§ Again considered in Committee.
§ [Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out to" and, "in line 23, stand part of the Clause."
§ 5.17 p.m.
When we were summoned to the other place I was about to give an instance of the sort of direction which I thought might be given to the Commission, and the instance I had in mind is one which I consider to be of supreme importance. I said on the Second Reading Debate that the last century was a time of unlimited expansion and that there is now a much greater need for the orderly development of our coal resources. Many of us looking back over the last 20 years must have regretted to see agricultural land becoming new coalfields while old coalfields become derelict. We have to bear in mind the possibility of the discovery, perhaps in some new parts of England, of wholly new coalfields at a time when there are ample existing resources in the mines which are already sunk and where social services already exist. In those circumstances the Minister and the House might feel that a direction should be given to the Commission that leases should not be granted for the development of the new fields in circumstances which might have disastrous effects on the old coalfields. That is why I think it is imperative to retain this Sub-section or to have a Sub-section in terms of this kind, so that Parliament will have some say in the matter. Something to a similar effect is found in the Act setting up the Forestry Commission.
§ Mr. T. Smith
Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear what is meant 623 by the words "including all matters affecting the safety of the working of coal"?
I have told the Committee exactly what we have in mind. It is that before granting new leases the Commission shall consult with the inspectors as to the lay-out of a new pit and try to get a lay-out which is most conducive to the safety of the working.
§ Sir Stafford Cripps
Does that mean the safety of the miners and the workers, or the safety of the surface?
I am sorry that I am not so conversant with the technical terms of the industry as the hon. and learned Member. I thought that safety in the working of coal would convey to hon. Members the safety of those who were working in the mines.
§ Sir S. Cripps
This is rather an important matter of interpretation. If it is the safety of the workers of the coal it is rather important—if the right hon. Gentleman does mean that—that the words should be altered.
I will look into the point. What we mean is what I have said, but if it is necessary, we can make a slight alteration in the wording.
§ Mr. Shinwell
In the event of the Ministry of Mines inspectors discovering that in a particular area there is a large accumulation of water which may affect the safety not only of the working but of the men concerned, do we understand that the Commission is to withhold the granting of a lease until the safety of the men is assured?
I will repeat what I have said. We might issue a direction to the Commission to consult with the inspectors either upon a renewal or the granting of a new lease with regard to the question of safety in working, and no doubt the Commission would be guided by them. There is no intention under this Subsection for the Minister to interfere with the day-to-day work of the Commission The Commission will have to carry out the duties of a landlord, and by this Subsection we shall be able to control the sort of development I have mentioned, and give the House of Commons a right to hold the Minister responsible in a 624 general way with the broader aspects of the work of the Commission. I think the Committee will agree that the retention of this Sub-section is essential.
§ Mr. Peat
Under Part II of the Bill very considerable power is taken to restrict the freedom of the individual; he may be forced into an amalgamation. I gather that it is not the Government's intention to use this Clause for the purpose of forcing amalgamations on possible lessees, and I want to know whether the right hon. Gentleman will consider incorporating some words to make this absolutely clear.
I will try to make the position perfectly plain. The Commission must have the same rights which a private landlord now has, and when a lease falls in he should have the power to renew it to the person who holds it, or, if that is not conducive to the better working and efficiency of his property, to give the lease to an adjacent owner. It is not my intention or the intention of the Government to issue a general direction under the terms of this Sub-section, that leases are not to be granted or renewed unless amalgamation takes place.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Smith
I am sure the hon. Member for Ecclesall (Sir G. Ellis) was right from the Government's point of view in putting down this Amendment. He told us that he did so for the specific purpose of obtaining information from the President of the Board of Trade. He said that he was anxious to know whether the Commission will have the right to withhold a lease in order to compel coalowners to do something which the coalowners do not want to do. I can well understand the hon. Member concentrating upon that, but may I remind him that I have known many cases where the coalowners themselves have threatened to refuse to work the coal unless the workers themselves agreed to the coalowners' terms. I am referring to a number of lock-outs which have taken place in the industry.
§ Sir G. Ellis
The hon. Member is putting it generally. I put it specifically with regard to amalgamations. My case was that we should not compel amalgamations under this Sub-section and be deprived of any right under Part II of the Bill.
§ Mr. Smith
I agree, and I ask myself whether the motive for the Amendment might not have been something in addition to extracting information. The Amendments of hon. Members opposite leave me with the impression that they want the Commission to have certain limited powers to search for coal and to grant mining leases, not in the interests of the nation as a whole, but in the interests of shareholders. Acceptance of the Amendment would take out any question of national safety and national interest. I want to follow up the question I put to the President of the Board of Trade as to what is meant by the words:all matters affecting the safety of the working of coal.The right hon. Gentleman said that it will empower the Commission to consult the divisional inspectors before granting a lease. But consult them for what purpose? Will they discuss with the inspectors the best system of working that particular coal? One of the wastes of private ownership has been that the coal-owners themselves have not on all occasions worked a seam to the best advantage from the national point of view. Let me put this specific question. Will it empower the Commission to say to a colliery company, "We do not want to interfere too much with your concern, but we feel that if we grant you this mining lease the peculiar nature of the coalfield demands that you shall work the pit on the long wall retreating level, which, judged from the national interest point of view, would be the best." There is a large body of opinion among mining engineers that with a long view of mining certain areas and certain pits would be much better worked on the long wall retreating method which makes better roads than the long wall advancing method. From the shareholders' point of view it means that they would have to wait a few years before getting any return, but if they work on the retreating system they will ultimately recoup themselves. As one who has had experience of an excellent seam worked on the long wall retreating method, I am anxious to know whether the Sub-section will give the Commission the right to discuss with the colliery company the best method of working the coal. It would be an advantage to our deliberations if it could be made perfectly clear what is and what is not intended by these words.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Mitchell
It seems to me that the most important reason for including this Sub-section in the Bill is that it makes it possible for the House of Commons to have some measure of control, it makes it possible for hon. Members to put questions to the Minister. I am sure that in all parts of the Committee there will be agreement on that point.
I would like to make it clear that they will be questions on general policy, and not on the day-today working.
§ Mr. Mitchell
Yes. I am sure that a great many hon. Members on all sides of the Committee feel that it has been extraordinarily difficult to exercise any control over some of the bodies that have been set up in recent years. In the case of the Coal Commission, which is an exceptionally important body, it is most desirable that it should be possible to put questions in the House concerning the Commission. Many hon. Members have felt great difficulty in asking questions about such bodies as the London Passenger Transport Board and the British Broadcasting Corporation. As regards the wide powers that are to be given to the Coal Commission, I am sure hon. Members are in agreement with the statement made by the President of the Board of Trade. That statement is, to some extent, a departure from the policy which the Government started in connection with some of the other bodies, but in so far as concerns the giving of more control to Parliament in getting information, I think that change is desirable.
However, I am a little anxious lest the Board of Trade which, after all, is a political body, might use its powers under this Clause to give directions to the Coal Commission. The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) referred to a particular method of working coal. Under the Bill as it is at present, there will be nothing to prevent the Coal Commission from making stipulations in a mining lease. This Clause really concerns directions which the Board of Trade gives to the Coal Commission, which is a different matter. What we wish to avoid is that the Board of Trade should put pressure on the Commission for political purposes. My right hon. Friend 627 gave an illustration of a possible set of circumstances in which, if a new coalfield were discovered, it might not be in the general national interest to work it. That was a very well-chosen illustration, which I am sure appealed to every hon. Member. I can think of many other occasions on which directions might be given, not necessarily by my right hon. Friend, but subsequent Presidents of the Board of Trade, which might not meet with the general approval of all parts of the House. It is for that reason that I feel a good deal of apprehension about this Clause.
It is clear that the Commission have very great powers, and that if the Board of Trade were to direct them to use those powers in certain directions, the Commission could become very oppressive. I listened with interest to the remarks made a few minutes ago by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), but I entirely disagree with him. It seems to me that the powers of the Commission will be very much larger than the power of any colliery company or combination of colliery companies. The Commission will be in a position of monopoly, and by refusing to grant a lease, it will be able to destroy any colliery company in the country. For that reason, I feel that we have cause for a certain amount of anxiety, and I welcome the statement of my right hon. Friend that it is not intended, except in exceptional circumstances, that the Board of Trade should give any directions to the Coal Commission.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I am glad to see that the Patronage Secretary is in his place. I am afraid that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman must be getting rather nervous about the speeches that are being made. It is obvious that his hon. Friends are filled with anxiety, not about what the right hon. Gentleman who is at present President of the Board of Trade will do, but when they visualise a Labour President of the Board of Trade sitting on that bench and giving directions under the Bill, when it becomes an Act. I cannot explain their anxiety in any other way, and I am glad that the Patronage Secretary is present to hear the mournful dirge. I think all hon. Members will agree now, as they did on the Second Reading, that 628 we are giving fairly extensive powers to the Coal Commission, and since the Commission are being given those extensive powers, it is desirable that two things should be done.
First, it is desirable that the Commission's terms of reference should be made as clear as possible. The hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), in moving the deletion of what I thought were the most important words in Sub-section (1) of this Clause, wanted to leave the Commission with little to do. Apart from the job of leasing coal to colliery owners, he wanted to deprive them of every power. The hon. Member withdrew his Amendment, and Sub-section (1) remains as it was. Whatever may be the power that is vested in the Commission, it is laid down that they shall exericse it in conformity with what is stipulated in the Sub-section. The Commission now have extensive powers which, frankly, my hon. Friends and I do not want to give to a Commission under private enterprise. We pressed that point on Monday last, but we did not convince hon. Members opposite, although I believe we shall convince the country eventually. We believe that when it is a question of giving wide and extensive powers to anybody—powers of human life, for that is what this means—they cannot be exercised safely except under Government direction and under the control of Parliament.
The second thing which is essential when a Commission of this nature is granted powers to work national property, to manage it and to look after it, is that there should be an opportunity for the representatives of the public in Parliament to criticise and to review the work of the Commission and the way in which it is performed. That, at least, is one of the things which Sub-section (2) does. It makes the Board of Trade responsible for issuing general directions, and since the Board of Trade and the President of the Board of Trade will be responsible for giving general directions, I think it follows that the President of the Board of Trade will be responsible for the general policy pursued by the Commission. He will have power, if the Clause is included, to give general directions, and having that power, he will be responsible for the general policy of the Coal Commission.
I wish that the Government were not quite so anxious to whittle down the Bill 629 I hope they will remember that the last time they started to whittle away a Bill, they whittled away the whole of it, and they whittled away from the Government the author of the Bill as well. They lost both the Bill and the author. I hope the authors of this Bill will not meet the same fate; if they wish to avoid it, they must stand by the Bill now and not whittle it away at the request of the coalowners in the House and—what I am much more afraid of—the coalowners who are not in the House. The powers of the Board of Trade to give general directions cover all matters appertaining to the safety of the working of coal. Hon. Members who know anything about the managing of a pit know that the safety regulations are those embodied in the Coal Mines Act and the Regulations made under it, but there are matters of wider import that can be included under the provisions of this Clause.
