my own colliery business when a point of interest comes before me I do not go and ask my fellow coalowners about it. I ask the checkweighman his view. I ask the view of the man at the face, the opinion of all concerned with the industry. In the same way cannot the owners as a whole get the advice and assistance of Mr. Edwards and his colleagues?

It is sometimes said that the owners will not meet the men, that it is impracticable. The owners are always perfectly willing to meet the representatives of the men, but what they have said in the past is, "We will not meet the representative of the men when it comes to discussion of wages on a national basis." It is a very good course to take a definite line on any special subject, but I say to the owners that if they are going to forego the advantage of setting up a joint committee merely because they do not wish joint discussion of wage agreements on a national basis, they are definitely in the wrong.

I have said in the past that I thought the miners had been badly led. It is no good going back to the past. I have said that I thought Mr. Edwards was an admirable leader of the men now, but to the owners I say that the man whom we regard as a good miners' leader is not always regarded as a good leader by the men. There are some leaders who make overtures to the owners and find them persistently turned down, and when they return to their men they are apt to find themselves a little unpopular, and some of their own young men would be glad to get rid of them. Quite bluntly I say to the owners, "It is all very well your saying what a splendid leader Mr. Edwards is, but that is not enough. You have to meet him officially and to invite his co-operation."

I have here the ascertainment figures for Durham, covering the wages for this month. They show that there has been a further fall of 8 per cent. In other words, the industry is only able to pay 29.5 per cent. of the basic rates, as compared with some 37.36 per cent. in the month before. That is a heavy falling off. As hon. Members know the minimum percentage is 65 per cent. and has to be made good. I regard the position as bad, about as bad as it could be. In summer, of course, the industry is in a lower state than in the winter. At the present time it is particularly bad. I say to the owners, "Our industry is in such a serious condition that we cannot afford to be inactive. Therefore get on with the work. Get in touch with Mr. Edwards. Invite his co-operation, and the sooner you do that the better it will be not only for the coal trade but for every member of the community."

Photo of Mr Duncan Graham Mr Duncan Graham , Hamilton

I quite agree with the Noble Lord that it is not fair to judge men of the last century by the conditions of to-day. What I did say about his ancestor was not intended as any personal reflection upon his relatives. I am glad to know that the Noble Lord has given some indication of being in advance even of the coal-owners of the present time, and I sincerely hope that he will be able to exercise considerable influence with his associates in the mining industry. I hope that he will endeavour to free their minds from the prejudice which they have to a large extent held up to the present time, with regard to miners and miners' leaders. I have had considerable experience in connection with that aspect of the industry and I would say, on the suggestion as to the miners' leaders urging stoppages of work, that the difficulty of the progressive member of the miners' organisation always was to get the leaders to agree to a stoppage of work.

I do not know, however, that the coal-owners are altogether to blame for their view of the miners' leaders, because most of their knowledge of the miners and miners' representatives has been gained through newspapers which very often reflect the minds of interests other than the coalowners' and miners' interests. I agree that the interests of the coalowner and the miner are the same, to a very considerable extent. I do not, however, agree with the Noble Lord in imagining that we can get away from politics. The coalowners take up the line that the Miners' Federation can and ought to free itself from politics. If they lay that down as a general principle in all discussions on the condition of the industry I am afraid that on those lines there is little likelihood that we shall come any closer together than we are at present. The coalowners themselves have never been out of politics. There is no capitalist section which has ever been out of politics and it is no use suggesting that the representatives of the workers should keep themselves clear of politics. We could not do so, even if we were willing, and personally I am not willing.

The Secretary for Mines said that he did not want to be lyrical on the subject of the mining industry, but if he was not lyrical, he struck me as being almost poetical. I do not know whether he believes in all he said, but, if he does, I fear it will be some time before he can carry the majority of hon. Members opposite with him. While he treated the subject rather from a lyrical standpoint, the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) treated it from a purely economic standpoint, and I suggest that hon. Members ought, to-morrow, to read the speech of the hon. Member for Don Valley. They will find in it a fair presentation of the miners' case. The main theme of the Minister was his desire that miners and owners should come together. He has had some experience now of the leaders and representatives of the miners, and he feels, I am sure, that they are thoroughly capable of putting forward an honest, decent fair case, and that they are not the type of men who are anxious to pick a quarrel which would be destructive of the interest and of the well-being of the industry. But I think they must be pardoned for holding the view that the mining industry is of sufficient importance to warrant national action being taken when it is in a state such as it is in at the present time.

It is the industry by which we live—not only those who are representatives here, but the men whom we represent. We meet those men week by week, we hear their complaints, we get their confidences to a greater extent than employers or managers. When I ask hon. Members to read the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley in order that they may learn how we approach the consideration of this question, from the higher standpoint, I would also ask them to pay some attention to the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey). He comes from a district which has suffered heavily in this depression. I dare say he would contend that it has suffered the brunt and is worse than anywhere else. On that point, however, I am bound to disagree with him. In South Wales exactly the same thing would be said.

As it happens, a committee representing Glasgow University—most of them professors, I believe—have been inquiring into industrial conditions in the South-West of Scotland. Their report has been published as a Blue Book by the Stationery Department and we find from that report that in the county of Lanark there were, in 1930, only some 59 men working where 100 were working in 1926. We find that 41 per cent. of the mining population there are no longer engaged in the mines. I do not know that there is any other district which has been more severely hit. The whole North-East Coast of England and Scotland, an area which largely depends on export trade, has had serious difficulties, but bad as the conditions were, up to last year those difficulties have been increased by the tariff policy of the Government. I am not questioning the fact that any number of hon. Members opposite honestly believe that the Government's policy in the long run will be of.advantage to the nation. I merely put it to the Committee that the policy of this Government has reacted more or less disastrously upon the mining industry which makes it all the more reasonable for us to ask that the Government should consider our case with the closest attention.

The general question, however, has been very well put by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley, and I do not wish to go over the ground which he has covered. There are one or two local matters however which I wish to bring to the notice of the Secretary for Mines. As I have said, we meet our members in the mining areas every week-end and hear their complaints and receive their confidences. I find there is considerable complaint in the County of Lanark on the question of ventilation. That is a subject which does not involve legislation but can be dealt with administratively, by the Department. I wish it to be understood that I make no reflection of any kind upon the work of the inspectorate. The inspectors do their work admirably and I want to put in a plea for an addition to the number of inspectors. The mining industry, as it is worked to-day, is not what it was a few years ago. The introduction of machinery, both in producing the coal and distributing it along the face to the roadway, has created problems which make inspection more necessary than ever. In the interests of safety we require more inspectors so that the pits can be examined more frequently than is possible under present conditions. If we had an addition to the inspectorate which would enable more constant examination to be made I feel certain that the question of ventilation would not be the trouble which it is in Lanark at present.

There is in operation in the county of Lanark to-day a system which is, I believe, illegal. That is the system of double deductions on the coal produced by the men. By agreement there is a certain allowance for dirt, or foreign material as it is described in the Mines Act, but I do not think it is legal to have two deductions. They are not entitled to have a certain allowance made on the tail board of the weighing machine and in addition an allowance of a considerable amount for dirt that cannot be seen. I am not sure that this matter is easily understandable by those who are not acquainted with the practice which is in operation but it is a very serious factor and is the cause of considerable disagreement between employers and workmen. If, as we believe, the practice is illegal, the mines inspectors can deal with it. If it is illegal no employer should be allowed to put this practice into operation as they are doing in Lanark.

I would also call the attention of the hon. Gentleman to the question of contracting. Possibly this is a matter with which the Department could not very well deal at the moment, but I draw attention to it because contracting is on the increase. On account of the growing mechanisation of the industry, more contractors are being employed and they are not always of the best character. In a number of cases recently men have found themselves deprived of their wages. The employer or the manager is responsible for the employment of the contractor. Usually the contractor is employed for the purpose of reducing rates and thereby reducing wages. Consequently a more or less unscrupulous employer does not pay very much regard to the character of the man whom he has employed as a contractor and it has happened in the Scottish coalfield that men have worked for a week or a fortnight and have found at the end of the time that no wages were forthcoming and that the coalowner refused to accept any responsibility. We think that he ought to be held responsible and if the Department have not the power to deal with that matter, they ought to ask for legislation giving them power to compel the coalowner, who is the ultimate and real employer of the contractor, to take responsibility for the payment of the wages to the men. These are all local questions of considerable difficulty in Lanarkshire and right through 6.30 p.m. out Scotland. My right hon. Friend the late Secretary of State for Scotland drew my attention to the difficulties that he was encountering in connection with the same matter in Fife, so that we may take it that this question is one that is creating a considerable amount of ill-feeling, and justifiable ill-feeling, among the men.

If the Department can do anything to put an end to practices of this kind, they will render a considerable service that will mean the men being more willing to meet the employers in a friendly spirit than is possible under present conditions. We, on this side, are anxious that there should he agreement, as far as is humanly possible, between the miners and the coalowners, but unfortunately we are not quite sure that the coalowners are, in many cases. If they were coalowners, then they would be equally interested with us in the matter, but they are not all coalowners. As a matter of fact, in Scotland and, I think, right throughout Great Britain, it is true to say that the persons who are in control in the mining industry are men who have a direct interest in keeping the industry in its present condition. They want to get coal cheap, and they do not care how disorganised the industry may be, so long as they can get coal cheap, because their profits are made in an entirely different direction.

I do not want to elaborate that matter, and I do not want to make any capital out of it. I am merely putting it that that is one of the difficulties that the industry is up against, and it is one that can be dealt with without foreign interference at all—I mean, in the sense of conventions held anywhere in Europe. It and most of the questions that we are putting here to-day can be dealt with at home, if there is that agreement between the parties concerned in the industry that is essential, and if there is the help given by the Mines Department which we believe it was formed for the purpose of giving. I hope, therefore, that as a result of this Debate the Department will take some courageous action, because courage, as my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley said, is the one essential at the moment. Let the Mines Department take its courage in both hands, and I have no doubt that the bulk of the Members of this House will give it all the support that is necessary to try to get this industry put into a sounder position than that which it occupies to-day.

Photo of Sir Godfrey Nicholson Sir Godfrey Nicholson , Morpeth

I do not quite agree with the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham). I do not know anything about Scotland, but I can assure him that, as far as Northumberland is concerned, there is not a single person in control of the industry there who is not only too anxious that the price of coal should be increased. I wish to associate myself with the speech of my Noble Friend the Member for Down (Viscount Castlereagh). There is every hope for the coal industry when owners coming from such distinguished coal-owning families take such a reasonable and broad-minded attitude. We listened to a very important speech by the Secretary for Mines. I do not refer to his remarks about new uses for coal and new fuel from coal; but I feel that at last the industry has had a lead given to it by the Government, arid at last the Mining Association has been told that the Government will use all their influence to secure the formation of a National Board or something Along those lines. Though I have no right to speak for anyone but myself, I wish to support the hon. Gentleman to the full.

It is very easy for any Member of this House to indulge, in criticism of the owners. They are not very strongly represented here, they are few in number, and on the whole they are unpopular and have forfeited the confidence of the country. I think it is rather cheap merely to engage in criticising them unconstructively. But I feel that the time has come when they should be told—for, after all, I think the worst accusation that could be made against them is that they have lost touch with public opinion in this House, in the country, and even among their own members—what is the feeling of this House, and I believe that the general feeling of this House is that the Mining Association must learn how to yield gracefully to the inevitable. They must learn what is the greatest lesson that any individual has to learn in life—when to cut their losses. That is the hardest lesson we have to learn and, I think, the most important. In my opinion, the principle of treating the industry as a whole, and nationally, has been conceded long ago, and I cannot do better than read the words of Mr. Peter Lee, President of the Miners' Federation, in the quarterly report that has just come out to the Durham Miners' Association. He expresses much better than I could what I mean, when he says: If the nation recognises the need for co-operation on a national basis for production and distribution, it must also in time provide for working conditions and wages to be considered nationally. That, in my opinion, is the crux of the whole situation. Further on he says something that may also interest the Committee: If the three parties who will have to undertake the task enter upon it in the right spirit, it is quite possible to arrive at a decision that will establish a far more satisfactory system to govern the coal trade than we have experienced for many years, for what has been found possible in other industries should be attainable in the mines. That, roughly, is what every Member who represents a mining constituency, whatever his party, is out for. I think we can assure the Mining Association that they will not find it a difficult atmosphere. Certainly I am at a loss to understand how it is that men on both sides who take such a reasonable point of view have failed to come together. I have the honour to number among my friends both the secretary of the Miners' Federation and many very important men in the Mining Association, and I repeat that I am at a loss to understand how men who individually, hold reasonable and broadminded views, when they form part of a deputation of five or ten, seem to lose all the breadth of view and all the sense of proportion which they have, and fail to give the industry a lead. The Mining Association must also be aware, as we are aware, of the feeling in this House. I think it has generally been conceded that the last Debate on the Mines Vote displayed a more reasonable spirit in every quarter than ever before. Then we had four days' Debate on the Coal Mines Act, and almost every speech then gave the hope that a reasonable attitude and spirit was entering into the industry.

I referred just now to the cutting of losses. I think that one thing, and one thing only, stands in the way of the Mining Association accepting the principle of national negotiations, not only on wages, but on general questions affecting the industry, and that is that the 1926 strike was fought over the question of national negotiations. It is very understandable, and I am not blaming them, but they are unwilling to say six years later that they will concede that principle, but they must learn when to cut their losses. To my mind, the future of the mining industry depends, not on new inventions nor on the laboratory. I think those things are too hazy. They are things that we may hope for, but it is folly to pin our hopes upon anything but the most unsubstantial and pious wish.

The future of the mining industry depends, first and foremost, on the implementation of Part I of the Act of 1930 and, secondly, on bilateral commercial treaties abroad. The Act, everybody agrees, is not being properly worked, and the question that I wish to ask the Secretary for Mines—I am sorry he is not here—is, What is going to happen during the Recess? We all know that the Mining Association are full of good intentions, but we also know that they need a very large majority—I think, 85 per cent. or something like that—to bring about any drastic changes in the organisation of the industry. What has to be done is quite plain. I am afraid there is a long list of very important things. Inter-district competition must be stopped; certain districts which I will not name must be forced to play fair with regard to carrying out the Act; and there must be some scheme ultimately introduced for the elimination of uneconomic pits. All this can be done under the Act.

Then there is the question of district marketing boards and export marketing boards. The suggestions put forward—I do not say that I stand for them or against them—in a book recently published by Mr. Merrett should be considered, and above all attention should he paid to the need for securing certainty of employment for those men who are in work, and securing that short time is not worked. Another matter—I do not know how it affects other coalfields, but it affects the one that I represent—is that I think there is too little inducement held out for piece workers. I think that datal men are too numerous, and there is very little temptation for the best men to become piece workers.

I must be honest with the Committee and say that I face the Recess with considerable trepidation. I have the honour to represent, roughly, half the Northumbrian coalfield. I suppose that we all think well of our constituents, but I cannot help feeling that I number among mine some of the finest miners in the world. They are going through a very hard time, and I want to know what I can say to them during the Recess; whether I can go down to them and say that the Government are determined to push on the work of re-organisation and the conscious planning of the industry, because I feel that that is the only way in which I can sincerely hold out hope to them. What will happen if the Mining Association fails to get a sufficient degree of unanimity or a sufficient majority for the proposals which their reasonable and moderate leaders are putting forward at the present time? Are we to wait till next Session before the subject can be ventilated again? Then, to turn to the export trade and Ottawa, are we to wait till the next Session, till after 15th November, when the present import duties expire and come up for revision, before negotiations are to be entered into with foreign countries? That is a very important. question. To my mind, they should begin immediately Ottawa is over.

