§ Mr. S. WALSH
I beg to moveThat Part II of the Mining Industry Act, 1920, shall not cease to have effect.In submitting to the House the Motion which stands in the names of my hon. and right hon. Friends and myself, it is desirable to bring to the memory of the House the position taken by this party towards the Mining Industry Act of June, 1920. It is quite fair for hon. Members to ask what has brought about the change which would seem to be indicated in the terms of this Motion. That question can best be answered by reviewing the grounds of our previous opposition. I am not going to enter into a re-hash of the arguments brought against the Act of 1920. Certain of my colleagues acknowledged then that the Measure was not wholly bad, that, like the curate's egg, it was good in parts; but it was held that the benefit to be derived from it was infinitesimal, compared with the disaster which was certain to overtake the miners, should the Measure come fully into operation. The Measure placed before the House in June, 1920, involved, as we then said, the destruction of the national bargaining power of the Miners' Federation. It compelled the workmen to fall back upon district and sectional arrangements. It destroyed at one blow all the progress made by the miners over a 1199 quarter of a century towards securing uniformity in the wages movement, for which they had constantly stood. The idea of equal pay for equal work, in whatever area the miner was employed, was absolutely destroyed, and workmen were thrown back upon what was then described as the economic basis of the industry. We pointed out this at the time. I know our speeches may be quoted against us, but, whatever speeches can be brought in evidence against us upon our changed attitude, there was not a single speech made from these Benches which did not point out the economic disaster that was certain to overtake the miners if that Bill became law.
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bridgeman), who was in charge of the Measure, who took a very prominent part in piloting it through the House, and who was most courteous all the time, thought that our fears were exaggerated. He said so both in the Committee room and in this House. I am sure he can see now that our fears were not only not exaggerated, but that indeed they fell far short of the actual state of things that has ensued since the passing of that Act. The forebodings we could not help entertaining have been proved too well-founded, and to-day the direct result of these sectional and district arrangements set up under the Act of 1920 and given effect to in the agreement of July last year is seen in the fact that the wages of the miners have been reduced to a lower level of purchasing power than has ever been the case during the last 40 years. Nevertheless, though we deplore the consequences of the sectional arrangements for which the Act of 1920 provided, we are driven as practical men to recognise that an accomplished fact exists. The Mining Industry Act is on the Statute Book; the Coal Agreement is in force. The desirability of giving the miners some degree of control in shaping the fortunes of the industry which exacts such a terrible toll of life and limb from him has been universally admitted. The members of the Sankey Commission, though differing in many respects, agreed unanimously upon this. Employers' and workmen's representatives were for once agreed. The employers favoured the pit committees and area boards embodied in the Measure because they said a spirit of friendship and conciliation would be 1200 established between employers and workmen, and that they would be the means of bringing both parties closer together than had been the case before the War, so that the industry could be carried on for the benefit of all parties. That statement, which was true then, is as true to-day, but by far the most powerful case for Part II of the Act was presented by the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, who was then President of the Board of Trade, and perhaps the House would be interested if I repeated a few of the sentences uttered by the right hon. Gentleman. This is what he said:I venture to say that Part II of this Bill is a great advance on anything that has taken place in industrial organisation in the past. You set up a mechanism for bringing the two parts of the industry together in the hope that by meeting each other much more amicably than they have done in the past you will be able to bring about far more harmonious relations than have existed hitherto. There has been a system something like the system of pit committees in many parts of the country in the past, and wherever established they have done good. But they have not been operating in all parts of the country, and we propose by this Bill that a system working in some parts shall apply to all.The right hon. Gentleman went on a little further and said:We go further than that"—and this, after all, is what we really would ask the attention of the House to, because these are the words, I think, that caused the House at that time to give a much more ready support than might otherwise have been the case—it has always been complained in the working of this industry that the workmen did not know what was happening, and that if they only knew the facts a good many fears and apprehensions would disappear. For the first time in any industrial legislation in this country we are giving the workmen the opportunity of knowing what is happening and what its profits and proceeds are in order that they may understand the vicissitudes with which the employers are faced. On the other hand, the employer is under the knowledge that all the facts have been placed before the workmen, and that he can no longer decoy them—if he did so before—with stories, which stories do not quite fit the fact.As I have said before, many of my hon. Friends on these Benches, and, indeed. I myself, fully recognised that the Act of 1920 was not wholly bad, that there were many good points in the Measure, and had it not been for the fact we knew to be inevitable, that that Measure, 1201 acting on the lines upon which it was conceived, must eventually bring the greatest disaster on the industry that has ever been known, we would then have given support to Part II. It was true, and it is true to-day, that the workmen remained in almost absolute ignorance of what was taking place. It is as true to-day as ever it was that this great industry, on which the whole of the country depends, is conducted in such a way as to keep the workpeople themselves in what is almost blank ignorance of the facts of the industry. It may be said—and, indeed, it was said as lately as the beginning of 1921, by the Prime Minister himself—that under the agreement which the men, through sheer force of circumstances, through a poverty almost indescribable, were compelled to accept, the miners were being called upon to enter into the greatest profit-sharing scheme that had ever been invented. A more ridiculous travesty, a more miserable burlesque, of the actual case has never fallen from the lips of any man, much less from the lips of the Prime Minister of a great nation like our own. I do not want, at this moment, to go into the terrible and harrowing details of the facts that this agreement has pressed upon us, but I do say that the pit committees, the district committees, and the area boards under Part II of the Act would have given to the workmen some opportunity at least of becoming acquainted with certain of the elementary facts of the industry. They are not calculated to give us all, neither the pit committees, nor the district committees, nor the area boards to give us anything like the essential knowledge necessary if there is to be that proper feeling and that good understanding that ought to exist in an industry such as this, and which would help us part of the way. To that extent I take it is a part of the Act that ought to be supported. It by no means merits, however, the very vivid and highly-coloured description of the effects of the pit committees and the probable results of operating Part II of the Act that was given by the then President of the Board of Trade. He went on to say that all the facts would be placed before the workmen.
§ The SECRETARY for MINES (Mr. Bridgeman)
I think the President of the Board of Trade was referring to the quarterly reports of the inspectors.
§ Mr. WALSH
He was referring to the pit committees and the area boards in Part II of the Act. The quarterly statements had been in possession of the House some time before this Measure was introduced, and he was referring entirely to the pit committees. He said:There has been a system something like the system of pit committees in many parts of the country in the past, and wherever established they have done good, but they have not been operating in all parts of the country, and we propose by this Bill,and so on. He is referring still to the pit committees. We do not for one moment believe, nor could the right hon. Gentleman, if he really had gone into the matter as closely as those of us whose life conditions compel us, believe, that we shall know all the essential facts of the industry, but the pit committees would at least bring the responsible workmen and the responsible officials of the mine together. The men are enabled to throw out hints, and they are enabled to take some little part in showing how their conditions can be improved. They are enabled to give many hints to the responsible management as to how the whole conditions can be bettered, and to that extent a condition of friendship and of mutual respect might be developed which does not exist very largely in the industry to-day. Something can be pardoned to the right hon. Gentleman who was the father of the Measure, because of the parental exaltation which suffused his mind at the moment, but I am sure he would be the first to admit that his language at that time was too highly coloured and that none of these wonderful results have ensued. Indeed, had they been at all possible, there is no doubt that the employers would not have been willing to give their support at that time in anything like the same degree as was the case. We are bound to agree with another thing that the right hon. Gentleman said. He said:The importance of the coal mining industry is such that it deserves special treatment and consideration. It is the foundation upon which the success and prosperity of our country depend.Nobody need indulge in high falutin' language in this House to the effect that any particular industry is necessary for the continuance of the nation, but that the mining industry is a great industry, upon which large interests depend, that 1203 it is in the highest degree desirable that it should be conducted upon lines of mutual confidence and respect between employers and workmen, everybody must admit. That the well-being of the nation itself depends in a large degree upon the prosperity of that great industry may also be admitted, and therefore anything that tends to develop a feeling of mutual respect and confidence, anything that tends to remove suspicion and substitute a cordial good feeling and honest relationship, is to be welcomed. To that extent Part II was a desirable part of the Act of 1920. Notwithstanding the attitude that we took up in August, 1920, notwithstanding that we felt that we could not then support the Act on the ground that its central principle necessarily involved the break up, the complete destruction, of the Miners' Federation in the national bargain sense, it was because of that and not because of any dislike we had of Part II that we were compelled to vote against the Measure itself, which necessarily involved voting against Part II. We did at least look upon Part II, if I may say so, with a somewhat chastened affection. We did not love it. We were very much like the story of the American, who, being very hungry and being asked if he could eat crow, said he thought he could, but he did not hanker after it. Neither did we hanker after Part II, but it was infinitely better than the Bill as a whole. As we could not have Part II without having the Bill as a whole, we were compelled to vote against the Measure, and that is a perfectly fair description of the attitude that we were compelled to take at the time.