My hon. Friends will shortly move an Amendment dealing with a problem which is a very grave one in their areas and in many other areas of the country, the problem of subsidence. That is a general problem which affects the problem of the safety of the miners. I cannot see how the question of the safety of working coal can be separated from the safety of the men who hew the coal. The method of working coal is now rapidly being changed owing to the mechanisation of the pits. The result of mechanisation is that there is now in the coalmines far less ripping than was previously the case. There is a conveyer face of from 120 to 150 yards long, there are two main roads, one at each end, and huge areas of coal are now removed without making enough dirt and rubbish to fill the gobs. The consequence is that tight-packing is becoming a lost art, and the miners are paying with their lives for the loss of that art. There are now little packs, and that method is increasingly used. We believe it has serious consequences from the point of view of safety. It creates huge reservoirs of gas in the pits, it makes the roof more difficult to control, and it endangers the lives of the miners. It is creating problems for the next generation, because subsidence will be infinitely more acute then than it is now.
I was very glad to hear the President of the Board of Trade say that when effect is given to the powers which are 630 taken in this Clause, he will consult with the inspector of mines. I am very glad of that for one reason in particular. There are still one or two areas of coal in the South Wales coalfields which have not been worked, and although there may be a great ramp to get that coal worked before the Bill comes into operation, those areas may not be taken, and in the event of the Coal Commission being asked to grant a lease for the working of that coal, they would go to the divisional inspector of mines at Cardiff and ask him to tell them what general directions they should give as to the way in which the pit should be worked. I believe that the divisional inspector would give the directions which he has given in his report. I asked the Secretary for Mines whether he would enforce the recommendations in the report, but he said that he had no powers to do so. Although he may not have powers under the existing regulations, he will have powers in the case to which I am referring, to enforce those recommendations which are shared by every experienced miner in South Wales and by every competent mining engineer who is free to express his views. If the divisional inspector at Cardiff were asked about the general directions that should be given, he would probably recommend the measures which he recommended in his report, namely, that if they want to work the pit, they must work it by such a method that there is tight-packing and that the gobs are filled. A Scotsman, I think, has devised a new kind of tippler known as the Maclean tippler, which makes it very much cheaper to bring the dirt out of the pit than to pack it in. The consequence is that the dirt is brought out of the pit. In the old days, when one went to a pit, one saw 200, 300 or 400 trucks filled with coal, but nowadays one sees hundreds of trucks filled with dirt. The Maclean tippler starts to work—
I think that the hon. Member had better keep to the Amendment, for what he is saying now will open up a wide discussion.
§ Mr. Griffiths
This is a matter affecting the safety of the working of coal which comes under this general direction because it is not covered by the Coal Mines regulations. It will be possible under this Sub-section to give such general directions. The development of the unworked areas of 631 coal will be in the hands of this Commission and under the general direction of the Board of Trade. I welcome the Subsection because it gives us an opportunity in this House to ask questions about it. One of the tendencies in the development of public ownership of which I am rather afraid is the setting up of outside bodies, like the Unemployment Assistance Board and the London Transport Board over whose administration we have no control. I welcome this Sub-section because it will give us an opportunity of bringing under review and of criticising the work of the Commission. It will also enable the President of the Board of Trade—and I hope a President of the Board of Trade belonging to my own party before long—in a general way to direct and control the development of the industry in the future so as to avoid the terrible mistakes that have been made in the past.
§ Sir G. Ellis
In view of the statement of the President of the Board of Trade, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I beg to move, in page 2, line 23, after "coal," to insert "and the prevention of subsidences."
§ Colonel Wedgwood
On a point of Order. You will observe that the Amendment in my name, after "coal," to insert "and the damage that may be done by mining subsidence," is somewhat similar to the one which my hon. Friend has moved. May I ask for your Ruling whether it will be in order to deal with both subjects on this Amendment and then to have two Divisions?
I am not certain what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman means by the word "damage." Perhaps he will be good enough to explain.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I mean that under the present system damage done to the surface is sometimes compensated for by ex gratia payments. I am anxious that the Bill should not deprive the sufferers of the small amount of damage that they get at present ex gratia. It is important that we should have among those subjects about which directions can be given by the Board of Trade damages in future 632 similar to the damages paid at the present time.
The only point that troubles me about what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman says is that I am doubtful whether the Commission has any power to pay anything. I think that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will have to raise that point on another part of the Bill.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
It is really part of the question of the prevention of subsidence. In the case of an existing lease it is a question of damages done under that lease, but in the case of a new sinking in a new field, it is a question of the prevention of subsidence and the liability for damage. On both those questions it is vitally important that the Board of Trade should be able to give general directions to the Commission as to the method of meeting that particular problem.
I am now seized of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's point. It would, obviously, be in order to discuss what instructions the Board of Trade might give, either for the prevention of subsidence or for putting terms in the leases to compensate those who suffer. That is as far as we can go on this Clause.
§ Mr. E. Smith
Your latter observations. Captain Bourne, are very helpful to the Committee The purpose of my Amendment is to enable the Board of Trade to give to the Commission general directions for dealing with subsidence. My hon. Friends and I are not speaking on this question for ourselves only, nor are we speaking for the political party which we represent. We are speaking for a large number of urban district councils. I and several hon. Members are also speaking in particular for the City of Stoke-on-Trent and for a large number of property owners from whom we have received letters. The city which I represent has also had a deputation to the Minister of Mines on this issue. I have a good deal of evidence to show the desirability of dealing with this question. I know this part of the country fairly well, and throughout the area in villages and valleys one finds communities suffering from subsidence. I know of no city in the country that is built on a coalfield to the extent that the city for which I 633 am speaking is built. What is causing us some concern is the fact that there are still 4,500,000,000 tons of coal under the city and the immediate vicinity that still remains to be mined. I know the working-class fairly well and I know that in all areas there are to be found careful thrifty people. Thousands of them have Scraped and saved for years and have put their life's savings into purchasing their own houses. I want to speak particularly for them. They are having to spend pounds on repairs to their properties owing to subsidence, and we say that now that the Government have decided to compensate the royalty owners to the extent of £60,000,000, it is reasonable to suggest that some part of that amount should be used for the purpose of taking adequate steps to prevent subsidence in future.
Builders have to take precaution against subsidence and in the area of which I am speaking it costs about £25 per house to take the necessary precautions against subsidence. Is it fair, simply because people are living in that area, that their houses should have to cost £25 more? The people suffer in other ways. Not only do they suffer from the direct effect of subsidence on their own properties, but they suffer indirectly because the rates are bound to be higher in such a district than in others because of the effect of subsidence of municipal property. The cost for repairs to the municipal building due to subsidence was £50,456. The council received from the colliery proprietors £39,250, making a loss to the municipality of £11,206. The same thing applies to a sewerage work where the cost to the municipality was £1,000. We can, therefore, understand the concern of municipal and urban district councils that their position in future should be safeguarded so that they shall not be affected by subsidence to the extent that they have been and that the Board of Trade should have power to give directions to prevent it taking place in future.
I have a letter from the Town Clerk of Stoke-on-Trent. I do not propose to read the whole of it because it would take too long, but I want to give from it a few illustrations of the serious effect of subsidence upon the city. They built a large technical institute in Longton. One week you can go past the institute and see where the contractors have been at work pointing where the cracks have occurred 634 A few months afterwards you can see cracks occurring in another place. One could give illustration after illustration of that kind. I want to draw the attention of the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Mines to the effect upon people who have purchased their own property. Many of them are miners who are using their human energy and are being exploited to an extent undreamt of in days gone by. After rendering that service to the industry they are also affected in the way I am explaining.
The Education Committee is affected, too. It is proposing to construct a number of new elementary schools. Many of them are in course of erection, and the extra cost in order to counteract the damage due to subsidence is as follows: Carmountside Senior School, £6,500; Chell Senior School, £6,500; Blurton Junior Mixed and Infants School, £5,500; Goldenhill Infants School, £2,000. The municipality decided to embark on a large housing scheme, and, owing to its being affected by subsidence, they are having to make the foundations of reinforced concrete. This extra precaution will cost from £27 to £41 per house. After that evidence, and in view of the fact that £66,000,000 is to be paid in compensation to the royalty owners, surely the Government will be prepared to consider the serious effects of subsidence in the particular district of which I have been speaking.
§ Lord Apsley
Who were the owners of the royalties in the particular cases which the hon. Member has quoted? Who gave the leases to the mining companies? Was it the municipality?
§ Mr. Smith
Other hon. Members will be speaking, probably the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), who is very well acquainted with this district. He informs me that these come under the Duchy of Lancaster—or most of them do—in view of the fact that this is going on the records we had better be careful what we say. Some of them come under the Duchy of Lancaster.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
This is a matter which particularly concerns my constituency and the area generally of the Black Country, where mines were worked out a number of years ago but where subsidence still 635 goes on. I know of working-class houses in my own constituency which have sunk, and there is one historic place in the neighbourhood, Moseley Old Hall, where Charles II was once in hiding after the Battle of Worcester, where subsidence has taken place. Further, and this is of much more importance, a Liberal Club at Portobello in my constituency is in danger of sinking—[Interruption]—not politically, because it is doing extremely well in that respect, but it is in danger of sinking physically. I very much hope that it may be possible to give powers to the Commission when granting future leases to lay down such terms as will ensure such compensation as may be practicable in cases of this kind.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Lord Apsley
We are dealing now with one of the difficulties which are bound to crop up under this Bill. This is one of the problems connected with nationalisation, and I am very glad that hon. Members opposite are beginning to find out how difficult these matters are. I hope they will press the question of who is to be made responsible for subsidences. At the present moment any subsidence is well covered by the terms of the lease. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] In nearly all cases it is, because the surface of the land belongs to the owner, who draws the royalties—unless he has sold them; and in case he has sold them there would be—at any rate in most cases there is—a clause in the deeds saying who is to look after the subsidence, and the colliery company is made responsible. Where the owner of the land is the royalty owner himself, he sees to it that the colliery company is responsible for paying proper compensation; he has that put in the lease, and that is clear. When a municipality has coal which is being dug underneath the confines of its district, presumably it has sold out the royalties, and in doing so has covered itself in the case of damage arising from subsidence.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
The Noble Lord must really know that in most cases the separation between the surface and the mineral rights took place many hundreds of years ago.
§ Mr. E. Smith
Surely the Noble Lord is also aware of the large amount of legal quibbling which goes on, and which in- 636 volves municipalities and other property owners in expenditure amounting to thousands of pounds which they are never able to recover.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
The Noble Lord must know that municipalities cannot own mineral rights. So far as South Wales is concerned, although we suffer a good deal from subsidence nothing is paid in compensation to the owners of cottages.
§ Lord Apsley
Surely the right to work the coal must have been sold at some time or other, either by the landowners or the municipalities.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The rights were generally sold before the municipalities acquired the land; the mineral rights had already been severed from the surface rights. If a municipality were conscious of the fact that there were minerals there they would have no power to acquire minerals. They can only acquire the surface.