There is one other question to which I should like to refer, and that is the effect of our tariffs and import duties on the coal industry. I want to be honest about it, and I think every Member of this House should be above treating it as a mere debating point, in any attack on or defence of the present system of import duties. I sincerely believe that in the main the reason for foreign restrictions on the import of British coal is largely that foreign mines—I refer to German, French, and Belgian in particular—are not working at full time and that their men are unemployed just like our own. The second thing is that they are short of foreign currency, or at any rate Germany is. We are the main country from which they buy foreign coal, and I regard it not only as natural that they should impose restrictions on the importation of all foreign coal, but natural that they should particularly discriminate against ours, because, to take the case of Germany, the only other foreign coal imported is from the Saar Basin, which they persist in regarding as part of Germany, and from Holland, with whom they have a commercial treaty. I honestly think that you will find 90 per cent. of the explanation of the foreign restrictions along those lines.

I have great faith in the Secretary for Mines. He has been compared with all sorts of people to-day, and in my own mind I hardly know who it is who is sitting there, whether it is Oliver Cromwell and whether I should greet him in Milton's words as

"Cromwell, thou chief of men"; or whether it is Edmund Burke, in which case I would have a far wider field of quotation; or whether it is Archimedes. I cannot help thinking of the latter, because among the remnants of my education I remember something about Archimedes' screw and the Amendment of hon. Gentlemen opposite is an attack or the Minister's "screw." All these three men were noted for their persistence, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that if he goes on with persistence, as he has begun, in defending the interests of the mining industry he will have the full support of every Member of the House, to whatever party he may belong, who has the honour to represent a mining constituency.

Photo of Captain John Dickie Captain John Dickie , Consett

I intervene in the Debate to press again the case of the exporting areas in the mining industry. In this industry, as I pointed out during the Debates on the Coal Mines Act, we are suffering to-day from the blunders of the past, and each and every day, particularly in the exporting areas, those blunders are compelling us to reap their bitter fruits to a greater and greater extent. With regard to the incidence of the Act of 1930, I should like to call the attention of the Committee to an interesting statement, which has had an apt and speedy confirmation during the last few days, made by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Slater), in the Debate on the 2nd June. He was pointing out the difficulties and disadvantages which this Act imposed on the industry, particularly in regard to finding capital and obtaining a return on capital by men who sought to put down large sums of money in order to give employment to large numbers of men, and he used these words: What is the position to-day? We sink a colliery with a possible projected production of 1,000,000 tons per annum and, when we have got to that point, we are told by the quota committee that we cannot produce according to our capacity, I know many instances where men have embarked on a capital expenditure of as much as £1,000,000. We go on and we sink pits and we are told, when we are striving our utmost to produce coal cheaply, to put in the most modern machinery and to create the greatest possible wage-earning capacity for the worker, that we must work at an uneconomic output."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd June, 1932; col. 1383, Vol. 266.] These are the words of one who is intimately acquainted with the industry and whose lifework it has been. In the last few days we have had confirmation from the chairman of one of the largest coal-producing companies—Pease and Partners, Limited. At their meeting a few days ago Lord Gainford spoke of the Thorne Colliery, one of the most modern and efficient collieries in the world, which took from 10 to 12 years to sink at a cost of £1,000,000. Owing to the depression in the mining industry, the company is in a parlous condition, the shareholders are getting very little return for the capital, and the workers are being daily paid off. The chairman said: The position of Thorne was greatly prejudiced by the operations of the quota, which prevented them from raising and disposing of the output, which they could readily do but for the restrictions placed upon them. That is only one instance. Instances are multiplying rapidly, and I am convinced that very shortly, by the mere influxion of time, it will be found that these quota restrictions and minimum prices are operating to the detriment of the mining industry to such an extent that they will succumb and naurally he swept away. Here is the case of William Cory and Son, another well-known firm: The company's export trade has been further handicapped by the curtailment of output and the fixation of minimum prices by the collieries under the regulations imposed upon them by the Coal Mines Act. That was stated only a week ago.

Photo of Mr William John Mr William John , Rhondda West

Are William Cory and Company producers?

Photo of Captain John Dickie Captain John Dickie , Consett

They are the biggest marketers of coal in the world. Is the hon. Member labouring under the impression that you can know nothing about the production of coal except by working in a pit? I thought that we had got rid of that fantastic fiction long ago. If the hon. Member thinks that, let him go out to Westminster Hall, and, as he passes through, stop at the brass plate where Warren Hastings was tried. Then let him go home and take down Macaulay's Essay on Edmund Burke, who was the greatest figure at that trial in spite of the presence of High Commissioners, of Indian Princes, and of men who have spent their lives in India. The man who knew more about India at that trial than any other man was Edmund Burke, who had never been out of England in his life. He knew more about its traditions, religion, races and characteristics than any figure at the trial, and it is nonsense to think that nobody knows about the mining industry except those who have worked at the pit. Perhaps the hon. Member will accept the statement of the president of the north-eastern branch of the Association of Colliery Managers, Who is the agent for Horden Collieries. Speaking only on Saturday last, that gentleman said: The Act had removed the freedom of working pits, destroyed incentive, knocked the heart out of colliery managers and discouraged all enterprise and development.… Unless some change is made in the Coal Mines Act of 1930, coal mining is a dying industry in this country. I impress on the Committee what he said next, for it is in reality the essence of the whole position, and shows the very severe restrictions and the dangerous handicaps that this Act has placed on the export trade in coal. He said: If minimum prices for export continue, there will be no trade left. These are only three instances. I do not want to recapitulate the arguments that I used in the Debates on the Coal Mines Act, but I would urge on the Minister, apart from any question of legislation, the vital necessity for pressing on the owners, if it be true that they can do this thing themselves with consultations and arrangements among themselves, the vital need of getting rid as speedily as possible of the restrictions in regard to the quota and minimum prices. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) pointed out that there were two ways round this competition; you had either to meet these people with the same weapons that they were using, or you had to enter into some form of international agreement. As far as I am aware, neither is being done. The Minister knows that I was for many years as good a Free Trader as he was, and those of us who have sacrificed the beliefs of a lifetime and who came forward to support the Government in the operation of a tariff, did not do it willingly or lightheartedly; we did not do it without thought and without a purpose. We did it for the express purpose of putting into the hands of the Government a weapon which would enable them to meet a situation of this kind.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

May I point out to the hon. Gentleman that it is to the bulk of imports that other countries are now taking exception, and if these minimum prices for export coal are removed and the prices reduced and more coal is sold by us, the immediate result will be to render more mines idle in other countries? That will result in our quota being reduced to the same figure, so that no reduction in minimum prices will enable us to sell a larger volume of coal abroad. We shall merely be getting less revenue for the same amount of coal.

Photo of Captain John Dickie Captain John Dickie , Consett

I do not agree with the hon. Member. I pointed out during the Debate on the Act that we have lost to other countries which had increased their export of coal while our exports of coal had declined. We gave the Minister this weapon in order that it should be used. It is not for me to say how he ought to use it, but I will make one suggestion in regard to the case of France. France is a great wine-producing country, and we import a great deal of wine, particularly champagne. They have just been celebrating the 250th anniversary of the man who put the bubble into it. We have heard a great deal to-day about Cromwell; the headquarters of the Mines Department is Cromwell House, and the Minister of Mines is a great admirer of the Protector. Let him, like his illus- trious predecessor, go down to history as a great protector; let him go down as the miners' protector, and, when Frenchmen say to him that they will not take our coal, let him say to them, "You take away that bauble!"

I want to reinforce the argument of the hon. Member for Spennymore (Mr. Batey). He recalled that the Minister had told the House that no less than 19 collieries had been closed in county Durham in the last two months. That is a serious matter. An hon. Friend whispers to me that an announcement of another mine closed has been made to-day. I regret that the Minister for Mines is not in the Cabinet so that this matter could be brought more closely to the notice of the Members of the Government. The Government seem to lose sight of the fact that as each colliery closes down in a distressed county like Durham it is made more difficult for the other collieries to carry on. This year the county has lost no less than the equivalent of a shilling rate, namely, £140,000, and the public assistance committee is budgeting for an increase for Poor Law relief of something like £170,000.

I view the possibilities of the Recess with the greatest concern, for I hardly know what is going to happen, and, to tell the truth, I do not know what I am to say to my constituents with colliery after colliery closing down, with trade declining, and with more men becoming unemployed and having no alternative employment in those distressed areas. I hope that the Ministry, the Mines Department, the owners, and the miners will come together. We are losing this export trade daily, and I want them to try and find out some means of retaining it. I hope that during the Recess they will get busy and find some means of keeping pits open. Hon. Members opposite are not the only ones 7.0 p.m. who realise the hardships suffered by the miners. Miners in my constituency are carrying home something between 30s. and 35s. a week for a week's work in the bowels of the earth. Do you think I am satisfied with it, or that any of us are? I want to see an improvement. We have to get a practical means for doing it and I hope that will be the task of the Ministry, the Miners' Federation and all parties concerned.

Photo of Mr Thomas Cape Mr Thomas Cape , Workington

I rise to take part in this. Debate with a good deal of diffidence after hearing the speech of the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. Dickie), because he insisted that those of us who had worked in the pits were not the only people who knew anything about the mining industry. No one claimed that. Although I have had long experience as a working miner, and as a miners' Member of Parliament, I do not know all the intricacies of the mining industry. I can quite understand that, being as ignorant as I am, the hon. Member for Consett will give me encouragement in the points I am making. I listened to what he said about the quota and minimum prices. I had the honour of listening to his speech in the last Debate, and it seemed to me that he has become obsessed with the matter and cannot help deriding quotas and minimum prices. He has put his point of view, and I will put mine. If you take the conditions in Durham and other parts of the country, this week-end we have at least 600 or 700 men put out of employment, which means a great deal to a small county. That is not due to the quota system. As a matter of fact, trade is in such a distressed state to-day that none of the collieries can even get rid of the quota to which they are entitled, so that the quota system will not affect the coal trade when times are bad, though it may have some effect when times are better.

Photo of Captain John Dickie Captain John Dickie , Consett

These two things must not be separated. It is the operation of the quota and the minimum price together, and I would like hon. Members to try to get out of their heads the idea that you cannot sell coal cheaply and pay high wages.

Photo of Mr Thomas Cape Mr Thomas Cape , Workington

I cannot deal with the quota and the minimum price at one and the same time. The minimum price, I quite agree, is connected with the quota system, but does the hon. Member realise that the miners' wages are corning from the price obtained for coal? The lower your price, the lower your wages. The hon. Member for Consett shakes his head. The wages in every county in Britain are determined by the revenue of the industry. Nobody can deny that. The lower the price at which you sell your coal, the less revenue comes into the industry, and the consequence is that the wages would be lower accordingly. I quite agree with the hon. Member when he does not want the miners in Durham to work for 30s. or 35s. a week.

Photo of Captain John Dickie Captain John Dickie , Consett

I have no desire to interrupt unduly, but. I really must point out that as an ordinary economic proposition you can pay higher wages if a pit is working at 95 per cent. of its capacity than if it is working at 60 per cent.

Photo of Mr Thomas Cape Mr Thomas Cape , Workington

That is not exactly an economic fact, though it may have an economic effect. The revenue that comes into the industry is the determining factor of what the wages shall be. If you sell at a low price, the less will be the wages of the men. That has been our experience. I advise the hon. Member to turn his attention in another direction for the solution of the problem. There are one or two points I should like to put to the Secretary for Mines. I think the time has arrived when the Mines Department should be a separate entity and a separate Department. It is to some extent controlled by the President of the Board of Trade, who is the controlling authority so far as mining legislation is concerned. It is true that the Minister of Mines can meet deputations and is responsible for certain regulations, and can put into operation things that may be advised by his advisers, but before he does that he must consult the higher authority, the President of the Board of Trade.

Photo of Mr Isaac Foot Mr Isaac Foot , Bodmin

indicated dissent.

Photo of Mr Thomas Cape Mr Thomas Cape , Workington

Very well, I am wrong in that. He has met deputations when we have been told that although the Secretary for Mines was quite prepared to do a thing, he must consult his chief before coming to a final decision.

Photo of Mr Isaac Foot Mr Isaac Foot , Bodmin

We are directly responsible to the House for the Mines Vote, and for matters involving the carrying out of Acts of Parliament which are committed to us for administration, and on those matters the President of the Board of Trade would not expect to be consulted, and is not consulted. If a broad question of policy arises in this House, especially in relation to foreign countries, then my right hon. Friend is concerned.

Photo of Mr Thomas Cape Mr Thomas Cape , Workington

When a question of legislation comes before the House the President of the Board of Trade will have to be consulted, so that the fundamental policy of the industry is entirely in the hands of the Board of Trade. The Home Office also has certain jurisdiction over other things. I suggest the industry ought to be put under one head, and that the Mines Department should be a Department of State.

I wish to make another suggestion that I have put to every Minister of Mines for the last 12 years, though they have all turned a deaf ear to it. There are new methods of mining which are now taking place, there is the introduction of machinery to a very much greater extent than in years gone by, and there are various questions which have been referred to in the Debate such as ventilation. I do not want to make any charges against the managers with regard to neglect of duty and so on, but I do say that the Coal Mines Act, 1911, is out-of-date. That Act wants reviewing, and an amending Act should be brought in to enable it to meet modern requirements.

Photo of Mr Dennis Herbert Mr Dennis Herbert , Watford

I hope the hon. Member will remember that he must not discuss matters which require legislation.

Photo of Mr Thomas Cape Mr Thomas Cape , Workington

I thank you, Sir Dennis, for that intervention, because I am afraid I was getting rather far from the Vote, but you have put me right and I accept what you say. The industry is in a most parlous state to-day. I think every Member of the House will realise that. We who come from the heart of the mining districts have seen the terrible poverty among those who live there. Hon. Members who go to their mining divisions very frequently see that hardship and poverty. I come from a mining district, and at the present moment I view the future with fear. I have been in the coalfields a. great part of my life, and I have seen it go through hard times and through dire distress, but I have always been able to see some prospects of a revival in the near future. At the present time, as far as I can see in my own district, although the percentage of miners unemployed is not quite as high as in some other districts it is something like 38 per cent. or 39 per cent., and I cannot see in the near future where these men can be absorbed at their own work. Therefore, I suggest to the Minister that the Government should give some attention to these mining districts in connection with the introduction of new industries which are starting in this country, because we have in those areas every facility. A chance should be given in those districts to the men who will never get back into the mining industry to find employment. There are all facilities, such as housing and railway facilities, for industry to come into that area, and if the Government would give some attention to that subject, it would help to relieve the poverty-stricken districts of the coalfields.

I realise that during his period of office, the Minister of Mines has always been very sympathetic to the pleas put to him, and has made a genuine attempt to bring the conflicting parties together with a view to trying to get them into a better frame of mind for the settlement of disputes. I want him not only to be strong and resolute, but to try as far as possible to use every power he possesses to bring the two sides together, so that they can sit down reasonably to consider what can be done. Both parties should take a share. If I sent a telegram from here to ask the Cumberland coalowners to meet me on Friday morning they would make every effort to do so, and we could discuss together the problems in our own coalfield. That is the general tendency all round; but once it is a question of national negotiations, then condition's change, though I cannot understand why. In 1921 a national Board was set up with Sir William Plender, now Lord Plender, as chairman. I was for three years a member of that Board, and we discussed all sorts of problems in connection with the mining industry as they exist to-day, except, perhaps, that the depression is now more acute than it was at that period. We went on with that National Board to 1926, and during the whole of those five years I do not think there was one area or district strike, because if districts would not agree the point was brought before the National Board, with its eminent chairman, and although the Board had not the power to lay down conditions it could advise and could bring the two sides together for consultation.

