On a point of Order, I desire to know from the right hon. Gentleman who is at present leading the House whether the time of our Sitting can be extended, in view of the break which has occurred in our proceedings. Mr. Speaker has decided to call one Amendment and several hon. Members still wish to speak.
I should have to consult my right hon. and learned friend the Leader of the House before I could give an answer on that matter. It is the first time the question has been raised. I know that a number of hon. Members have made their arrangements already in other directions.
When this matter might have been considered at the opening of the Sitting, after Question time, there had not been the break which has just occurred, and although it might have been expected that an Amendment would still have to be called, hon. Members must agree that there cannot possibly be time adequately to discuss any Amendment if the present arrangements are carried out.
I will consult my right hon. and learned Friend, but I would remind the hon. Member that we have been held up for only ten minutes and that a large number of speeches were made yesterday. I should think it would more suit the convenience of the House to follow the present arrangements, as well as the convenience of hon. Members who desire to take part in the Division. A large number of them have already made arrangements.
When I was interrupted, I was referring to the fact that there are more than 100,000 shareholders in the coal trade, mostly small men, whose interests had to be considered. There are also 700,000 miners. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) has gone away. He made a rather lengthy speech, and I would have liked to—
Oh, I see. I meant that I did not wish to refer to it in detail. In all these discussions on the coal trade, in this House, in the country and in the Press, it always seems to be assumed that if one is a coalowner, one has a double dose of original sin. Propaganda is always used against us, in spite of the fact that there is supposed to be a political truce. The record of the coal trade is not a black record. In 1938, after all the difficulties which we had before the war started, wages had advanced 85 per cent. over those of 1913. The cost of living had not advanced 85 per cent. when the war broke out. The Board of Trade figures are to be seen. To-day the cost of living is only 100 per cent. over 1913, and yet miners' wages are considerably higher than they were before the war. That is not a bad record. I have the figures here of what was being paid in wages in the different coal districts during March. For hon. Members to get up and say that the miner is poverty stricken and worse off than before the war is absolutely incorrect, and can be disproved. I have the Board of Trade figures here. They are supposed to be private and confidential, but I do not suppose there is anything in them that need not be disclosed. I am still dealing with the question of whether the coalowners have a black record.
I see that in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, South Derbyshire and some other areas, wages have increased over three times since 1913. During the month of June the wages to be paid will be round about 19s. per shift in Leicestershire. We paid 19s. 3.09d. in March. In Nottinghamshire they paid 19s. 3.4d. per shift. In South Derbyshire they paid 18s. 9d. per shift. In Yorkshire the figure was 16s. 6d. per shift. In Yorkshire there is an allowance for free coal and there are certain amounts for free houses for some of the men.
Whether I am talking without my bat or not, a note is made in the Government figures with regard to allowances in kind in Yorkshire, and they amount to something like 4d. per shift. That may be free coal or coal at considerably reduced prices.
These figures show a certain disparity. There is the difficulty that a man working in one place may have his two sons working in two different coalfields, and they will all get different rates of pay. To say that these men are badly paid is wrong when you find that some of them earn more than £400 a year at the face. I saw Income Tax returns recently showing that deductions had been made from wages on the basis of £400 a year or more. Men at the face can easily earn 30s. or 35s. a day in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, South Derbyshire and Warwickshire, if they like to work. In Leicestershire the average per shift was 19s. 3.09a. That amount includes workers on the surface as well as boys, men underground and everyone employed at the pit, and that average shows that some of the men must be getting very considerably more than 19s. 3d. Naturally, they are entitled to it, but there it is.
There is a certain discrepancy about these figures. To say that all men are badly paid is not right. In some parts of the country men may not be as well paid as they ought to be. As to all the" talk about the £4 5s. minimum, there are no miners working underground who receive as low a payment as £4 5s. per week. I have not any on the surface that receive as little as that. Mine happens to be a good district. I daresay in some places in Yorkshire they get 70s. or 75s. for work on the surface. Is it suggested by the Miners' Federation that work on the surface is really worth £4 5s. per week? I believe in Russia that women screen the coal. Is it suggested that workers who have only to pick out the shale from the coal on the screens are worth £4 5s. a week? Their work is not as hard as that of agricultural labourers, and by the same standard agricultural labourers should receive £5 per week. I think I have shown that miners' wages have advanced in every district, certainly to a greater extent than has the cost of living, and in some districts very considerably more. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) said yesterday that the coal-owners always had a dog-in-the-manger spirit, and that they had never done anything or taken any notice of anything. But mechanisation in the pits has been increased by three times since 1913, and to-day 56 per cent. of all the coal in the country is mechanically got.
In some pits over 90 per cent. is mechanically mined. Some collieries are not suitable for the introduction of mechanical mining. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland) in his place. He made certain statements yesterday with regard to the Bedwas Colliery, which I understand will be answered in due course, because they were entirely incorrect. I was really surprised that he should make such statements, and I hope and feel sure that they Will be disproved. I wonder whether he would like to apply the principle of nationalisation to his own land. I wonder whether he would apply the £4 5s. minimum to his own agricultural labourers.
I certainly would. I would like to see agricultural workers' wages raised, but I do not think you can deal with this thing by the piecemeal raising of wages within the present structure. The only way to deal with anomalies as between one set of wage-earners and another—and there are very many such anomalies—is on the basis of common ownership nationally, and then, when no private interests are getting their whack out of the reductions or increases in wages, as between one set of wage-earners and another, the anomalies could be smoothed out. But you cannot do it piecemeal.
I am glad to know that the hon. Member is in no immediate danger of being ruined by increasing his agricultural labourers' wages to £4 5s. a week. Possibly he may reduce his labourers' rents and so on, and in that way set a good example.
I cannot give way again. I was surprised that the hon. Member mentioned Bedwas, and utilised that as an argument in saying that coalowners were working bad seams instead of working good seams, because he knows that that is contrary to the whole economy of the coal trade and to the mentality of the coalowners. If they can work a nice dry seam, of course they will work it, and if a man is working in a wet seam he is working there for some purpose, either to develop a seam or to get into some other seam. The hon. Member does not seem to know that in every area in this country a mining expert is sent round by the Department of Mines to see that there is no holding back of the best seams. He has to report to the Department of Mines that there is none of it. What the hon. Member stated was very misleading and very wrong; it can be entirely disproved, and I can only assume that he utilised that argument to prejudice the issue.
As I say, the coal trade is 56 per cent mechanised. Where is the money to come from for the extra wages that are desired? I do not know what will be the decision, but the fact remains that profits in the mining industry are about the level of £10,000,000 a year at the present time. This proposal, if granted in full, would mean £40,000,000, which the public would have to pay either by an increase in the cost of coal or by an increase in the subsidies from taxation. Practically the whole of the proceeds of coal to-day are going in wages and other costs. Somethink like £150,000,000 a year is spent in wages, other costs may be £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 and there is a matter of £10,000,000 left to the coalowners, which is not 10 per cent. of the wage bill. There is no other industry in the country which is satisfied to receive only 10 per cent. of the wage bill. There is no other industry in the country in which labour gets two-thirds of the total proceeds. If coal is sold at 24s. at the pit-head, the miner is receiving 16s., or two-thirds, in direct wages, apart from such things as National Health Insurance, pit-head baths and all that sort of thing, so it is certainly untrue to say that the coal trade has a bad record.
Admittedly, in some cases, output has gone down to a certain extent, but it has gone down only about 8 per cent. per shift, which I think is quite good. In some collieries—I am interested in two myself—output has increased. In one, partly by mechanisation and partly owing to the fact that we are able to work full time, it has increased by nearly 80 per cent.; in another it has increased by 20 per cent., even if others may have gone down. The late Secretary for Mines knows quite well that in the districts of South Derbyshire and Leicestershire output has gone up quite considerably, and we have done a little to help the country to get the coal so much desired. As I have said before, I think it must be that in the placid Midlands they do not have many strikes, the men produce the coal and get higher wages. Every time there is a strike the miner is cutting his own throat, because 85 per cent. of the proceeds, after paying minimum wages and other costs, goes to the men and only 15 per cent. to the owners, and every time a colliery is on strike the proceeds go down. No coal is sold at the pit-head, and the expenses incurred in keeping the pit open still go on, although there is no revenue coming in.