I have given the fundamental reason which caused this party to vote against the Measure in 1920, but I am certainly not aware of anything that has happened to bring about the changed attitude of the employers. To give the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Mining Department his due, I must say this. I think it is only fair to him to say that he is taking up the same attitude now, and has taken up the same attitude all the time, as he took in June and August, 1920, namely, that he then believed that Part II was a part of the Act that ought to be used to the fullest extent by the miners. He thought it was capable of great good. He has consistently stated 1204 so, and he is entitled to every possible credit for his consistency in that matter. I am sure he has nothing with which to reproach himself in respect of Part II of the Act of 1920. I understand that even now he believes that that part ought to be utilised both by employers and workmen to the very fullest extent, and indeed, in the Report which he has laid before the House, he certainly has expressed his opinion in no uncertain manner. Therefore, the Government itself, and particularly the right hon. Gentleman at the head of this Department, have been consistent, and I understand that he is still with us in hoping that this particular part of the Bill will be fully utilised. I hope, therefore, I am speaking to the converted in his case, but there is nothing at all to justify the change of attitude on the part of the employers. They admit that there is the same necessity, that there is even a greater necessity now, after that terrible disturbance of last year, to restore such an amount of respect and mutual confidence as is possible. The men's wages are going down in such a terrible manner that they feel they are suffering most unmerited hardship. Indeed, it is more than that; they believe they are victims of a great injustice, and surely it is the duty of the State to remove by every possible means from the minds of the men that suspicion, that feeling, that the hardships that are entering every day into their lives are the consequence of injustice which is being inflicted upon them and not the result of a fair deal that is being given to them.
Therefore, anything this House can do to remove that suspicion, anything this House can do to develop confidence greater than that which in every respect has hitherto existed, is surely the most beneficial work to which the House can set its hand. I recognise, however, that even in referring to our friends the employers, a charge of inconsistency cannot be directed with any real force against them. Indeed, in this respect, I take it we are companions in adversity. It is true they can equally reproach us with jumping Jim Crow, and the condition of the mining population, and all the interests involved, the future prospects of the nation itself, depend so largely upon the progress of this industry, that versatility in changing one's attitude is not conducive to the best interests of the 1205 State. I suppose they can taunt us with really doing the same thing, and I cannot say that the taunt would not be justly deserved. After all, nothing is gained by taunting each other with changing one's views. I am sure hon. Members and right hon. Members in this House will remember that from these Benches, time after time we made certain appeals, I know everyone of them most earnest, some of them the most earnest appeals I have ever heard in my life, that drastic action, hurried action, ought not to be taken.
We fully recognise, with the employers, that you cannot force people to love you. Affection is often a plant of a very slow growth. You must, first of all, eradicate suspicion before you can develop harmonious relations. You must act in such a manner as to prove your good faith, and we quite recognise that unless we could develop in the minds of the employers a genuine belief that we were acting in perfect good faith, that we desired equally with them the success of the industry, you might retain Part II for 100 years, but unless you could honestly develop feelings of confidence and mutual respect, it would be so much leather and prunella. We quite admit that. Therefore, we appeal not that pressure shall be put upon the employers, but simply that Part II shall not be made abortive, that it shall remain on the Statute Book, leaving the healing influences of time to bring the parties together. Do not destroy it. Nothing should be done to destroy anything which gives the slightest gleam of hope of better relationship between the two parties in this great industry. It will not in itself penalise any employer. There is nothing in the provisions of Part II which lays any penalty upon the employers or the workmen, but, at a later date, when both sides have come together, when suspicion has been removed, when that good feeling has been developed, which, I am sure, the future holds out, we shall proceed with a growing confidence, with mutual respect, to bring about the best relations in that great industry in which both parties are so deeply concerned.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I beg to second the Motion.
After the very lucid statement to which we have just listened, I think it will be altogether unnecessary for me to say 1206 more than a few words. I think I should make a great mistake, after the very full explanation given of the case of the miners and our present point of view, as put by my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. S. Walsh), if I spoke at any length on the matter, and I only desire to emphasise two or three points upon which he has already touched. This Act, as we all know, is divided into three parts. In relation to the first and second there has never been any disagreement, but on Part II, as my hon. Friend has said, we were disagreed as to one part of the machinery thereunder. Part II proposed to establish machinery for the conduct of the industry so far as the relationship of workmen and employers was concerned. It proposed to set up pit committees, district committees, area boards and a National Board. In relation to three of those committees, we were in accord with the employers and the Government, but on the other, the Area Board, the Board which was to determine the general wage question of the miners, we were violently opposed, because we desired a National Wages Board based upon the economic capacity of the industry as a whole to pay wages, rather than sectional district wage arrangements based upon the economic capacity of the various areas. That was the whole point of difference between us when the Bill was under discussion in 1920. Since then we have had a very prolonged stoppage in the mining industry, and the contest was waged on the issue: Were we to have area Wage Boards, or were we to get a national Wage Board, with a national pool? So strong was the opposition of the miners to this area board wage agreement, as embodied in Part II, that the miners resisted its introduction by maintaining a stoppage for three months. Ultimately we were beaten. We do not make any pretence about it. We were beaten, and we had to accept the inevitable.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
And to-day we have the area boards in existence. They are an established fact, and, having been compelled to accept the one objectionable feature to which all our opposition was directed, the natural corollary to that is to accept the whole scheme, and agree to the whole of the machinery provided 1207 under Part II of this Act. What I want to emphasise—and the only thing I want to emphasise is—that when area boards were forced upon us by the coalowners and by our opponents, we foretold what would follow. But I do not want to enlarge upon what has been already said. What I want to emphasise and make clear to the House is this, that Part II of this Act is essentially, from beginning to end, the scheme propounded and advocated all along the line by the coal-owners themselves.
With the Sankey Commission's Report we had four separate Reports on the Question of Nationalisation. The coal-owners, in conjunction with a few other employers who sat on the Committee, made a Report on their own. They dealt with the three schemes which had been submitted to the Commission. One was submitted by Mr. Sidney Webb, another by the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, and the third by Lord Gainford. The one by Mr. Sidney Webb and the other by the Mining Federation were concerning schemes of nationalisation introduced into the industry. Dealing with Lord Gainford's scheme—that is the coal-owners' scheme—the Commission say:This scheme is based upon the principle that private enterprise must be maintained and that the nationalisation of the coal industry would be prejudicial to the economic welfare of the country.The whole scheme is based upon that preliminary declaration. Then they go on to say:The owners contend that want of knowledge in respect of prices, costs, and profits, and the absence of machinery conferring upon the workers opportunities for obtaining information and influencing the conditions under which they work, have to a great extent been the cause of the existing discontent.That is their first statement, that the absence of this kind of machinery for dealing with the conditions in the mining industry are, in their opinion, one of the chief causes of discontent in the mining industry. They further say:The owners propose that by means of joint Committees of employers and workers full opportunity shall be given to the workers in each district, and at each colliery, to make suggestions with respect to the methods and conditions of their work, but without impairing the authority of the owners …. upon whom the law imposes the responsibility for the management and the direction of the mines.1208 They make this statement, and they elaborate it in detail on page 39 of the Report under a paragraph headed, "Co-operation in the Coal-mining Industry." They say:We recommend that the following procedure shall be established. Pit Committees.—There shall be established at each colliery a Pit Committee consisting of equal numbers of representatives of the management and of the mine workers.10.0 P.M.