§ Lord Apsley
That is exactly the sort of case which we on this side of the Committee hope to see dealt with by this Bill—the case where coal is being worked and the rights had been sold before the municipality arose. That is a case where the Commission should step in. The same observation applies also to ancient monuments, whether it is the case of a Liberal Club or not. They should be protected by the proper authorities. I hope the Minister will make the position clear on this point. If the Commission is to take over the coal throughout the country who is going to be responsible for damage by subsidence? It will not be the surface owner, because he has no rights in the minerals whatever. The Commission, naturally, will not pay itself compensation, being only the owner of the minerals below the soil, but it should have power to see that compensation on a proper, fair and equitable scale can be secured from colliery companies who cause subsidence.
§ Mr. MacLaren
On a point of Order. If this Amendment were incorporated in the Bill it would mean that the Board of Trade had to do their best to prevent the subsidence of land owing to mining operations. I have an Amendment to Clause 21 dealing with compensation for subsidence. As far as I have been able to follow this discussion, it seems to be going on round the point of compensation for subsidence, and I should like to ask whether that will 637 preclude us from discussing the subject later on my Amendment.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
On that point of Order. We discussed this matter with Captain Bourne, when he was in the Chair, and he agreed that the Amendments standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) and of myself dealing with damage could be discussed simultaneously. They are Amendments concerned with instructions from the Board of Trade to the Coal Commission as to how they are to deal with this subject. The Amendment to Clause 21 provides that part of the surplus—this purely imaginary surplus which some people dream of as accruing to the mining industry under this Bill—may be used to compensate people for subsidence. It is desired that there should be instructions given to the Commission as to how to deal with two completely different problems—subsidences which occur under mining leases which have been granted, and subsidences which may occur under fresh leases in areas which have not yet been opened up.
§ The Chairman (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I am much obliged to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for his advice. I think the matters are quite distinct. So far as I can see at present, the discussion on this Amendment, if it is kept within proper limits, will not interfere wth the discussion on the Amendment to Clause 21.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
I am not going to deal with the question of compensation. I want to try to prevent subsidence occurring. The Clause speaks about the national interest and also about the safety of the workmen. The national interest cannot be served if, as the result of coal-mining operations, we get depressions on the surface of the ground all over the country and at the same time get heaps of the pit refuse dumped on the surface. We ask that the Board of Trade shall be given power to instruct the Commissioners to try to prevent that happening. It can only be prevented by close attention being paid to the system of working the mines, and we as mining Members claim that we can bring intimate practical knowledge to bear on that point. One way of preventing subsidence is to see that the packing or 638 stowing underground is done as completely as possible. When coal is extracted it must leave a space. If six feet of coal is removed at one spot and later another four feet of coal and later another five feet you are removing 15 feet of coal from those underground workings, and as time goes on—for it takes a long time to show—the presence of that space of 15 feet underground will reveal itself in the form of a saucer-like depression on the surface. That is what will happen unless steps are taken to stow the workings completely at the points from which the coal has been taken.
At the present time there is no control over the working of the mines in this respect. The mineowner, thinking of profits, may feel that it does not pay him to stow the workings. He gets out all the coal, and the debris is brought to the top of the pit and deposited anywhere. If that is done the workings will not be kept up as they ought to be. If we can get the Board of Trade to say that the débris in the workings must be stowed in a way which will fill up as much of the space as possible, we shall protect the national interest by preventing those subsidences which spoil the surface of the ground. Even if it is not possible completely to stop all subsidence, it would be so small a scale and so gradual that the surface would not be seriously affected. In the second place, by doing this we should be looking after the safety of the men. If large areas of space are left underground they become reservoirs of fire damp, and it only needs a fall of roof or a change in atmospheric conditions for that fire damp to swell out into the roadways and create a danger to the workmen.
This Clause makes reference to the safety of the working of the mines, and that can only convey one meaning, the safety of the mine worker. What we are asking is that imperative orders shall be given that when coal is worked there must be complete stowing of the underground workings. If that is done we shall have gone a long way to secure the safety of the surface of the earth in the national interest and to secure the safety of the men who are working underground. I hope that hon. Members realise the implication of this matter and if they do, and the suggestion is carried out, there will, in the long run, be no 639 extra expense on the community. Last night we were agitating for the removal of heaps on the surface, and discussing what expense would be involved. If this matter is dealt with before the heaps arrive you will not be faced with the expense of removing them, and an economy will be effected which will benefit the community as a whole. I hope that the Committee will see that this proposal is carried out when the Bill comes to be worked.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Sir G. Ellis
I happen to be, I think, the only Member of this House who was on the Royal Commission on Mining Subsidence. Examples have been given to-day by hon. Members, but if they read the evidence carefully which was placed before the Commission they will find many examples more horrible than have been given to the Committee to-day. The upshot of it is, that, so far as the coal-owners are concerned, they are either responsible or not responsible for subsidence. If they are responsible they have to pay, and if they are not responsible an added burden will be put upon them.
§ Sir G. Ellis
Somebody will soon take the trouble to find out. If they are not responsible, an added burden is to be imposed, and we are entitled to ask whence is coming the means to meet that burden? The right hon. Gentleman who raised the matter suggested that it should be taken out of the global sum, but that would be very unjust to the royalty owners, because you would be taking something out of their compensation, which they are to receive for what has been taken away from them. That either belongs or does not belong to the coalowner.
§ The Chairman
I am afraid I did not hear the beginning of the hon. Gentleman's speech, but it is clear that any question of suggesting that compensation should be paid out of the global sum could not come under this Amendment.
§ Sir G. Ellis
I will not pursue that argument. I think the suggestion was made on the general question that there are some hardships and I admit at once that 640 that is so. There is the hardship and the problem where the land has long been worked out, and where subsidence of any kind has not occurred. Somebody then buys the property unknowingly, and later on subsidence takes place of which he had never had any notice. That is truly a hardship. On the other hand, there is the examination of the deeds, particularly in the case of a local authority. It is the duty of the local authority to look into this question and to find out to whom the land belonged before, and what its condition is. On the Royal Commission we found out that many local authorities had deliberately put buildings where they knew that subsidence would take place. That happened particularly in South Wales.
§ Sir G. Ellis
We were on the question of avoiding subsidence. When it was suggested to them that they might have combined together and established a school, say, for two or three districts and sent their pupils by rail to a school where no subsidence would take place, they went up into the air and said that they were not going to join with anybody. If hon. Members will look into the documents relating to the Royal Commission on Mining Subsidence they will find many of the points raised to-day carefully examined and answered, both in the evidence and in the report.
A recommendation was made that there was hardship in certain circumstances, and the instance was given of the small owner. The way in which it struck most members of the Commission was that small house-owners often bought the land on which their little houses were built without understanding in the least what they were doing, and that something in the nature of fraud was perpetrated by the people who bought the land as a whole and sold off each little bit. They professed to sell it including solicitors' charges, deeds and everything else. The small owner knew nothing of those things and took the deeds for gospel. Later on, they found out that they had to pay for the expense of subsidence, as hon. Members have pointed out to-day. That was instanced in the report as a case in which some kind of compensation might be justified.
641 It is another matter when you come to ask who should pay the compensation. As owners, we are perfectly entitled to say that we ought not to have charged on us anything more than we have reasonably agreed to pay. If you are going to take up a special case and give a special subsidy—because this is nothing else—it ought not to be paid by people who have contracted themselves out of the liability.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
This is, to most of us over here, a very old question. It was as a result of agitation in this House that we finally got the Royal Commission on Mining Subsidence inaugurated somewhere about 1922 or 1923. After taking an enormous amount of evidence, with which I am familiar, they produced a report for which I have nothing but praise. I am glad to hear that the hon. Member who has just spoken signed that report. The report includes the proposal that a small householder who suffers from mining subsidence should be entitled to damages from the mining lessee. That report was made by a very conservative Commission in 1924, but it has never been acted upon. It has been treated ever since as a dead letter by the Mines Department and by the President of the Board of Trade. A case which was good enough in 1923, and persuaded the hon. Member opposite that something must be done, is infinitely stronger to-day when coal has been ripped out in such a way that people are suffering all over the country and not merely in North Staffordshre. The damage that is being done today is greater than it was in 1922.
§ Sir G. Ellis
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is saying that there has been an increase in subsidence. I should like to know whether that is right because at the moment I do not think it is correct.
§ Sir G. Ellis
The prevention of subsidence is being carried out in a much more scientific way in these days, and, generally speaking, we can say that subsidence is not increasing.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I do not know about that. All I can say is that the damage being done is far greater to-day than it was in 1922. The unfortunate 642 small householder, who may have a mortgage of £90 upon his house, is losing his money. This ruthless injury to the property of the small man is still continuing, although the Commissioners reported over 10 years ago that something should be done to remedy that state of affairs. That being so, we are right in taking this opportunity of asking the President of the Board of Trade to include in the instructions to the Mining Commissioners something concerning subsidence and the damage caused by it. The report of the Royal Commission suggested that the compensation for damage should be paid by the mining lessee.
§ The Chairman
I do not want to interrupt the right hon. and gallant Gentleman unnecessarily, but I want to try to help the Committee. I want to point out here that the Amendment does not deal with the payment of compensation, which will come up when we reach the proper Clause.
§ Sir S. Cripps
There has been no agreement whatever on this side of the House as regards any time-table at all.
§ The Chairman
I am sorry if I made a mistake about that, but I hope that hon. Members at least understand that I did not for a moment suggest that there was any time-table which was enforceable. I was merely trying, so far as I could, to help the Committee to get through the business in the shortest time.
I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that there is no timetable and no agreement, but he would surely agree with me that there was an understanding that we should try to keep to the time limit suggested by the Prime Minister as far as practicable in order to get through in the shortest time. There is no enforceable time-table, and no agreed plan, and none is observed, but we should try to make as much progress as possible.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I wanted to make it clear that no time-table of any sort or kind is in operation, and there never has been. The Prime Minister suggested a certain time which he hoped would be kept to, but that was entirely without agreement so far as the Opposition was concerned.
§ Sir Charles Edwards
When I was consulted on Tuesday, I think it was, I refused to enter into any agreement for to-day. I said, "We shall see on Thursday." From our standpoint there is no agreement at all.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I hope that I shall be absolved from any desire to extend the Debate. I did speak on Monday and I made the shortest speech on record. I want to keep strictly within order and I do not think it was in order to refer to compensation on this Motion. We want from the President of the Board of Trade some hope for the people who are suffering from mining subsidence at the present time and an assurance that their condition will not be made worse by this Measure and that the instructions issued by the President of the Board of Trade will at any rate protect from the increasing danger those people who have some sort of protection at the present time. I might illustrate this by the leases made of the Duchy of Lancaster minerals, in my borough of Newcastle. The minerals are leased to the Wolstanton Colliery Company. Whether the Duchy of Lancaster or the colliery is liable for damage by subsidence on the surface has never yet been decided. The lessees, the Wolstanton Colliery Company, do make an ex gratia payment to people whose houses are damaged.