There is another point I wish to make, and that is with regard to the selling-price. I think I have shown that miners' wages have at any rate gone up over 50 per cent. on the average since the war started, and in some cases have gone up to nearly double. The selling-price of coal has gone up only by one-third. Is that a black record? We are paying three times as much for our timber, twice as much for our steel and various other things, and yet the pit-head price in 1941 was 22s. a ton compared with 15s. a ton in 1938. That, of course, is an average between slack and best coal. The other day an hon. Member raised the question as to how it was that so much more had to be paid for coal in London, and stated that the railwaymen did not get it. The hon. Member said that he understood that the price of coal was only about 23s. at the pit-head, and he wanted to know why it cost so much. Of course, coalowners do not sell hand-picked coal at the pit-head at the same price as slack. There are all sorts of prices. The price of house coal might be 33s., and if you add the cost of railway transport at, say, 15s., that brings it up to 48s. Then there is the merchant who has to deliver it, bag it and so on, so that it is easy to see how the price of £3 per ton is arrived at.
I am quite aware that the miners are only looking upon this measure as a step forward, if you like—I do not know myself whether it is a step forward—but at any rate the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) said it was only a step forward, and that it would ultimately lead to nationalisation, and that that was what the Miners' Federation were out for. I think the country will want to know, before there is any nationalisation, what examples there are where nationalisation has succeeded in any part of the world. I suppose I shall get the answer that in Russia the collieries are nationalised. I reply to that that the Russian miner does not get as much money, and never has done, as the miner in this country. That can be proved by the figures of the International Labour Office of the League of Nations, which have been published and which can be cited. Before nationalisation comes in, the people of this country will want some evidence as to what has happened in other industries which have been nationalised. How was it that before the war ships could always be built more cheaply in shipyards run by private enterprise than those built in Admiralty yards? They always could before the war. The answer has been given several times from the Front Bench as to why contracts have been given to Beardmore's and to Vicker's—that the vessels could be built more cheaply and efficiently. Otherwise more would have been built in Government dockyards.
It is said that it is the profit motive which the coalowners are after. Profits are going down and down, and are less than almost in any other trade to-day, and if a colliery does manage to earn profits over and above what it earned before the war there is the Excess Profits Tax. What about the shareholders? There are 100,000 of them. No doubt some time or other some of the hon. Members opposite will be appealing to the country, and they must not forget that there is a middle class in this country. There are 100,000 shareholders in the collieries, most of them small people. If Members opposite are simply to go out at the elections for one sectional interest and are not going to deal fairly with all the interests in the country, they will ultimately be beaten. There is no evidence at all that anybody works any better for the State than they work for a private enterprise. There is no evidence that a county council workman does any better than a workman employed by a road contractor. If this increase in wages is given without any consideration to output, it will be a failure; you will not get the coal. But if you can devise some scheme by giving a wage increase based on output, you may get some increase in coal production. But as I say, this is looked upon by the Labour party as being only, so to speak, a sop to Cerberus. A sop will never satisfy them. I hope they will leave all this bitterness of feeling until after the war, and let us settle it when the war is over. This is not the time to have all this bitterness. Let us stop this bickering, let us have good will in the industry. If this Is done, and if we all pull together, I have no doubt that we shall get more coal than we are getting at the present time.
I beg to move, in line I, to leave out from "House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
condemns the Government scheme for the reorganisation of the mining industry as it is framed with too great regard for the private interests of the coalowners and too little appreciation of the hardships and dangers of the workers in the industry; is of opinion that the only way to provide for an adequate coal supply and a contented industry is by its reorganisation along with its associated industries on the basis of communal ownership and control with a guaranteed adequate minimum wage paid to its workers comparable with the wages in the best paid industries; and with satisfactory arrangements for the provision of an adequate supply of coal to the poor people of the country more especially during the winter months.
My hon. Friends and I are profoundly dissatisfied with the scheme as presented by the Government, a dissatisfaction which I gather is shared by many hon. Members above the Gangway, a dissatisfaction which I gathered from his closing remarks is shared by the President of the Board of Trade. He said frankly that this is a compromise scheme. I remember the President of the Board of Trade in 1929–30, the late right hon. William Graham, presenting a coal scheme in those days and saying frankly that it was a compromise scheme. All along, whether there was the excuse of a war, or without the excuse of a war, never would any Government face the position and say, "What is best for the mining industry? Let us do it. What is best for the fuel supplies of the nation? Let
us do it." This problem has come up periodically. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has been in the House nearly as long as I have been in it myself. We have the privilege of seeing him in the House only on the occasions when the coal industry is being discussed. When he thinks his own industry is in danger he comes on to those benches and shouts, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." Never once has the question been discussed by this House and faced by the Government of the day as a problem of politics, as a problem of economics, as a problem of sociology.
How can we get full production in the industry on such a basis that fuel will be available for all the needs of industry, all the domestic needs of the nation and a surplus for export, and at the same time provide a livelihood for the men doing the essential work, and provide conditions of work which our own conscience will make us feel are right? Never has that been the situation. Always discontents have had to arise: the crisis has to come, and then the Government of the day, as has been said very well by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), listen to all the parties that are interested, and always succumb to, not the big battalions, but the financially strong battalions. The hon. Member for Belper (Mr. Wragg) has told the House that miners' wages are being increased by 50 per cent. One recognises that there have been rising prices in various directions throughout the country, a very big drop in the numbers of men available in the industry, and a very great increase in the demand and a much more secure market for coal than is normally found. It is not surprising that the miners' wages should have gone up. If it be true that they have gone up by 50 per cent.—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is not true."] I am accepting as true the hon. Member's statement that since the outbreak of war miners' wages have increased by 50 per cent. I have a list of wages at present paid. It was sent to me by a friend of mine, who is a miners' leader in the North. According to the list, the day-time rate for underground workers in Durham is 11s. 6¾d.
The underground day rate in Durham at the present time is 11s. 6¾d. All of us know the circumstances by which there are people who get more than that daily; but that is the standard rate, what they are entitled to, what they can claim, and what a fair proportion of them get. In South Wales the rate is somewhat higher—13s. 6d. underground, and 13s. 1d. on the surface. If the hon. Gentleman will do a little simple arithmetic, and deduct that 50 per cent. increase from that 11s. 6¾d. a day, or from I2S. 3d., or from the 16s. 3d. that he talked about, he will have a pretty good picture of what the earnings of the miners were before the war.
That is entirely wrong. I did not say that every individual in every district had a 50 per cent. increase. I said—and I make the statement now—that the average throughout the country is more than 50 per cent.
These are from a mines department, but a different kind of mines department from yours. But I did not get on my feet to deal with the hon. Member for Belper. Nor do I propose to deal with the detailed contents of this scheme, which is sponsored by my two right hon. Friends on the Government bench. There are, however, one or two things to which I must call attention. I come to a point which is of importance to us with reference to our Amendment, because we claim that the whole fuel problem should be considered as one, that electricity, gas, etc., should all come under the purview of the new Minister. In the regional control there is machinery by which that happens. The Controller will have the assistance of three directors: one concerned with technical engineering aspects, one with labour questions, and one with public service. I cannot find anything in the national machinery which empowers the Minister to go to the gas undertakings generally.
The new Minister of Fuel and Power will now take many other powers, the same powers in respect of electricity and gas which I, as President of the Board of Trade, have hitherto had. Since the formation of the Ministry of War Transport electricity has been with the Board of Trade, whereas formerly it was with the Ministry of Transport. Gas has been with the Board of Trade for many years, and is now being transferred to the new Ministry.
I am very glad that it is proposed to have some regard to the health of the miners by developing a special health service with which they will be specially concerned. I do not know why that could not have been done long ago, and I cannot say that I like the way in which it is being launched nor some of the reasons given in the White Paper. It is said that it should be possible to reduce the numbers of those leaving with medical certificates on account of sickness of a not very serious character. In many cases miners suffering from illness or from some physical unfitness could be retained in industry if further arrangements were made for medical treatment. The Government therefore propose to establish a medical consultative service for the mines. I have a very great fear that these men are not going to perform the high functions of the medical profession but will be additional disciplinary workers to drive men back into the pits when their ordinary panel doctor, the man who knows them, would give them the necessary sick line for leave of absence. Every Member of this House has had too big an experience of medical men examining recruits for the Army and shoving them into it to be very confident that the medical profession, when it is in this sort of relation, is going to consider the health of the miner first and other things in a very secondary position.
