I beg to move,
That the Coal (Charges) (Amendment) Order, 1942, dated 3rd July, 1942, made by the Treasury under Section 2 of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, a copy of which was presented to this House on 9th July, be approved.
I think the House is entitled to a brief explanation of the reasons for this Order. It provides for a levy of 3s. per ton on all coal supplied, in addition to a levy of 7d. a ton imposed by the Order of 3rd June and approved in this House on 25th June last. The present levy is for two purposes. It is in order to pay for the Green award, which was estimated to cost 2s. 6d. a ton. Hon. Members will know that the Green award was given by the Committee set up to consider an application by the Miners Federation of Great Britain for an increase of wages. I may say that the award is certainly the best award I remember, in my long association with the mining industry. I remember that 30 years ago, in 1912, Parliament refused to put into a Bill a minimum of 5s. for men and 2s. for boys. Under this award a minimum of 83s. per week for underground workers and 78s. a week for surface workers is laid down, certainly a good deal of progress in the intervening period. Nobody in this House would want to oppose the Coal (Charges) Order because they recognise that relatively the miners have been underpaid. We are hoping that this will not merely maintain tranquillity in the industry, but that it will be an encouragement to all engaged in the mining industry to do all they can to see that we get the increased production which we know to be so urgently necessary.
The other 6d. is to be used to meet the increased cost of production in certain coalfields due to circumstances peculiar to those coalfields. That makes the whole of the 3s. I think the House is entitled to know that the proceeds of this levy are being collected into a central fund in order that the individual undertakings may be paid the actual amount of the increased wages due, and in order that those particular districts shall have the benefit of this 6d. per ton. The administration of the coal charges levy has been altered by taking it away from the Central Council and putting it under the jurisdiction of the present Ministry, and at the moment consideration is being given as to how best to apply the money. I will leave the matter there; if there should be any question which any hon. Member desires to raise, I shall be only too pleased to try and supply answers.
I will not detain the House beyond a moment or two, but I want to add my word of tribute to that of the Parliamentary Secretary with regard to the Green Award. The best comment I saw on that was a cartoon in one of the London papers which showed two colliers, one of whom was saying to the other, "Aye, they will be paying us wages shortly." It is a pity that this award was not made a long time ago. It would have helped to solve the coal, problem. I cordially welcome the Order on behalf of the Miners' Federation and of my colleagues sitting here. If 20 years ago we had created a central pool in which the differences between pit and pit could have been evened out in order to bring some kind of unification to the mining industry, I do not think there would have been a problem to-day. The history of the last 20 years is a history of failure to tackle this position. The Miners' Federation has often been accused of being wrong, but if there is one thing about which they were right, it is this. Twenty years ago we put forward a suggestion that a pool should be created in order to bring unification into the industry, and now we are doing it, 20 years too late. I welcome it very much, and I hope that this central pool will only be a beginning, and that the Government will realise that to have a healthy mining industry it is necessary to unify it. For these reasons I greatly welcome and support this Order.