Then they determine what the functions of these committees are to be, and these are exactly in harmony and accord with the wording of the Act as contained in Part II. They say there shall be district committees, and they describe the constitution and functions of the district committees, and these, outlined by the owners, are exactly the same as we have in this Part II. They propose a National Board. The Government have accepted in its entirety the scheme outlined by Lord Gainford, advocated all along the line by the coalowners, and ultimately embodied in the Act. My hon. Friend has talked about the possibility of us being taunted about the speeches we delivered when this Act was before the House. To my mind, there is no inconsistency in our attitude then compared with our attitude now. I have never ceased to believe that we were right on the last occasion. I have never ceased to believe that it would be for the good of this country if the mines were nationalised, but that, in the absence of nationalisation and a National Board, that some sort of internal financial arrangement would Be a good thing for the industry and the country. I have never ceased to believe that. But we have not got it! We have the scheme of Part II. So far as the workers are concerned, while I believe a very different system of things would be all to the good, we have simply to take the facts as we find them. I am one of those who believe that if we are to have private enterprise in the mining industry the best way to get the best results under that system of working is to have good relationship existing between the coalowners and the miners. You must either have co-operation or hostility, one of the two policies.
This whole scheme is based on the assumption that there is to be a spirit of goodwill and co-operation operating as between the coalowners and the miners. That is the whole basis of the scheme. 1209 I cannot for the life of me understand why the coalowners have adopted their changed attitude. Our changed attitude is clearly understandable. There is a vital difference in the situation. Earlier we were contending for a principle which is not now under discussion. The situation to-day is precisely that for which the coalowners were contending.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I sincerely hope that as this House forced upon the miners of this country a wage system in harmony with the desires of the coalowners and at the behest of the Government, that they will stand by the Measure they then passed, and will not now again, at the behest of the coalowners, and simply because they have changed their attitude—now that we have gone back to that which before they maintained was the road of salvation in the industry—I hope we shall not have a volte faceon the part of this House when the vote is taken to-night. Having got our area boards, I think it is for the good of the industry and the community that the whole scheme should be worked. For that reason I beg to second this Motion and hope it will be carried on a Division.
Mr. S. ROBERTS
I trust that the remarks I will make will do nothing to disturb the harmony and good spirit created by the speeches already made. You cannot help but develop mild and friendly charges of inconsistency. The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) has been consistent in one thing, that is, in his condemnation of Part II a few years ago and his praise of it this evening. He has been consistent in the vagueness and the lukewarmness both of his praise and his condemnation. I find that on the Second Reading of the Mining Industry Bill of 1920 the hon. Member for Ince said this:I am not paying any attention to these small Committee points about the establishment of pit industries—I presume it is a misprint in the OFFICIAL REPORT and that he meant pit committees—which are pure dressing and are not very good at that.So this Part II is pure dressing, and not very good at that. This evening Part II is not wholly bad and is a desirable sec- 1210 tion instead of being pure dressing. There is some slight inconsistency.
There is a question that the coalowners can be charged with inconsistency. I think it is clear in studying the reports of what is said here, before the Sankey Commission, and in another place, that the coalowners, or a large section of them, with regard to committees, say that these committees should be set up on a voluntary basis. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, on the second Debate, said that Lord Gainford never recommended that these things should be compulsory, and thatthey should be done voluntarily between the parties. The right hon. Gentleman would be right well advised to drop Part II altogether.So it shows there was no great faith put on the value of the pit committees at that time by those who put forward the views of the coalowners. The hon. Member for Ince stated that these committees are no use whatever unless they are set up in the spirit of mutual friendship. If they are forced, on one side by the other, they will be perfectly hopeless, and will only lead to friction. The hon. Member said that if this Resolution were passed it would only mean that Part II would remain on the Statute Book, but would remain in abeyance. I have been told that high legal opinion has been taken, and that it has been stated very definitely that if this Resolution be passed to-night, and that if the miners in any particular coal pits pass the necessary resolutions, as set out in the Regulations, that then that pit committee will be set up compulsorily. In that case you would find the committee sot up compulsorily by the ballot of the miners against the wish, perhaps, of the owners of that particular pit. It would be difficult there to expect the spirit of mutual co-operation and friendship, which is absolutely necessary if this is to be a success. If I am wrong, and it means that this will remain in abeyance for ever, and has no compulsory effect at all, then I have no objection to the Resolution, but I am advised it is the other way.
I think I am right in saying that the pit committee would be set up by a ballot of the men in any particular pit if this Resolution be passed. It could not be set up voluntarily, and there is nothing in this Act that will prevent these being set up voluntarily in cases where there is a wish on both sides that they should be set up. There is nothing whatever to prevent this thing being done voluntarily now. In many cases they have been tried, and in some cases have been abandoned. There is nothing in the present state of affairs to prevent that from continuing, but this is a Resolution allowing a pit committee to be forced on employers. I can conceive of no motive for forcing a committee on any particular pit except a motive to try to create trouble. There has been, with regard to the charge of inconsistency against the coalowner, a considerable change of circumstance since the Act was passed, namely, the settlement of the unfortunate dispute of last year. That settlement has set up voluntary conciliation committees which deal with a very large number of questions, and it resolved itself not into a question of the area of the district and national boards, but simply brings it down to the question of the pit committee. The pit committee is an institution which can be set up voluntarily and can work voluntarily. It seems to me that the idea of the compulsory pit committee leads us into difficulties. I think it might possibly lead to friction between the management and workpeople. These committees would have to be held monthly. There are about 3,000 pits in the country to which these committees would be applicable. That would mean a large number of meetings to be held, and I have a suspicion that, if it were forced, these meetings would not tend to give good feeling and peace in the industry. It is perfectly possible that the hon. Gentleman will agree that these pit committees might be used by the more extreme section—by those who do not want peace. We must all admit that there are many who do not. [An HON. MEMBER: "I thought you were Diehards."] This will be a good 1212 opportunity for these extremists to exercise some of their talents and give considerable trouble in the industry. We must be perfectly candid about it, that a forced pit committee would be an opportunity for the extremists, who do not want peace, to stir up trouble.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that pit committees would be appointed by a ballot vote of the whole of the workmen, and that it is one of the reasons given against extremists getting on to the committees that the whole of the workmen would elect by ballot vote?
I am perfectly aware of the fact as stated by the hon. Gentleman, but at the same time I do not think that we can escape the possibility, the very grave possibility, that there are certain districts and certain pits where, ballot or no ballot, the extremists, who are often the more active and energetic members of the trade union, would see that they were fully represented on the pit committees. The system of deputations now in vogue can deal with practically all the matters which it is presumed the pit committees under this Act would deal. These deputations are coming forward daily and dealing with all manner of things. They meet in a perfectly friendly way, and they are being worked to the satisfaction of all parties. Take the small concerns. What are you going to put in the place of these deputations? You are going to bring in on the owner's side four more men to act jointly with the manager at the consultation. That will not do any good, because you are practically bringing in the manager's subordinates, who will sit there and say nothing, or say "ditto," because if they said anything contrary to their superior they might find that their position was rather an awkward one. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The first two speakers on the Opposition side were listened to without interruption, and I think hon. Members might listen to a speaker on the other side without interrupting.
I was trying to deal with this matter without saying a word that would ruffle anybody who had not got a very susceptible hide, but I notice that although hon. Members opposite are prepared to give hard knocks, they are not prepared to receive any. To have four other men appointed to act with the 1213 manager in dealing with these questions would not be any great advantage, because, whatever you may say with regard to deputations from the point of view of the workmen, with regard to management, I think anybody who knows anything about management knows that it must speak with one voice or it is destroyed. For that reason these pit committees are not going to be very effective. Access to the management should be conceded as a matter of justice, but it is not good business to force these things which seems to me to be futile. These committees would give upon the men's side an undue preference to the section of workmen who are in a majority, and there is a large and important section who would be unlikely to receive any representation or to have their voices heard in any way. The colliery enginemen and mechanics object to Part II because they feel they would be entirely out of it and their views would not be heard. I am not sure as to the position of the deputies. They are a very important section in the working of the mine. Are they not to be represented in any way on the workers' side? Bearing in mind what has happened in recent years, everyone must admit that the deputy sits nowadays in a great many cases on the workers' side of the table. These things are very important, but it is not really these minor matters that compel me to ask the House not to put compulsion back on the industry. Some of us think that rightly—hon. Gentlemen opposite think that wrongly—control and compulsion have been taken off the industry. I do not think the people of this country or Members of this House desire the reimposition even of the shadow of compulsion. Once you begin to bring compulsion back again, once you force people to meet who cannot meet voluntarily, once you force them by Act of Parliament or by the action of the State to do this, you are doing something to bring back the elements of the reintroduction of a control which has been disastrous to the industry—both to workmen and employer in the past and which will be disastrous if imposed again. I believe a peaceful issue will come through voluntary co-operation between the two sides. They should really meet together as free men and not under compulsion, and if they do that then with the goodwill and friendship which hon. Members have shown this 1214 industry will come back to its old position and do its duty to the nation.