Although I think it is a good thing that there is to be a specialised medical service for the miners, its declared objects at the moment are something different from what this implies, a harsher and stricter certification of health. A man goes home unwell, and he goes to see his panel doctor, who say, "Lay off for a couple of clays, and we will see how you are." This medical service presumably comes in on top of the panel doctor and says, "You are quite fit and must go down the pit to-morrow." I cannot say that that would be a great addition to the welfare conditions of the men in the pit. These are the only detailed points that I want to raise in connection with the scheme itself.
I will devote myself now to the Amendment which urges the taking-over of the mines into the public ownership and control of the nation. I regret that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) are not in their places at the moment. They have been in very regular attendance and have shown themselves in general to be against the idea of a national service for the miners. I want to ask both these hon. and gallant Gentlemen whether, if I came to this House and proposed that the Royal Navy could be better run by private enterprise and that we should hand the management and control of it over to the shipping companies to be run for profit, and for each of the competing shipping companies to make the best out of it, they would not turn round on me and say that I was trying to sabotage the war effort.
If I had been fortunate enough to catch the Speaker's eye, my hon. Friend would have heard exactly what I think of what is happening in the mining industry and proposals for bettering the output more effectively than would be likely to occur if nationalisation were accepted.
Mr. Max ton:
The hon. and gallant Member for Epsom gives me an answer that suits me better than that of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Portsmouth. The hon. and gallant Member for Epsom says that if I were to propose handing the Navy back to private enterprise to be run by the shipping companies, he would think that I was wrong in the head. I think that when he resists a proposal to turn the mines over to the nation he is just making exactly the same kind of mistake.
What about the good old days of private enterprise when we got up an expedition and fought His Majesty's enemies on the high seas and made what profits we could out of it?
There are things to be said for both. Let me try to get the House to see this thing in its proper perspective. I recollect that in the last war there was not this trouble about the shortage of coal. If my recollections are correct, both the industrial and the domestic consumers got their supplies without rationing. I think we also gave supplies to our Allies, France and Italy. At the end of the war there was an outcry from people like the hon. Member for Belper, and all the control had to be removed at once. There was a terrific slump in miners' wages. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan) referred to it yesterday as being a 75 per cent. drop. There was a strike which lasted for three months, the condition of the men was simply deplorable, and the misery in the mining villages was heart breaking.
Control was taken off. Miners' wages were cut in the interests of international competition, and I want the House to note this, that it was following that struggle that the Labour party came into this House, to become the official Opposition for the first time, in 1922. In the following year they became the Government. In 1924 the Baldwin Government came into power, and in 1926 there was the great General Strike. That strike proved that every section of the working-class movement, and many other sections in the community not of the working class, felt that the nation was not treating the miner justly. Throughout the length and breadth of this land people were moved as never before.
The strike collapsed after the Government of the day had turned out the Army, Navy and Air Force, but for six months afterwards the miners remained on strike. Then came the Labour Government of 1929–31, which had to face up to the situation again. As I said in my opening remarks, they allowed themselves, through the exigencies of the Parliamentary situation and other things, to agree to a compromise, just as we are being asked to accept a compromise scheme to-day. When will the House learn? Nearly all the speeches from the other side have been based on speaking nicely to the miners. Well, I know miners very well; I have lived in many miners' homes in different parts of the country, and I know that they are the least gullible people in the world. You will not gull them by nice words, or even by the eloquent phrases of the Prime Minister over the radio. I will not say that you will face a great struggle at this juncture, but if you postpone the operation of a scheme as laid down in the Amendment of my hon. Friends and myself, you will have one of the most bitter struggles you have ever seen in this country.
Remember, it was the miners who first brought working men on to the Floor of this House nearly 60 years ago. Miners founded the great Labour Party. Robert Smillie and Keir Hardie pioneered the conception of a Labour party separate from a capitalist party. It was the affiliation of the miners' unions with the Labour party that made a great political party in this country. Always the rank and file of the miners sent ministers here. Even the President of the Board of Trade sits on that Front Bench by the work of miners. Always have they thought that one day they would be free men in an honoured industry in which they would not merely work and toil but in which they would have an effective say. Until they get that, there will be no satisfaction, and no nice words or plausible talk about what will be done for them in the future will remove the grievance which rankles in their breasts. I want to say to the hon. Members with whom I have had a long and friendly personal association in this House that I have watched their attitude on this Measure. I am one of those who would like to see a world made happier by being run in a kindly way rather than by cruel and brutal methods. My philosophy has always been that I wish we could always have friendly agreement and understanding. I say to these hon. Gentlemen that if their attitude on general post-war reconstruction and the new order is to be of the same kind as that which they have manifested in their attitude towards this Measure, then God help Great Britain.
I beg to second the Amendment.
I do not wish to be long in doing so, because I do not think I can add very much to what has already been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). As I see it, this country needs coal, and the mining industry is not able to produce the goods. The Government, by their scheme for the reorganisation of the mining industry, have plainly shown that they have not much faith in it, because in the Annex to the White Paper they say that there will be a rationing scheme if the coal cannot be produced. I think the Government are right in their appreciation of their own scheme. It is a miserable piece of work. Some way had to be found by the Government out of the position in which they found themselves, and so we get this White Paper which first promises something bold and says that the Government will take full control of the industry but is then followed by words which show that this control will mean little or nothing. No hon. Member who has spoken in the Debate has shown any very great faith in the Government's scheme. The proposals have been damned with faint praise. Some hon. Members have said that if the scheme is put into operation and if a bonus system is brought into being, there may be a certain amount of increased production. I do not think the scheme will be of any use. It will take up time, and I consider that the country may be faced with a very great crisis because of the loss of time involved by this scheme. If there comes an industrial crisis caused by lack of coal for the war effort, the Government will have to take their responsibility for that position, as also will Members of the House, who see this position developing while this abortive scheme is put before them for consideration.
I believe there are only two ways of dealing with the situation. Either the private owners should be left in control of the industry, and given, if necessary, subsidies to enable them to provide the miners with a decent standard of life, and given every encouragement to carry on the industry. Or, on the other hand, there should be a scheme of communal ownership of the industry. This miserable pretence of public control in the Government's scheme, which does not really mean public control, will simply have the effect of hindering production and creating a more impossible situation in the near future. I see no hope for the miners in this scheme. I see in it no hope for the ordinary people of the country, who are in need of coal, getting adequate supplies. I see no hope for the industries of the country being adequately supplied as a result of these proposals.
There has been a long fight for the nationalisation of the mining industry. The miners have contributed more than any other section of the community to the advance of this country, and we owe it to the miners to give them their industry, into which they have put their blood and sweat and tears. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton said, if the attitude of hon. Members and the Government is an indication of what we have to hope for in the future at the end of this war, that future will be blacker even than the days which followed 1918, with all the unemployment and trouble in the mining industry and the other industries of the country. I want the country to take note of these things. I appeal to hon. Members in all parties to face the real problem and to get away from the pretence in these proposals. If hon. Members are honest with themselves, they know that the Government's scheme is a mere pretence of dealing with the problem of the coal industry. I ask hon. Members to insist that steps be taken to deal effectively with the coal industry, whether by nationalisation or otherwise. Do not let us be taken in by this miserable plan in which nobody realty believes. I appeal to hon. Members to take their courage in their hands, to go into the Division Lobby against this pretence of the Government, and to insist that the Government bring forward a great scheme of communal ownership of the industry which will give the miners hope for the future and mean that the miners will not be serfs in the industry, but will be working to provide for the happiness and welfare of all, and not for the private profit of a few.
I have not had the opportunity of taking part in recent Debates on the coal industry, and although a great deal of ground has already been covered in the Debate, I would like to make one or two general statements. I do not propose to follow the speeches of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen), other than to say that if the eloquence and sincerity of the hon. Member for Bridgeton were on a par with his knowledge of statistics, I do not think the House would take him very seriously. The whole crux of his speech, I think, was his assumption that in the latter part of the last war we were producing all the coal we needed both for home purposes and for some of our Allies. The hon. Member forgets that at that time there were nearly 1,100,000 men in the industry, whereas to-day our great problem is to produce the coal required with slightly over 700,000 men.
