§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. POTTS
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The principle which is asked for in this Measure was adopted by the House in 1912, so I can claim that I am not seeking to introduce any new principle. The 1912 Act is inoperative to-day because the War changed the whole aspect of things, and we are not able to get wages in accord with the increased cost of living. The rates then fixed under that Act cannot have any percentages added thereto. Therefore, the Act is a dead letter. In this Bill we are asking only for that to which we are entitled. I will establish that point and then I will resume my seat, very sorry that time does not permit me to go into the matter more fully. In 1913 the average wage of all people working in connection with mines was £82 for the year. If we were to add 59 per 2107 cent., which would be on the average £48 7s. 7d., it would bring the total average wage up to 2130 7s. 7d. for the year 1929, but I find that the average wage actually paid in the mining industry in 1929 was £118 16s. 4d., or £12 4s. 3d. below what the minimum might have been if a percentage had been added to meet the increased cost of living. We are not asking for anything extra in cases where the workmen by piecework earns more than the rates stated therein.
§ Mr. TOM SMITH
I beg to second the Motion.
It is most unfortunate that a Bill of this character should have to be discussed at five minutes before four o'clock. The question of miners' wages is so important that it, is worthy of a full day's discussion. It has been stated that the 1912 Act was inoperative, but I would like to point out that it is in operation to-day. I would like to deal with the history of the minimum wage and the need for an amending Bill of this kind. In 1912, at the end of a six weeks' strike, the Liberal Government of that day passed the Minimum Wage Bill, which established in every district in the country a joint board for the purpose of fixing minimum wages for underground workers.
The condition of the mining industry prior to that strike was such that when the first award was given in the coalfields of Yorkshire, the 6s. 9d. per day minimum for the highest paid underground worker meant that thousands had to have 2s. and 3s. added to make their wages up to 6s. 9d. per day. In 1912 the 6s. 9d. per day was considered by many miners to be a very big advance in miners' conditions, but since that time the minimum wage in Yorkshire has been altered 2108 from 6s. 9d. to 6s. 9d. plus 32 per cent. Now we have the position that 85. 9d., 9s. 3d. and 9s. 7d. has been fixed as the minimum wage for colliers in three districts in South Yorkshire. I do not think anyone in this House who understands mining conditions would say that that is an extravagant wage for men who work underground, and for those who are not colliers the minimum is in the region of 1s. or 1s. 6d. per shift less than the figures which I have quoted.
One part of this Bill endeavours to establish definite minimum figures for underground workers for piecework and day work. Another part of the Bill extends the provisions of the Act of 1912 to surface men and also to the coalfield of Kent which was excluded from the operation of the Act of 1912.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. LAMBERT-WARD
Much as I sympathise with the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of this Bill, I cannot help feeling that this is not a propitious time for asking for the Second Reading of a Measure dealing with this kind of legislation. During the last Session—
§ It being Pour of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.
§ The remaining Order was read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPFAKER adjourned the Rouse, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned at One Minute after Four o'Clock, until Monday next, 17th November.