§ Mr. DUNCAN GRAHAM
It is just possible our attitude on these benches might have been a little more conciliatory had it not been for the speech which has just been delivered. I am not one of those who interrupted in any way during the time the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. S. Roberts) was speaking, and I may say here I do not mind whether his friends interrupt me or not. It would perhaps have been a good job for all of us on this side if we had had the advantage of a university education, for then we might have been able, perhaps, to have made black appear white to-day and white appear black to-morrow. This Act, however, which is on the Statute Book is your work, not ours. We did not ask for it; we asked for something better. You told us to give up our claim to nationalisation, that this was something infinitely better We warned you, and we are not extremists. I am not an extremist, and none of my friends here are extremists. We told you that it was not extremists who were asking that which we were claiming at that time, that it was the considered opinion of the most moderate-minded men in our industry—and there are some moderate-minded men an our industry. There were some patriots, too. The British Miners' Federation gave you an Army during the War. Over 400,000 of them joined the Army. In my own district 30 out of every 100 joined without compulsion; so that there are some people in the mining industry who are interested in the well-being, not merely of the nation, but of the Empire, and, while it would be a mistake in an ordinary member of the Labour party, it is a crime on the part of a man who has had a university training, to suggest that every member of the mining community is more or less extremist in his point of view.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
If you are willing to withdraw the statements you have made, very well, but the best evidence that my hon. Friend on the other side can give that we have touched him on his conscience is that he will vote for us. If he does not, I do not know that we shall agree that he is even yet convinced.
The first point to which I desire to draw the attention of the House is that 1215 this Act was put on the Statute Book by the Government. They acted in collusion with the owners. They argued the case out with us, not in this House, but in the Board of Trade offices and at Downing Street, and they prophesied all sorts of good from the proposal that they were putting on the Statute Book. Now their position is that they are going back on what they said. I want to know whether they were sincere then. If they were, their supporters will be voting for the continuance of Part II. If they were not sincere then, I want to ask this Government, or any other Government of a similar character that may take their place, do they expect to maintain peace in the mining industry? It cannot be done. With the best will in the world, we cannot maintain peace if the men find that not even an Act of Parliament will be respected by the coalowners, and that, when the coalowners say: "We are not going to work the Act," the Government are going to support them in their refusal to carry out the law.
This question should not have arisen at all. If I, or any Member here, were guilty of breaking any law, no matter how reasonable our objection might be to it, we should be told, "Either you will carry out the law or you will go to prison." We have always been led to believe—we used to boast of the fact—that in this country of ours we were all equal before the law. We are not now. The owners had the Government behind them before the stoppage took place in the mining industry—some Members of the Government are cowardly enough to go into the country and describe it as a strike, but they will not do so here. You were be hind the owners then, and evidently you are behind them now. We have been very badly deceived by the Government. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the Second Reading of the Bill, said:At the Coal Commission the miners succeeded in making a case for several points which they put forward. In the first place they made a case for bettering the amenities of their lives. It was shown that in certain colliery districts the conditions under which they lived were unworthy of the state of civilisation we had reached.Are the conditions any better to-day than they were then? Is there any likelihood of any improvement being made in the conditions? It is a responsible Minister of the Crown who makes the statement, 1216 and he knew a great deal more about it than we did, at least he said he did. He said, secondly:They also made a case for getting a greater knowledge of the industry in which they spent their lives and for obtaining positions of greater responsibility.The hon. Member who preceded me talked about the folly of certain working sections of the miners being on the committee, interfering with the management, and probably they might find themselves in difficulties if they disagreed with the manager. That means, if it means anything at all, that they would be victimised. That is nothing unusual. I know what victimisation is myself.
Mr. S. ROBERTS
I want to explain that. I was not saying anything about those on the men's side of the table. On the management side they will speak with one voice.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
Yes, but the manager has got to do what he is told by men who know nothing at all about the industry. The manager is only a workman, and his wages are being reduced the same as ours. Although he is bound by Act of Parliament, he is the one man who is held responsible for the proper working of the colliery, but he is a man who is directed by someone who knows nothing at all, either theoretically or practically, of the mining industry. What does Lord Pirrie know about mining? He is one of the biggest coalowners in the county I belong to. I think I know a little more about it than he does. The business of a manager is to make profits, and that is implied in this statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he said we had made out a case for better amenities in our lives. I know the district he comes from. The dug-outs in France were more comfortable places than these one apartment houses. [An HON. MEMBER: "How do you know?"] I know perfectly well—just as well as you do. In the third place we have made out a case for the workman taking more interest in the profits of the industry, and indeed that case was conceded by the owners. The owners and the workmen agreed at the Sankey Commission in recommending the course that is implied in Part II of this Amendment. And now the owners are refusing to work it because they have got the idea into their 1217 minds that the miners are very much broken up and that it may take some years for them to recover, and during the period that may elapse between now and the time when the British Miners' Federation might be a power again in the industrial world it will be possible for them to make a fair amount of profit. They do not care what might happen to the State in the meantime. The miners will recover before that time. They are recovering now. We are working under an agreement at the present time. You say it is a voluntary agreement. It is not a voluntary agreement. There is nothing voluntary about it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why did you agree to it?"] Hunger made us agree to it, and nothing else. Our men stood out for 13 weeks against the acceptance of that agreement, and at the end of the 13 weeks they were compelled, not because they had changed their view, but because of their physical necessities, to accept the terms laid down by the Government, but they had the hope that when the Government backed the proposal that at least the Government would be honourable and stand to its word.
If the hon. Member for Bothwoll (Mr. Robertson) and the hon. Member for South Ayr (Mr. J. Brown) and myself when we leave this House were to go into our respective counties we could create some trouble. Do not make any mistake about that. When we leave this House, as we do each week-end, we spend the week-end endeavouring to soothe the men and to keep them quiet, in the hope that there will be a change in the position, so that their lot may be brighter in the next few months than it has been in the past few months. We do not ask any credit from hon. Members opposite for that. It is our duty, and we do it. What we do expect from hon. Members who voted in favour of this Act is that they should be men of principle, men of character. You either meant what you said then or you did not. If you meant what you said, then your business is to tell the Government to carry on with the Act. If you did not mean what you said, if it was only a pretence, intended to meet the situation that existed at that time, and which you imagine does not exist now, and that you only conceded to force, or what appeared to be force, you are inviting force. You are inviting the miners and every other organisation of workmen 1218 to refuse to accept your word, the word of the British House of Commons, and to depend entirely upon their own strength.
Had we been less patriotic, had we paid more attention to the material things of life and looked at life only from the economic standpoint, we would never have accepted your Commission in 1919, and if we had not accepted your Commission in 1919 you would have been up against some trouble. It would have paid us then to fight, but we did not fight, largely because we realised that the interests of the country were greater than the interests of the few. We accepted the Commission, and you pledged your word that you would carry out its recommendations. Now, here is the last thing that is left. Our men are at the present time working under conditions that are absolutely scandalous. Individually, every man in this House, if you speak to him, admits privately that the conditions are a scandal. They are scandalous because of the rotten agreement that was forced on the men. One of the reasons, at any rate in the Country that I come from, why the men are living under the scandalous conditions that prevailed there is that patriots who remained on this side of the Channel making money, are selling their coal to the Germans cheaper than to their fellow countrymen.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is going into a matter that is not raised by the Resolution before the House. He has been a little led away from the point.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
I will confine myself to the matter which is at issue. What we are anxious about is that Part II of the Act should be retained. Part II proposes to set up a series of pit committees, district committees, area boards, and national boards. We have all along been in favour of pit committees. It is true, as my hon. Friend the Member for the Ince Division (Mr. Walsh) said, that we were pressing for what appeared to be a much larger and more important matter at the time this Bill was introduced, and that was the main reason why we objected to the Bill at that time, but during all these years in which we have been taking part in negotiations with the owners we have been in favour of pit committees, and there are pit committees. Every colliery has its committee, and managers 1219 and men meet and continue to meet, and they met long before the dispute of last year. The main thing that is new in connection with these pit committees is that they would have a greater control of and greater interest in the questions of safety and health, and output maintenance and increase. These are the matters to be dealt with by the pit committees. Nobody has said that the men ought not to have some say in the management of the colliery from the point of view of safety. On the question -of health it is admitted that there is great need of something being done in the mining districts. But what will appeal more to hon. Members on the other side is the fact that the work of the pit committee in consultation with the manager was to devise the best way in which the output could be increased and maintained. Their power as a committee is to recommend. In the event of a disagreement between the management and the colliery committee they have the power to submit the case to a district board. But it is not to be forgotten that the men would only have one side of that committee. The other side will be equal in number, and right up to the National Board the employers themselves will be directly represented, and if there is any virtue in co-operation this is the way by which you can have it.