Before making some general observations, I should like to add my congratulations to those that have been forthcoming from all quarters of the House to the new Minister for Fuel and Power and to the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) on his appointment as Joint Parliamentary Secretary. I can think of no happier selections or ones more calculated to inspire the confidence of the mining industry, the consumers, and the House. If there is any regret to be expressed, I think it is that the creation of this Ministry should have been delayed 17 years after its recommendation by the Samuel Commission. I think, moreover, that we may congratulate the new Minister not only on his appointment and his elevation to Cabinet rank, but on the powers and machinery in. the proposals in the White Paper with which he is now furnished. The hon. Member for Cam lachie said that he had not come across anybody who was wholeheartedly in favour of the White Paper. But for some slight criticisms, I can assure him that I am wholeheartedly in favour of the plan now being adopted.
What I said was that, while I heard Members speaking in favour of the scheme, there was no indication from anyone that the plan would increase production. Does the hon. and gallant Member think that it will?
Yes, Sir. As I develop my speech, I will try to show how, if this plan is effectively put into operation, it will, in due course, increase production. I see no purpose at this moment in criticising the Government for having delayed so long. Some of us thought that a scheme of this nature ought to have been adopted from the commencement of the war, and I think the remarkable thing it that we find ourselves in no worse condition than we are. We might easily have had a number of power stations and pits put out of production by enemy action had the war taken another course, and there might have been a far greater strain on our mining man-power. As it is, we find ourselves with a gap which has to be closed. It is not a very large gap, but it is a gap which will, in due course, if it is not dealt with, become increasingly large. There is little justification in not recognising either for the eventualities I have mentioned, or the inevitable increased demand for coal brought about by the expansion of industry due to the war. The coal industry has been adequate to deal with pre-war national purposes when a great many concerns were producing coal effectively and adequately for their own local demands. It has now been found that the industry can no longer function effectively in what is really a mass production basis without a considerable degree of rationalisation. For the moment the present system has to go by the board, and something has to be substituted in its place. We have to face up to the necessity of concentrating men and material to the greatest use, and introducing machinery to bring about increased production with the minimum amount of man-power available to our hands.
Statistics, particularly as they affect the coal trade, are apt to be misleading, but we cannot disregard the difference between 20 cwt. and 30 cwt. per manshift in the same districts, or the difference in output between coalfields. Still less can we disregard the difference in output between this country and the United States. In the United States they are producing 1,200 tons of coal per man per year, as against 300 tons in this country. We all know that we can discount a great part of that difference owing to the difference in conditions in the two countries, but it cannot be completely disregarded. Before the war I had opportunities to visit all the major coal-producing countries in the world, and I think it is true to say that in recent years the United States, Germany and ourselves enjoyed cycles of efficiency, and that France, Poland and Russia had not attained the same standard during that period. Most recently America was going ahead, particularly in the use of power-loading machinery. In this country we have a number of technical men who are as good as any in the world, and in my submission the solution to the problem confronting the new Minister lies primarily in paragraph 9 (iii). In that paragraph are set out the means by which, through grouping concerns into control able units, the Minister can turn the efforts of these efficient technical men to the best account.
The problem is chiefly one for the mining engineer. Just as it is necessary to rationalise men and machinery and concentrate their use where they can win the most coal, so it is necessary for the Minister to use the technical efficiency at his disposal to help him produce the maximum amount of coal. I am not sure from the White Paper how he proposes to find and use that technical efficiency. In my view there are just so many men capable of carrying out the proposals envisaged in the White Paper and these men will of necessity be engaged at the collieries. I do not know whether it is the intention to use them part-time. I see that "The Times" suggests that there are large numbers of technical men available for the Minister's purpose, but I think that that is an exaggeration. Certainly there is a fair number, but is by no means a large number. It is a very real problem which the Minister will have to face up to.
I think, in view of the immense amount of work which in the initial stages will have to be undertaken by the Controller-General and by the Controllers, consideration might be given to the question of their having assistance, otherwise there may be some considerable delay in getting the scheme under way. I do not think, whatever steps are taken to-day, the Minister can expect to see any improvement in less than eight or nine months and that is why, if for no other reason, we should go ahead at the earliest moment with plans both in regard to the concentration of men and machinery and to the grouping of pits into more economic units as I have suggested.
I am glad that the Government have resisted the appeal to withdraw any considerable number of men from the Army. We all want to see a second front and, as the President of the Board of Trade said the other day, who would like to embark on a second front without the Durham Light Infantry, the Northumberland Fusiliers or the South Wales Borderers, and I think he might have added the Sherwood Foresters? I can think of nothing which would give the Germans greater pleasure than to feel that those regiments, and others of a similar nature, were going to be withdrawn from whatever Force we may propose shortly to put on the Continent.
I am sorry to see in the White Paper no allusion to the Miners' Welfare Commission. However important the work they do in peace-time, it is doubly important in war-time, and I do not see that you can legislate for moving men about within the country without very serious consideration to their welfare interests. I do not propose to say anything about absenteeism except that I am glad to see that it has been put into its proper perspective. I am convinced that cases are very few. The figure of 5.66 shifts per week speaks for itself. They are the same few who are not prepared to work for the profit motive, and equally are not prepared to work in case they pay Income Tax to the State. I think we should be wise to desist from perpetual reference to the question of absenteeism. I am glad to see that the responsibility for dealing with this problem is being withdrawn from the pit production committees and that they will be enabled thereby to carry out their main function, which it seems to me should never have been one concerned primarily with the question of absenteeism.
The medical arrangements are all to the good, but I should like to see an increase in rehabilitation centres. They have done immensely good work, but they are all too few. I wonder if it would be possible for the miners' welfare funds to be used to increase them. After all, they deal primarily with men who have experience in the industry and who are wanted badly at the earliest possible moment. The White Paper does not mention strikes, but we cannot ignore them. They have been taking place, and they have been on the increase recently. I am afraid they may continue until we have reached a settlement, both in regard to what we are considering to-day and in regard to the matter of wages. Whereas in the last war industrial unrest in the coal trade was due primarily to the cost of living rising more sharply than miners' wages, I think the reason to-day is almost entirely the disparity of wages in the mining industry as against those enjoyed in munition works in particular. Perhaps the National Tribunal will pay particular attention to that aspect of the matter. However important are the matters that I have referred to, we must not lose sight of the fact that the underlying principle of the proposals in this White Paper is the matter of increased production. I am pleased that in due course we shall be able to produce more coal. I feel that at long last we have produced the means and the machinery by which we can do something which will be to the nation's interest not only at this moment but in the equally difficult times which will he in front of us after the war. We have the machinery and the tools to hand and the good wishes of all of us are with the new Minister in the task that lies ahead of him.
We have had something like 12½ hours of Debate, and we have had something like 35 speeches, very few of which have been whole-hearted in support of the scheme. The ground covered by the White Paper has certainly been well trodden—I might almost well say well ploughed-up. There have been those who have felt that the White Paper, being a compromise, was of necessity unacceptable to the majority of the House, who, however, owing to political exigencies, were finding it possible to feel that the best thing was not to oppose it. I should be much happier in delivering a speech on the lines of the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). I often feel happier on the platform in delivering propaganda speeches. Most of us on this side of the House are happier in propaganda, but I am not too sure that this is an occasion for a propaganda speech. This industry, in which I have spent the whole of my life, is confronted with a very difficult problem, and we who have responsibilities are compelled to get down to face it.
Before dealing with the main portion of the White Paper, I would like to refer to the postponement of rationing. On 13th May, when my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal made the announcement that the previous White Paper had been withdrawn and that the Government were considering a White Paper which would take in production as well as rationing of consumption, I ventured to ask whether the views of the Mineworkers' Federation of Great Britain would have the same weight as those of the 1922 Committee. He replied:
I do not think it is intended that the Committee sitting on this subject should consult the 1922 Committee."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th May, 1942; cols. 1749–50, Vol. 379.]
I do not know much about the 1922 Committee, but they seem to me to be a very formidable and influential body. Whether they were consulted or not they seem to me almost to determine Government policy. Previous to the last White Paper they were consulted. As a result of those consultations that White Paper was withdrawn. Previous to this White Paper they were not consulted, I understand, but rationing has been postponed—just the thing they asked for. We in the Miners' Federation have been consulted throughout. We have had many consultations with the Government, but I am satisfied that the 1922 Committee carry more weight without consultation with the Government than the Miners' Federation do with consultation. In my opinion we are discussing this White Paper to-day mainly because of the influence of the 1922 Committee in this matter. I realise that we have men in the Government who have throughout their lives been friends of the miners. The Lord Privy Seal himself rendered us invaluable service over the Gresford explosion that we shall never forget. He showed himself then, as he has on many occasions, to be a good friend to the miners. I know that he and my right hon. Friends the President of the Board of Trade, the Minister of Labour and the Dominions Secretary, would do all they could to advocate the miners' claims as to the best way to handle this problem. I know that they would, under the influence of their colleagues in the Cabinet, come to a compromise. I do not see that they could do anything else, and I am certain that this White Paper is the best
compromise they could get. If they could have got a better one they would have got it.