In one case brought to my notice a man got £50 for his house tumbling down and because he was a poor man they gave him £25 more. He got £75 for a £300 house. As I see the matter, the lessees will be able to say, under the Bill: "We are no longer responsible for the payment of any damages whatever. The Government have taken over the minerals, they have leased us those minerals, and we no longer have any responsibility or any liability. Any liability is theirs." The Duchy of Lancaster, the lessors, again ex gratia, support the church at Etruria. The church is being undermined, and frequently shows signs of coming down, and the Duchy of Lancaster provide the money to hold the fabric together. That is under the present system. Are the Duchy of Lancaster and, in future, the Coal Commission, to do nothing? Are they going to say, like the mining lessees, "We are now national, and need not be charitable. The Duchy no longer own the coal; they own Government stock"? Then there 644 will be no compensation for these people, either in Wolstanton or at Etruria.
This is not only a question of mining near the surface. They are going down deeper and deeper. The Wedgwood factory is built on land which has coal underneath it. Forty years ago my father bought the coal under the works to a depth of 2,000 feet, which in those days was considered to be ample to protect us from any subsidence whatsoever. But nowadays they are going down underneath that 2,000 feet, ripping out the coal from below, and all our expensive tunnel ovens and other erections, which depend for their safe working upon absolute stability and rigidity, are in danger of going. By that danger we are being driven out; we are going to abandon our works and build outside. We have bought all the minerals—you may be sure we have bought them all—under a 400-acre piece just on the borders of Stoke-on-Trent, where we are putting up a new factory which, as we hope, will be safe, and a new garden city, where we have not to put down these expensive cement floats under the houses. It is all very well for hon. Members to ask why we do not put our houses where there will be no subsidence. There is not an acre in Stoke-on-Trent which is not liable to subsidence. In Newcastle it is not quite as bad as in Stoke, but it is getting pretty bad. There is no place where you can put a school, you cannot lay a main for gas or electricity, you cannot put down sewers, which may not be smashed at any moment. In these circumstances this question is a very live question.
Take the question of future leases. We have bought the coal under this estate—I am only taking it as an example of what anyone engaged in building undertakings may encounter. We bought the minerals in order to avoid having to put down, underneath our factory and houses, cement foundations. What is our position? We have protected ourselves to the best of our ability against subsidence, but the Coal Commission come along and say, without any instructions from the right hon. Gentleman, "We cannot allow this valuable asset of ours, this coalfield under these 400 acres at Barlaston, to lie idle. We must have the coal out. It is true that it is not very workable at present, but we may get a small royalty for it, say 3d. 645 a ton or something of that sort." If they do that, they are going to ruin the property beyond any possible compensation. Under the Second Schedule the responsibility is on the owners to provide reasonable safeguards against subsidence, but now the owner who has bought a bit of safe land is suddenly to be told, after he has built his factory or his house: "It is true that when you owned your own coal it was safe, but now we own it, and, as it has not been worked, we intend to work it." It means that £500,000 of capital will be destroyed because the Coal Commission pays no attention to the value of inadequately protected property. Is that to be allowed to go on? Under the Second Schedule, if no precautions are taken against damage, no compensation can be claimed, but no compensation could possibly pay for the destruction of all our new factory.
They are now going down so deep as not only to undermine one man's property, but to destroy property that is some way off. The effect on the surface spreads out at an angle of 60 degrees, and when you get down to 5,000 feet below the surface, property on the top is endangered over a half-mile radius, even though there is no actual mine under the surface property at all. It is not possible now to say whether any particular subsidence is due to one mine or to another. Anyone going down on the North Western Railway will see that outside Tamworth, between Tamworth and Atherton, a new Lake District is being created in Warwickshire. Land is slipping away on both sides of the line, lakes are forming, and the railway company are spending an enormous amount of money in raising their line year by year another foot. The railway company own the minerals under the railway line, but that is no protection, because, when the mining is very deep, it is not necessary for it to be underneath the actual structure. That is the danger, and it is becoming far worse with the new system of getting coal. Whole towns, and not merely houses, are liable to destruction. In my borough of Newcastle, in the town portion, which has been built on for 800 years, all the property has 70 feet of coal underneath it. Under this Bill, that coal will become Government property. Whether they will pay for it or not I do not know but, if they do, obviously they will want to work it, and, if this 70 feet of coal is taken out, 646 it will not be any particular house, but Newcastle itself, which will vanish under the water. It is low down on the Lyme brook, and, instead of there being a town there, there will be a lake stretching from the Lyme watershed down to the southern boundary of Stoke-on-Trent.
It seems to me that the Mines Department and the Board of Trade have not in the least considered this great question of subsidence. They try to shut their eyes to it. Because they did not like the report of the Royal Commission, they have tried to forget that that report was ever made. They have tried to forget that there is a justifiable complaint from the small property owners; they have tried to forget what it is costing the ratepayers of all these undermined localities. I am told that it will be the same with Sheffield. If they take the coal out from underneath Sheffield, they will be abandoning all these people to complete ruin. What are the Government going to do? Are they going to tell the Coal Mines Commission that valuable property must not be destroyed; are they going to tell the Commission that coal underneath valuable property need not be bored and explored? Are they going to tell them that the slight compensation which people get under the present system, whether from the lessees or from the mineral owners, is to continue?
We shall discuss later, on Clause 21, whether compensation will be a charge on the royalties. But now, when we first raise this matter, we think it due time to ask the right hon. Gentleman, not in the interests of any party, but in the interests of the best class of working people in this country—the people who have made small savings and put them into their houses—What are you going to do to these people? Are you going to ruin them? Are you going to deprive them of something which at any rate they have at the present time? Are you going to destroy that belief in ultimate human justice which still unites this country in spite of all that the party opposite do?
§ 6.43 p.m.
Lieut.-Colonel H. Guest
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken has dealt with this question from the point of view of persons having property or houses on the surface. There is also the consideration, if I may put it forward, of the colliery company, who 647 would like to know what their liability may be under this Bill as regards compensation for damage which occurs on the surface. I very much hope that the President of the Board of Trade, when he replies, will give some explanation of how the Government propose to handle this question of subsidence as a whole, because it is not clear either what liabilities there will be on the colliery company or what compensation there may be for persons who own houses on the surface. That is one of the most important elements in this Bill, and I do not think it should be left in any doubt. Therefore, I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that, now that we are discussing this question of subsidence, he should give us some clear indication of what the Government have in their mind, first, with regard to liability, and, secondly, with regard to compensation.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
I am more concerned at the present moment about prevention, and I support the Amendment heartily in the hope that all the Members of the Committee will give us their support so that it may be carried. I have already sent to the Minister quite a number of cases in my own constituency with regard to property that has completely collapsed. Whole streets have completely collapsed. The houses were purchased mostly by working colliers, who have paid from £200 to £300 for them. They have received not a farthing of compensation, and have been deprived of all accommodation. I was rather surprised to hear the remarks of the hon. Member for Ecclesall (Sir G. Ellis). He spoke as a coalowner, but I should have thought he would have represented the community interest. He will agree that someone should be liable for the payment of compensation when there is obvious damage to property caused by subsidence. Someone really ought to pay compensation when it is obvious that, as a result of the working of minerals under property, that property is damaged.
This Debate indicates clearly that it is not sufficient to nationalise royalties, and that we ought to nationalise the mines as well, for in that way, of course, we can certainly solve the problems that are confronting the Committee. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the land."] And the land 648 as well. However, we cannot do that; but sufficient information can be obtained to prove that it is possible to prevent, on a very large scale, the subsidence that is now taking place. The coalowners, during the last few years, have adopted a new technique in working seams of coal. They are throwing pressure of the roofs on to the seam itself. They do that by advancing the face at the fastest possible speed. It is now worked out mathematically. In order that they shall not be troubled with having to engage too much labour, and that they may reduce overhead costs, they either pull in the roof behind the face, which means that the whole roof is caused to collapse, by taking out the props, or they adopt what is known as either the strip system or the draftboard system. They allow enormous reservoirs for gas behind the seams and bring most of the rubbish to the surface.
I am hoping the Minister of Mines will come to South Wales shortly. Anybody who travels on the main line from London to Fishguard cannot fail to see what is happening at Llanharran. It is within a few hundred yards of the main line from Paddington to Fishguard. Hundreds of tons of rubbish have been brought out of the mines and placed on the side of the line. One of the beauty spots in the Vale of Glamorgan has been made an eyesore. They are having to tip by adopting a kind of aerial tipping system. One can see that the surface is actually sinking although the mine is not more than 14 years old. The coalowners should be compelled by the Commissioner to stow those gobs, or, as they are compelled to do in other countries, by a system of hydraulic packing, see that the roof is maintained. They are compelled in Germany to do that. We have already had public money advanced, and sometimes fairly substantial sums, to subsidise certain areas that have been flooded as a result of subsidence. We have had debates in this House, when the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) has spoken with regard to flooding in that particular place. Most of that area was flooded through subsidence. We can see what is taking place on the side of our main line. The same thing is happening in other parts of Wales. Perhaps in Wales we suffer more than most places; perhaps more than any place except Stoke, because the valleys are very 649 narrow and the houses have to be constructed in terraces. I should like to tell the hon. Member who talks about school children being taken miles from certain villages just to suit the convenience of the coalowners—
§ Sir G. Ellis
I did not say miles. I said that they could have been moved, and would have been but for the local authorities.
§ Mr. Williams
It is quite impossible for that to be done unless you are prepared at the same time to transport the whole population. Houses in some cases have collapsed. If the valleys are nine to 12 miles long, does the hon. Member suggest that the children should be taken out of those culs-de-sac into some meadows where coal may not be, just to suit the convenience of the coalowners, in order that they may be able to exploit the minerals in future. It shows that the hon. Member is viewing this problem purely from the point of view of vested interests, and not from that of public interests. It is possible to prevent this subsidence. It is also possible to prevent an enormous number of face accidents taking place year by year. They are tending to increase, because of the method adopted by the coalowners in working coal these days. It is the best method from the coalowners' point of view. No one can complain about it from an engineering point of view, but the result is a heavier death rate, so far as the mining population is concerned, and social inconvenience to the municipalities. I am quite sure that the health of hundreds of people is affected by the damage done to sewage mains and other social services. If it is only to preserve the enormous amount of social capital, as well as individual capital, that is at stake, I hope the President of the Board of Trade will accept the Amendment.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Spens
I have listened with great interest to the Debate. There seem to be two quite different subjects involved. It is perfectly true that all over the country there are either big or small private owners of the surface who bought their surfaces without knowing that mines were being worked underneath. This is not confined to South Wales, but is the case in Yorkshire and elsewhere. Most of those people bought with a short title, without proper investigation, and sometimes shortly, sometimes years afterwards, subsidence 650 has started, and they have found their houses coming down or cracking. In those cases there is nobody liable to compensate them to the extent of one penny. In some cases, where minerals have been worked at an even lower depth, a few mineral owners have made ex gratia payments, but there is no legal liability. Even in the short time I have been in the House, I have heard this question raised by South Wales Members several times, and they have asked for some alteration in the law to make some one liable to compensate the owners of small property.
§ The Chairman
I do not know whether the hon. and learned Member was in the House a short time ago when I gave a ruling on this. He cannot discuss the question of compensation. It may be impossible to avoid a certain reference, but the question of compensation will come later. Now we are discussing preventions.