If this House decide to abandon this Act from to-night then they will give it as their considered opinion that there is not much value in co-operation at all. I hope that the House will give some courage to the Government. It is a pity that they lost it. I hope that a sufficient number of Members will be prepared to support the continuance of Part II to enable the good work that it is possible to do under the provision of this Act to be carried on. While we were fighting to get nationalisation, we fought that question as a matter of principle. We fought it not merely as miners, but as citizens. We were prepared, even though we failed to get it either by negotiation or by use of force—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Well, there were only the two ways. If force is a bad way, then do not use force. We were prepared, even though the law was against us, to carry out the law, and we do so now. If the law is against us, we accept it and try to get it altered. 1220 That is the work of reasonable men. We are entitled to try and get the law altered, and I assure the House, if hon. Members by their vote to-night abandon everything that has any relation to the promises made by the Sankey Commission, then it will not bring peace to the mining industry nor to the country. It will create in the minds of the men a feeling that immediately they get into a stronger position to attack and to hit severely, without any regard to the consequences, they will do so. I appeal to hon. Members not to take advantage of the power which they possess, to create a situation such as you, as well as we, may be sorry for, in the event of this part of the Act not being retained in force.
§ Mr. R. McLAREN
A certain amount of heat has been generated in the course of this discussion, and in the few minutes at my disposal I shall seek to address myself to the question in a reasonable manner. The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) and the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) have been very frank in acknowledging that a mistake was made when the Measure was first introduced into the House. They have not said that they themselves are very much to blame for what has transpired. It will be recollected, that both these hon. Gentlemen, and those who took part with them in the Debate on the Measure, distinctly stated they would have nothing whatever to do with it, and in Committee they distinctly refused to discuss the various Clauses. I wonder what has brought about this wonderful change on the part of my hon. Friends. They must have very solid reasons for taking up this attitude. It has also been frankly acknowledged by the various speakers on the opposite side of the House, that one of the reasons why they did not accept the Measure as it stood, was because it did not come up to their expectations in regard to a national pool. Having been baulked in nationalisation and that matter, they are now anxious to get back to Part II.
Something has been said in reference to the coalowners and their part in this matter. I am not going to speak on behalf of the owners except to say that the owners at no time were in favour of Part II. Speaking, however, on behalf of a body of men who carried out the provisions of the Coal Mines Act, 1911—the 1221 colliery managers of Great Britain and Ireland—I may point out that the colliery managers have expressed themselves very freely by deputations to the Secretary for Mines, and have distinctly stated that under no conditions whatever will they carry out the provisions of Part II. I am quite satisfied to-night that even if this House decides that Part II should be carried out the colliery managers would not carry out those provisions.
§ Mr. McLAREN
I will give the reason why that is so. During the discussion, a deputation came and asked me to read a resolution they had passed. Only a month ago I met the managers for Scotland, and they said that they had in no way changed their minds and were as strong to-day against Part II as when the Bill was introduced. This is their resolution:They give the strongest oposition to pit committees on the ground that their experience is that they are a total failure leading to friction, weakening of discipline, interference with the statutory duties of managers, and in no way add to the increase of output.Those were the terms of the resolution passed at that time, and they still adhere to them. The carrying out of the Act of Parliament devolves upon the colliery manager. A pit committee is set up consisting, I admit, of practical men, but men who have no knowledge of the scientific side. They may not look at it from the point of view of the scientific men, with the result that if anything is brought about as the result of the pit committee the workmen on the committee take no responsibility, and the whole responsibility rests on the manager. It is bringing in dual management, to which the managers of the country will never submit. They alone are responsible for the carrying out of the provisions of the Act. The questions of safety and development come in and are entirely matters for the colliery managers, and they declare that rather than submit every one of them will resign. I would remind the House that under the Goal Mines Act no colliery where more than 30 men are employed can be worked without a colliery manager, and if the colliery managers withdraw the colliery must cease its operation. I notice that every time anything is done in connection with 1222 mines there is only one class looked to, namely, the miners, because it is said that if you have not the miners to work the mines cannot be carried on. It should not be forgotten, however, that if there are no managers the same thing will happen and the mines will stop work. Therefore, I say every class should be taken into consideration, and I am bound to say that the colliery owners as a whole are as determined as they were a year-and-a-half ago, that they will not submit to Part II, and that if the House does pass it and bring it into operation at all it will make no difference so far as these men are concerned, because they absolutely refuse to carry the provisions out. I hope the House will show its sense and will give a solid support against the Motion that has been made to bring this thing back into operation. If there is any fault to be found it is not with this House. It must rest on others, and I think it is scarcely fair to raise this matter now when they have been the cause of the whole trouble.
§ Major KELLEY
I am not interested in mining, and I am not a miner. If I were, I should certainly burn wood and not get coal. I do not pretend to know the technical, or perhaps it is the tactical, reasons why at one time the owners were anxious to put Part II into operation, and the miners now want it in operation. I am strongly in favour of the Resolution, and earnestly hope the House will support it. I am told by the Yorkshire Miners' Federation that this will bring in a new era of peace. That is quite sufficient for me. Anything that will bring about, or attempt to bring about, a new era of peace in our disturbed industrial world will always have my support, from whatever quarter it comes. I believe the mine-owners will be well advised to accept Part II of the Act. They were at one time in favour of it, and why they have changed in their attitude I do not know. By putting Part II into operation, mine-owners and miners will have the chance of thrashing out their difficulties in common surroundings, and I cannot help thinking it may avert many serious misunderstandings such as have occurred in the past and which have caused serious lock-outs, strikes, or whatever they may be termed. I feel very acutely indeed that it is necessary, with the industrial unrest which we have in this country, that every 1223 possible chance should be given to employers and employés to meet in the board room, where they may thrash out their differences, and both sides will know the difficulties under which the industry has to be carried on.
§ Mr. GOULD
I sincerely hope that Part II of this Act will not be put into operation. I think we have had some experience during the past 18 months or two years in the coal industry which has led us to believe that the less interference we have, the better it is for the industry. Since the last settlement, and since the Bill was introduced, we have been operating the coal mines under Part I of this particular Act, and the Advisory Committees which have been set up under Part I have seemingly been able to bring about an impossible state of affairs. As we go back to last September, when we thought it was impossible for us ever to regain any part of our export coal trade, and consider the position to-day, when practically every ton of coal produced in this country can be sold, and a great deal more than we produce to-day could be sold if we could only come to a condition where the men could be got to work, and when we consider that all this is being done under the application of Part I of the Act, without any of the unnecessary interference which would be brought about by the application of Part II of the Act, and when we realise that for the last four or five years we have had nothing but difficulty and trouble in the industry and that for the first time we have just had six months of peace, and we have people working, too, on a wage which nobody will agree is fair, but which can be bettered by the men themselves if they will only apply themselves to the proper opportunities and conditions which apply to them, I think everybody will agree that in these circumstances it will be wise to leave well alone and not to introduce new principles into the industry which will create a further cause of trouble and which will create an atmosphere which must necessarily bring about differences of opinion and interference.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn), whose speech I was not able to hear, but who speaks with a great deal of authority and of knowledge of the South Wales coalfield, can bear me out when I say that the trouble which we have to-day in the South Wales 1224 coalfield, which is probably the most difficult to work of all the coalfields in the country, is not the question of getting coal, but the question of getting sufficient miners to work on the face. I had an instance put before me only a few weeks ago of a man and his two sons who had been working in a certain pit, and they were receiving, in one direction or another, in relief £7 10s. per week. They could earn £9 10s. a week, but would not go to work for £2, and that particular pit could take another 100 men, working on the face. They did not want any more surfacemen. Under Part I of the Act, as it is applied to-day, any differences or disputes which may arise as to the number of men to be employed can be settled, and they are being most harmoniously settled. How do we know, if we have Part II applied, that we are going to get the same right of settlement and discussion we have to-day? I must say, in common fairness to the leaders of the Miners' Federation—and I speak with a certain amount of knowledge—that when we bring these matters up for discussion with them we have no difficulty whatsoever at the present moment in getting these matters rectified. At the same time, we have to realise that there is a great tendency on the part of certain individuals, who are not representative by any manner of means of the majority of the federation, to revert to the old pernicious system of working on the minimum wage, and if we had pit committees and area committees, as are suggested under Part II, when we know full well that the majority of these men would be representative, not of the saner and better class, and the more thinking part of the Miners' Federation, but the more active and extreme section of the Federation, these men would be encouraged in the principle of working on the minimum wage, and not encouraged to increase production, and thereby increase their own wages and reduce costs. I do think that the most vital thing we have to consider to-day is to retain the degree of confidence we have established bit by bit despite the fact that we have been confronted by six or seven years' experience of difficulties which have been brought about by interference, by control, by all the conditions which grew out of necessity, under extraordinary circumstances. For the last six months we have 1225 been establishing confidence as between the mine manager and the worker, and if we once attempt to introduce the principles which are applied in the second part of the Act, we shall at once introduce principles which are going to be a very disturbing factor in the industry.