If the coalowners in the various districts can discuss problems with the men at district boards, surely, for their own sake, they should come together as a national body, in the same way as the men have got together, and deal with this mining situation from the national point of view. While it may be necessary for certain things to be undertaken locally, there are other matters which have a national significance and can only be dealt with nationally, either by a, board or through the medium of this House. To my mind it appears to be a case of the owners being suspicious of one another. But take the case of the miners. We are far from being angelic; everyone knows that; although we are not quite so bad as the Press makes us out to be, we are prepared sometimes to have a bit of a scrap with anybody who comes along. But the point is that the Miners' Federation is composed of men working in the mines in South Wales and men working in all the other mines right through the country up to the mines in the northern districts of Scotland. We disagree among ourselves, but after discussion we come to a certain agreement, and then, as a united body, we put forward our proposals either to the coal-owners or to the Government or to our own districts. If we, who have had nothing like the education of the coal-owners, and have nothing like the negotiating skill, can become a united body, why cannot the coalowners unite in the same way? If both sides in the industry have the responsibility of bringing the industry into a state of prosperity they ought to realise that they must first he united amongst themselves before they can he united as a whole. If the Secretary for Mines would direct his attention and his energies to bringing about that state of affairs he would go down to history—and I do not say this flippantly—as having done something serviceable and of advantage to the coal industry.

Photo of Mr John Slater Mr John Slater , Eastbourne

I cannot say that the Debate has reached a very high level from the point of view of furnishing constructive suggestions for the improvement of this great industry. Perhaps the most constructive speech to-day came from the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). We on this side, as Conservatives, may not often be inclined to support what a prominent Labour leader says regarding an industry, but on going through his speech point by point I am certain that, when we read it quietly to-morrow, we shall regard it as the most constructive speech of the day. The speech of the Secretary for Mines was very disappointing, to my mind, because he told us only two things. The first was that he is very desirous that greater use should be made of Part IV of this Act than has been the case up to the present time. In case hon. Members do not know what Part IV is I will remind them that it sets up a body of 17 members, including six from the Mining Association, six from the Miners Federation, and with representatives of the Federation of British Industries, the General Council of the Trade Union Congress, the Co-operative Union, and the National Congress of Employers Organisations, and having an independent chairman. The Secretary for Mines was also very anxious about the wages question, regarding the present situation as unsatisfactory, and I am prepared to associate myself with that view.

The Mining Association say they will not discuss wages on a national basis, and, as far as I can hear, they are not prepared at this juncture to discuss wages even in the districts. I have had a discussion with Mr. Edwards on this point, and I believe that the Miners' Federation, seeing the inevitability of trouble arising on this point at a little later stage, are prepared, if they can have a proper formula, to discuss even district committees and district settlements as, at any rate, a proposal which is constructive. As a Member of this House I would urge upon the coalowners to remember how much of their trade has been destroyed by the repeated trouble and strife of the last 10 or 15 years. They ought not to put off a settlement of this question until we arrive at the stage when people in this country, and more particularly those abroad, find themselves face to face with the possibility of supplies of coal being interfered with, because that will only accelerate the movement which is driving them to alternative sources of power, light and heat. These people will not lightly submit to an interference with their coal supplies just to satisfy the caprice of coalowners or miners. The point the Minister made on that is very well worth the attention of the coalowners and the Miners' Federation, and if Part IV can be brought into operation to secure a reconsideration of the whole of the problems facing the industry in addition to the wage question it will he of great value to the country 'and. to the industry.

What are the troubles we are facing? It is no use blinking facts; every Member must realise that the affairs of the coal industry are in anything but a satisfactory state. I have here the report of the Mining Association of Great Britain, who are endeavouring to Assist the work of reconstruction under Part I of the Act, and their admissions are astounding They say: The fundamental purpose for which the schemes were established was the attainment and maintenance of an economic level of price for coal so far as this could be secured by action within the control of the colliery proprietors. What have the coalowners been doing since this House, in 1930, gave them this protection and this facility? I agree that world conditions have accentuated the difficulties of the coal trade, And that the restrictions on imports imposed in foreign countries which produce coal have made it very doubtful whether the volume of trade with them could be increased, however low prices were; but in countries which do not produce their own coal the cheapness of supplies, in association with a high standard of thermal efficiency, will continue to decide contracts. All the countries which are buyers of coal, such as Scandinavia, the Baltic Provinces, South America, Italy, and the Mediterranean countries, will continue to be influenced by the price of coal; and therefore we have arrived at a stage when the difficulties which the coalowners are undoubtedly up against as regards foreign trade have been transferred from the foreign field to the home markets. Instead of endeavouring to obtain au economic price for their coal, such as would allow a fair return on capital and a fair wage to the workers, they have started, under the protection of recent legislation, to disintegrate the whole economic structure of the industry, and to fight each other by districts. It has become a question as to which district will, in a metaphorical phrase, sell its pounds at the lowest possible price.

What is the result? The Secretary for Mines and the Minister of Labour know it when they get telegrams or letters stating that such-and-such a colliery has seen closed down, and stressing the great hardship caused to some township which relies on that colliery. The effect of a colliery closing down is not confined to the men working in-it, but affects those engaged in many other occupations. Money revolves, and the pound which is set in circulation by the primary producer is responsible for creating ten times that amount of purchasing power before it finally ceases its momentum. Each district suffers a great loss in purchasing power, quite apart from the miners who go out of work. Not a constructive thought has been put forward for dealing with this disintegration of the whole industry such as can make us feel certain that we are grasping the nettle and facing our difficulties. Let me give one or two instances of what is going on. Suppose the price of a certain grade of coal—washed peas—is 11s. per ton in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, or Yorkshire. If that coal has to come up to London 12s. per ton has to be added to the 11s., which is the price at the pit mouth, to cover railway rates and wagon hire. If a Yorkshire colliery is desirous of meeting the competition in the southern consuming part of England, what can it do? It can bring the price down to 6s. 9d. at the pit, by shipping by Hull and Goole into London river.

When we last met, with all the solemnity that perhaps carried more conviction to hon. Members' minds than anything else, the President of the Board of 7.30 p.m. Trade standing at the Box said, "Gentlemen, if you do pass this Coal Mines Bill, there will be chaos. Prices will fall 2s, 6d. per ton." Why, within hours of his sitting down, what happened? I went to the Minister myself, and I said: "Here is the war started, between rail-borne and sea-borne traffic to the South, and as much as 7s. a ton reduction has come about." The railway companies serving the collieries in the Midlands, after two years of Rip-Van-Winkle ideas of meeting the situation, suddenly awaken to the fact that the great freight trunk-lines of this country are void of traffic and that they are missing the opportunity that they used to have of a virtual monopoly of sending coal to the South. They are telling the consumers and distributors in the South of England to-day: "What you want to do is to cut your price 2s. 6d., and the railway company will cut 2s. 6d. with you."

What is the end of it? It is that the gross proceeds of the coal industry are falling every day, and that wages are falling at the same time. We are marching on to chaos, and it is no use thinking that this question can be calmly set aside during the coming Recess. There are tens of thousands of people in this country who see nothing but a blank wall of despair. There is nothing in the proposals of the Secretary for Mines, except perhaps Part IV—if that is the extent to which he is going to tell us he wants to do something for the industry—and some scientific developments, which I am all for. It is not touching one tittle of the real question. What is the answer? What I said in May. What this industry wants without delay is an authority, couched in a co-ordinating body at the head, which will say to the coalowners in every part of this country: "You must stop this nonsense, and you must get together and face the question of what you sell your coal at, on a basis that will give a reasonable certainty that the industry will survive, and that the wage-earners will not follow you in the idiotic policy that you are pursuing."

That is the situation. What is needed is co-ordination at the top, as the hon. Member for Don Valley said. You want a body which can speak in the national interests of the industry. We are to-day a rambling mass of humanity going into the markets of the world, trying to sell coal against an organised pool like the Westphalian syndicate, with as much chance as a snowball has in Hades of getting anywhere near a chance of doing it. This point cannot brook more delay. We have no chance, unless we speak internationally of expressing the importance of what the coal trade is suffering from in this country. It is that those countries who have favourable balances, as a result of their trade with this country, are purchasing coal, with which we could supply them, from countries where they get no reciprocation. We have to impress them through the International Committee that we set up, that it is our coal that they must buy. We keep their humans alive by what we buy, and we have a perfect right to expect them to keep our humans alive by what they buy. That is a problem that no single coalowner can ever solve; it can only be done by co-ordination at the top.

The problem of the industry is how to harness the over-production in the industry so that its parasitical influence on labour and capital shall not be allowed to continue. That is the whole problem. The situation to-day is bordering upon the inevitable crash, in many important producing districts in this country, simply because we have not direction at the top. To say, when you are up against the economic trouble which besets not this industry alone, but all coal industries in every other country, that the best way of fighting is to make the cost of production dearer, seems bordering upon lunacy. You cannot possibly do it. I appeal to the Labour Members. They have an obsession that the quota system is something on to which they must hang, because they fathered it on to the House. With all the solemnity of which I am capable I ask the Labour Members to recognise that the only way in which industry can survive, when you cannot increase the gross income, is to reduce your expenses, and the only way to reduce your expenses is to put your output into the most efficient collieries. Then you can bring about something of which miners have been dreaming, better wages, and, as a paradox, cheaper coal for the consumers of this country.

That is what the quota system means. If that continues one more year, the Government will have to pick up the whole of the coal mining industry. There is no chance of a way out in that direction. It we have to deal with over-production, let us answer it with some adequate compensation scheme. That is the only way. You will have to do it sooner or later. You must do it by bringing about coordination between all the districts under one supreme authority. Let that authority fix prices as between the districts. Let us retain any benefits that the present Acts have given us, and build up, from whatever quotas have been established, better conditions in the industry. Let us remember that this important industry is playing, and will play, in the next five or 10 years, a very important part in our iron and steel industry, which has just obtained Protection to enable it to make good against the competition of the rest of the world.

We must get cheap coal, and if we see the progress of oil, gas and electricity we realise that. Every morning in the newspaper you come upon reports where, for instance, the Central Electricity Board says: "Here you are—4,000,000 units in 1913, and now 12,000,000 units." The Secretary for Mines says: "More scientific use of coal," but the Secretary for Mines knows, as I know, and as everyone in this Committee knows, that that means less demand for coal. The only way that coal can meet that is by cheap production. The Mines Department has the Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission as part of its expenses. The commission issued to the coalowners of the country about a fortnight ago a document, of which I have a copy, When I consider that it cost £90,000—£60,000 last year and £30,000 this year—it is the most puerile and extravagant document that I have ever read. It does not say anything, except, "What we were told two years ago we have come to the conclusion is true—that we cannot have compulsory amalgamation, and must go on in a voluntary way." That is all they say, except that they take some paragraphs out of one of the text books on probate valuation and they tell you the basis upon which colliery valuations should be effected. Maybe the Coal Reorganisation Commission have not had powers. I have said in the House before that they never had any real power. If this is the extent of their intelligence and constructiveness to bring about a better condition of affairs in the industry, then God help the industry! We must have something better than that.

I want to go on to another phase of this question, which has been touched upon in Committee to-day, and that is whether hydrogenation or low-temperature carbonisation shall be given the preference and, if possible, the financial support of the Government, at this stage in the history of the coal trade. My impression is that there is not a low-temperature carbonisation scheme in the world that is worth anything to the coal trade, but I have always been enamoured of the possibilities of hydrogenation. I believe that if that particular research were developed, with real enthusiasm behind it, it could become not only a powerful contributor to a bigger demand for coal in this country, but, in the present national crisis, one of the greatest contributors to bringing about an equalisation in our payments abroad. If that be the case, I suggest to the Secretary for Mines that it is the considered opinion of the coalowners, who have spent their money and time in this matter, that he should direct his attention and that of his Department to the possibilities that this research opens out. I believe that if he is persistent, he will without doubt accomplish within a very short time a great stroke for the coal industry of this country and for the National Budget.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

I was delighted to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Slater), and it would be very difficult for us to find any complaint with his conception and his grasp of the mining problem. It is very refreshing to find that a coalowner, and a coalowner Member of Parliament, can advance in this Committee views which have been expressed for the last 10 or 11 years by representatives of the Miners' Federation and by hon. Members who have represented mining constituencies. I am sure that he will have been well acquainted with my predecessor, the late Mr. Vernon Hartshorn. From 1921 forward, Mr. Hartshorn endeavoured, on behalf of the Ogmore constituency, and on behalf of the Miners' Federation, to advance the views that have been expressed in the very constructive speech to which we have just listened. In the OFFICIAL REPORT of the proceedings of this House that I have read, I find that Mr. Hartshorn was actually booed by Members of Parliament when he was dealing with this point of view. I found that certain persons who were then speaking on behalf of the coalowners and whom we know in South Wales, had not even an elementary knowledge of the mining situation.

Hon. Members will appreciate why some of us are impatient about what one continually hears in Debate from Secretaries for the Mines Department. I do not mean the present Secretary, for whom I have a great regard and of whose speeches in particular one cannot complain, but in regard to all the Mines Secretaries over a period of years. They will appreciate why the miners' representatives feel very impatient. The policy of the Government, as we see it, can be wrapped up in a few sentences. There was no problem confronting the industry during the War. We were not then faced with the problem of markets, which is now an important problem confronting the industry. Men, money and munitions were required. Munitions were the most important; for their production a smelting fuel was required; coal was the best fuel that we had, and, consequently, there was an enormous demand. Everything seemed to be quite plain sailing, and certainly it was so as long as the War continued. We know that, on the termination of the War, one of the greatest and most irrevocable blunders was committed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). We know that he terminated control of the industry, illegally; that, instead of retaining the industry within the purview of the Coal Control Department, and continuing to apply a scheme of planning to the industry, he permitted it to get into the chaotic state in which we have since found it.

We know exactly what the coalowners who were then dictating policy for the association attempted to do, and I am sure that hon. Members will forgive some of us if we speak with some authority about this matter. I was concerned in it at that time, as representing many thousands of men. Not a single agreement was made, not a single conference of any kind was held, in which I did not take an official part. We know that the dominating coalowners of this country knew what the hon. Member for Eastbourne has just ventilated quite correctly—that the export market was doomed so far as pre-War conditions were concerned. They set about propounding a policy in order to recover the maximum that was possible of the internal markets, and they did so by cutting prices. Prices dropped from fabulous heights—over £5 a ton in 1920, and £ a ton for material of which a substantial proportion was really rubbish. As a miners' agent, I can speak with authority on that subject. There was no screening, and seldom any washing. Millions of tons of this material were going to France, and it was expected that we should be able to retain the French market, after the War was over, with that dumped stuff which was really a scandal for the coal trade.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

I do not know whether the Government was responsible. We know that industrial and domestic coal came under the Coal Mines Limitation Act, and we know that the export market was entirely free from limitation, and that the fabulous prices obtained were pooled and gave wages and profits to the industry. However, the coalowners from that date set about a policy of cutting prices, and not until 1930 did that policy cease. Prices dropped from the figure I have mentioned, namely, £5, down to roughly 14s., which was the pithead price last year. It is true that they were able to accomplish their object; it is true that those who dictated policy were able to obtain the internal market for themselves; it is true that they drove the others into liquidation by selling coal at "scrap-iron" prices; and it is equally true that, having driven those others into liquidation, if they found they had potential assets, they bought up those collieries which had potential assets at "scrap-iron" prices. In the meantime, they have practically ruined the whole of the mining communities of this country.

Something has happened which they did not anticipate. They did not anticipate that this would cause a reaction upon themselves, that it would set up, not only internecine competition—which was really part of their policy—but European competition. They did not anticipate that Poland, for instance, would have a subsidy of roughly 6s. 4d., and that the whole of its coal would be carried free of freight from Upper Silesia into Scandinavia; or that Germany would be driven, partly by the Versailles Treaty, partly by reparations, and partly by this cut-throat competition, to adopt every possible method of conservation, such as using lignite for the production of its internal power and placing upon the export market its very best smelting fuel in competition with South Wales and the northeast coast. All these things were not contemplated by those coalowners. These things have happened, however, and these reactions are now falling upon them.