§ Mr. Spens
Now we are discussing a suggestion that somehow or other in future subsidence should be prevented. I believe it is admitted that there is no known method of coal-mining that does not create subsidence. It is perfectly true that if, after you have taken so many acres of coal out you fill up the vacuum by putting back other stuff, you may stop or mitigate the amount of subsidence; but when hon. Members suggest that the Board of Trade should be bound to give directions that, after the Bill is passed, no coal should be mined without steps to prevent subsidence, they are asking for the industry to be shut up altogether. If they are asking, not that subsidence should be prevented, but that all reasonable steps should be taken to mitigate it, that is quite different. That may be what they have in mind.
§ Mr. Spens
I appreciate that they say that the present methods of coal-mining about which I know something technically, result in certain possibly dangerous situations to which they have referred, but nobody has yet told the Committee during this Debate what is the economic difficulty. [Interruption.] Yes, I come down to the economic factor, because, if the industry is to survive, we have to sell our coal abroad. You cannot compel foreigners to pay more for British coal than they have to pay for 651 coal coming from other countries in competition with British coal. Hon Members opposite say that no coal in future should be taken unless this tight-packing method is followed. I want to know what would be the economic effect of that. That is a practical question. In granting renewals, the coal Commission may, in granting every new lease, make conditions.
One of the matters which, of course, will have to be dealt with will be the relation between the new lessee and the surface owner. It is impossible at this stage to discuss the provisions in the Schedules, but it is clear that the question of subsidence has been fully considered by the Government, and to suggest the opposite is obviously not accurate when one looks at the Second Schedule. Whether the provisions are sufficient or complete will have to be discussed when we get to them, but I suggest that it would be wholly undesirable that the Board of Trade should be expressly responsible for giving directions on this subject. Surely the whole scheme of the Bill is that the Commission should be responsible for negotiating the detailed terms of mining leases. One of the most important provisions will always be that relating to the position of the particular mineral lessee as regards compensation for subsidence, and the lessee's rights of withdrawing support from the surface. One hon. Member asked what the Government had in mind as regards the liability for subsidence of mineral lessees. Surely, if he reads the Schedule he will be able to form a very fair view of what the Government has in mind in this respect. But, to return to the actual Amendment before the Committee, it is clear that the only question is whether we are to add to this Clause an express provision that the Board of Trade should give a direction that reasonable precautions should be taken to minimise subsidence. In my view that is highly undesirable. It is obviously a matter for the Commission, and they will have to go into it on every occasion when there is a new lease.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson
I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that those who are responsible for the Amendment only expect the Government to take reasonable steps to prevent subsidence 652 Apparently he has not taken the trouble to read the findings of the Royal Commission on Mining Subsidence which reported in 1927. Some Members of the Commission were very experienced in coal mining and they unanimously reported that in their opinion steps should be taken to prevent subsidence, and they went so far as to make certain practical proposals for achieving that object. One recommendation was the adoption of more scientific methods of coal mining, and they instanced hydraulic stowage.
This is not by any means an academic question. There are large numbers of working men in my constituency who have purchased their own houses during the last 10 or 20 years and have suffered very serious damage as the result of mining subsidence. Various houses in my district give the appearance of having suffered from a minor earthquake. These are not all cases that happened many years ago. As a result of what took place at Cradley Heath a few years ago a very large area was affected and extensive damage was done to property in the High Street. Eight private houses and 34 business premises were damaged, and the main street itself sank from four to six feet, causing damage to sewers and gas and water mains. As a result the local authority was compelled to spend nearly £1,000 in repairing the damage.
Two years ago the then Quarry-bank Rural District Council was so concerned with the effects of subsidence that it presented a petition to the Minister of Health calling attention to mining operations by which many cottages and other hereditaments occupied by persons of the working class were threatened with serious damage. In view of the shortage of houses, which still exists, they submitted that no district can afford to have houses damaged and rendered uninhabitable from preventable causes. They also pointed out that one of the main roads in the area was being seriously affected. That main road was seriously affected and nothing can be done, except at the expenditure of many thousands of pounds, to put it in a proper state of repair. The Amendment merely asks that reasonable precautions should be taken which the Royal Commission recommended as practicable, and that something should be done to prevent damage being caused in the future as the result of subsidence.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Captain Crookshank
Of course, these problems of damage by subsidence are serious. The hon. Gentleman brought a deputation of the local authorities most concerned in his area to see me, at which most of the points that we have discussed to-day were advanced. The question at issue at the moment is a small one compared with a great many that have been raised in the Debate, for the Amendment deals merely with the question whether it would or would not be desirable to put into the Clause that one of the matters about which a general direction could be given should specifically be this one. All the matters about compensation, while interesting, do not particularly arise on the decision of that point.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
We were told by Captain Bourne at the beginning of the Debate that both questions, so far as they were questions of instruction by the right hon. Gentleman to the Coal Commission, could be taken on one Amendment.
§ Captain Crookshank
My Noble Friend the Member for Central Bristol (Lord Apsley) wanted to know who was going to be responsible in the future. That matter is dealt with in the Second Schedule, on page 48, and the position now is that any particular land on the surface either has or has not the right of support. In the beginning it all had the right of support, but that right may have passed from it as a result of a mineral lease. On the other hand, where the right of support has not been severed the surface landlord has a right to compensation for damage that may be caused to him. The general law cannot be altered in that respect, because the Coal Commission is taking the place of mineral landlords and all existing leases are being continued. If there are claims for damage which under existing leases have to be met by the colliery company, the change in the ownership of the minerals does not affect them. The new difference, however, is that the complete right of support which exists to-day is passing under the Schedule, and it is quite clear that the right to withdraw support should be subject to the payment of compensation for damage. By and large, compensation is payable for damage to existing buildings and, after notice has been given, to new buildings, as mentioned in the Schedule. The responsi- 654 bility in general will continue to lie where it lies at present; for the future it is altered to that extent. It is a very complicated subject.
§ The question of municipal authorities has been raised. They must, surely, have known when they bought the land on which they put their municipal buildings whether it had a right of support or not. I am told that some small property owners do not quite understand what are the rights attached to their land, but I cannot believe that great municipalities can have purchased large areas without having discovered for themselves whether or not there was a right of support and whether they can get from someone damages in the case of any harm being done. We should all agree that it is a desirable thing in itself to prevent any avoidable damage, whether from subsidence or anything else, but as to whether it is a good thing that this should be specified as one of the matters about which direction should be given, I part company with hon. Members opposite. I think not. I think it is much better to leave the Subsection as it is, because, by and large, these are matters which will arise for discussion later. This is not part of the responsibility that is passed on to a lessee in granting a lease. Other problems obviously arise when new leases are granted. To put in a general direction of this kind is not desirable, nor do I think it would be particularly effective, because the great bulk of the coal of the country is at present leased. A general direction of this type would not interfere with rights, with regard to compensation or otherwise, which exist in a present lease. So that while the discussion has raised many topics, to which we shall come again on Clause 21 and on the Schedule, on the smaller point as to whether this should be a matter for direction or not, I advise the Committee to leave the Clause as it is.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has not dealt with the argument, nor has he dealt with the question before the Committee. I do not understand in the least from the speech which he has made whether he thinks, as the Clause stands, that the Board of Trade have or have not power to give 655 an instruction. That is all that is asked for by the addition of these words. Obviously one cannot compel them to give a direction. That is not suggested. What is suggested is that it should be made absolutely clear that the words used:in relation to matters appearing to the Board to affect the national interest, including all matters affecting the safety of the working of coal,should also include the question of dealing with subsidence. I understand that as the hon. and gallant Gentleman reads these words they clearly and definitely include the power to give directions in the national interest as to how subsidence shall be dealt with both from the point of view of damage and of prevention.
§ Captain Crookshank
I should have thought that, if the Board wanted to give a direction on this or any other matter which appeared to them to be sufficiently in the national interest, they could, but there is always difficulty about specifying what is in the general national interest.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I was waiting for that argument, because in this case, unfortunately, it does not apply, as they are already specified. Once you have overstepped the mark of leaving the national interest quite at large, and have started that kind of thing, the very argument which the hon. and gallant Gentleman is going to apply to me applies to him. He was going to say that if you specify certain things others will say that other things are omitted. That is the usual argument of the draftsmen. You have specified all matters affecting the safety of the working of coal. Is it said that it does not cover subsidence? If his argument is that by putting in words covering in specific terms what is generally of national interest, then clearly the more specific matters you put in the less will be the danger. Therefore, you should add to this rather than make it look as if you were limiting it to matters affecting safety in the working of coal, which would not cover subsidence and is not a matter of mineral development under the surface. You should also include words here to show quite clearly that the matters of national interest are not merely matters affecting coal mines but matters of national interest affecting £he surface as well.
656 It is vital that these words should not be cut down to be read as only referring to the interest in the coal measures. They should also refer to the interest in the surface which will not belong to the Commission. Therefore, it is doubly important, on the very argument which the hon. and gallant Gentleman was going to offer for the non-inclusion of these words, that these words should be included. He will appreciate the point which I am making, and which, I think, is quite a good point of interpretation. If he is suggesting that there is a danger of the limitation of the national interest by specifying in very particular language, there is a greater danger from the Clause as it stands, because the only thing specified has to do with coal measures and not with the surface. It might well be said that the words, "the national interest" shall be interpreted as dealing with coal matters. If you are intending that these words should cover the surface, which is not in the control of the Commission, and which it is not purchasing or acquiring, it is absolutely necessary to have some words to show that the national interest includes not only the coal measures part of the national interest but also the surface part of the national interest.
If it is the intention of the hon. and gallant Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman, as we now gather it is, that the Board of Trade should have power on national matters, where there is a policy to be laid down, to give direction to the Commission to deal with matters of subsidence, then, I suggest that these words, or some other words, ought to be included here to show that these directions can cover surface as well as underground works. It is not necessary for me to waste time in the least by elaborating all the points that have been made, because I understand that it is admitted that there must be the power in the Board of Trade to give instructions on all questions of policies as regards subsidence, and with that we are content. But we want it to be made clear beyond any doubt in these words. We do not want it to be argued hereafter that, because of the form of these words, matters on the surface cannot be dealt with. If the right hon. Gentleman will give us the undertaking that something will be done to put in words so that they clearly and undoubtedly cover that point, we shall be content as far as this matter is concerned.
§ 7.21 p.m.
I do not agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) when he says that it is admitted that we have in any way changed our policy. It has always been our view that subsidence is one of the matters upon which the Board of Trade might give a general instruction, but whether such a general instruction could be given, or whether, if given, it would be effective, is a difficult matter, with which the hon. and learned Gentleman is not now dealing. Certainly, it is our belief that Sub-section (2) gives that power. I quite appreciate the point which he has raised, that we have already, to some extent, derogated the general power, but I certainly do not believe that that derogation has excluded the power of dealing with subsidence from the general powers of the Board of Trade. I suggest that, as you add to the catalogue and increase the derogation, it makes it more difficult to say to us that, if that is not specifically included, it is not within their power.