The principle, to my mind, which is involved in the application of Part II of this Act—and I believe every thinking Member of the House will agree with me—is that idealistic principle which is so strongly advocated by those who have no practical knowledge of industry, and who are not concerned with the general management of business. It is a very idealistic proposition, but it is as well known to the employers and those who are in charge of industries as it is to the leaders of the Miners' Federation and the leaders of the other unions, that it is impossible for two sections of the community, the employers and the workmen, to work together in committee in control of any organisation without there being differences of opinion and differences of policy, which make it impossible for them to work harmoniously. The great consideration seems to have been forgotten. The hon. Gentleman who last spoke from the other side in his pathetic appeal and his drastic criticism of the Government made reference to the fact that the Government is going back on its pledges. I have never receded from the position I have taken all along on coal matters—that the whole policy of the Government in regard to coal matters, indeed even in this particular Bill, has been dead wrong. There was the Sankey Commission in the first place—a panic measure. There was this Act—a panic Measure. Now part of this Bill has to be scrapped. We now see the Government scrapping the portion of the Bill that they said was the most important, a Section that was going to bring peace to the industry, which, in fact, was a simple sop and has led nowhere.
We have to-day a comparison in another industry as to what might happen if Part II is applied to the coal industry. The very conditions that are there responsible for the trouble are the very conditions that would obtain were Part II of this Bill applied to the coal industry. It is a question which can never be settled by disputes between capital and labour—who is going to be responsible for the management of the industry. 1226 Under Part I we have the Advisory Committee, and that is all the authority that is necessary for the well-being, safety, and for the general carrying on of the mines. To introduce for a single moment these pit or area committees, is to suggest at once that there is going to be interference in every possible direction. While pit matters are being discussed output is to be held up, the mines held up, and so on. The great thing that we have to remember is this: We have succeeded under Part I of the Bill in winning back our trade. During the past six months, to our amazement, a great portion of our coal export trade has been won back. We have reduced costs very materially. It is perfectly true we have had to trade at a loss to get that trade back. The time has, however, now come that there is a slight profit in South Wales, and a fair margin of profit all over the country in the coal trade. My hon. Friends above the Gangway know that under Part I of the Act they get 83 per cent, of the profits, and the coalowners only 17 per cent. Therefore if it is profitable for them under present conditions, then, surely, they do not want to introduce any disturbing factors. My hon. Friend (Mr. Hartshorn) was complaining bitterly in public a few days ago about the attitude of the miners. They seem to be quite satisfied with the prospects and possibilities. They are beginning to believe that if they turn to and produce the coal that they know they can produce they can earn a good deal more than the minimum wage, while figures are adduced in support of the statement that they are working merely subsistence wages! We must remember that it is not only the miners who are interested in this matter: there are the other sections of the community who are dependent on the work of the miners for a living. Only recently it is that those engaged in other districts here had a chance to get started. If Part II is put into operation it is absolutely certain that it will not only bring fresh trouble into the industry, but there is a strong probability that it will lead to a further reduced output, and create further unemployment, and lead to that discrimination that we have already seen exercised in certain areas in the coalfields against the employment of men who, rather than trade on the unemployment pay, take their 1227 place in the mines at wages and under terms which are current to-day.
§ Mr. CLYNES
On the whole it can be said that the different Members of the House have kept their heads very well, when we remember that they are not far removed from the time when this subject aroused very strong feeling indeed. I think, however, the same Members are under a misapprehension as to what the House is called upon to decide, and as to what the provisions of Part II of this Act are. In the few minutes that I want to speak, I shall endeavour to make an appeal to Members of the House, who, having understood the question, not to vote as miners' representatives on the one hand or as mineowners' representatives on the other hand. This is the House of Commons which has to decide what it will do with an Act only recently passed. Part of the Act has not yet begun to work. You cannot compel either of the two sides to work it, but you can give both an opportunity to work it by passing the Motion which has been submitted to the House, whereas, if the House refuses to pass the Resolution, you can deprive them of the facility to give effect to some of the best conditions in industrial conciliation and cooperation which rest in any Act of Parliament on the Statute Book. The House could, by a gesture, appeal to the employés and employers in the trade to use not merely one limb of the pit, but all the limbs supplied in Part II and in every other part as well. I think myself that the provisions in the Act in general afford to the coal industry almost ideal provisions for the discussion of conciliation, and I am safe in saying that experience has taught us all that, without the use of some such provisions as these, conditions of contentment cannot be established in the industry. It is true that with the conditions as they are, mine owners can easily compel the miners to submit to many things. But that is not the sort of settlement in industry which is likely to endure. Momentary powers of compulsion, derived from what happened to be the existing conditions in the labour market, offer no sort of permanent guarantee of contentment or peace in any particular industry. In hundreds of different occupations there are in existence, in regular working order week by week, 1228 precisely similar provisions to these Millions of workers follow the lines of co-operation laid down as provisions for the whole industry in Part II of this Act.
What can a pit committee do? According to the Act it can discuss questions and make recommendations affecting the safety and welfare of the workers in connection with their work in the mines. Surely that is highly desirable. It can make reports on certain matters referred to it and discuss and make recommendations upon maintenance and increasing output. It can discuss disputes in connection with matters in the mine, including disputes about wages. Under the most perfect conditions differences will arise day by day in any large workshop, mine or factory. What could be more desirable than to have machinery in existence to anticipate these difficulties, to discuss them and settle them. Hon. Members are under a misapprehension as to the likelihood of extremists either seeking a place upon these committees or finding their way there. A pit committee is not to consist of pit men alone, but it is to be of equal parts of mine workers and mine owners, and that is the kind of committee which the extremist keeps away from. He does not want to meet employers, managers, or mine owners, because the extremist finds his prey amongst the men only, and therefore it is not likely that he will find his way on to these committees, leading to no prospects for his views, but to some pacific solution of difficulties as they arise between employers and workmen.