I want to ask one question with regard to the postponement of rationing. I experience some difficulty in trying to visualise how it is to be decided to introduce rationing. As the result of the White Paper, appeals are to be made for reduced consumption and efforts are to be made for increased production. At what point are the Government going to decide that rationing should be introduced? Have the stocks of the country to attain a certain quantity? Has output to be increased to a certain extent. Has consumption to be reduced to a certain figure? At what point do the Government intend to decide? What factors and considerations will determine whether rationing shall be introduced? Along with the rest of the House, I congratulate the new Minister from the bottom of my heart. He won his spurs, golden spurs, at the Ministry of Food, and if he can win some other spurs at this Ministry he will do very well indeed. I presume that he will ask for a report in a month or two. He will watch events and find out what is happening. He will then submit a report to the Cabinet, and say either, "I think the time has arrived for us to introduce rationing," or "There is no need to introduce rationing." I should like to be enlightened on this question. I am taking for granted that there is to be no more political influence on this question and that from now on it is to be a question of safeguarding the fuel requirements of the country in the coming winter without any political influence from inside.
Before dealing with the reorganisation proposals, I should like to draw attention to the proposal for the rehabilitation of those engaged in the industry. The mining industry, generally speaking, is made up of strong, hefty, healthy men. You have only to look on this side of the House to see specimens of some of them. At the same time, those engaged in the industry face great difficulties and are subject to many ravages. I am thinking at the moment of the ravage of silicosis. In a report submitted to a committee of which I am a member, it was stated that 1,000 of my fellow miners in South Wales alone during 1941 suffered from this terrible scourge. Over 10 per cent. of them went to immature graves. I am pleased to know that there is something in the White Paper which will help to deal with the victims of the future. I had three personal friends, each one of whom committed suicide as a result of depression caused by nystagmus. I wanted to see somewhere sooner or later some effort to deal with these miners. I think that in this White Paper there seems to be a suggestion of it, although I was not too encouraged by a reply given on 2nd June to my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths)—than whom no man inside or outside the House has taken a more active interest in the question of silicosis. He asked the Home Office whether it was possible for a statement to be made with regard to the report that had been issued. He got a reply from the Under-Secretary, and I want to be fair to him for he said that he appreciated the urgency of the problem. I want to know whether this reference in the White Paper to rehabilitation is to be taken up in dead earnest. Surely it is not a mere form of words. Surely it was not put in with the intention of making the White Paper more acceptable to us. I believe it to be a sincere and genuine intention to deal with this serious problem.
As regards the reorganisation proposals, we were told by the President of the Board of Trade that the primary purpose of this White Paper was to secure increased production. What are the essentials of increased production? First and foremost by far I should place good will in the industry. I know the industry intimately and I am a member of a district board. It is no use the hon. Member for Belper (Mr. Wragg) saying what he did. To me his speech was the most regrettable of all the speeches in this Debate. It was no speech to bring about good will in this industry. I should be ashamed, if I were a coalowner, to make such a speech in this Debate.
This industry needs good will, but I sometimes feel that we are in danger of thinking that everything will be all right if we get good will on the National Board. Good will there is very necessary, but if it is found nowhere else in the industry, we shall not get the coal. I know from personal experience that good will on the regional boards in the districts is also essential. Where good will will count for most is at the pits. It is not there to-day. My hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Foster), who delivered that fine maiden speech yesterday" were busy during the week-end trying to get men back to the pits because of the lack of good will at the pits. They have succeeded. Everyone of those pits is working this week. How did they do it? By referring to this White Paper and to some negotiations that are going on.
The first essential towards getting good will in the pits is to make the pit production committees a reality. They have not been so up to the present, and I would make one or two suggestions for making them more effective instruments. Up to now they have spent most of their time dealing with absenteeism. In this White Paper the Government have wisely excluded that topic from their future deliberations. It was always disliked by the miners' members on those committees. They did not like to sit in judgment on their fellow miners. They have a healthy distaste for that kind of conduct. Further, the question of absenteeism took up so much time on pit production committees that there was seldom much time for anything else to be discussed. We put forward during the Debate yesterday suggestions as to how absentees should be dealt with which are slightly different from those contained in the White Paper. My right hon. Friend gave a definite undertaking that those suggestions would be considered at the right time by the right authorities, and that is all right for me. My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal might consider whether the regional controller himself, or some representative, could not occasionally attend one of these pit production committees to see how they conduct their business and to ascertain the topics with which they deal. Further, could not the regional controller ask for reports occasionally as to what is happening at the pit production committee meetings? If he finds that the subjects considered are not those which would help in production he can then ask that the committees should deal with this, that or the other matter. In that way we could get really effective pit production committees, which would help to create that good will which is essential to make this industry meet the war needs of to-day.
I should say that the second requirement is a well-manned industry. I think the White Paper helps in that direction, noting its reference to the efforts that are being made to bring boys into the industry as well as to get back men who have left; but I am not sure whether the Government have realised how serious the problem is. I can well understand the Government saying that they cannot possibly release men who are in the Army. As I have said before, I would not ask them to return a man from the Army to the industry if he is serving the interests of the country better where he is. But I must refer to the reports we get as regards men in the Royal Air Force, a point which was emphasised by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson). He tells me that there are thousands of men on the ground staff of the Air Force who could be spared and would render better service in the mines of the country than they are rendering where they are. Will the Lord Privy Seal give an undertaking that that statement shall be investigated to ascertain its accuracy or otherwise? In the manning of the industry it should not be forgotten that when men are brought back to the mines from other occupations time must be allowed for them to get accustomed to the work again. Work at the coal face underground is not something you can jump to as' easily as you can jump to being a Member of Parliament. That is not difficult. If the Lord Privy Seal were to say to me "You are an ex-miner, you look a decent, hefty fellow, and we need miners; do you mind going back to the mines for the duration of the war? I do not know how I should feel about it; but I do know that it would take me quite a time to get acclimatised again to pit conditions. That happens in all cases. Therefore, I do not want the Government to expect great results immediately after the men have been returned to the pits.
Next to a well-manned industry we need a well-managed industry. The managers are a body of men for whom I have a great regard. I do not think that as a nation we have realised our indebtedness to colliery managers. There are nearly 2,000 of them. Their responsibility is a heavy one. I know that there are good ones and bad ones and indifferent ones, as is the case with Members of Parliament. I have worked under them and I have worked with them, and I know them well, and we ought to realise their position. On the one hand they have to consider the owner of the undertaking. He has put them there for one specific purpose only, to provide financial profits. That is the only purpose for which he engages them, and I am not blaming him. The workmen expect from him decent wages for the work they do. Most mine managers are anxious to pay good wages, but sometimes they are prevented from doing so by the other consideration of safeguarding, maintaining or increasing the profits of the owner. In this White Paper managers have been placed in a very difficult position.
I do not wish to interrupt my hon. Friend, but there is a war on, and I think he is not quite justified in talking about the profits of mineowners while there is a war on. The principal thing is to produce coal. We are all concerned with the production of coal, and I think my hon. Friend has laid too much stress on the profits of the mineowners.