I will tell the hon. and learned Gentleman exactly why we included this one special case, and why I do not think that it will be held to be a derogation of the general powers. In Sub-section (1) the Commission is charged with general duties as to the land, and quite clearly the landlord is and always has been concerned with the question of subsidence. It is not so clear that he is concerned with the safety of the mines after he has leased the coal. We thought that unless we specifically put that in there might, in view of the ordinary business of the landlord, be very considerable doubt whether instructions with regard to that would come within these powers. That is the reason for its inclusion. There can be no doubt that this is within those powers, and if it is within those powers, I think that specifically to include it is a danger in other directions in which we want, possibly, power to give these instructions. I am perfectly prepared to say that, although I have given my opinion that it is within our power as the Clause now stands to give such directions, if we thought fit to do so, I will certainly, between now and another stage, confirm that, and, if I am mistaken and the effect of this drafting is to take that power out of our hands, I shall be prepared to see that our intention is carried out.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I think that my hon. Friends will agree that, if the right hon. Gentleman will have this matter looked into, and, if he finds that there is any doubt as to whether this includes that power, will put down an Amendment to secure it, we shall be content.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. James Brown
I would be quite content to accept the reply which has been given by the right hon. Gentleman, but I have sat here most of the afternoon and I have not heard Scotland mentioned, and it is only because I want to include Scotland in this outcry against what is being done by the colliery owners, that I intervene in this Debate. Although Scotland has not been mentioned, it probably suffers more than any of the other districts of which we have been talking. If you go into any part of the low-lying belt, beginning at the County of Fife and West Lothian, and go down to the coalfields along the Valley of the Clyde, and into the county in which I live and which I represent, you will discover the most unsightly things that can desecrate any landscape. We are talking chiefly of subsidence, but if we could prevent subsidence we should prevent those unsightly heaps which meet the eye everywhere. There is nothing insoluble about them. It would cost money, but I do not think that in the end it would require much more money than is being spent to-day. When I worked in the coal mine there was a system of the storage of stock. Coal in those days was not extracted as quickly as it is now under modernised methods, but when it was stored there was practically no sign of any subsidence, because the surface had been kept intact. I trust that some attention of that kind may be given to the matter.
Why should we have to meet with these unsightly heaps in our beautiful districts? Why should we have the terrible smells from these heaps because combustion takes place? I dare say that people in other districts have the same sort of thing with which to contend. It is true that when combustion sets in, these heaps are beautiful to look at on a winter's night. I suppose htat Dante was looking at something like that when he was considering his Inferno. But if on these occasions they are beautiful to look at, they are very offensive to smell. Although I live a considerable distance from a large rubbish 659 heap, I have had to stop up the keyhole because I could not get to sleep owing to the penetrating nature of these smells. I think that enough has been said at least to impress the Government with the fact that we are very much in earnest upon this subject. Subsidence is a very dangerous thing, and I am amazed to hear Ministers on the benches opposite say that these things have already been provided for. We are not allowed to discuss the question of compensation, but I have yet to learn of any district where compensation has ever been provided. Where the land has been bought or compulsorily sold the mineral rights have been protected. There are so many anomalies in this matter that a great deal more attention should be given to it, and an attempt should be made to keep the debris underground. It would not only protect the surface; it would protect the miners. It would be very useful in preventing a great many accidents, because the coal is now taken out so quickly that it adds to the risk of falls and to the danger of gas accumulations. Anyone who knows anything about mines knows that if you have large tracts, or the gob as it is called, filled with gas, and if any considerable fall takes place, the air is affected, and if fire damp results, it only needs a spark to cause a conflagration.
For life and limb, for the beauty of the country, and for the protection of the land from subsidence, I think more attention should be given than the Government seem to be willing to give to this very vital subject. I have pleasure in linking up Scotland with Wales and England in this matter. Scotland is a very beautiful country, and it is being wasted in many districts, in the most beautiful parts of it, so I think we should be doing a good night's work if we were, not to compel, but to impel the Government to take some measures greatly to minimise this trouble.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Bevan
I wish to point out that the right hon. Gentleman has satisfied us on one of the points but has left us unsatisfied on the other. My hon. Friend advanced two main contentions. One was to find out whether the language of Subsection (2) of this Clause actually did give the Board of Trade power to give directions to the Commission to have regard to subsidencies. The right hon. 660 Gentleman has satisfied us on that point, but in the reply of the right hon. Gentleman he left us completely unsatisfied on the second point, as to whether he thought such directions should be given. He was very guarded in his language and said that if they were satisfied that such was the case, he would do so and so. We have been trying hard to satisfy him that it is the case, that this is a matter of such importance that he ought to have made up his mind now that it is a matter upon which the Board of Trade should, at the earliest possible opportunity, give directions to the Commission, but apparently we have not satisfied him, and, therefore, we have failed of our main purpose. It is not enough that we should have it from the right hon. Gentleman that if at some future time he or his successors think this ought to be attended to, we have given him powers to do it. We want from him an assurance that, in his judgment, this is of sufficient importance to warrant that when the Bill becomes law directions of this kind will in fact be given.
I want to warn my hon. Friends that this is the very last opportunity. It is not as though these directions are to be brought before the House. They will never be tabled before the House in the form of either regulations or orders. They will come in no form at all that gives us an opportunity of amending or supplementing them. This relates to the inter-Departmental relationship between the Board of Trade and the Commissioners, so that we are here parting for the last time with the opportunity of discussing this matter in any effective form. The whole difficulty about raising the matter on the Report stage is that we are going to raise so many things on Report that no particular thing ever registers any effect.
I hope my hon. Friends will not allow this subject to leave the Committee unless we receive from the right hon. Gentleman something more satisfactory than the general statement that if subsequently he becomes satisfied, he will do so and so. Who is to satisfy him? We are the persons who ought to satisfy him; we are here for that purpose. Will it be some civil servant, some engineer, some coal-owners, or some landlords? As a matter of fact, when this leaves this Chamber and it becomes the function of the Board of Trade, there will be the usual tug-of-war between the landlord, the coalowner, 661 and such thought on the subject as may still be found in the Government Department, which is not very much, and experience shows that in a tug-of-war of that kind the mobilised, vested interests usually succeed in getting their own way. Here is our opportunity, and we ought to secure something more satisfactory than we have had so far.
No attempt has been made to reply to the hon. and learned Gentleman concerning the difficulties, of avoiding subsidences. If this were an unimportant matter upon which no investigation had been made, I would not continue the discussion, but the country is in many parts faced with the results of this problem because of the complete social and financial irresponsibility of the coalowners. It is not as though there is no technical information available on this matter. I saw as long ago as 1927 some examples of hydraulic stowage in Silesia. Representations have been made to the coalowners in this country over and over again that some system of hydraulic stowage should be adopted here in order to prevent subsidence, and certain, technical methods have been used for many years in the gold and silver mines of South Africa, where, I believe, it is compulsory that hydraulic stowage should be resorted to. This is an important technical development which has not been taken advantage of here, because, as things are, coal-owners pay no penalties for not adopting it, being immune from the consequences of subsidence.
There are other considerations as well. My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. J. Williams) pointed out one or two of them. This is not a problem which lessens with the passage of years. It increases, not only because the incidence of former coal-mining is now fructifying in subsidences, but also because of the changes in the nature of coal-mining itself. In the old days, when I worked in the pit, the coalowners had a technical interest and advantage in stowing the waste, because if they did not stow, the yield of the coal face fell. In those days, unless you packed your roof behind you, all the pressure was thrown behind and not out at all, so that, by packing the roof behind, the pressure was thrown forward, and the coal face scaled more easily and was more fertile in tonnage. At the same time you could not push the coal face forward as quickly then as now, because 662 if you did so, the coal face would be too fresh, and the pouring out of gas through the coal would not scale off the coal quickly enough, so that you had two considerations then that do not exist now. The situation now is different. The coal-owner needs the pressure of the roof on the coal face, because he has got his conveyors, coal cutters and hydraulic picks, and the result is that the changes in the methods of coal-mining have deprived the nation of the self-interest that the coal-owner formerly had in preventing subsidences. Therefore, this is a developing problem, becoming more and more important as a consequence of these technical changes.
I do not want to be obstructive, but we do not appear to have convinced the right hon. Gentleman that this is a matter upon which the Board of Trade should at once exercise the powers which they will have under the Clause. If he tells us that they will take the first possible occasion to do so, we shall be satisfied, but it would be very foolish to part with this subject at the moment, and part with it for the last effective time, without first of ail having satisfied ourselves that we have exhausted every means at our disposal of convincing the right hon. Gentleman that there is substance in our case.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Lord Apsley
Who is going to pay for the somewhat elaborate inquiries which will be necessitated under this scheme? At present the landowner of an agricultural estate who is also the royalty owner feels it to be both his duty and his advantage to protect his tenant, and in any new lease that may be undertaken, or in any new development, or in any abandonment of old workings, before such measures are taken it is the landowner's duty and advantage too to see that his tenant is protected from any subsidence that may result. Now, if this Bill passes, the whole situation will be altered. So far as I can gather, the landowner will have to keep in close touch with the Commissioners and ask them to inform him what new developments may be in view. Having done that, he has then to find out what possible dangers of subsidence this may cause to his property or to his tenants. Then he will have to claim on the Commissioners for protection or compensation as the case may be.
Is he going to be faced with the whole cost of this procedure, or if he relies, as 663 many landowners do, on a portion of the proceeds of mineral royalties for upkeep of his agricultural estate and, if the Bill passes he finds himself compelled to sell, does the former tenant, now the freeholder, or the new owner of the land, not of the whole property, and having no knowledge of mining royalties whatever, have to be burdened with the expense of making an inquiry and asking the Commissioners to protect his interest and to keep him in touch with every development in the coalfield? We should like some assurance that the Commissioners will take up this great responsibility at a minimum cost—in fact, at no cost at all—to the owners of the surface rights.
§ Mr. E. Smith
I have consulted my legal advisers and they recommend that, on the assurance given by the President of the Board of Trade, if we raise this matter at a later stage he will give it consideration. I should ask the leave of the Committee to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Macdonald
I beg to move, in page 2, line 24, at the end, to add:(3) For the purpose of this section the words interests, efficiency, and better organisation of the coal-mining industry shall, without in any way affecting the generality of such words, be deemed to include the following matters:—This Amendment raises two very important issues which seem to be overlooked in the Bill, namely, the wages of the workers and the social conditions in the mining areas. Whatever troubles may have arisen in the industry from royalties, a great deal of trouble has arisen from the question of wages in the last 20 or 30 years, and the value of any Bill to the miners must depend largely upon the extent to which it improves or safeguards the wages of the workers. Clause 2 refers not to wages but to national interest and efficiency, and we are anxious to define those terms. We realise that the party opposite has its own definition of efficiency under private 664 enterprise. Any undertaking which returns a financial profit to investors is regarded as efficient, but we consider that it is possible for the industry to return financial profit without being efficient from the miners' point of view. The powers prescribed in this Clause are limited, and I ask the Secretary for Mines to realise that unless something is done to enable the Commission to deal with wages, when determining its policy as regards its future duties under the later part of this Measure, the miners will be sorely dissatisfied. The aspect of the question of wages which has caused most disturbance is that relating to the machinery of settlement.