Since this Act was passed we have had conditions in the coal trade which have been quite abnormal, and that fact is a reason why these provisions have not yet been put into effect. If we had a state of normality in the coal industry, it is probable that the provisions of this part of the Act would have been fully used by the two sides. I ask hon. Members not to limit them in order to score debating points on a question of this kind. It is clear that the mine owners favoured Part II when the Measure became law last year, and I do not think there is on record any evidence to the contrary, either as to their voting or speaking against this part of the. Act. Why did the miners' representatives oppose this part 1229 of the Act? My own conclusion is that they opposed it because it was part of an Act which generally and as a whole they regarded as being a bad Act, and the opposition to it was not so much because of the demerits or defects of this particular part, but because of the strong feeling of resentment which they felt towards the Act as a whole as it was presented to the House last year. Assuming that Members of the House individually consider that the continuance of Part II can do no harm—it certainly cannot do it while it is not being worked—and assuming further they have a desire—which we share—to extend this provision for co-operation and conciliation in the mining industry, what should be the attitude of the Government towards this Resolution? If my right hon. Friend cannot give the Motion his support, I hope he will not offer any opposition to it and will not invite Members of the House to go into the Lobby against it. This is precisely an occasion on which the House has an opportunity, in relation to a great industrial question, to give the workmen some encouragement to go forward in this task of co-operation and conciliation with the employers. The House will miss that opportunity if it rejects this Resolution.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I certainly have no right to complain of the way in which this Resolution has been moved and seconded. It has been put with perfect fairness by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince (Mr. S. Walsh) and by the hon. Member for the Ogmore Division (Mr. Hartshorn). But I think the House is in danger of getting a little wide of the actual issue before it. It is not a question whether pit committees are good or bad. The Government view has always been that pit committees are desirable and tend to make for good feeling in the industry and to nip in the bud disputes which might develop into greater and more serious quarrels. Wherever they do exist, they ought to act without interfering with the strict control which managers of pits ought to and must exercise. Still, that is not the real issue to-night. The issue is what is the duty of the Government in view of Section 17 of the Mining Industry Act. That Section says:If at the expiration of one year from the passing of this Act it appears to the Board of Trade that the scheme of this part of the Act has been rendered abortive by reason of the 1230 failure on the part of those entitled to appoint representatives as members of the pit and district committee area boards, and the National Board to avail themselves of such "right, the Board of Trade shall issue a report of the circumstances and that report shall be laid before Parliament, and at the expiration of 30 days during the Session of Parliament from the date when it is so laid all the Provisions of this part of this Act shall cease to have effect unless in the meantime a resolution to the contrary is passed by both Houses of Parliament.Therefore what the Government have to decide is what was the intention of the House in inserting this Section? What is their duty in dealing with this question in a spirit of absolute impartiality? I think I ought to give the House, as shortly as I can, a history of the facts in order that it may be fully cognisant of what has happened. As has already been said, at the Sankey Commission apparently all parties recommended pit and district committees. It is not very clear whether they meant voluntary or compulsory committees, but, at any rate, they were all in favour of them. When the Mining Industry Bill was introduced, in 1920, the attitude of the miners was that they would have no part at all in the discussion in Committee on that Bill, and would do all they could to prevent its being worked. They were out for nationalisation, or a policy which led up to it, and were not prepared to take anything less. I think that that is a fair description of their attitude. The Government offered them this instead. They said, "We will have none of it; we will fight to a finish for nationalisation and for a national arrangement." The hon. Member for Ogmore himself, when he went down to the conference of the Miners' Federation in July of that year, said:The Government cannot set this Bill in motion unless the miners co-operate in setting up the machinery of pit committees, district committees, and so on, and in the absence of that machinery the Bill becomes a dead letter.He went on to say:This Conference ought to make a pronouncement, so that the Government should know that, if they go on with the Bill, the Federation pledges itself to have nothing whatever to do with it if it ever becomes law.And, on the hon. Gentleman's recommendation, the Conference passed this Resolution:That this Conference, having examined the terms of the Ministry of Mines Bill, hereby decides to refuse to operate the Bill should it become law.1231 That was their attitude at that time, namely, July, 1920. The attitude of the owners at that time was that, although I do not think they cared for it very much, they were prepared honourably to carry it out. Lord Gainford said in the House of Lords:We should have difficulty under the provisions of this Bill if they were adopted, but we all intend, as coalowners, to do our part and work its provisions honourably";and Lord Joicey said:I look upon this Bill as an experiment, though I am convinced that the coalowners will do their best to work it if it becomes an Act. If this Bill becomes law, I feel quite sure we will try to do our best to work it, and see how it works as time goes on.We, therefore, had every reason to suppose, at that time, that at any rate the owners were in favour of Part II being carried into effect. Then came the strike of 1920, and shortly afterwards the long stoppage began in April, 1921; and it was only just at the end, when the settlement was arrived at on 12th August, that we felt in a position to consider Regulations for working Part II of the Act. The Mineowners' Association claimed that, the year having expired, and no declaration having been made, the miners' representatives still being opposed to the working of the Act, I ought at once to declare that Part II was abortive. I did not think that that was a reasonable attitude to take, because it seemed to me quite impossible, when all this trouble was going on and the country was in a state of chaos, to have got, during the year that was prescribed under the Act, any reasonable consideration of the question. I therefore pointed out to them that I thought it only right that I should issue Regulations, and that I could not really make my Report to the House until I had issued Regulations and until those who, under those Regulations, were entitled to appoint representatives had had an opportunity of seeing whether they wished to send representatives or not. Therefore I proceeded to issue Regulations. The Regulations were drafted and submitted to both sides. The owners said that they had decided not to work the Act, and that they would not even consider the Regulations. I do not know whether the miners considered the Regulations or did not. At any rate they passed no criticisms on them, or very few. After the Regulations 1232 were issued, those representing the owners said they would not work the Act. Then was the time when it was my duty under the Act to make a Report to the House of Commons to the effect that one party having refused to work the Act, Part II became inoperative under Section 17, unless after my making that statement a Resolution of both Houses was passed to the contrary. So that they had practically six months more than the year that was allowed under the Act to make up their minds. On 13th January I got the final refusal of the owners.
That is the history of the case, and a very deplorable history on both sides. Those who have taken the trouble to read the correspondence and the meetings I had with the owners' representatives will, I think, admit that I did all I could to persuade them that it was unwise not to accept Part II, that, as it appeared to me, it was a very short-sighted policy, that the reasons which had induced them to favour it before seemed to me to be equally cogent now and that I should regret very much, both in their own interest and that of the whole industry, if they persisted in their refusal to work. So we have this very deplorable, but I am afraid, not uncommon instance of a practice in the coal mining industry, which is far too prevalent. When one side think they are on the top they want to take the last ounce they can get, and when the other side get on top they do exactly the same, and until the two sides of the industry learn that that is not the best way, I do not see very great hope of peaceful and harmonious working.
I have to say what appears to me to be the proper attitude for the Government to take up at this moment. We have to take up an attitude of strict neutrality. What we would do for one side we would do for the other, and what we would not do for one side we would not do for the other. It seems to us that conciliation by compulsion is very little more than a phrase. It is a dead letter. However many committees you may set up, you cannot compel people, without the goodwill that is necessary, to work to any really useful effect. The hon. Member for Ogmore, if he will forgive me making such ample quotations from his speeches, said on 30th June:This Bill cannot be operative except with the whole-hearted co-operation of owners and miners.1233 I think that is perfectly right. It is perfectly true to say that, whether Part II is left or whether it is abolished, no good can come out of pit and district committees except with the hearty co-operation of both sides. Therefore, if you have one side that is not prepared to give its hearty co-operation, it seems to me it is of very little use to put Part II into effect. I remember hearing of an Englishman landing in America and being told by an American, "This is the land of liberty. Everybody here does what he pleases," and he added: "By gad! if they don't, we make them." It seems to me that legislation to compel everybody to do what they please is almost as difficult as legislation to make everybody conciliatory one to another. Therefore, legislation in this direction is not particularly useful. It is most important that the Government should take up an attitude of strict neutrality in this matter as between the two parties. I have to ask myself, "Supposing the representatives of the miners had persisted in their refusal to work Part II of the Act, would the Government have been either fair or wise in forcing Part II through against that objection?" It would have been interesting to know what the attitude of the miners' representatives would have been in those circumstances. I think they will agree with me that it would have been very difficult for me, unless I could say that I would have forced it through against the wishes of the miners, to say that in view of what appears in Section 17 it is fair to force it through against the wishes of the owners.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
Section 17 was put in the Act because of the refusal of the miners at that time to work the Act. It was thought—I think this is a fair interpretation of what Parliament thought—that the miners might come to a reasonable view if time were given. Therefore, a year was given in order that they might think it over and possibly change their minds. [An HON. MEMBER: "We have changed our minds!"] Unfortunately, the other people have also changed their minds. It was thought that it would be useless to leave the Bill as it stood in view of the attitude of the miners. Therefore this Clause was put in to meet the situation. The fact that 1234 both sides have changed their minds docs not really make much difference to the question as to what the Government's position should be. One side were out of their senses at the beginning of the year, and the other side have lost their senses at the end of the year.