There are features for which they were not responsible, and I am sure that hon. Members present will pardon my stressing those cases. There are features that are above the battle, that really are not attributable either to the coalowners or to the miners at all. For instance, there was the War and what the War meant. The War meant that there was no sinking of pits, and no development. Outside the Doncaster area and Kent, there is no new coalfield in this country. From 1913 to 1923 no new shafts whatever were sunk, the seams were going further from the shaft bottom, the walking distance was; increasing, the productive time of the piece-worker was decreasing, the datallers in proportion to the piece-workers were increasing, and, consequently, the costs of production inevitably went up. All of these features are above the battle; they have nothing in particular to do with either the miners or the coalowners. But the coalowners who were really determining the policy were the people representing the efficient concerns—I give them credit of that—because it is only the efficient representative who obtains a voice. If he is inefficient, he is obliged to be silent, and, in face of all the others, he is never elected. Those concerns that were comparatively poor through striking geological ill-luck, through bad seams, or damp seams, in which there was heavy production of gas, were exploited by the efficient concerns in propounding their policy of cutting prices to obtain reduced wages and an increased length of the working day.

All these things they achieved, and still the industry is in its present plight, the worst plight which it has ever faced in this country. I agree heartily with the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. G. Nicholson). I really do not know how the miners can face next winter. I heard last Saturday that not a single colliery is working in the whole of the Ogmore Valley. One hon. Member who spoke from the other side displayed a good deal of bombast. I am sorry that he is now absent, but perhaps it is a good thing, because otherwise I should not be able to restrain myself at his presumption that people who have been in the industry all their lives know less about it than he does. He was incorrect in his statement, and he ought to have admitted it, but, instead of doing so, he presumed to chastise my hon. Friends in a bombastic way.

I disagree with the hon. Member for Eastbourne with regard to Part I. I would not stick to Part I if all the other features that he stressed could be placed in operation. Frankly, I do not look upon Part I as sacrosanct, but some of the most eminent representatives of the industry in this country—persons who cannot be ignored—speak favourably of Part I. In doing so they take, perhaps, the district point of view, and that is the unfortunate side of the mining problem. The industry has its adversities and its variations, but these are no greater as between district and district than they are as between pit and pit, or between seam and seam. Those who take a district point of view fail to appreciate that, if uniformity can be applied in a district, it can likewise be appled throughout the whole country. There are no greater variations between the British coalfields as a whole than there are between pit and pit, or even in the same pit. You may have one pit with as many as five seams of varying thicknesses and varying gradients.

I desire to support the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T'. Williams) and of the hon. Member for Eastbourne as to the necessity for a national board and for international co-operation. I stress Part I because at present it is the only lever that we possess to increase the revenue in the industry, and, unless we can obtain revenue in the industry, it is impossible to maintain wages under the present type of agreement, which provides that a certain proportion of the proceeds shall be allocated to profit and a certain proportion to wages. It is impossible to increase the revenue in the industry unless we can increase the minimum prices, or maintain the minimum prices at a comparatively high level. An export levy may be one of the greatest levers to bring 8.0 p.m. about the international arrangements which have been indicated by the hon. Member for Eastbourne. I think the coalowners in South Wales, who opposed it in 1930, are to-day certainly very favourable to it. Perhaps they Lave learned a lesson from bitter experience. Apart entirely from that, I stress a national board in order to get a national minimum wage, which will be one of the greatest factors in favour of something like uniformity of price. I look upon a minimum wage as being the only effective control that the miners have in the industry, and I am inclined to believe that the present variation of wages as between district and district is more than any other the factor that causes diversity of price. If in Scotland wages were something comparable to those paid in South Wales, we should not have seaborne coal carried to Bristol Channel ports in competition with our bituminous seams, closing some of our bituminous collieries. They import a large number of people from Ireland for the potato harvest and then re-engage them at preposterous wages in the collieries.

Photo of Captain Archibald Ramsay Captain Archibald Ramsay , Peebles and Southern

Which collieries is the hon. Member speaking of? Has he any proof that they are using the Irish potato workers in the mines? Is not cheaper production due to the fact that the industry is 30 per cent. mechanised in this country and 70 per cent. mechanised in Scotland?

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

There is something in that, I agree, but we have reports from our members in Scotland, and I deduce from them that that what they say is correct. I agree that machinery plays a significant part, but the people who are engaged in the potato harvest are re-engaged in the mines, and we have had complaints that they are not paid anything like decent wages. But the point I am putting is that variations of wages as between district and district enable one district to compete against another. A national minimum wage should not be less than 1914 plus the equivalent of the cost of living. If that became the national minimum wage, administered through a National Wages Board, anything beyond that, whether in basic rates or in piece rates, would be matters that would concern the individual districts. There are many features of autonomy that could be applied in the individual districts. This to me is the only line on which something like substantial advance can be made.

Scientific and technical achievement is about the only hope that civilisation has. If in any sense my confidence is sometimes a little impaired, it is because technical and scientific achievement comes within the purview of vested interests and is not used for the national welfare. I certainly place my faith in hydrogenation among other processes. I am informed that hydrogen can now be produced at a comparatively low price. Although we have faith in scientific achievement, at this juncture it is the co-ordination of the industry that really matters. We are faced with a contracting market, and it seems rather suicidal that at this juncture we should be trying to throttle one another by cut-throat prices. There is no means to save that except some kind of national co-ordinating machinery, leading ultimately, we trust, to unification. We do not mind whether it is unification under private enterprise. We are not concerned about the designation of the thing. We are concerned with our people really having the chance to live. If finally, under unification, private enterprise completely collapses, logical and reasonable men ought to face up to the only other alternative in which we believe, and that is the socialisation of the means of production and distribution.

I sincerely trust that the Secretary for Mines will face up to these things. We are disappointed with what he had to say about the efforts of the Welsh Members in trying to elicit from the Lord President of the Council a commission of inquiry to deal with the relationship of coal and oil and the synthetic treatment of coal. We do not believe that the Department has done all that it could do in this regard, and we are convinced of that, because it has had to compliment the Cunard Steamship Company on its efforts. With all the agencies that it has at its disposal, with the brains that it can command, and with the data that it possesses, it ought to be able to precede anything that could be done by a private company. Why should the Mines Department follow private enterprise in one phase of business?

Further, I should like to put a few questions. I should like to know the amount of coal that has been displaced by oil in the Navy and the mercantile marine and in industrial and domestic use. We cannot get a commission apparently, but we want some data. Technical journals are throwing this, that and the other into our faces every other day, and we find it very difficult to get reliable data in respect of these things. We should like to know the amount of coal that can be used where oil is now used. We should like to know how much financial assistance would be required to establish large-scale plant to deal with the synthetic treatment of coal, and whether the Government are prepared to face up to the financing of these things. You will not obtain any finance from private enterprise. There are very few men in the country who have any confidence in the coal trade and they are not prepared to speculate in this way. There are very few men who are prepared to do anything except put their money into gilt-edged securities. Whatever may come of these treatments of coal, we cannot help to develop them on a large scale, and we are asking the Government how much it would cost and whether they are prepared to do it.

Photo of Mr Isaac Foot Mr Isaac Foot , Bodmin

What treatment in particular?

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

Particularly hydrogenation. The other experiment is going on with the Cunard Company, and I understand the Department are watching it.

Photo of Mr Isaac Foot Mr Isaac Foot , Bodmin

In touch with it.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

Perhaps it will be less necessary to deal with that phase of it, though we should like to know what can be done in that regard. We believe an export levy to be essential to help to bring some revival to the export trade. A national board is essentially necessary in order to co-ordinate all the conflicting elements in the industry, and a minimum wage in order that it may become a determinant for uniformity of prices. They will vary as per quality and as per class. Anthracite will not sell as steams, and steams will not sell as bituminous or house coal. Prices will vary, but wages will be a great unifying factor in each. Further, improved wages will of themselves mean an increase of purchasing capacity. That will bring something like solace to the mining communities, which are faced with despair. That is the gravamen of our case. We are hoping that the Department will face up to it. We trust that the Department will not look upon the termination of this Debate as the end of our protestations or agitations. I have here a report of university students who have been to South Wales, and they say there are 30,000 miners there who can never be reabsorbed. That is the state of affairs we are faced with in our constituencies, the self-contained communities where there is no outlet for the people to obtain alternative employment. I should be out of order in dealing with the means test and all the contemptible things that are being done to destroy the manhood and the very souls of our people in the coalfields. I hope the Minister of Mines will reply cogently to the questions we have put and will, with all the zealousness, sincerity and enthusiasm that he possesses, face the gravity of the problem and help the mining communities.

Photo of Captain Richard Evans Captain Richard Evans , Carmarthen

I intervene in the Debate in order to repeat to the Minister the questions which have just been put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. Williams). There is much I should have liked to have discussed relating to the milling industry, the need for international agreements and the question of quotas. There is much information I should have liked from the Minister with regard to the possibilities of employing on a larger scale Part I of the Act, and to the present position in respect of the representations made to him and to his Department from all sides of the Committee concerning the hardships of those suffering from silicosis and anthracosis. I will pass these things by, because in the two Debates practically the whole ground has been traversed with great competence by hon. and right hon. Friends across the Floor. I will therefore content myself by stating the position with regard to the deputations referred to by the Minister in his opening statement.

The first deputation to the Lord President of the Council arose out of the desperate conditions in Cardiff and in South Wales, and it embraced almost every phase of life in the industrial community. Shipowners, coal exporters, mineowners, representatives of the Miners' Federation, the whole community were welded together in making representations to the Lord President of the Council. It is some 10 weeks ago, and there is the gravest disappointment—it might even be described as a mute kind of anger—in South Wales that no reply has been given to the very urgent representations. It was a request that the Government should institute some sort of inquiry either by a Royal Commission or a small Select Committee. I do not think they were particularly concerned as to the form of the court of inquiry, but they wondered whether, seeing the export market restricted beyond all hope perhaps of expansion, with electricity and oil fuel taking the place of coal, something could be done within the ambit of our own capacity to increase the demand for coal. They made a request to the Government to inquire into the possibilities of the Navy reverting from oil to coal. Frankly, I think they made their appeal on rather too narrow an issue. I do not think that a subject of that character is one which lends itself to the kind of inquiry a Royal Commission is equipped to institute. At the same time, what really did matter was that South Wales was united—every phase of the industrial community was united—in pleading with the Government for action.

I can well understand the Lord President of the Council or the Minister for Mines on behalf of the Government turning down such a request. I think that the deputation, seeing that they were composed of men of substance, of outstanding ability and achievement, deserved a rather larger measure of courtesy than was meted out to them. Anyhow the Welsh Members, again representing all parties, those who are loyal supporters of the Government, those who are equally invincible opponents of the Government and those who like myself might be called selective supporters of the Government, combined and again made representations. We did not insist upon any set form, but we wanted an inquiry into the larger issue of the scientific utilisation of coal. I think that the Minister rightly made a rather mild protest that the unofficial conversation which Members of that deputation had with him last night had been described in the Press as a formal deputation. No one who was present believed that it was other than a friendly conversation with regard to the possibilities of the situation. If any hurt has been caused to the Minister by the publication of the matter, I think that an apology is due to him, and I am sure that I can speak on behalf of all those Members when I say that no harm what-ever was intended. We apologise to him.

Photo of Mr Isaac Foot Mr Isaac Foot , Bodmin

I have not the slightest complaint to make, but I thought it was necessary to make a correction. There were some protests from the country, and I wanted to make it clear that no decision was asked for or given.

Photo of Captain Richard Evans Captain Richard Evans , Carmarthen

I think that it would have only postponed the protest from the country by 24 hours, because the speech of the Minister this afternoon was clearly indicative of a refusal by his Department to recommend investigation. I believe that the greater part of his speech was a justification for his refusal to recommend a Royal Com- mission. The protest was simply brought forward 24 hours. I believe that the protest would have reached him tomorrow morning with equal facility and anger. The Government in speeches in the House, when we have been discussing the coal problem or any industrial problem, put up the case of the world situation; and we are told about restrictions of international trade and currency dislocation and so forth. I seriously suggest that the country is getting a wee bit tired of these lectures on the international situation. The country is asking for a Government not of people who can see through things but who will see things through. I do not think that it is proper to have specific industrial problems of this country brushed on one side by a reference to some cataclysmic event on some other side of the world, by talk of dislocation and so forth, and for you to say: "Oh, well, once you settle your Reparations problem and the problem of international debts things will begin to hum again." No one has been paying on account of Reparations or international debt for over 12 months, and the situation is no better.

I suggest that the time has come to take up these specific issues. I am conscious of the need of having an international background, and I appreciate the potency of international factors, but we who represent South Wales constituencies are not prepared to be fobbed off upon the question of an inquiry into the scientific utilisation of coal. I want to know if it is a fact that the only thing which stands in the way of a large-scale production of motor fuel by means of hydrogenation is one of whether the particular trade concerned specialising in the process should have extended to it something like the Trade Facilities Act. It is common knowledge that to produce on a very considerable scale a substitute for the petrol which is brought into this country from overseas would cost something like £7,000,000. What are we paying on account of transitional benefit and public assistance in the mining areas? How much money has been squandered in the last few years in investments in derelict undertakings? Money for Austria, money for Hungary and for all the small countries of South-East Europe. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been available to enable other countries to remain on their feet. Far be it from me to deny that it is the duty of Britain to help other countries to remain on their feet, because they are potential markets, and I have not become insular in the matter of finance, but if these hundreds of millions of pounds are available, surely we are not asking too much when we ask for a guarantee of £7,000,000 to put one of the basic industries of this country on its feet.

I do not want to know about research. I have a tremendous respect for the scientists of Britain. I think they are the finest scientists in the world. They are not as flashy as the scientists of other countries, but for solid investigation, steadily moving forward from hypothesis to test, steadily moving towards the horizon of realities, we have about the best equipped body of scientists in the whole world. I would not for one single moment cast any kind of reflection upon the scientists who are members of the Fuel Research Board or of the General Industrial Research body. I am not making any charges, but I do seriously suggest that the research mind is very seldom the most dynamic mind when it comes to policy. I could show the Minister a considerable number of reports by the Fuel Research Committee. He will be told that a certain retort yields a certain result. He will find a description of the retort and an analysis of the products. I can show him one report, which is in my locker now, which contains this sentence: We are not competent to express an opinion as to whether this is a commercial possibility. The only thing that matters to the mining community is whether a certain scientific process can be made one of commercial possibility. With regard to colloidal fuel, the Government were directly engaged in this matter years ago. In 1918–19, when our oil supplies were menaced in consequence of the submarine attacks on tankers and it was necessary to economise in the use of oil, the American Submarine Defence Association and the British Navy undertook large scale experiments in colloidal fuel. Why were they dropped? Was it because of the sudden enthusiasm for having a holding in the Anglo-Persian Company? Was it because of the development of a vested interest in the Middle East? Why was the very encouraging result which had been achieved during those experiments suddenly abandoned? With regard to hydrogenation, I seriously suggest without making any reflection upon the Research Board, probably the best equipped, scientifically, in the world, that this is no longer a matter of chemical research, no longer a matter of laboratory tests, but a matter of Government policy. We do not want to know what the board thinks about the I.C.I. Hydrogenation process. What are the Government prepared to do to utilise that process in order to provide work for many thousands of unemployed miners? It has become a matter of Government policy.