- (a) The wage standards of the workers employed in the industry;
- (b) The full utilisation of all existing social facilities and works such as transport, roads, schools, housing, places of entertainment, lighting, water supply, and other facilities and works."
For years we have been suffering—and I use the word "suffering" advisedly—under a system of district agreements. That system was imposed on us in 1926. Had we been strong enough then we should have resisted it, but after the prolonged stoppage our resources were so weakened that we had to give in. Like the Germans in 1918, we had peace terms imposed upon us, and those terms included district settlements of wages in place of national settlements. There will never be peace in the mining industry, nor will there be that good will which we are told is necessary, until we get back to the system of the national settlement of wages. The owners tell us that national settlement is not possible, because of the variations from district to district. I have been a miner for over 20 years, and I submit that there are as many variations in a single mine as there are between any two mines in the country. There are districts in Lancashire with as many variations as are to be found between a mine in South Wales and a mine in Scotland. The fact that there are these variations, which one admits, is no reason why we should not have national negotiations on wages.
This Bill gives us unification of royalties and national regulation of output and price. As practical miners we are unable to understand why, if national machinery is suggested for dealing with so much of the mining industry, it should not also apply to wages. I agree that the powers of the Commission are limited. They are largely concerned with granting leases, but in doing that, surely the wages question ought to be considered. It cannot be argued that any 665 suggestions relating to the mining industry are to be accepted regardless of the consequences to the miner. Our opposition to this Bill has not been intense. We have shown no ferocious hostility to it, because we feel that there is something in it for the miners. But we are anxious that that something should be specified, and one of the considerations which the Board of Trade should ask the Commission to take into account is the effect of any proposed change on wages. If the Bill safeguards and improves wages, well and good, but wages ought not to be disregarded as an element for consideration in deciding the policy of the Commission.
With regard to the social consequences of the policy outlined in the Bill, we know that the powers to be entrusted to this Commission will very largely influence domestic life in many areas. One of the powers entrusted indirectly to the Commission is that of closing down collieries as a result of amalgamations. That is a serious matter. I have instances in my own division of whole areas being affected in this way. I know areas in which every colliery has been stopped as a result of economic factors over which the colliery owners has had no control. Such an area is left with tremendous responsibilities, with schools and churches, and public organisations and institutions of various kinds. The Commission should be instructed by the Board of Trade to take those considerations into account when determining their policy. I shall probably be asked whether it is likely that the Commission would disregard such important considerations. If they are there to safeguard the financial interests of the investors, I say it is possible that they may overlook those considerations. That is why I ask the Secretary for Mines to tell us whether it is intended that the Commission shall pay regard both to miners' wages and to the social consequences of that policy. That, in brief, is the case for the Amendment, and as I am anxious to facilitate and not to obstruct the passage of the Bill, I do not put it at any greater length.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Dunn
I support this Amendment because I am anxious to make some improvement in what I regard as a thoroughly bad Bill. I want this Commission to be a thing of substance and of real use. As it is described in Clause 2, it appears to be more in the nature of a 666 sham. This Bill, apart from the setting up of the Commission, seems to be concerned mainly with the royalty owners on one hand and the coalowners on the other. We note with concern that in this very controversial Bill there is not a word which offers any relief to the workmen in the industry, and we propose the insertion of this new Sub-section, because we feel that the Commission ought to have the power to deal with wages and also with the social life of the people in the mining areas. We shall probably be told that matters referred to in the proposed new Sub-section such as wages, would be more appropriately dealt with by the Miners' Federation and the mine-owners of the country. I appreciate the fact that the Miners' Federation is a competent authority to deal with the question of wages but from experience some of us. feel that the powers of the Miners Federation and the Coalowners Association are restricted in relation to certain of these questions.
We are disturbed with regard to the question of national negotiations in this industry. I am sure we all agree that if inquiry were the only thing needed to bring peace to an industry, there is no industry in this country which has had so many inquiries brought to bear upon it as coal-mining. We hope that the insertion of this new Sub-section will be accepted. It will give some little hope to the miners of this country that the claims of the workpeople are being considered as well as those of other sections. I hope the Minister will not content himself with telling us that the matter of wages is one for the Miners' Federation and the Coalowners Association, or that the question of social conditions is one for the local authorities. I hope he will show the country that he is not afraid either of one organisation or the other, and that he is prepared to accept this Amendment.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. McLean Watson
I join with my hon. Friend in supporting this Amendment. Since I came to this House I have heard no question more frequently discussed than that of the conditions in the mining industry, and I believe that industry takes first place among the industries of the country, for fights and quarrels over various matters. Now that we have begun to reorganise it, now that 667 we are giving this Commission considerable powers, I hope an Amendment on these lines will be favourably considered. The Secretary for Mines knows as well as any miners' representative, that the men are not satisfied with the present wage agreements. They expect that under this new system wages will be put on a satisfactory basis. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) said, the terms accepted in 1926 were dictated terms, and the Miners' Federation of Great Britain will not go on for ever under those dictated terms.
The point upon which we most insist is that we should have a national wages agreement. The industry is now being organised on a national basis as regards royalties, and instructions should be given to the Commission to have miners' wages as far as possible settled on a national basis. As my hon. Friend said, there is no justification for the argument that the differences between one district and another are such as to make district agreements necessary. He was right in saying that in any one mine there can be found as many variations as are to be found between one district and another in the Federation area. In every district there are differences, and in every pit there are differences. A national wages agreement and national wages regulation would be more satisfactory than the present system.
In addition to the question of wages there is the question of social conditions in the mining areas, and I hope that the Commission will also exercise its powers to deal with those social conditions. The conditions that exist in the mining areas are none too attractive, and the Commission ought to devote a considerable part of its time to making the conditions tolerable. The matters mentioned in the Amendment are matters to which the miners attach the greatest importance, and for these reasons I have pleasure in supporting it. We have no desire to delay the passing of the Bill, but we want to see the Commission doing something effective for the miners. Last Monday I said that so far as the miners are concerned there is nothing in the Bill for them as it stands; but if the Amendment were accepted and the Commission could deal with miners' wages and the conditions that surround the life of the miners, 668 there would be something in the Bill that would be of real advantage to them. If the Bill is to be merely the transference of mining royalties from private owners to national ownership, then the miners can make up their minds that they will not be one penny piece better off than they are under the present system. If, however, the Amendment can be inserted, the miners of Great Britain will have something in the Bill to be thankful for.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Short
I have read the Bill very carefully, and, as far as I can see, the word "miner" does not appear in it. One would imagine that we could have a coal industry which could be managed and developed without any regard to the conditions of labour and of the miners themselves. I have never been able to understand the stubbornness and stupidity of Ministers. Up to now the Opposition has derived very little satisfaction in these Debates. We have been put off with the assurance that some powers exist in this Clause that will enable the President of the Board of Trade to do this, that or the other; but I am certain that the Secretary for Mines will not be able to say that on this occasion. Sub-section (1) makes provision so that the Commission shall be able to take steps for promoting the interests, efficiency and better organisation of the coal-mining industry. If we are to have efficiency and better organisation, and we are to promote the interests of the coal-mining industry, we must first have a contented mining population. We must have a well-paid mining community, whose conditions are above suspicion. We must seek to meet the legitimate demands of those who are following the occupation of mining.
More than one-third of my electors are miners, but I look upon this matter not only from the miners' point of view, but the point of view of the consumers. Nearly every dispute of a serious widespread national character affects wages, and grave domestic problems arise. When you have a great mining stoppage over wages, industries upon which millions of people depend are either stopped or disorganised, and there is distress, poverty and misery. In this Sub-section we make a very reasonable and sensible proposal, too modest a proposal when we consider the provisions of the Bill in their entirety. We propose that the Commission shall have power 669 to ensure that there shall be national negotiations for and national organisation of wage standards.
The Amendment says:For the purpose of this section the words interests, efficiency, and better organisation of the coal-mining industry shall, without in any way affecting the generality of such words, be deemed to include the following matters:—I thought that I was addressing myself to the point at issue when I was seeking to show that there should be adequate wage standards on a national basis.
- (a) The wage standards of the workers employed in the industry;
- (b) The full utilisation of all existing social facilities and works such as transport, roads, schools, housing, places of entertainment, lighting, water supply, and other facilities and works."
I think the hon. Member has overlooked the first part of Sub-section (1) which says that the Commissionshall be charged with the duty of controlling and managing the premises… by granting coal-mining leases.All that the Amendment can possibly mean is that in granting leases the Commission shall pay attention to the provisions of the Sub-section, and see that the leases are granted in respect of such places as will enable adequate wage standards to be maintained, and where possibly the existing facilities can be used. This Amendment could give them no power that they have not under Sub-section (1).
§ Mr. Short
I accept your Ruling, but I do not think it makes much material difference to what I had in mind. I may have strayed a little wide in following my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment, by dealing with unification of the basis of negotiations. I now see that I have to address myself to the wage standards of the workers employed in the industry. The industry is not confined to districts. It is a widespread national industry, and we do not know where the Commission will give leases. We do not know where they will enter into negotiations. Therefore, we desire to ensure that they shall have regard to the wage standards of the workers employed in the industry, and that they shall ensure that the wage 670 standards shall be of a national character and not based upon some district method of calculation. That was the point that I was making, and I am content to make it in that sense. The Amendment can be linked up with the wordsincluding all matters affecting the safety of the working of coal.If we have not regard to the wage standards of the miners, there will be discontent and there may be disregard of the necessary precautions in the working of the coal, and that may lead to unsafe working. In this respect the Amendment provides us with a reasonable proposition, calculated to ensure that the Commission shall have power to see that the wage standards of the miners are maintained. They will be giving leases in various parts of the country, and we desire that they shall see that those wage standards are of a national character. I am hopeful that they will negotiate on that basis.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Batey
I am sorry, Captain Bourne, that you have given a Ruling in a narrower sense than we had hoped would have been justified by the Amendment. We had hoped that we should have been able to discuss the questions which underlie all our complaints, namely, the wage standards of the miners and their social facilities. The Amendment recognises that there is need for the Commission to give attention to wage standards in the industry. The wages of the miners prove that there is urgent need for the Commission to give attention to them.
That is exactly what this Amendment does not do. I want the hon. Member to understand that I am not ruling that matter out. I am only pointing out that this particular Amendment does not do it.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Captain Crookshank
As this is a comparatively narrow Amendment may I say that it raises two issues? The first issue is the wage standards and the other is what we may call the social aspect. On the wages question hon. Members opposite are not agreed. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment said, speaking of the Bill as a whole, that there was something in it for the miners. The proposal of the Amendment is that in the granting of leases a particular consideration in promoting the interests, efficiency 671 and better organisation of the mining industry should be attention to the wage standards of the workers employed. If it was a question of a general statement to the Commission that the wage standards of the workers are a very important part of the general efficiency of the industry, we should all be agreed, but here it is a question whether these matters should be any part of the Commission's job. Perhaps hon. Members opposite have overlooked the fact that the Amendment which was moved on Monday was not carried. If the Commission had been made responsible for running the industry either in toto or in part that might have been another matter, but it is only concerned as the ground landlord. Is the ground landlord to concern himself directly with the wages paid by somebody else to whom he has let his property? As the hon. Member for the Rother Valley (Mr. Dunn) pointed out, the Miners' Federation are normally the channel with whom wage matters are discussed. Is that the function of the Commission as ground landlord? The royalty owners have never entered into any discussion about wages; therefore, why should we make the new Commission, which is to be a substitute for the old royalty owners, have anything to do with the matter?