The right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) seemed to suggest that it was possible in some way to leave Part II on the Statute Book without carrying it into effect. I think that would be a very nugatory proceeding. I do not sec what good you could do by that. It might lead to some people putting it into effect, and others refusing to do so; there would be no agreement, and it would be more likely to cause trouble than to avoid it. The effect of leaving it on the Statute Book would be just to give further time. I do not know whether it is suggested that it should be for a year or for an indefinite time. If it were only for a year whichever side did not want to come in would realise that they need only hold out for a year and the thing would be all over. To leave it longer than a year would be to suggest that you could have a Statute which there was no intention of putting into force.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I should like to see such machinery as Part II provided permanently, but if that is not the view of the Government, as the whole circumstances have been abnormal we might at least have another 12 months in which an opportunity might be provided.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
That is a question which has been thought over very carefully. I have been thinking over it for some weeks. It does not tend to bring about the result which we all desire—to bring the two parties together as soon as possible. It seems to me that voluntary action is what is now necessary. The right hon. Gentleman speaks of the arrangements existing in other industries, but none of them are by Statute. Therefore, if he is merely asking the coal industry to put up something which exists in other industries, he is merely asking something much less than is in Part II. It seems to me that the Government, having given 18 months to the two parties to come to agreement under Part II, and having failed, then the best hope is to rely upon their coming together by voluntary arrangement, and making conciliation plans together similar to 1235 those which are made in other industries of their own free will. The Government, feeling that their attitude of neutrality is the only proper attitude which they can take up, feel that they must put the Government Whips on in order that there may be no doubt as to their attitude.
But may I, before I sit down, make one appeal to those who represent the coal owners, not only in this House but in the whole country? If all that they have said about the desirability of pit committees is still in their minds and still close to their hearts as apparently it was then, if this opportunity of drawing more closely together appeals to them, as I believe it does to the best of them, just as much as it did then, is not this a splendid opportunity? If Part II is allowed to drop and they have their complete freedom it is a glorious opportunity to them to come forward now when there is no kind of Government interference and no kind of compulsion, and say, "of our own free will we will meet you and set up this machinery on a voluntary basis." If they do it will be the best solution that can possibly be arrived at.
§ Sir DONALD MACLEAN
I must confess that I received, in what I may term the penultimate peroration of my right hon. Friend, one of the greatest Parliamentary surprises I have ever had. I thought the whole of his speech, marked as it was by clearness and lucidity, tended to this conclusion—that having heard all the facts, this was a matter for the House of Commons to decide. I imagined that he meant, in effect, "We will not put on the Government Whips, but let the House take the responsibility." Therefore I was very surprised at the conclusion actually reached by my right hon. Friend that he thought it his duty to ask that the Government Whips should be put on. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Labour party has said, this is a matter for the House of Commons. We have heard the case for the miners and the case for the coalowners, stated, generally speaking, with great fairness and moderation on both sides. We now know that one party, which refused to work the Act, has come to the conclusion that the experiment should be made and that another party, which was in favour of the Act being operated, has come to the conclu- 1236 sion that, at the present moment, it should not operate. I cannot imagine a situation which lends itself more readily, on grounds of reason and moderation, to a short delay. Some time should be given before this is taken off the Statute Book—for that is what is involved—to see whether a common agreement cannot be reached.
I still suggest to the Government that the very serious decision they have taken should be reversed; that, at any rate, they should leave the decision to the House of Commons. This is one of the occasions on which one is glad to notice that by far the greater number of Members who are going to vote have heard all the substantial part of the Debate. The House is fully seized of the whole position. I know the House, or I am getting to know a little about it now, and I think if this were left to the fair judgment of the House, it would decide that another trial should be given, as a most important step towards bringing the parties together. I suggest to the Government that if this Motion is carried, it does not at all necessarily follow that the Board of Trade is compelled to proceed at once. My right hon. Friend the Secretary for Mines told us that he has already exercised his discretion for six months. What he has done already he can do again, but if he has not that power, I am certain the general sense of the House would not be opposed to a short amending Bill giving him power to suspend these provisions, so as to give an opportunity to the parties to come together—not under compulsion at all. We all know how foolish it is to try to make men of goodwill by Act of Parliament. It is quite impossible to do so. There has now arisen, although it is very late I am sorry to say, a real Parliamentary opportunity. The House of Commons can now assert itself, not in any sense hostile to the Government—let me make that perfectly clear. Simply by letting the House vote as it really wishes to, perfectly freely, you will give the opportunity for taking a step which may lead to peace in this industry. It may. Do not let us omit any chance of doing that. I do really fear that if this step is taken to-night there may arise a very ugly and hostile spirit which will be most difficult to allay. I do beg the Leader of the House to consult with my 1237 hon. Friend as to whether it is not wise in the interests of peace all round to let the House have a free Vote. He may take a step which may be Very fruitful of goodwill in this very difficult question.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 99; Noes, 141.1239
|Division No. 39.]||AYES.||[11.53 p.m.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Grundy, T. W.||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Robertson, John|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Halls, Walter||Rose, Frank H.|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Hancock, John George||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Hartshorn, Vernon||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hayday, Arthur||Sexton, James|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish.||Hayward, Evan||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hills, Major John Walter||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Hirst, G. H.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hogge, James Myles||Spencer, George A.|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Irving, Dan||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Sutton, John Edward|
|Bromfield, William||Johnstone, Joseph||Swan, J. E.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Cairns, John||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Kennedy, Thomas||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Wallace, J.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Lawson, John James||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Davies. Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Walton, J. (York. W. R., Don Valley)|
|Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Lort-Williams, J.||Waring, Major Walter|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lunn, William||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D,(Midlothian)||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Edwards, Hugh (Giant., Neath)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Wignall, James|
|Fildes, Henry||Myers, Thomas||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Finney, Samuel||Naylor, Thomas Ellis||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Forrest, Walter||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Gillis, William||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||Raffan, Peter Wilson||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Rendall, Atheistan||Mr. Arthur Henderson and Mr.|
|Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Walter Smith.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere|
|Amery, Leopold C. M. S.||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Armitage, Robert||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.|
|Armstrong, Henry Bruce||Dawson, Sir Philip||James, Lieut. Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Atkey, A. R.||Doyle, N. Grattan||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George|
|Austin, Sir Herbert||Eiveden, Viscount||Kidd, James|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||FitzRoy, Captain Hon. Edward A.||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Forestier-Walker, L.||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Lindsay, William Arthur|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Gangs, E. Stanley||Lorden, John William|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Ganzoni, Sir John||Loseby, Captain C. E.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Gould, James C.||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith.||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Manville, Edward|
|Bowyer, Captain G, W. E.||Greig, Colonel Sir James William||Matthews, David|
|Brassey, H. L. C.||Gretton, Colonel John||Mitchell, Sir William Lane|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Melton, Major John Eisdale|
|Brotherton, Colonel Sir Edward A.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Morrison, Hugh|
|Bruton, Sir James||Hailwood, Augustine||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Murchison, C. K.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hall, Rt. Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l, W. D'by)||Nail, Major Joseph|
|Burgoyne, Lt.-Col. Alan Hughes||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Neal, Arthur|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hannon Patrick Joseph Henry||Newson, Sir Percy Wilson|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Harmsworth, C. B, (Bedford, Luton)||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)|
|Casey, T. W.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Parker, James|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A.(Birm., W.)||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Chilcot, Lieut.-Com. Harry W.||Hood, Sir Joseph||Purchase, H. G.|
|Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Rae, H. Norman|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Hope, J. D. (Berwick & Haddington)||Ramsden, G. T|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Hopkins, John W. W.||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N|
|Cope, Major William||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Remer, J, R.|
|Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereforo)||Strauss, Edward Anthony||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Roundell, Colonel B. F.||Sugden, W. H.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)|
|Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund||Sutherland, sir William||Wise, Frederick|
|Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Thomson, F, C. (Aberdeen, South)||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Senders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur||Thorpe, Captain John Henry||Young, E. H. (Norwich)|
|Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustava D||Tickler, Thomas George||Young, Sir Frederick W- (Swindon)|
|Seager, Sir William||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor||Younger, Sir George|
|Shaw, William T. (Forfar)||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Smith, Sir Malcolm (Orkney)||Williams, C. (Tavistock)||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud||Dudley Ward.|
|Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Adjourned at One Minute before Twelve o'Clock.