I throw down a challenge to the Minister. Hydrogenation as a process for supplying the bulk of this country's requirements in the matter of motor fuel depends no longer upon scientific investigation but upon the Government's policy. A large number of issues of that character are in need of investigation. Before the Government give their "no" to the representations made to them for some sort of inquiry to bring hope again to many of these rather gloomy areas, I want them to think once, to think twice and to think thrice before they turn down the suggestion made to them by people who are desperately anxious to see the prosperity of the industry restored. I want them to consider again, and I want the Minister to consider before he makes the final recommendation of his Department to the Cabinet, whether the issues are not really far too big to be fobbed off by a eulogy of an excellent scientific body. The Government will receive not from one party, not from one class in South Wales but from the whole community very severe censure unless they yield to the representations made to them to grant us some form of inquiry into the scientific utilisation of the nation's coal resources.

Photo of Mr Gordon Macdonald Mr Gordon Macdonald , Ince

We have had three speeches from the South. One of the speeches from the South of England, which was made by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Slater), was exceptionally pleasing to us on these benches. I never expected to 8.30 p.m. listen to any hon. Member for Eastbourne making such a contribution to the mining problem. There was very little in his speech with which any of us on these benches dis- agree. There were certain portions of his speech to which we might have taken exception but, as a whole, we were almost in entire agreement with it. The same remark applies to the last two speeches. We felt in regard to the hon. Member for Eastbourne's speech that he appreciates the problem. We sometimes doubt whether coalowners appreciate the problem, but we have no doubt about the hon. Member for Eastbourne, after his speech to-night. He made it clear that his conception of the coal problem was very much akin to ours. I should like to thank him for the well deserved compliment he paid to my hon. Friend the Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) for his opening speech. Whoever heard that speech will agree that the great compliment was well deserved.

We asked for this day to debate the mines question, for obvious reasons. In winding up the previous Debate the Minister told us that he would go into the suggestions that had been put forward. and see what could be done. We thought that nine or ten weeks was a reasonable time for him to have made up his mind on some of those suggestions, and we thought that we ought to give him an opportunity to say what he thought of the suggestions. The hon. Member for the Don Valley said that it was an opportunity for him to show his courage. I realise that the present Secretary for Mines has courage. There is no need for any Debate to be arranged in order for him to satisfy me that he has courage, but I think he needs more courage than he has shown. There are certain Members of the present Government who will compel him to take a certain stand, a very definite stand, and I am afraid that they will require him not only to accept a reduction of salary but to lose his salary if he is going to see through what he thinks ought to take place in connection with the coal industry. He will find very serious opposition inside his own Cabinet. Knowing the Secretary for Mines as we do, we are anxious to give him all the encouragement to stand for what he considers is the right method of handling the industry.

Some things have happened since the last Debate which have occasioned us a little uneasiness. We were not altogether impressed by the Debate on the Mines Bill. We had reason to doubt whether the industry as a whole would pursue a better course in the future than it has in the past, and we thought that we ought to give the Secretary for Mines an opportunity of proving that some of our fears as to what might take place were groundless. For instance, we feared an indefinite postponement of ratification of the Convention. I appreciate the case put forward by the Secretary for Mines. We also feared that there was a tendency to minimise the importance of Part IV concerning the National Industrial Board. We on this side place tremendous importance on that aspect of the question. We feel that Part IV ought not to be amended, but as negotiations are going on we have no desire to hamper those negotiations. We want an effective Part IV which will prevent in 12 months' time districts being locked out because they refuse to accept a reduction in wages. We do not object to Part IV being amended if it gives us that security.

The main importance of all Debates on the mining industry is to make it better for all engaged in it. The Secretary for Mines has told us that he is afraid that the policy pursued during the last few years may endanger the industry itself. We are anxious therefore to prevent that and to secure a restoration of prosperity. He complained, and I thought rightly, that the hon. Member for the Don Valley asked him to do more than he had power to do. I am not asking that. All we ask is that the tremendous powers vested in the Secretary for Mines should be utilised to the full to make conditions better for all engaged in the industry and for the consumers of coal as well. I regret the absence of the hon. Member below the Gangway who seems to pose as a great authority on the mining industry and who when he has delivered his pompous speeches always makes a bee-line for the door.

As regards Part I, we in Lancashire are naturally in a different position from the exporting districts. We realise the advantages which have accrued to Lancashire from Part I and the disadvantages which may have been suffered by some of the exporting districts. I have been reading a speech delivered by Mr. Joseph Ramsden, Chairman of the Manchester Collieries Limited, on the 25th June. He said: Part I, as doubtless you know, deals not only with the regulation of output but also with prices, and has been in operation since 1st January, 1931. The operations of Part I have during the last 18 months undoubtedly benefited this company and have, in our opinion, prevented a disastrous drop in prices. Nevertheless, the Act as it stands to-clay has many defects. And this is his reference to the exporting districts: We see no insurmountable difficulty in dealing with Part I. Let us take the exporting districts compared with the inland districts. Provided that safeguards can be made that the exporting districts should not demand extra quota because their exports go up, we see no reason why the inland districts should not contribute a levy to subsidise the exporting districts to enable them to recover their trade; but it is obvious that if the inland districts help them by a subsidy to increase their exports the inland districts must have a corresponding increase in the share of the home market. There you have the director of the biggest amalgamation of colliery companies in Lancashire stating quite definitely that Lancashire has benefited from Part I, that he is afraid that the exporting districts may have suffered, and also stating that to the extent they have suffered he is prepared to suggest that the inland districts should help the exporting districts out of their difficulty. I hope that such speeches as this will not he overlooked by the Secretary for Mines. My hon. Friend the Member for the Don Valley emphasised the fact that there is no longer any problem of production. The Secretary for Mines need not waste a minute on that aspect of the problem. The problem now is one of distribution and utilisation; and they should occupy the whole of his time. In regard to the problem of a central agency to deal with distribution, Mr. Ramsden in the same speech from which I have already quoted, dealt with the costs of distribution; and it is a passage which the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), who is always delivering tremendous speeches on the importance of increasing prices, should read. He said: I do not advocate the indiscriminate raising of prices, even if it were practicable, but, as I told you last year, there are many directions in which economies in distribution can be effected, and I look forward to the time when very much closer co-operation will exist between the collieries and the distributors. I am glad to think that the matter has not escaped the notice of owners and distributors, and that already certain discussions have taken place, and I say to you that drastic reforms are needed. The cost of distribution, not only of our commodity but of all commodities throughout the country, requires the fullest investigation. In the main the cost of distribution remains far too high, and the differences between the cost of production of most commodities and the selling price to the consumer are too great and require the close attention of all industrialists. We ask that the Secretary for Mines should bring pressure on the coalowners and distributors in order to show that the manner in which they are handling the coal produced is most unfair to the producer and consumer. Whoever touches coal, after coal has left the pit-top, gets more from it than anyone who touches it before it gets to the pit-top. We hope, and with justification, that the Minister will use what pressure he can bring to bear on this very vexed problem. I know that the reorganisation and amalgamation question has been treated with something approaching contempt by some Members of the House. I have here a publication that I am constantly getting through the post—I have not yet bought it—the "News-Letter," the National Labour Fortnightly. If those behind this have any Members in this House why do they not say a word or two on the mines problem sometimes? Why keep informing us of their attitude towards the mining problem by sending this publication to us free of postage? This is what the "News-Letter" says: In the meantime one aspect of the present Bill must not be overlooked. It will afford the industry an opportunity of giving a fair trial to the far reaching schemes of reorganisation set on foot by the Labour Government.. Thus we hope to see the Reorganisation Commission which was appointed under the Act of 1930 expediting the amalgamations of which the industry still stands in such need. It is time the same Acts national wages boards were effectively in operation. We may perhaps add that the new Secretary of the Miners Federation, Mr. Edwards, has already shown welcome and genuine powers of leadership in his handling of this question. The finest compliment that can be paid to a leader is sometimes to accept some of the suggestions that he makes. I am very pleased that the Secretary for Mines disclaims any responsibility for this publication.

Photo of Mr Isaac Foot Mr Isaac Foot , Bodmin

I do not know who wrote the article. I cannot be responsible for what is said in any paper that is published. The hon. Member looked at me so hard.

Photo of Mr Gordon Macdonald Mr Gordon Macdonald , Ince

I am very pleased to know that. We are anxious to know who is behind this publication. We never thought that the Secretary for Mines was, and he tells us that he knows nothing about it. On this question of amalgamation I have another publication which is very interesting. It happens to be by a member of the Reorganisation Commission. He tells us of many advantages which will accrue from amalgamation. It now remains to consider this summary in relation to the avowed objects incorporated in amalgamation proposals which have been submitted to the Railway and Canal Commission for confirmation. They are:

  1. (1) Common buying and selling.
  2. (2) Standardisation of equipment.
  3. (3) Joint pumping, drainage and power generation.
  4. (4) Elimination of barriers and adjustment of boundaries.
  5. (5) Regulation of production in relation to demand.
  6. (6) Pooling of wagons.
  7. (7) Common technical and research organisations.
  8. (8) Fusion of retail depots and office staffs.
  9. (9) Financial regulations."
The document is entitled: The Yorkshire Mine Workers' Association. The need for Reorganisation in the Yorkshire Coal Industry. By Joseph Jones. When a member of the Reorganisation Commission gives to the world particulars of nine substantial advantages that will accrue from reorganisation and amalgamation, his statement should carry some weight and should show that the contempt poured upon this proposal by some Members of the House is unwarranted. We have heard a lot also about what is to happen in the future. There are one or two questions that I want to put to the Minister. We are a little bit concerned about Ottawa. We are not in any way holding the Minister responsible for the policy at Ottawa, but the hon. Member for Neath (Sir W. Jenkins) a few days ago asked the Lord President of the Council whether he would see that someone directly representing the coal industry was at Ottawa to safeguard the coal industry, and the answer was that there would be people there who would look after the interests of the industry. We are very dissatisfied with that answer. We very much fear the consequences of any rearrangement of trade at Ottawa at the expense of endangering the future of the coal industry. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), in a very powerful speech on the Vote of Censure, said: Let me take the example of the coal trade, which is of vital importance to this country. Taking the first four months of 1930 and 1932, the export trade fell from 19,500,000 tons to 13,000,000 tons. The sole Dominion exporter on any scale is Canada, apart from the Irish Free State, which imported about 750,000 tons, so far as one can find from the trade returns, Canada in 1930 took 118,000 tons, and in 1932, 200.000 tons. That is a mere drop in the ocean. How are we to revive the coal industry in this country by taking away or diverting trade in, say dairy products, from Scandinavia to New Zealand? Scandinavia is one of the best customers for British coal. Practically all the British export coal is being sold either in South America or on the Continent of Europe. To take coal as an example, how are we to arrange any tariffs whatever at Ottawa which will in any way assist the development or re-development of the coal export trade of this country? On the other hand, they may have a vitally detrimental effect upon that trade. Trade channels which are naturally aligned between this country and Scandinavia, or any other foreign country, may be diverted by arrangements with regard to certain goods, with the result that the coal trade will lose its customers without any corresponding advantages.We should like to know, particularly as regards the coal trade, what ideas the right hon. Gentleman has as to the possibility of any compensating advantage at Ottawa for any diversion of trade from countries which are at present absorbing our coal. That is a matter of prime importance."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th June, 1932; cols. 528 and 529, Vol. 267.] We would like to know what ideas the Minister has as to the possibility of any compensating advantages at Ottawa for any diversion of trade from countries which are at present absorbing our coal. That is a matter of prime importance. The mining industry is of vital importance to the country. It has suffered tremendously for years on end. The Secretary for Mines made that very clear in presenting his Estimates. I will conclude by quoting a few sentences from his speech: The man who keeps them all going by his work, who has made possible practically every victory of British arms in the last century, who has made possible the going to and fro of the ships upon the sea, the man who, day and night, has been face to face with peril, is very often forgotten. He is literally taking his life in his hands, and often, unfortunately, has to work for a pitifully small wage."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1932; col. 985, Vol. 265.]

Photo of Sir Reginald Clarry Sir Reginald Clarry , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

I would like to carry the Committee back for a few moments to the subject of an inquiry or commission into the wider utilisation of coal, and to associate myself with some of the observations made by hon. Members in different parts of the House. I regard this as a matter of national and entirely non-party interest. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. R. T. Evans), who concluded a very able speech by remarking that the Minister was antagonistic to the idea of an inquiry or committee. I rather concluded that the Minister was receptive of something of the sort, if it could be proved to him that something would come out of it that would be of advantage to the coal industry. I would like the Minister to appreciate that what those who have spoken on this subject have in mind goes far beyond the subject of utilising coal for the purposes of the Navy. It has developed beyond such bounds and goes into all kinds of phases. I would like to draw attention to this point. Although, as we are all aware, there is a considerable amount of data at the Ministry, although we have the results of the work which has been carried out by the Fuel Research Organisation, and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, although the carbonising industries have got a lot of information and private industries have also done a great deal of research and experimental work, yet there is no means of collecting and co-ordinating all that data for the purpose of presenting it to the coal consumers of the country in a form in which the information can be easily assimilated.

It is with that object in view that we ask for something in the nature of an inquiry or commission. Personally, I do not mind what form it takes as long as the result is the collection of this information so that it may be put before the coal users. The Secretary for Mines referred to gas and petrol used during the War in motor vehicles and the comparison between the two, though he did not give actual comparative figures, and he then promptly referred us to a conference of the Institution of Gas Engineers for information upon the subject. That is exactly the sort of information that we want to have provided by this commission or inquiry or whatever it may be. To be quite frank the position in this country is that we have a vast quantity of imported oil coming in every year. In 1930 we spent upwards of £40,000,000 which was sent abroad for imported oil. Last year the amount was less, probably owing to trade depression. The oil is marketed in this country by expert salesmen with a spectacular commodity and there is no corresponding reply to them.

I think it is reprehensible that the coalowners have not the requisite propaganda for dealing with this situation. As a result of that expert salesmanship to which I have referred, good British money is going out of this country and British capital, in the form of collieries, plant, and the requirements associated with the transport of coal, is lying idle, causing immense unemployment, not only among miners, but in other industries. As the work is not being carried out by the coalowners themselves, who are the proper authorities for the purpose, I want the Government to regard themselves as custodians of our greatest national asset, namely, coal. It is the basis of our industrial activity in every sphere. On those grounds alone there is cause for urging upon the Minister that something ought to be done in the direction that I have suggested; and if he does not agree with the idea of a commission, some other means of collecting the requisite information ought to be brought into existence.

As regards publicity and drawing the attention of the coal consumers to the situation, the Secretary for Mines said that publicity might be over-9.0 p.m. done. I quite agree, but the case which he gave of premature publicity in connection with a low temperature carbonisation process was not publicity for the purpose of selling coal or the products of the process. That publicity was "put-over" for the purpose of getting capital into that company, which is quite a different proposition. I do not think that we can give enough publicity to the value which is to a large extent lying dormant in this country, because we do not utilise our opportunities of presenting the situation to the coal consumers in the proper manner. I am aware that any propaganda in favour of the wider utilisation of coal necessarily involves the question of greater efficiency in the use of coal, and such publicity might, at first, have the effect of reducing the consumption of coal, but if its ultimate object is to reduce our dependence on imported foreign oil, which is a vital matter, then I think that would be a very great object to achieve.

From the Minister's remarks I take it that he is not unreceptive to some proposal of this kind and perhaps he will consider the suggestion that his Department might without increasing State expenditure—for we are all out in these days for economy and not for extending Government Departments—do the very work which we want done and achieve the object on which we are insisting; I use the word "insisting" advisedly. If the Minister feels that he can do this work with his existing Department and staff, I shall be quite happy, but there must be some reply in this country to the expert salesmanship of imported oil if we are to protect our own interests. We should have wider publicity, coordinating technical and commercial information and reasons, and giving comparisons of fuel values—all put in easily readable form, and not in volumes of 200 or 300 pages which ordinary commercial people cannot be expected to read. If such information were made available it would be a great service to the country, and I feel confident that if we embark on some measures of that kind without delay we shall recoup ourselves by the increased consumption of coal and the greater prosperity arising therefrom.