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who, I know, is interested in this matter from the owners' side, wants to contradict anything I have said I should like him to do it in a different way. He cannot deny that the mine manager is in a very difficult position and this White Paper makes it still more difficult. We must place the mine manager in a position where he can assist to get us more coal. That will not happen while he is in the position where the White Paper leaves him. The Controller will come along with his suggestions. Those suggestions may mean doing something which may for the time being endanger the financial return from the pit. That mine manager has to consider, "I may want to be employed by this colliery company when this war is over. Therefore I must continue in the course of pleasing them." I would again ask for serious consideration of this matter. I accepted 1s reply given earlier in the Debate by the President of the Board of Trade because I thought it was an advance. I would accept it for the time being, but I hope that this question will be thoroughly examined to see whether it is possible to make the mine manager a paid servant of the State rather than of the owner Having got this good will and a well-manned and well-managed industry, I suggest that the next requirement should be a well-paid industry. The cause of most of the trouble in the mining industry has been wages. We have had trouble over hours and conditions, and we have had our psychological approach to questions. We have dealt with nationalisation as a political issue for a long while. No section of workers in this or any other country has been more advanced politically than the miners. The hon. Member for Bridgeton told us how we sent the first Labour Member here—or "Lib-Lab" as he called him—and have been in the forefront in this House. We have dealt with nationalisation to a large extent in the past as a political question, but all that has gone. We still advocate nationalisation, not as a political nostrum at all, but as the best economic and industrial solution to the problem. I should be much happier at this Box now fighting for nationalisation, as I believe that it would do far more good than this White Paper. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why do you not vote for it? "] Wages count for far more at the present time. Our boys have been out, and we have lost hundreds of thousands of tons. They have not been out for any political nostrum, but for wages. I do not mind hon. Members who oppose our claim for more wages objecting to comparison with other workers. We have a far better claim to more wages than that. I do not want us as miners to say that because some other body of workers somewhere else is getting more wages than we are we therefore want more wages. We shall never solve our problems if every body of workers is to keep its eye on the wages paid to every other, body. I base my claim for advanced wages upon the services rendered by the miners to this country. No body of workers has rendered better service. We are entitled to better treatment from the country than we are getting. The coalowners say that they cannot give it to us; very well, we will ask the Government to see that we get it.
We have asked for a National Board to deal with wages. Does the Lord Privy Seal know why? The hon. and gallant Member for Fylde (Lieut.-Colonel Lancaster) told us that production in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire was much higher than in Lancashire and elsewhere, but that is not because Nottinghamshire mines are better worked than in Lancashire, but because of geological differences. The Lord Privy Seal and his colleagues must recognise that sooner or later this industry must be treated as a unit for wage-paying purposes. It is not fair to say to a miner in one of the poorer districts that because he has to work harder under more difficult conditions, in that thin seam, that great heat, in that water, he shall do so for a lower wage than the man who works in a better and more comfortable seam. It is not fair to place upon the individual miner the burden of geological differences. That is what the present wage system is doing. I would ask the Lord Privy Seal to keep that point in mind. Does he think it is fair that a man should get a lower wage merely because he happens to work harder and under more difficult conditions? That, is what happens now.
In less than an hour we shall have endorsed this White Paper. That will not be the end, by any means. We shall need coal; we shall need more coal. The wage negotiations now going on will determine the fate of this White Paper. I agree that there was a problem to be examined, and the Government did the right thing in setting up a court of inquiry, which I expect will report within a week or so. I hope that the Government will not absolve themselves from responsibility and say that because the Board has said this, that or the other the Government cannot do those things. If the wage settlement on the immediate claim is unsatisfactory, and if that unsatisfactory wage settlement is imposed on the industry, this White Paper will be a "dismal failure. I press the Government to keep in mind the issue that this immediate claim cannot be dissociated from the White Paper. It must have a good start and a good start will mean that the men in the industry must be satisfied that they are getting a fair deal as regards wages.
I shall have no hesitation in voting for the White Paper. If I were asked to vote for the White Paper against the National Labour Council's plan, I should vote for the National Council of Labour's plan. If I were asked to vote for the White Paper against nationalisation, I should vote for nationalisation, but when I realise that the White Paper is the only practical thing before me and when I realise it is so important, I have no hesitation in saying that I shall vote for the White Paper.
I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman two questions. He said it was necessary to increase output; would it be possible to extend the number of hours in the shift?
If I may reply again, I would do so in this way: If the hon. and gallant Gentleman realised the strain on men working in the mines after nearly three years of war and with not much extra rations, he would realise also that to suggest an extension of the week would be a very unfair thing.
After the wealth of specialised knowledge that has been shown by various contributors to this Debate, I feel a little like an Englishman rising to address a Committee on Scottish Estimates. The Debate has given an opportunity to Members with the most divergent views to express those views to the House. The Government may be satisfied that they have heard expressions of views from all sides of the House. Further, they may be satisfied that the great bulk of those views have—with some reservations, it is true—commended the White Paper. I am sure that my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power will be grateful to the House for the good send-off given him in the very difficult job which he is now facing.
I would first say a word about the Amendment which has been proposed by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). The issue raised by the Amendment is the straight and clear one of nationalisation. In other circumstances and at other times it may be that some of us would take a different view upon that issue, but as the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) has said, this scheme is provided to deal, not with some political theory but with the immediate situation of getting an agreement upon how we can secure the most effective production from the mines. In the view of the Government, this scheme will be effective, and it has the great merit of commanding a very large body of agreement throughout all parts of the House. It is, of course, in one sense a compromise, but we believe that it is a compromise which is capable of working to the great benefit of the country. Like every other scheme, this must depend very largely upon the way in which it is administered. The administration will be vital; the White Paper itself is not coal, it is the means by which, if it is wisely and firmly administered, we hope the coal will be obtained.
The hon. Gentleman who preceded me asked, with regard to one feature, whether we were in earnest about it. I should like to assure him, and the House and the country, that we are in absolute earnest about every part of this White Paper. Nothing has been put in merely for the sake of window-dressing; every paragraph of it is intended to be carried out, and I am sure that under the new Minister it will be carried out, with the express purpose of maximising the product of the industry. I would like to say one word about the question of good will which has been raised in many speeches from many sides of the House. We all agree that production in an atmosphere of good will is much easier than production in an atmosphere of antagonism. But good will is not a thing that exists sentimentally in vacuo. In an industry, good will is a thing that exists by virtue of the conditions in that industry, and when we speak of creating an atmosphere of good will in an industry, what we really mean is creating a sense of justice and fairness in that industry, so that those who are actually engaged in the operations of production feel that they can give their best to their productive effort. It is because we regard good will from that point of view, that we have put some of the provisions in this White Paper.
I think the more convenient way for me to deal with it, will be to go through the White Paper, picking up the criticisms and the questions which have been asked in the order in which they arose in the Debate. First let me deal with the question of man-power. The hon. Member for Ince asked whether the Government realised its seriousness. I can assure him that the Government fully realise the seriousness of the man-power question. During the last two years, as the White Paper states, there have been called back from other occupations—all important occupations—33,000 men from industry, and now some 11,000 more are being returned from the Army, the R.A.F., Civil Defence and industry. These are the maximum figures which, as at present advised, the Government feel they can get from those sources, the maximum figures, that is, of skilled workers for the mines. If there are still unexplored resources somewhere which we have been unable to discover, we shall certainly be glad to utilise them if we can. But that expedient of bringing men back into the industry is a thing you can only do once; get the man back, and you cannot get him back again next year. Therefore we feel that those expedients have been substantially exhausted with the present withdrawal of 11,500 men.
We are, then, bound to consider the question of man-power from two other points of view, first the getting of young people into the industry and secondly the prevention of avoidable wastage of manpower from the industry. As regards the first, we have set up a committee to advise us upon conditions in the industry likely to make it more attractive to young people going into it. We realise that the industry in the past, and especially in the recent past, has failed to attract young people, and therefore we are determined, as soon as we get the report from that committee, to take such steps as are necessary to make the industry more attractive to the young people entering it. Secondly, we desire to set up a medical system in the industry which will give full play to the powers of medical rehabilitation, so that the wastage can be kept down not, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton suggested, by harshly returning men to the industry when they are not fit, but by preventing them from leaving the industry for good, when a small amount of remedial treatment might enable them to retain their position in it.
I would also draw the attention of the House to the fact, set out in paragraph 6 of the White Paper, that the Minister of Labour has now given instructions that the coal-mines shall be added to the list of priority industries to which, under certain conditions, men not deferred in their present work may go, instead of being called up for military service, and we hope that in that way too we shall be able to attract a certain number into the industry. Besides the desire to stop the wastage, we hope that this medical service will, in fact, perform a much greater function for the industry than the mere temporary one of providing labour that is badly required. We hope that it will become a permanent part of the industry and a pioneering system as regards other industries as well.