Photo of Mr Charles Brown Mr Charles Brown , Mansfield

I have no wish to follow the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Clarry) nor do I propose to enter into the general questions raised in the course of this Debate. I wish to refer to one or two matters specially affecting the area from which I come. I represent a mining constituency in what is supposed to be a favoured part of the British coalfield as compared with the North-East Coast or South Wales, but we are beginning to feel very severely the depression which is now spreading through the coal industry. In addition, we have troubles of our own. In the admirable survey of the industry which the Secretary for Mines gave on 3rd May he referred to the inspectorate and described the duty of the mines inspector in the following words: The real duty of the inspector is not to be the prosecutor. He is not there as a potential prosecutor. The inspectors are not there as the outposts of departmental inquisitions. The inspector is there for the purpose of friendly consultation and assistance, so that his experience and his acquired skill can be at the command of the whole industry, owners and men alike." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1932; col. 978, Vol. 265.] I do not think that anyone would be disposed to quarrel with that admirable description of the functions of a mines inspector. The hon. Gentleman said, of course, that that was the ideal relationship between inspectors, owners and men, but it is notorious that we all fall far short of the ideal and I think we may include inspectors as well as others in that generalisation. Far be it from me to make any general condemnation of the Mines Inspectors, and perhaps the matters to which I wish to refer may be due to the abnormal conditions obtaining in the North Notts coalfield in particular. Those conditions were referred to in the Debate on the 3rd May by my hon. Friend the Member for the Broxtowe Division (Mr. Cocks). If workmen are to preserve anything like decent standards of life and working conditions, some form of organisation is necessary to protect their interests. Those interests cannot be left, in this competitive system, either to the philanthropy or to the humanitarianism of employers, and I am prepared to grant that the conditions in Notts are rather abnormal.

We have in the county some 50,000 miners, of whom perhaps 10,000 are in an organisation known as the Miners' Industrial Union and perhaps another 10,000 are in the Notts Miners' Association. The remaining 30,000 men in the county are unorganised. I do not wish to express any dissent from the general sentiment in regard to co-operation between the men and the employers, but in Notts we have a very curious kind of co-operation in one of these organisations. In the Minister's speech on the 3rd May, he called attention to the steadily increasing mechanisation of the industry, and reminded us that in 1931 we had 77,000,000 tons of coal cut by machine, as contrasted with 24,000,000 tons in 1913. In addition to that, 47,000,000 tons of coal was transported underground in that year by mechanical conveyors. It is obvious that this process of mechanisation is revolutionising working conditions, and I do not wish to express any dissent from the principle of throwing increasingly the burden of the world's work on to machines, but everybody knows that with hand-got coal the conditions of those who had to get it were slavish in the extreme, and we are told by the men who are now working in places where mechanisation is taking place that the conditions are more slavish still. As this process goes on, there inevitably develop circumstances where, if the men have not the protection of strong organisations, their conditions become more slavish than ever.

On the 16th June I asked the Secretary for Mines a question about a particular colliery in Nottinghamshire where overtime had been worked by men on conveyor faces since the re-opening of the colliery. It was closed a fortnight from the 5th April, and the answer of the Minister was that, of the 2,207 employés at the colliery who were given notice on the 5th April, 1,283 had been re-engaged, and 61 were at that date under notice. I put some supplementary questions, but one cannot deal with a matter like this in that way, and that is why I am raising it now. In the case of those 61 men to whom he referred, I had in my pocket a letter telling me that those men had been interviewed by the manager and had been told that unless they joined what is known in our area as the Spencer Union, their work would terminate at once. I know that technically that may not be a breach of the law, but all the men who were re-engaged at that colliery after the supposed reorganisation were compelled—there is no other word that I can use—to join this organisation as a condition of re-employment; and the 61 men who had failed to do that were called into the office and told that unless they did join that organisation, they would be dismissed.

That has had another reaction. There was trouble at this colliery after the 1926 strike or lock-out. On that occasion a check-weigher was appointed against the wishes of the men employed, and he was removed from his illegal appointment by an injunction that was taken out by one of the men employed at the coal face, and the check-weighers whom the men desired were allowed to function. They functioned till this colliery was temporarily closed a fortnight from the 5th April last. Four days after the colliery had closed down, a small, packed meeting, consisting of no more than 70 men, called illegally—the notice was shorter than the Act required—appointed a new check-weigher, displacing the two men to whom I have referred. I think I have a right to ask the Secretary for Mines if he will not see to it, as the administration of the Check-weigh Acts is under his control, that these Acts are carried out in this area in strict accordance with the law.

I return finally to the question of overtime. The Minister asked, when I put this question, if I would give him specific facts, and my answer is that I could give names and dates and places, but, frankly, I tell him that I dare not do it, because if I did, the men involved would be dismissed at once. Consequently, I think we have the right to ask the Minister to see to it, in regard to overtime under these new conditions in some of these collieries in North Notts, that the regulations applying are not broken, because I am convinced—I have indisputable evidence—that it is going on, and I have every right to ask the Mines Department to check these illegal practices.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

I have been trying to get in all day, and I represent hundreds of skilled men about the collieries of this country, namely, the engineers. The hon. Member who has just sat down touched a point to which I shall be unable to do full justice, and that is the mechanisation of the mines. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) asked the Secretary for Mines to increase the inspectorate about the mines. The men whom I represent are all out for that, and I submit that the new inspectors ought to be men who have had training in engineering, because of the danger to life due to the slackness, as far as engineering is concerned, in the fitting-up of conveyors, the working of coal-cutters, the working of wire ropes, etc., down below where nobody sees it. A lot of slipshod work goes on which would not be tolerated if it were seen, but it is not seen because it is down below. I want the Secretary for Mines to have regard to that fact when he is appointing new inspectors, and to see that they have some knowledge of engineering. My trade union, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, are prepared to send a deputation to the Minister to explain the position to him. The chief complaint comes from their members in South Wales.

The hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. G. Nicholson) and the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. Dickie) deplored the fact that they were afraid to face their constituents during the Recess. What are they afraid of? They are afraid, because the Government have done nothing for the miners. The conditions of the miners are worse. It is all very well to pay tribute to the Secretary for Mines. Every Secretary during my 11 years in the House has had tribute paid to his sincerity, ability and determination, and the same tributes have been paid to the present Secretary. I could pay tributes to the hon. Gentleman as a man, but that is not the point. The question is, what is the policy of the Government? What are they going to do? it is no use year after year paying tributes to the Secretary for Mines. We should worry him and get him to go before his Cabinet to let them know the position—that is, if he has these outstanding qualities. I have challenged every Government in my time with lack of courage, and I am told to-day that at last the prophet has arrived and that he is a man of courage. We will see; they who live longest will see most.

The hon. Member for Consett seemed to resent it because my colleagues on the Opposition benches tried to say something to him. He is like the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). Nobody dares say a word when he speaks. It is a case of "Let no dog bark," and it is developing among the undergraduates now. I want to tell the hon. Members for Morpeth and Consett that we on this side speak for the miners more than they do. We are having a miners' demonstration in Consett shortly, and the miners have selected the Leader of the Opposition, the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), Sir Charles Trevelyan, and your humble servant as the national speakers. They have not chosen any Liberals or Tory speakers. That is because at the last General Election the Liberals and Tories hoodwinked the working-classes. When the next General Election comes they will never be back here.

What are the Government going to do with the tens of thousands of young miners, strong, vigorous virile men, than whom there is no finer material in the world? They will never work as miners again. What is the Secretary for Mines going to do with that problem? What have the Government done for them? They have reduced their unemployment benefit. From all parts of the House Members are fond of saying how gallant the miners were during the War, and that there were no abler and truer men than they; yet here is how the Government treat them. They are starving them in every coalfield in Britain. We say that they should be taken out of the means test. There is no way out but that which has been advocated from these benches, and preached by us throughout the country for years. The Minister should go to the Cabinet and let them know that there are tens of thousands of miners who will never work again. He cannot find work for them. The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs could not find work for them, and he was given the sack and his job was done away with because he could not find work for them. The Government have tried and failed. There is no work far them to do. Therefore, we suggest that the Minister should go to the Cabinet and say that the way out is to give a £1 a week to these men, with 10s. for their wives and 5s. for each child. The Minister can come here and be as nice, as suave, and as obliging as he likes, but that will not alter the situation. The only way out is to increase the purchasing power of the miners, both those who are unemployed and those who are working.

Photo of Sir Adrian Baillie Sir Adrian Baillie , Linlithgowshire

I only intervene at this late hour because I would like very much to support certain views which have been expressed, and, in particular, that put forward by the Noble Lord the Member for Down (Viscount Castlereagh) in regard to what the attitude of the coalowners should be in the very near future. I have listened very attentively to the speeches which have been made, and I feel myself to a large extent in agreement with the speech of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) who moved the Amendment. A notable speech was also made by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Slater). I found in all these speeches a general consensus of opinion that there must be some form of co-operation from the top. I listened with feelings of expectation to the speech delivered by the Secretary for Mines, and I thought I detected in that speech the possibility of a new departure in the policy of the Ministry. I also agree with the speech of the hon. Member who said that he was disappointed at the results achieved by the Ministry since its inception. I have always felt that if the Ministry was going to justify its existence, it should be to a very large extent capable of being a guiding influence to the industry as a whole. I thought I caught a slight indication in the speech of the Minister that in the future, instead of attending to the mere details of a Government Department, he and the Ministry were going to devote their attention to the broader needs and interests of the coal-mining industry as a whole, and, furthermore, that he had in view the necessity of constant efforts in the direction of anticipating the causes of trouble in the industry.

In that regard, I feel that the Minister has put his finger on a very probable cause of trouble and dispute and of possible stoppage in the industry in 12 months' time. In the meantime, additional points have been brought up in a discussion in the House this afternoon. There are new scientific methods in the industry for utilising coal which should afford opportunities to the industry to rehabilitate itself. Reference has been made to colloidal fuel which has recently been tried out on the steamship "Scythia," the reports upon which seem to be entirely satisfactory. If these new methods for the utilisation of coal are going to be seized by the industry a long period of peaceful adaptation to these new conditions is essential. We in this House all remember the 1926 stoppage and the disaster which that stoppage was not only for the coal industry, but for the country as a whole. I fear that a similar stoppage which might occur in 12 months' time might very well put another 250,000 miners permanently out of employment. I cannot help saying that, to my mind, the 1926 stoppage was entirely unnecessary. It was the result of silly and even criminal obstinacy on both sides, and I am alarmed lest another manifestation of such short-sighted obstinacy should lead us to-day into another 9.30 p.m. stoppage in 12 months' time, For instance, I feel that the owners' refusal to nominate six members on the Coal Commission's National Industrial Board under Part IV of the 1930 Act is nothing short of a foolish evasion of their responsibilities. There has been much doubt expressed in this House as to why the owners should have so refused to come in under Part IV of that Act. For my own part, I do not believe they are afraid of meeting the Miners' Federation; I believe that they are much more fearful of meeting each other. However that may be, I feel at the moment that the failure on the part of the owners to regard the industry as a whole must almost certainly lead to trouble and jeopardise the employment of hundreds of thousands of miners in the industry. I am not, to use a common expression, particularly sold on Part IV of the 1930 Act. I realise some of its provisions may be restrictive or too binding, and I am prepared to sympathise with the owners when they dislike to operate provisions which they think have been ill-drafted, but in any case it is the fact that Part IV is unworkable because of the attitude of the owners.

I submit that some other means of reaching a basis of agreement should be found. I think a national round table conference as between the Miners' Federation on the one hand and the mine-owners on the other is essential if peace in the industry is to be Maintained. At the present time it is the fact that mass psychology is being built up among the miners, and in mining districts throughout the country that psychology can only be checked if the owners show reason. It is within my personal knowledge that the leaders of the Miners' Federation to-day are as anxious as any human being could be to keep peace in the industry and to secure a reasonable agreement, but how on earth is it possible to expect the leaders of the Miners' Federation 'to persuade their men to come to some compromise when they have already adopted a slogan which merely represents a one-sided point of view. We all remember the famous slogan of Mr. Cook: Not a penny off the pay, not a minute on the day"— and we remember the results of that. I submit that once mass psychology has a hold and some such slogan as that is in the minds of the miners, not the most reasonable miners' leaders in the world would be able to call their men off without a fight. Therefore, I suggest to the owners in this House as well as to those outside that if they persist in their obstinacy and in holding aloof, then necessarily the men in the industry will be forced to form their own ideas without adequate guidance.

Photo of Mr Cecil Pike Mr Cecil Pike , Sheffield, Attercliffe

Does the hon. Member really suggest that the owners in the country should abolish entirely the settlements with the districts in order to go back on a national basis of agreement so that they may elect six representatives to serve on the committee under Part IV of the Act? Does he really suggest that the owners working under district agreements can appoint these six without alteration or differentiation in the present position.

Photo of Sir Adrian Baillie Sir Adrian Baillie , Linlithgowshire

In reply to the interjection I say teat I suggest nothing of the sort. I submit to the coalowners that there is no necessity whatever to upset district arrangements and district agreements, but that there is an absolute need for a national board or conference where both the owners and the miners can sit round the table, and that that board should be responsible for guidance, cooperation and advice. The owners have nothing to lose by coming together and discussing their difficulties with the Miners' Federation, but they have everything to lose by opposing that suggestion and by helping to bring about in twelve months' time a stoppage which may well become inevitable unless they are prepared to soften their hearts, and, in a spirit of reconciliation to discuss their troubles with the Miners' Federation in order to find a solution. To my mind that is the only way in which peace can be secured in the industry.

Photo of Mr William John Mr William John , Rhondda West

I understand that it is desirable that a vote on this question should be taken at about half-past 10, and therefore I rise to make a closing speech in the Debate from this side. In view of the wide range of subjects covered and the high character of the Debate I feel there is no need for the Opposition to apologise for having asked for this Vote to be put down to-day. There has been a tremendous change in the character of this Debate compared with previous ones, and probably the Secretary for Mines is largely responsible for the departure. In the past it has been the practice to give a resumé of the conditions in the industry, the Secretary justifying either the expenditure or the saving of his Department, giving us an outline of the reports of inspectors of mines regarding accidents and adding a little homily to the miners on how to prevent accidents in the future. To-day, in addition to a consideration of the safety aspect of the question, there has been a very comprehensive survey of the mining industry in its economic, technological and commercial aspects, together with its future possibilities and probabilities.

Not much has been said this evening regarding safety in mines, and it is not my intention to deal with that phase of the question in detail, not because we do not regard it as important, but because it was largely covered in the last Debate. We agree with the Secretary for Mines that it is very gratifying to find that accidents in mines have been reduced in comparison with the immediately preceding years, but at the same time the number of accidents is. still very alarming. In 1930 there were 859 fatal accidents, 3,304 serious accidents, and 140,000 accidents involving absence from work for more than three days. When we consider that the average number of days worked in the mines is less than five per week— 4.58 to be precise—we find that 588 accidents took place daily, or 80 for every hour worked. Fourteen men were seriously injured every day and four fatally injured. Two were killed or seriously injured every hour of the day. That is a very serious toll in one industry, and the miners who are called to face these tremendous dangers are amongst the worst paid of workers. Evidence is not wanting to prove that the low wages paid at the present time are in some measure accountable for these accidents. The inspector of mines for South Wales stated quite definitely in 1929 that in his opinion the only explanation of the rise in the accident rate was that the low wages might have had an effect on the vitality and the alertness of the men. He said: I myself have personal knowledge of the fact that some men have been going to their work insufficiently nourished and such a state of things will not conduce to that sense of vigilance which is necessary to those conducting haulage operations. That is a terrible condemnation of an industry and a system—that the miners cannot earn a wage which will ensure that they have sufficient physical strength and mental alertness to avoid accidents in carrying out their daily occupation. These deplorable conditions do not exist by reason of Socialism; they are existing under private enterprise and capitalism. I suggest to the Secretary for Mines that, having regard to the report of the Chief Inspector for South Wales, he should get into touch with the safety committee that is in existence and which is responsible for the policy of issuing maxims for securing safety in mines. They draw up maxims such as: "Examine your working place," "Beware of the rope," "Examine your lamp." I would suggest that the Secretary for Mines should instruct the Safety Research Board to get out maxims for employers as well. One maxim that I would suggest for the employers to be placed, in bold print, in the directors' board room, in the colliery office and on the pit heads is: "To prevent accidents, pay adequate wages."

The need for paying attention to the question of accidents is more important to-day than on former occasions, because more energy is expended by the miners at the present time in preventing accidents than ever before. This is accompanied by an increased expenditure of energy in the direction of an increase in output. The output at the present time is 21.61 cwts., or 1.39 cwts. more than the output under the eight hours. The wages of the miners in 1920 were, on the average, £224 per year; in 1930 the figure was £111 10s. The reduction, taken on a weekly basis, was from £4 6s. to £2 3s. In 12 years, the miners have contributed £1,000,000,000 in order to reconstruct the mining industry of this country.

There is another phase of safety in mines which has not been discussed, and that is the question of the introduction of electricity in mines, but before coming to that question, I should like to direct the attention of the Secretary for Mines to another very dark picture in regard to accidents in mines, and that is as it applies to boys under 16 years of age. The ratio of accidents to boys under 16 years of age is much higher than the ratio of accidents to the whole of the miners employed. The number of boys employed in the mines who were under 16 years of age in 1929 was 29,000, and the ratio of accidents to them was 251 per thousand. In 1930, there were 24,397 employed and 8,000 of them were on night shifts. I cannot give the number of accidents to boys on the night shift, but there is the report of the inspector for the Yorkshire area for 1930, which gives a glimpse of the tragedy in the lives of boys under 16 years of age. He says: The number of boys killed and seriously injured per thousand in 1930 was 6.60, compared with the general rate of all persons employed, of 4.14 per thousand. He says further that those figures demonstrate that the accident rate for boys is far higher than it ought to be, having regard to the fact that boys are practically excluded from coal faces where most of the accidents from falls occur.

In Yorkshire last year six fatal accidents and 48 serious accidents occurred to boys between 14 and 15 years of age, when in fact they ought to have been in school. There were 251 per thousand boys under 16 years, maimed on the threshold of life, crushed and bruised at a young and tender age, and now probably facing 50 or 60 years more of life. I should like to emphasise to the Secretary for Mines the necessity of devoting a certain time to this question. I understand that in Durham and Northumberland and the Northern coalfields, this question is more acute, so far as boys under 16 working on the night shift are concerned. It is beyond comprehension that we permit boys under 16 years of age to work on the night shift underground, when they are not permitted to work on the surface above the collieries. If it is unsafe for boys under 16 years of age working on the surface, it is surely unsafe for them to work underground on the night shift. In Northumberland and Durham, boys under 16 are getting up at 3, 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning. How, from a common sense point of view, can you expect a young lad to be out at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning, and to be alert? How are you to get an old head upon the shoulders of a young man? It is impossible for him to realise the necessity of getting sufficient rest. Without developing that phase of the question any further, I would like to emphasise the necessity that the Secretary for Mines should devote some attention to it.

Constant modernisation is going on in the collieries by the introduction of machinery and the use of electricity, which tends to increase Accidents. The alarm with which miners view the extension of electrical machinery is not because of prejudice against the introduction of machinery, nor is it because, as the Secretary of Mines said, they are "of a conservative nature." Miners 'are rapidly arriving at the conclusion that until this element can be better controlled, or the production of gas rendered innocuous at the point of issue, this highly dangerous force should be prohibited in the coal face. A tremendous increase has gone on in Great Britain in the introduction of electrical machines. There is 'at the present time about 900,000 horse-power in Great Britain, and in the fiery mines of South Wales there is 180,000 horse-power. Evidence is not wanting to prove that explosions have occurred consequent upon the introduction of electricity in the coal-pits. Take, for instance, the explosion that occurred on the 10th July, 1929, at the Milfraen Colliery, in Monmouthshire, when it was contended that the explosion was caused by electric sparking, though this colliery was one of the least fiery seams in South Wales. The electrical expert of the Mines Department, in his evidence at the inquiry, stated that the interior of the coal-cutting machine is covered by a lid fastened by screw-bolts And nuts, and that, if firedamp entered the enclosure in explosive proportions, it would be ignited by the switch, pass out of the machine, and cause an explosion by igniting an explosive mixture in the surrounding atmosphere. When this coal-cutting machine, which requires great care, which is as sensitive as a watch, which generates great power, which is open to 'a great deal of rough usage and a great deal of jolting, is introduced into the coal face, it may happen that, as the result of rough usage, or as the result of jolting, a nut or screw may be loosened so as to cause a small aperture about a sixteenth of an inch across, permitting an explosive mixture, if such be present, to come into contact with the electric spark, causing an explosion as a result of which hundreds of miners 'are hurled into an untimely grave. That is the reason why the miners are alarmed at the introduction of electrical machinery.

Reference has been made to the number of inspectors. Is the Secretary for Mines satisfied that there are sufficient competent inspectors in the coalfield at the present time to look after the interests of the employés so far as the introduction of electricity is concerned? The Chief Inspector for South Wales, in his report, for 1930, after referring to the considerable increase in the use of electricity and eulogising the work of his own sub-inspectors, says: There is a good deal of detailed work—questions of safe construction and maintenance—to which my staff have no time to give attention having many other duties to perform, and I welcome, therefore, the appointment of Mr. Robinson as junior electrical inspector to work in my division. What does his division cover? It covers Breconshire, with 24 pits; Carmarthenshire, with 53; Glamorganshire, with 303; Monmouthshire, with 125; Pembrokeshire, with four; and the Forest of Dean with 45. The division covers 554 pits, and there is only one junior electrical inspector to cover the whole area. I submit to the Secretary for Mines that it is impossible for one junior inspector to do justice, so far as inspection is concerned, to the safeguarding of the interests of the miners with respect to the introduction of electrical machinery.

The objection to this introduction of mechanical appliances is not to be attributed to what the Secretary for Mines called the conservative nature of the miners. They have cause to be alarmed. Their lives depend upon the unscrewing of a nut or the unloosening of a bolt, and their lives are 'much too 10.0 p.m. precious to depend upon such slender threads. Scant progress is being made by the employers with regard to the introduction of machinery of all kinds. They are very slow in regard to the setting up of a National Industrial Board. If it is a question of the introduction of machinery into the mines in order to increase output, it is speedily adopted, but, if it is a question of the introduction of machinery in order to save lives, then it has to be considered, it has to be sent from one committee to another, and three, four, or five years pass before they come to the conclusion that its introduction is essential.

The Mechanical Appliances Committee of the Mines Department are not entirely blameless in this matter. Certain appliances have been submitted to the committee, one of which I know very well. It was introduced by the late right hon. Thomas Richards. A great deal was said in the last Debate about accidents from falls of roof in mines, and the purpose of this appliance was to safeguard life when there is a fall. Frequently there is a fall which covers two or three men, and this appliance was for the purpose of rescuing those men without risk to the rescuers. When the matter was brought before the Mechanical Appliances Committee, they said that it would take 10 or 15 minutes to erect it, and that by that time the fall would have occurred. Supposing that it took half an hour to erect it, if the appliance was a good one, and if it could have served the purpose of saving the lives of those under the fall and the prevention of an accident to those rescuing them, the half-hour would be well spent. Therefore, I again commend to the Secretary for Mines the necessity for speeding up his own committees, and for trying to create interest on the part of the employers with respect to some of the appliances that are already on the market, as well as with respect to gas detectors, to which reference was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams).

A good deal has been said with regard to the general economic situation of the mining industry, and the Secretary for Mines, in his reply earlier, referred to Part IV, to the question of a national board, to the scientific extraction of oil from coal, and to the Geneva Convention. I want to ask what progress has been made with respect to the Geneva Convention since the Debate in the House on the Coal Mines Bill. It was clearly understood then that that matter was to be further discussed, and the President of the Board of Trade gave a pledge that, when the seven principal countries that were mainly concerned in producing coal had ratified the Geneva Convention, Great Britain would be prepared to agree to the hours being reduced from seven and a-half to seven and a-quarter. I would like to know what progress has been made since then. There was a meeting in January; that meeting was postponed until April; and I understand that the meeting which was to have been held in April was cancelled at the request of the Secretary for Mines. Has another meeting taken place? If not, what is the cause of the delay? If so, what progress has been made? In view of the fact that the miners of this country accepted the terms at their conference, on the ground that great steps had been taken to get the Geneva Convention ratified, and the wages were guaranteed for 12 months, I think we are entitled to know whether the Mines Department has taken any steps to ratify the Geneva Convention.

With regard to an international agreement, I think the Act of 1930 was passed because Parliament realised the need of some steps being taken to remove the mining industry from its primitive conditions to a more modern and scientific mode of working. We realised that the main factor in the re-establishment of the coal industry on a sound economic basis was its internal organisation, its technology, its commercial direction, and the labour interest. What has been done with respect to furthering the labour interest as regards a national board? To argue that the employers and the miners ought to meet in order to ascertain whether it is possible for a settlement to be arrived at with regard to an industrial board is all right.

The Secretary for Mines and his Department and the House had a great deal to do with the terms of the last settlement and a pledge was given by the President of the Board of Trade and implemented by himself, and it was also clearly understood that the question of an industrial board was to be a matter for further discussion. Have the mine-owners and the Miners' Federation written to him about it, and, if so, what was the nature of the correspondence? Was it asking the Mines Department to assist to bring about the establishment of an industrial board? Have the owners taken any part in this matter at all? Have they given any intimation that they are prepared to meet either the Minister or the Miners' Federation separately or jointly? I think there is some obligation devolving upon the hon. Gentleman not only to express a desire that the two sides should meet, but also to do everything he possibly can to use his good offices and his powers in order to bring about a strengthening of the industrial board.

What steps has the Secretary for Mines taken to make it possible for an international agreement to be brought about as quickly as possible? Neither the hon. Gentleman nor the Government can say they have no responsibility. During the last three years the Government and the Mines Department have participated in the work of an organisation which has attempted to bring about an international agreement. In 1929 an economic committee was set up at Geneva at which this Government was represented in the person of Sir Sydney Chapman, who was the chief economic adviser to the Government. They consulted a committee of experts. They agreed that international organisation is absolutely necessary. What have the coalowners done in respect of that? Have they facilitated the international organisation or have they attempted to wreck it? Is it not true that they refused to send a representative to the Convention? Is it not time for the Secretary for Mines to do something in the direction of attempting to introduce to the coalowners the essentiality of this international agreement? It is necessary so far as the international economic conditions of the industry are concerned and also so far as the national economic conditions of the industry are concerned. The miners now are all right for 12 months so far as wages are concerned and for five years as far as hours are concerned, but we cannot adopt a policy of delay. Twelve months will very soon pass. We do not want to have a scramble at the end of the 12 months, and we do not want an economic war. It is possible to avoid all that, provided that an essential organisation, national and international, can be brought into existence and there is no reason to believe otherwise than that for years to come the industry will have a certain sense of security.

Photo of Mr Isaac Foot Mr Isaac Foot , Bodmin

I understand it is desired that, if possible, this Debate shall come to an end at about half-past ten and I want to get in, if I can, in twenty minutes what reply I can make to the points that have been raised in the course of a very interesting discussion. The hon. Member who has just spoken, who makes a well-informed contribution to these coal discussions, spoke about certain questions of safety. Once or twice he has mentioned what I said in the last Debate about the conservatism of the British miner. I think he has given that phrase far too general an application. I only used it when I was speaking about my desire to see established some protective equipment for the miners, and I ventured the opinion that at some time a successor of mine would be standing at this Box justifying compulsory orders relating to protective equipment to be used by miners. I said, if they were not so conservative, I thought a good deal of that equipment would have been adopted years ago. I did not hear anything in the discussion last time that convinced me that we ought not to proceed upon the lines of making further inquiries and I hope we shall be able soon to report upon the results of some successful experiments.

I should like to take right away the question of electricity in the mines. There is no doubt that the dangers arising from electricity cause grave apprehension to a great many of the workers. The most conspicuous danger is that of explosion from an electric spark. This rarely happens more than twice a year but, when it does happen, the results are very serious. Last year was a particularly bad year in this respect. There were only two explosions caused by electricity but they killed 18 persons and injured three others. The collieries concerned were the Bowhill Colliery in Fife-shire and the Newdigate Colliery in Warwickshire. In 1930 there were three such explosions in which three men were killed and 13 injured. I have the figures for the earlier 'years, and if any hon. Member of the House would like to put down a question I shall be happy to have the figures given in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I am anxious, if possible, to meet the apprehensions which I know exist in some parts of the coalfields. While we have had two or three very bad years, averaging the good years with the bad, the number of deaths arising per annum has been four to five over the period with which I am dealing which extends for about 20 years.

We realise our responsibility in this matter, and His Majesty's Inspectors have been exercising, as far as I can gather, great vigilance in controlling, and, if necessary, prohibiting the use of electricity in districts liable to gas. There has been too a careful inspection of electrical plant. There is a special staff of five electrical inspectors devoting their whole time to such work to reinforce the activities of the general inspectors upon whom the main responsibility must rest, and also an official testing of electric apparatus where necessary to ensure that it shall be flameproof, that is proof against the risk of causing an explosion. Every effort has been made to ensure that the economic advantages of electrical power shall not be used at the cost of men's lives. Upon the use of electricity a great many pits depend, and the suggestion which was made that we might almost prohibit its use can hardly be contemplated in the industry.

Photo of Mr William John Mr William John , Rhondda West

Only at the coal face.

Photo of Mr Isaac Foot Mr Isaac Foot , Bodmin

Certainly that is a matter which, I hope, will be watched by us all. There is no reason why every effort should not be made to avoid accidents as far as possible by skill and ingenuity so that men should not be exposed to this danger. Another question was mentioned earlier in the Debate by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker). Hon. Members will recollect when we were discussing the matter on 3rd May I drew attention to the heavy accident rate in the statistics relating to accidents to boys. There are a great many reasons for this. I have been trying to ascertain the reasons. Responsibility rests to some extent upon older men working in the mines. I think that most can be done by them, and that care and teaching can be given by older men to young boys who are inclined to be indifferent to danger. But there is this fact which is rather surprising, that a boy is prohibited from working upon the surface at night, but is allowed to work underground at night. That, of course, is an anomaly on the face of it. Apparently, there was a special exception made when the Convention was effected at Washington in 1919, and the argument is that a shift team consists of a certain number and the boy takes his place with the rest, and if he is not able to take his place when the shift comes around to work at night it means dislocation and disturbance.

I have been trying to find out the difficulty, and I have enlisted the help of the Miners' Federation on the matter. I want to know the number concerned, and whether or not the arguments which had weight in 1919 are now just as cogent with the introduction of machinery. I think that the onus rests upon those who want this work to continue. On the face of it a boy under 16 years of age ought not to be working in the mines at night. It is not for those who are opposed to it to prove the case, but the onus rests upon those who want boys under 16 to work at night. The proper place for a boy if he has to work, is at home. I would not like any younger member of my family to be exposed to those risks and dangers, coupled with the risks and dangers to health which affect boys so much more than adults. These inquiries are being made and it will need very strong argument to convince me that that employment is necessary. We are waiting for the information and I hope that it may be for me later on to suggest that the House may have to take that reform into consideration.