Now, if I may, I will pass to the next paragraph of the White Paper and say just one word about absenteeism. We have stated in the White Paper that
charges of excessive absenteeism cannot be sustained against the great majority of the miners,
and I hope that the ghost of absenteeism has been finally laid by this Debate. A great deal of unfair criticism has been made as regards absenteeism, which, though it exists, is not an illness that affects the whole of the mining industry. Then we come to the question of reorganisation. The effectiveness of the scheme which we
propose must depend upon the primary purpose for which it is operated. If, as some Members have suggested, it were to be operated for the primary purpose of maintaining the owners' position in the industry, one could imagine one set of circumstances following such decisions. Therefore we have set out very clearly and precisely in the opening paragraph on reorganisation the fundamental purpose for which this reorganisation is to be carried out, and I would remind the House of the words we have used:
In order to ensure that all practicable means of increasing output are adopted without delay and pressed forward vigorously, private interests being subordinated to the over-riding needs of increased production, the Government have decided to assume full control over the operation of the mines, and to organise the industry on the basis of national service, with the intention that the organisation now to be established will continue pending a final decision by Parliament on the future of the industry.
It is important to note that we do not anticipate, as some hon. Members have suggested, that this scheme should be dropped in a hurry and thus plunge the coal industry into chaos as was done after the last war. This scheme will continue
until Parliament, after the war is over, have decided how they think the coal industry of this country should be conducted in the future. The primary and fundamental objective which we have in view is that there should be an absolute control over all mining operations by the Government, and as my right hon. Friend remarked to-day with regard to one item, anything that stands in the way of that major desideratum will have to be reconsidered or dealt with differently, but we believe that the White Paper, by the scheme set out, will be able to accomplish that purpose. When we come to the question of the national machinery—as to which, we repeat, that the Minister will take full control over the operation of all coalmines and over the allocation of the coal raised—we set up a system of control. I would particularly draw the attention of the House to the fact, which was commented upon, I think by the hon. and gallant Member for the Fylde Division (Lieut.-Colonel Lancaster), that there is to be there a Labour Director under the Controller-General who will be responsible for the welfare, safety, health and working conditions of coal miners. All these matters will come directly under the control of the Minister and will be particularly attended to by a special directorate for that purpose.
Then comes the National Coal Board. There has been some criticism of the composition of that Board. I would point out to the House that neither in the case of the Regional Boards nor in that of the National Coal Board have any numbers been given as regards representation. That was left open for the very specific purpose that the matter might be discussed with those interests who were to be represented on the Board and a decision come to by the Minister on the exact numerical composition. Then there is the regional organisation, which we regard as a very vital and essential factor in the scheme. In that case also there will be, under the Controller, a Labour Director who will be concerned with the same problems of safety, health, and the conditions of the workers. There will be Regional Boards on which the miners and others will be represented, and here also the numerical balance is left to be determined as I have already stated.
Finally, we come to the paragraph of this White Paper which has perhaps caused most criticism and most difficulty in the minds of hon. Members. It is that in which it is said that the managers will remain the servants of the owners. The essence of this scheme is that the financial side of the coalowning business is being separated from the operational side. It is the operational side which the Government are completely controlling, irrespective of its effect upon the financial side, and the managers, as the operational nerve centres in the pits, are obliged to carry out the Controller's directions, irrespective of what effect those directions may have upon the financial interests of the owners. If the Controller says, "Move all the men or machinery out of this seam" it is no concern of the managers what the financial effect of that may be. This is a matter which will have to be settled subsequently on some compensation basis, if there be such, between the Government and the owners.
With proper tests to see that the interests of the country are safeguarded. It is said that this will mean a dual loyalty in the management. [Interruption.] An hon. Member says "Of course it will." Unless we were going permanently to nationalise the mines at this moment—if we were going to requisition them temporarily—the manager would be in just the some position, so that as between requisitioning temporarily and permitting the finances of the ownership to continue uninterfered with, except for the operations of the Controller, there is really no difference upon that point. We do not believe that the managers, who are bound, under pain of dismissal, to obey the Controller's instructions will make it impossible or difficult for the Controller to have those instructions carried out. But as my right hon. Friend has said, if that defeats the purpose of this White Paper then the Government will certainly reconsider it because they do not intend the main primary purpose to be defeated.
I gather that the Government have given an undertaking that they will consider this matter again in the light of experience. I think that the manager is in a most difficult position under this scheme, as he is liable to be dismissed by the owner and is also liable to be dismissed by the Controller and is continually having to serve two masters. It is because we felt that the scheme might break down because of that, that we put forward our proposals.
I appreciate may hon. Friend's point, and if the scheme is going to break down because of that, then we are prepared to reconsider the position, as my right hon. Friend has said. Secondly, it was said that this appointee of the owners might be someone out of touch with the direct management or not the direct manager. I draw the attention of the House to the words at the bottom of page 6:
The Controller will thus have direct access to, and control over, the person in executive charge of the working of the mine"—
—that is the object of this system—
—who will similarly have direct access to the Controller.
Who precisely that man will be in given circumstances it is impossible to say, circumstances differ so much in so many different areas and pits, but that is the object which is being aimed at, and which my right hon. Friend the Minister will no doubt see is carried out. Finally, as regards managers, some question was raised as regards their responsibility for safety. We have said expressly that:
It is not proposed to interfere with the statutory responsibility of pit managers for questions of safety.
skilled, carrying out very difficult jobs, and we shall continue to rely upon them, as we must under the law, for seeing to the safety of their pits. Then we come to pit production committees, and I should like to say here, with great deference, that the Government look on the pit production committees as giving the men an opportunity to put at the disposal of the country the great knowledge and experience they have in the production of coal. We do not intend that these pit production committees should be shelved in any way, and we have removed
from them the task of dealing with of absenteeism for the very purpose of seeing' that they concentrate their energies on what we consider the right thing, assisting in production at the pit.
We come to the question of wages machinery. It is impossible for me to say anything at this stage as regards settlement of wages. That matter we have referred to an investigation committee, which, I believe, will have the confidence of everybody in the country, and is one of the best bodies of that kind ever set up in the country. We shall await its report. The Government will then have to decide what action they propose to take as a result of that report. There is one factor in this White Paper to which great importance has been attached, and which I should like again to emphasise. The Government have stated specifically that they believe it to be desirable to develop a system by which wages and conditions in the mining industry can be dealt with on a national basis, by a properly constituted national body. That is a statement of fundamental belief—if I may put it in that way—on the part of the Government, and that matter, too, has been referred to this investigating body to suggest the best way in which they can be carried out.
The new national body, when it comes into operation, will, of course, be able to suggest any new basis for wages that it likes. I am much obliged for my hon. Friend's interruption, because I wanted to say a word on the paragraph headed "Wages, Machinery," dealing with the financial structure of the industry. I think there has been some misunderstanding of the phraseology used. What is stated here is that these White Paper proposals are not intended to introduce any fundamental alteration in the financial structure of the industry. That is clear from the proposals themselves. But that is not to say that there may not be a necessity, for some other reason, for a new wages basis, and for some such alteration. It is only to say that we are not making any proposal here for such a change. Anybody who has had to study, as I have in the past, some of these wages ascertainments and facts, knows how difficult it is. Anybody who has studied these things will appreciate that it is not a thing into which you can quickly put your foot and take it out again. You can easily put your foot in, but it is likely to remain there once you have done so. We believe it is a matter to be dealt with in this special way, by this investigation body, and in consultation with the various interests in the industry. As to the question of running the Fuel Ministry, that will be an ordinary Governmental cost, like the running of any other Ministry. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) asked how it was to be financed. So far as the controllers and everybody else are concerned, they will be a charge on the Exchequer. As to the changing of machinery, that will have to be dealt with on some basis of compensation, when one sees how the industry is affected.
On paragraph 21, I desire again to emphasise that a whole mass of subjects which will have to come under this scheme will remain open for discussion with the miners and the owners, if necessary. I come to the question of domestic rationing. It has been decided that domestic rationing shall, for the present, take a second place. Some of us felt that if you were going to bring in a big reorganisation scheme in order to stimulate production, it was better to give that a chance, to see whether you got the hoped-for results from it, and not to apply a rationing scheme at the moment you were introducing the reorganisation. On the other hand, it is essential that we should have a scheme ready in case of need. We had, therefore, to decide on what we thought was the best rationing scheme, and to get it ready. We have made it clear that, after very careful consideration, the scheme in the Annex is the one we believe to be the best. We are going to proceed, on the basis of that scheme, to get matters ready. As has been pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, we do not propose actually to apply the scheme until we have given this House an opportunity of saying whether it shall be applied or not, and, if they do not like it, of suggesting alterations in it, and of voting against it. We believe that we have done the best that is possible.
It is impossible to give any figure. One has to judge on the general situation as it is reported week by week. If a time comes when the Minister of Fuel reports to the Cabinet, "The position is such that I cannot safely go on without introducing rationing," I have no doubt the Cabinet will introduce rationing.
If and when the Government introduce the scheme, will it be in such a way and in such a form that the House will be able to amend the scheme before it is put into operation?
The House will be able to make suggestions as to alterations; but we are not going to introduce a Bill which can be amended, by putting Amendments on the Order Paper.—[Interruption.]—I cannot explain that any more. It has been explained by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, and it will all be in the OFFICIAL REPORT, for Members who were not here when those explanations were made. In finally commending this White Paper to the House, I would make only this remark. The success or failure of this scheme, be it good or bad, will depend upon the willingness with which it is accepted by the people who have to work the scheme.
May I put a point on the question of good will in the industry? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there are thousands of summonses against workmen in every part of the British coalfields "about to be issued? Is he further aware that at my own particular colliery—that is, the Maltby Main Colliery—231 summonses are to be heard to-morrow? These boys are walking to the court, and this large colliery in the Doncaster coalfield will shut down to-morrow. In order that we may start the new era in the coal industry of this country, may I ask the Lord Privy Seal whether he can do anything about it at this late hour?
I am afraid that obviously at this moment I cannot do anything about it. I suggest that the hon. Member gets into touch with my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister for Fuel, who is here. I was just saying that the success or failure of this scheme must depend upon its acceptance by those persons who have to operate it in the industry, and we hope very earnestly that it will be given a fair and full trial. We are prepared to do our utmost to see that the scheme does do what we suggest in the White Paper it can do, and we feel that if the miners and the managers, who will be the other two parties concerned in the getting of the coal, will equally give their help to the operation of this scheme, then we can make it a real step forward in the organisation of the coal industry of this country.
|Division No. 13.]||AYES.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Dugdale, Major T. L. (Richmond)||Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Duncan, Rt. Hn. Sir A. R. (C. Ldn.)||Kendall, W. D.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)||Dunn, E.||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Scottish U's)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Ede, J. C.||Kimball, Major L.|
|Alexander, Bg.-Gn. Sir W. (G'gow, C.)||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Kirby, B. V.|
|Amnion, C. G.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty).||Knox, Maj.-General Sir A. W. F.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ.)||Elliot, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Lancaster, Lieut.-Col. C G.|
|Assheton, R.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Law, R. K.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Lawson, J. J.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Errington, Squadron-Leader E.||Leach, W.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Etherton, Flight-Lieut. Ralph||Leslie, J. R.|
|Barr, J.||Evans, Colonel A. (Cardiff, S.)||Lindsay, K. M.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Lipson, D. L.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P.||Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Lloyd, Major E. G. R. (Renfrew, E.)|
|Beattie, F.||Everard, Sir W. Lindsay||Lloyd, G. W. (Ladywood)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Foster, W.||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Mabane, W.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff Central)||Fyfe, Major Sir D. P. M.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir G. C.|
|Bennett, Sir P. F. B. (Edgbaston)||Gallacher, W.||McCallum, Major D.|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E.||Gammans, Capt. L. D.||McCorquodale, Malcolm S.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Gates, Major E. E.||Macdonald G. (Ince)|
|Blair, Sir R.||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n)||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'mbr'k)||McEntee, V. La T.|
|Bossom, A. C.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Bower, Norman (Harrow)||Glyn, Sir R. G. C.||McGhee, H. G.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T. (Cleveland)||Gower, Sir R. V.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. H. (Stockton)|
|Bowles, F. G.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||McNeil, H.|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. B.||Grant-Ferris, Squadron-Leader R.||Maitland, Sir A.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose)||Granville, E. L.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. Sir E.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. J. G. (H'dern's)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Mander, G. le M.|
|Brass, Capt. Sir W.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Martin, J. H.|
|Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Mathers, G.|
|Brooke, H.||Grenfell, D. R.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Mills, Colonel J. D. (New Forest)|
|Burghley, Lord||Grigg, Sir E. W. M. (Altrincham)||Mitchell, Colonel H. P.|
|Burke, W. A.||Grimston, R. V.||Molson, Capt. A. H. E.|
|Butcher, Lieut. H. W.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Montague, F.|
|Cadogan, Major Sir E.||Groves, T. E.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.|
|Caine, G. R. Hall||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. (Rochdale)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Morgan, R. H. (Stourbridge)|
|Cary, R. A.||Hall, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Aberdare)||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hannah, l. C.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Challen. Flight-Lieut. C.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Channon, H.||Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.||Mort, D. L.|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Harvey, T. E.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Haslam, Henry||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Chater, D.||Headlam, Lt.-Col. Sir C. M.||Nicholson, Captain G. (Farnham)|
|Christie, J. A.||Heilgers, Major F. F. A.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G. (Leicester, W.)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hn. Winston S. (Epp'g)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Henderson, J. (Arkwick)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Henderson, J. J. Craik (Leeds, N. E.)||Orr-Ewing, l. L.|
|Cobb, Capt. E. G.||Heneage, Lt.-Col. A. P.||Paling, W.|
|Colegate, W. A.||Herbert, Petty Officer A. P. (Oxford U.)||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Collindridge, F.||Hewlett, T. H.||Peake, O.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hicks, E. G.||Pearson, A.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Higgs, W. F.||Peat, C. U.|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Hill, Prof. A. V.||Petherick, Major M.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir Stafford||Hollins, J. H. (Silvertown)||Peto, Major B. A. J.|
|Critchley, A.||Holmes, J. S.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Horsbrugh, Florence||Price, M. P.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Hughes, R M.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Pym, L. R.|
|Daggar, G.||Hunter, T.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Radford, E. A.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. G. l. C. (E'burgh)||Raikes, Flight-Lieut. H. V. A. M.|
|De Chair, Capt. S. S.||Isaacs, G. A.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|De la Bère, R||Jagger, J.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||James, Wing-Comdr. A. W. H||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Digby, Capt. K. S. D. W.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Dobbie, W.||Jeffreys, Gen. Sir G. D.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Dodd, J. S.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Donner, Squadron-Leader P. W.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Douglas, F. C. R.||Jennings, R.||Rickards, G. W.|
|Drewe, C.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. (Stl'g&C'km'n)||Ridley, G.|
|Riley, B.||Stewart, W. Joseph (H'gton-le-Spring)||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. H. (Richmond)|
|Ritson, J.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Robertson, D. (Streatham)||Strickland, Capt. W. F.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Robertson, Rt. Hon. Sir M. A. (M ham)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (Northwich)||Westwood, J.|
|Rothschild, J. A. de||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||White, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)|
|Rowlands, G.||Studholme, Captain H. G.||White, H. (Derby, N. E.)|
|Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||White, H. Graham (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)||Summers, G. S.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Salt, E. W.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Sutcliffe, H.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Schuster, Sir G. E.||Tasker, Sir R. I.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Scott, Donald (Wansbeck)||Tate, Mavis C.||Willink, H. U.|
|Scott, Lord William (Ro'b'h & Selk'k)||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Wilmot, John|
|Shakespeare, Sir G. H.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Windsor, W.|
|Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)||Windsor-dive, Lt.-Col. G.|
|Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)||Thomas, Dr. W. S. Russell (S'th'm'tn)||Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir J.|
|Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Thurtle, E.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir K. (W'lwich, W.)|
|Shute, Col. Sir J. J.||Tinker, J. J.||Woodburn, A.|
|Silkin, L.||Titchfield, Lt.-Col. Marquess of||Woolley, W. E.|
|Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A.||Tomlinson, G.||Wootton-Davies, J. H.|
|Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Touche, G. C.||Wright, Wing-commander J. A. C.|
|Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Tufnell, Lieut. Comdr. R. L.||York, Capt. C.|
|Smith, T. (Normanton)||Walkden, A. G. (Bristol, S.)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Snadden, W. McN.||Walker, J.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Somerset, T.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir D. B.||Watkins, F. C.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.|
|Spearman, A. C. M.||Watson, W. McL.||Mr. Boulton and Mr. John.|
|Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Watt, F. C. (Edinburgh Cen.)|
|Brown, W. J. (Rugby)||Maxton, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Cove, W. G.||Reakes, G. L. (Wallasey)||Mr. Stephen and Sir Richard|
|McGovern, J.||Silverman, S. S.||Acland.|
|MacLaren, A.||Stokes, R. R.|