The question of the Geneva Convention has been raised. We are in touch with the International Labour Office upon that matter and we have been informed by the deputy director, who is now the director, following upon the lamented death of Monsieur Thomas, that no purpose would at present be served in endeavouring to get into communication with the two countries who still are opposed to simultaneous ratification. I should have liked to have been in a position to place before the House the consent- of the two countries which in January said that they were unwilling to take part in simultaneous ratification. I am not sure what the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) thinks that I can do in this matter. He asked me to use my powers. In as much as the meeting in January was not a public meeting I do not think that I can go beyond what was said in the earlier Debate. There were three countries out of the seven meeting on that occasion who declined to join in simultaneous ratification. One of the countries that declined at that time has since come into line and has agreed to the principle of simultaneous ratification, but the two other countries, both very important coal-producing countries in Europe, declined because of the serious political uncertainty that prevails throughout the Continent, and as far as I know from the latest information nothing has moved them from that position.

Photo of Mr Duncan Graham Mr Duncan Graham , Hamilton

Can the hon. Member give us the names of the countries that refused to ratify, and the name of the country that has agreed since?

Photo of Mr Isaac Foot Mr Isaac Foot , Bodmin

I think I must not be pressed as to names. It was agreed when the meeting started in January that, except for the communication which was to be made, it should be a confidential talk. I expect that my hon. Friend will have no difficulty in getting the information, but I am not going to mention the names on the Floor of the House. If I did so I might be criticised on that ground. The hon. Member for Don Valley suggested that I had power. I do not know what power I possess.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

The point I raised was that if the hon. Member remains in this country and does nothing with regard to the convention until the two recalcitrant countries make up their minds, and they do not make up their minds for the next 25 years, we shall remain where we are. My suggestion was that the hon. Member should not be content to allow the matter to be postponed indefinitely but that he should consistently keep on the doorstep. Perhaps another meeting might inspire the two countries to agree to ratification.

Photo of Mr Isaac Foot Mr Isaac Foot , Bodmin

As to the powers of persuasion, supposing a man is very anxious to marry a woman and she persists in her refusal. He may wait on her doorstep for a very long time. It is no use anyone suggesting that the problem could be met by coercion.

Photo of Mr William John Mr William John , Rhondda West

Could the hon. Gentleman not knock at the door?

Photo of Mr Isaac Foot Mr Isaac Foot , Bodmin

We have knocked at the door. Why did the countries concerned meet? They met in January at the invitation of this Government. That was knocking at the door; and we have been in touch with them since. Short of coercion nothing can be done except by persuasion; and I am hopeful that the Debate in this House, and the emphatic and unequivocal declaration of His Majesty's Government that they are in favour of the principle of this convention, will have its effect on the two countries concerned. The suggestion that there has been an indefinite postponement has no foundation. I want to see it carried through; but there is a limit to the power which we can exercise.

The question of the inspectorate has been mentioned. Let me give the House a few particulars in regard to that matter. The inspectorate was reorganised by the Labour Government in 1924, and they worked on the figures for 1922. In 1922 there were 2,911 mines; in 1931 there were 2,243 mines. The numbers employed had gone down from 1,162,754 in 1922 to 867,864 in 1931; a very substantial reduction. But the Labour Government considered that 12 additional inspectors met the situation as shown by the 1922 figures. If the number was sufficient then, and as we have fewer mines now and a smaller number of men employed, I should think the fact that six additional inspectors have been added shows that we are complying with the need for inspectors. Further, inspections of mines increased from 18,941 in 1922 to 22,989 in 1931, an increase of 21 per cent., while the number of mines had decreased by 23 per cent. Short of taking over the management of the mines, a policy which has more enthusiastic support on the other side of the House than on this, I do not know what more could be done. A question was raised as to special kinds of inspectors. No new appointments are to be made, but when they are to be made I shall be happy to enter into communication with the hon. Member who has expressed some apprehensions on this point.

We have had some discussion about central selling agencies. The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Slater) spoke of some of the difficulties which have occurred since the Act was passed. We are watching the matter day by day. The Mining Association is in touch with its members now as to amendments which they think necessary. They are doing everything they can to ascertain their opinion upon these grave questions of policy affecting the working of Part I. Many of our difficulties would be overcome by co-ordination; many of our difficulties would be solved by central selling agencies. I am not going to enter into the question of an export levy. That matter has been discussed already by this House and will have to be discussed again. There are two other matters which must come up for consideration in pursuance of the undertaking I gave when the Bill was before the House, and I hope that I shall be excused from entering into the details of the matter. I share a great deal of the apprehensions expressed by the hon. Member for Eastbourne upon this very important matter. I hope that when these questions do 10.30 p.m. arise in relation to the working of Part I and its Amendment, every side of the industry will be called into consultation. It may be true that the Amendments which will have to be carried through will not involve any legislation but can be done within the limits of the existing Act.

I have heard all that has been said to-day as to the necessity for setting up a Commission. I shall certainly take into the most careful consideration what has been said upon that line. The only reason why I am myself not prepared to advise the appointment of a Commission is that I am not satisfied that such a Commission would hasten the cause in which we are all interested. As a matter of fact I think that, with the methods that Commissions generally adopt, it may delay matters rather than expedite them. My suggestion is this: Take the five members who did me the honour of waiting on me last night and giving me their views. Will they come to the Department and see what work we have in hand, what information we are getting, information which, as far as I know, covers every one of the four points raised by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Edward Williams), and when they have seen that they can tell us if they still wish to press their claim. Let us see if we cannot come to some agreement, because we are all concerned about this question. We do not want to hinder any investigation that is going to help the industry. But let them see what information we have at our disposal, and then perhaps they will either withdraw their request, modify it, or it may be renew it. If it is renewed obviously an answer has to be given.

I am sorry that in one instance the suggestion was made that the Lord President of the Council has been guilty of discourtesy. The Lord President of the Council, as I know very well, from 21st April, when he said he would make representations to the Prime Minister, has had the matter under his constant consideration. Members know that there have beer difficulties since, as far as the Prime Minister is concerned. Other questions have arisen. That is a position that cannot be met without taking into consideration all the relevant circumstances. I would not like to go unanswered any statement that the Lord President of the Council had been guilty of arty discourtesy to a deputation, a very powerful and representative deputation, very much moved by the circumstances and the de- pression in South Wales, and it is only because of the exceptional difficulties which have since arisen that an answer could not be given. I hope that those from South Wales will not lend any support to the suggestion that there has been a failure in courtesy to those who so courteously put their representations before us.

As to the matter upon which I dwelt in my opening statement to-day. I am very thankful to the hon. Members for Down (Viscount Castlereagh) and Linlithgow (Sir A. Baillie), who supported my plea that there shall now be some conference between owners and men in the industry. My mind would be immensely relieved if that problem were out of the way. We are troubled by the apprehensions that are resting upon certain parts of the coalfields. I do not want the men to have apprehensions as to what may happen at the end of 12 months. The representatives in this House cannot lift those apprehensions. They can be lifted by those who are immediately concerned. There is no hope of removing the apprehensions apart from the conference for which we have asked. I am very hopeful that if we achieve nothing else as the result of the Debate to-day, we shall convince those concerned as to what is the mind of the House of Commons upon what is a very important matter.

I did not in the earlier part of this discussion deal with the more constructive part of the industry, but the Committee will remember that I said that f intended to dwell only upon those aspects of the industry upon which I have touched. The other subjects which have been raised in the course of the Debate are constantly in our minds, and I would like to assure the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), whom I congratulate upon a helpful and constructive speech, that what powers we have we shall be very anxious to use. He will forgive me for not going in any detail into the question which he raised about the automatic gas detector beyond saying that inquiry is going on and that committees have been set up in connection with three mines, details of which I can give to the hon. Member or to any other Member of the Committee. On those local committees workmen, managers and owners will be represented, and also the local inspectors. These committees will report to a co-ordinating committee and, if we find that the experiment is justified by actual experience, under ordinary working conditions, the obligation will rest upon us to see what further action should be taken.

Photo of Mr Duncan Graham Mr Duncan Graham , Hamilton

Will the hon. Gentleman take cognisance of the points which I raised?

Photo of Mr Isaac Foot Mr Isaac Foot , Bodmin

The hon. Member mentioned two points which raise legal difficulties. The old "butty" question—I am not sure if that is the right technical name—has been a long standing difficulty in Lanark. In regard to the question of ventilation, I cannot deal with a general suggestion that there is a failure to carry

out the law in relation to ventilation, but I shall be happy to deal with any particular case which the hon. Member may bring to my attention. Perhaps he will help me upon that point, and if there is any instance in which it is thought that the law is being broken, if he will give me full particulars, we shall be happy to make such inquiries as we can. My concern is that the law, especially in so far as it relates to the protection of men's lives, shall be adhered to rigidly and impartially enforced.

Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £144,495, be granted for the said Service."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 39; Noes, 289.

Division No. 281.]AYES.[10.38 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)Grundy, Thomas W.Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)
Attlee, Clement RichardHall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll)Maxton, James
Batey, JosephHealy, CahirMilner, Major James
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)Hirst, George HenryParkinson. John Allen
Buchanan, GeorgeJenkins, Sir WilliamPrice, Gabriel
Cape, ThomasJohn, WilliamSalter, Dr. Alfred
Cocks, Frederick SeymourJones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Tinker, John Joseph
Cripps, Sir StaffordKirkwood, DavidWilliams, David (Swansea, East)
Dagger, GeorgeLansbury. Rt. Hon. GeorgeWilliams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)Lawson, John JamesWilliams, Dr. John H. (Lianelly)
Edwards, CharlesLeonard, WilliamWilliams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. ArthurLunn, William
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)McEntee, Valentine L.TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Groves, Thomas E.McGovern. JohnMr. Gordon Macdonald and Mr.
Duncan Graham.
NOES.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-ColonelChalmers, John RutherfordFoot, Dingle (Dundee)
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)Chorlton, Alan Ernest LeofricFord, Sir Patrick J.
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)Christie, James ArchibaldFox, Sir Gifford
Anstruther-Gray, W. J.Clarry, Reginald GeorgeFraser, Captain Ian
Apsley, LordClayton, Dr. George C.Fremantle, Sir Francis
Aske, Sir Robert WilliamCochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.Ganzoni, Sir John
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)Colman, N. C. D.George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)
Atholl, Duchess ofColville, JohnGeorge, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)
Bailey, Eric Alfred GeorgeConant, R. J. E.Gibson, Charles Granville
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.Cook, Thomas A.Gledhill, Gilbert
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyCopeland, IdaGluckstein, Louis Halle
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.Courtauld, Major John SewellGoodman, Colonel Albert W.
Earclay-Harvey, C. M.Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.Gower, Sir Robert
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Psrtsm'th,C.)Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.Graves, Marjorie
Belt, Sir Alfred L.Crooke, J. SmedleyGreene, William P. C.
Bernays, RobertCrookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John
Blindell, JamesCroom-Johnson, R. P.Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middiesbro', W.)
Boulton, W. W.Crossley, A. C.Grimston, R. V.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel BernardGritten, W. G. Howard
Boyce, H. LeslieCurry, A. C.Guest. Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.Gunston, Captain D. W.
Briscoe, Capt. Richard GeorgeDickie, John P.Guy, J. C. Morrison
Broadbent, Colonel JohnDixey, Arthur C. N.Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.
Brockiebank, C. E. R.Dixon, Rt. Hon. HerbertHales, Harold K.
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)Donner, P. W.Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)
Brown, Ernest (Leith)Dugdale, Captain Thomas LionelHammersley, Samuel S.
Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks.,Newb'y)Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)Hanbury, Cecil
Browne, Captain A. C.Dunglass, LordHanley, Dennis A.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Eady, George H.Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Burgin, Dr. Edward LeslieEastwood, John FrancisHarbord, Arthur
Burnett, John GeorgeEden, Robert AnthonyHarris, Sir Percy
Butt, Sir AlfredElliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)
Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)Ellis, Sir R. GeoffreyHeadlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.
Caporn, Arthur CecilElliston, Captain George SampsonHeilgers, Captain F. F. A.
Carver, Major William H.Eimley, ViscountHenderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)
Castlereagh, ViscountEmmott, Charles E. G. C.Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur F.
Castle Stewart, EarlEmrys-Evans, P. V.Hepworth, Joseph
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)Essenhigh, Reginald ClareHoldsworth, Herbert
Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybrldge)Mitcheson, G. G.Salmon, Major Isidore
Horsbrugh, FlorenceMolson, A. Hugh ElsdaleSalt, Edward W.
Howard, Tom ForrestMonsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. EyresSandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Hewitt. Dr. Alfred B.Moreing, Adrian C.Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)Muirhead, Major A. J.Scone, Lord
Hume, Sir George HopwoodMunro, PatrickShakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)Nall, Sir JosephShaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)Nathan, Major H. L.Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romt'd)Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.Skelton, Archibald Noel
James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.
Jesson, Major Thomas E.North, Captain Edward T.Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Joel, Dudley J. BarnatoNunn, WilliamSmith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)O'Donovan, Dr. William JamesSmith, R. W.(Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)Oman, Sir Charles William C.Smithers, Waldron
Ker, J. CampbellO'Nelli, Rt. Hon. Sir HughSomerset, Thomas
Kerr, Charles (Montrose)Ormiston, ThomasSomerveil, Donald Bradley
Kerr, Hamilton W.Palmer, Francis NoelSomerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Kimball, LawrencePatrick, Colin M.Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Knebworth, ViscountPearson, William G.Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Knight, HolfordPeat, Charles U.Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)Penny, Sir GeorgeStanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)
Leckie, J. A.Percy, Lord EustaceSteel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Leech, Dr. J. W.Perkins, Walter R. D.Stones, James
Lees-Jones, JohnPeters, Dr. Sidney JohnStorey, Samuel
Leighton, Major B. E. P.Petherick, M.Strickland, Captain W. F.
Lennox-Boyd, A. T.Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.
Liddall, Walter S.Pickering, Ernest H.Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Lindsay, Noel KerPickford, Hon. Mary AdaSummersby, Charles H.
Lloyd, GeoffreyPike, Cecil F.Sutcliffe, Harold
Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)Potter, JohnTate, Mavis Constance
Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.Templeton, William P.
Lyons, Abraham MontaguPybue, Percy JohnThomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Mabane, WilliamRaikes, Henry V. A. M.Thomas. James P. L. (Hereford)
MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midiothien)Thompson, Luke
MacAndrew. Capt. J. O. (Ayr)Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
McConnell, Sir JosephRamsbotham, HerwaldTodd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
McCorquodale, M. S.Ramsden, E.Train, John
MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)Rathbone, EleanorTryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
McEwen, Captain J. H. F.Ray, Sir WilliamVaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
McKeag, WilliamReed, Arthur C. (Exeter)Wallace, John (Dunfermline)
McKie, John HamiltonReid, James S. C. (Stirling)Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Maclay, Hon. Joseph PatonReid, William Allan (Derby)Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
McLean. Major AlanRemer, John R.Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Magnay, ThomasRenwick, Major Gustav A.Watt, Captain George Steven H.
Makins, Brigadier-General ErnestReynolds, Col. Sir James PhilipWedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour.
Mailalieu, Edward LancelotRhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.Wells, Sydney Richard
Mander, Geoffrey le M.Roberts, Aied (Wrexham)Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Manningham-Buller. Lt.-Col. Sir M.Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.Robinson, John RolandWinterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Marsden, Commander ArthurRosbotham, S. T.Womersley, Walter James
Martin, Thomas B.Ross, Ronald D.Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel JohnRoss Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)Worthington, Dr. John V.
Merriman, Sir F. BoydRuggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.Wragg, Herbert
Millar, Sir James DuncanRunge, Norah CecilYoung, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough. E.)
Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)
Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Milne, CharlesRussell, Hamer Field (Sheffield,B'tside)Major George Davies and Lord
Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw`k)Rutherford, Sir John HugoErskine.

Original Question again proposed.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.— [Captain Margesson.]

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.