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
The Commission is to grant leases, and colliery owners in working the collieries have to adhere to a quota and cannot sell at a price less than the price fixed. Is there anything wrong in principle in the Commission, when it grants a mining lease, saying that they must observe the wage standards?
§ Captain Crookshank
I do not think it is a matter for the royalty owners, and particularly as there are recognised channels to discuss wage problems. Hon. Members, of course, must bear in mind the general effect of the proposals in Clause I and the reductions which may become available in due course. If you reduce payments on royalties, you reduce the costs of production which have to be taken into account in any ascertainment for wages. While the Commission is not to interfere or to have anything to do with the wage aspect of this matter, yet by carrying out the policy it is required to carry out under the Bill it will have some effect on wages. The question of 672 social conditions was discussed last Monday. Surely it would be almost meaningless to request the Commission to take account of a whole variety of considerations such as roads and schools, social facilities and places of entertainment which are no part of the mining industry and which have nothing to do with the mining industry as such. It would be meaningless to give the Commission a direction to consider all these points without giving them also some power in regard to them.
Any one of these matters is not a question for the ground landlord of coal at all, and the general condition of any district is much more an important matter of national interest than it is a matter of interest to the mining industry. In so far as they are matters of national interest, that is just the sort of topic which the Board of Trade could tell the Commission to consider. The general position as outlined in Clause 21, so far as it reduces the general costs of production, does have an effect on the wage position. The question as to how wage negotiations should be carried on is not a question for the ground landlord, but a question for the representatives of the workmen and their employers. I recommend the Committee not to accept the Amendment.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Shinwell
If the Government pretend that in the Bill there is something which improves the position of the mine workers of the country, it would be far better to have it explicitly stated in the Bill. It is all very well for the Secretary for Mines to say that there is the provision in Clause 21, and that a reduction in royalty rents may affect the condition of the miner. It may well be that because of circumstances which may arise and which I will not anticipate, the Commission may find themselves in the position of having to raise royalty rents. In that case the miners are not going to gain any increase in wages. I beg the hon. and gallant Member to understand that this Amendment has nothing to do with the Amendment we discussed on Monday, which provided for the Commission undertaking certain functions in connection with the management of mines other than those provided for in the Bill. It is true that the question of the social and wage standards of the miners was 673 raised in that Debate, but it was not the same Amendment as now appears.
§ Captain Crookshank
I never said that. I said only that in the course of the Debate the matter was touched upon many times.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That is true, but we are discussing something quite different now. Under the Act of 1930 a National Wages Board was set up. That board has never functioned, and it has gone out of existence. It is not provided for in the Bill, and in fact there is no national wages negotiating machinery for the mining industry. Surely my hon. Friends cannot be blamed for raising this issue in the absence of adequate machinery which will safeguard the wage standards of the miners. It is perfectly true that in spite of the undoubted improvement in the coal trade, in spite of the steep rise in prices—there is no doubt about that—in spite of almost superhuman efforts on the part of the mineworkers, and the force of public opinion, which led to a modest increase in wages, the average wages of miners are no more than 50s. a week. Surely, that is a very low standard.
We are not discussing a Bill which primarily concerns the social conditions and wage standards of mineworkers, but a Bill which is intended, if we are to believe the Government spokesmen, to promote efficiency and better organisation in the mining industry. I maintain that unless, by some method, either by this form of words or by some appropriate form which the Minister can advance, we do something to meet the claims of the mine-workers, all this talk about promoting efficiency in the mining industry is simply make-believe. I do not care a tinker's curse about this Bill—I say that quite deliberately—unless the miners benefit from it. I yield to none in my desire for efficiency in the mining industry, but of what use is it talking about efficiency unless the men gain in wages and conditions? My hon. Friends and I do not confine ourselves to that, for we desire to see the consumers obtain coal at reasonable prices and want to see the coal resources of the country properly developed; but we are primarily concerned about the producers of coal, without whom the industry could not exist. Those are indisputable facts.
674 In resisting the Amendment, the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Secretary for Mines asked how the ground landlord can be asked to lay down conditions of this sort, and he argued that the ground landlord remains. That is not our conception of the position. If the ground landlord of the past is to be the ground landlord of the future, in essence, this Bill is worth nothing. We had understood that in place of the private ground landlord, there was to be unification of royalties. It is true that existing leases will continue and new leases will be entered into, but over and above those existing and future contracts, there will be a unified authority exercising supervision. Therefore, surely there is some difference between the State ground landlord, charged with the functions explicit in the Bill, and the private ground landlord; and that being the case, we are not speaking in terms of the past or even of the present, but in terms of something that is vastly different and vastly improved. Otherwise, what is the good of the Bill? The hon. and gallant Gentleman might as well retire from the Front Bench, and throw the towel into the ring.
There is another consideration that I wish to advance, a consideration which I believe to be of substantial importance. Will it be denied that there are so safeguards for the miners in this Bill? I am not now discussing the question of amalgamations, which, of course, is one of the functions of the Commission. Where are the safeguards? There is none. In the absence of safeguards, implicit or explicit in the Bill, surely my hon. Friends cannot be blamed for advancing the considerations which they have put before the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
§ Mr. Shinwell
My hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) is right. We cannot advance them as we would like to do owing to the limiting character of the Amendment. Let me consider what exactly the Amendment aims at. It does not provide for a raising of the wage standards and social conditions of all mineworkers. Let that be admitted. It provides only for giving consideration to the wage standards and social conditions of mineworkers when new leases are entered into. Therefore, it is of a limiting character, and does not go as far as 675 we would desire. But surely it would be a very desirable thing, when the new leases are entered into, that some moral influence should operate in relation to wage standards and social conditions which would have some effect on the industry at large. It is at that time that the new ground landlord is, so to speak, entering into possession, and there could not be a more opportune occasion.
There are two further considerations that I wish to put to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. In the first place, we are here engaged in unifying the industry. That is the intention. Can we not do something in the way of partially unifying the method of dealing with wages and social conditions? The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that the latter part of the Amendment seems to be quite irrelevant. He argued that these questions of the utilisation of existing social facilities—transport, roads, schools and so on—have nothing to do with the mining industry. What an absurd conception of the mining industry the hon. and gallant Gentleman has. Everything affecting the mine-workers, and indeed everything affecting their wives and families, has a great deal to do with the mining industry. Unless there is an efficient community of mine-workers, there will be no mining industry. I am surprised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. He ought to know much more about this matter than he appears to know. I am surprised that he should have made that statement, in view of the fact that the mining industry has, through legislation, made itself responsible for the mineworkers' welfare. Through the Miners' Welfare Scheme and the Miners' Welfare Committee, the welfare of the mineworkers is definitely associated with the mining industry.
My second and final submission to the hon. and gallant Gentleman is that the mineworkers will have no faith in the Coal Commission unless some provision such as is made in the Amendment is contained in the Bill. The hon. and gallant Gentleman may find fault with the phrasing of the Amendment and with its limiting character—indeed, I find a little fault with it on that heading, and I think it should have been more wholehearted and comprehensive, affecting every section of the industry—but if he does find fault with it on those grounds, let him at a later stage find appropriate words, 676 and we shall do all we can to facilitate their entry into the Bill.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I gathered that the Minister said it would not be permissible for the Commission to lay down in the leases which they will give, conditions about wages. A lease is a contract, and surely it should be permissible for the Commission to lay down what would be, in effect, a fair wages clause as a definite term of the lease and say that if the coal is to be worked, one of the conditions of working it is that the employer will observe the wage standard in the industry. There have been times in the mining industry when it has not been possible to get every employer to observe the wage standard. If I understand the Minister aright, it will not be within the rights of this Commission to insert a clause of that kind in their leases. Surely such a Commission, holding the coal for the nation, would only be doing its duty in making it a condition of a lease that any employer who worked the coal should observe the wage standards in the industry. The Government do it when they give a contract to a firm, for they lay it down that the labour employed must be paid the wage standard of the industry. It is a reasonable request that the State as a landlord should at least be equal to the best private landlords and adopt the best practices.
§ Captain Crookshank
The hon. Gentleman asks me to give a legal interpretation, which I am not able to do off-hand. Whether the Commission has such a right or not, there is a far greater authority which sees that the proper wages art-paid in the industry. I should be very surprised, if the Miners' Federation got to hear of improper standards of wages anywhere, that they let it go. That would be different from any experience I have had of them.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The Secretary for Mines has not replied to my question. Do I understand that it would be illegal for the Commission to lay down a condition that whoever works the coal under a lease granted by the Commission must observe the standards obtaining in the industry?
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 120; Noes, 186.575
|Division No. 46.]||AYES.||[3.50 p.m.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Bernays, R. H.||Bull, B. B.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Birchall, Sir J. D.||Bullock, Capt. M.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Bird, Sir R. B.||Burghley, Lord|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Blair, Sir R.||Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.|
|Assheton, R.||Blaker, Sir R.||Burton, Col. H. W.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Bossom, A. C.||Butcher, H. W.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Boulton, W. W.||Campbell, Sir E. T.|
|Balniel, Lord||Brass, Sir W.||Cartland, J. R. H.|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Carver, Major W. H.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Cary, R. A.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Higgs, W. F.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Reid, Captain A. Cunningham|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)|
|Channon, H.||Holdsworth, H.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Holmes, J. S.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Clarke, F. E. (Dartford)||Hopkinson, A.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Rowlands, G.|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Royds, Admiral P. M. R.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D J.||Hulbert, N. J.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Hutchinson, G. C.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M (Norfolk N.)||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Keeling, E. H.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Salt, E. W|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. O.||Lees-Jones J.||Savery, Sir Servington|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Leigh, Sir J.||Scott, Lord William|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Selley, H. R.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|De Chair, S. S.||Levy, T.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|De la Bère, R.||Liddall, W. S.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Denman, Hen. R. D.||Lindsay, K. M.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Denville, Alfred||Lipson, D. L.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Doland, G. F.||Lloyd, G. W.||Somerset, T.|
|Donner, P. W.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||M'Connell, Sir J.||Spens, W. P.|
|Duggan, H. J.||McKie, J. H.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Maitland, A.||Storey, S.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Elmley, Viscount||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Markham, S. F.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Marsden, Commander A.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Errington, E.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Taylor, Vice-Adm, E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Everard, W. L.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Fleming, E. L.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Touche, G. C.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S (Cirencester)||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Furness, S. N.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Munro, P.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Turton, R. H.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L, (Hull)|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Granville, E. L.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G. A.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Orr Ewing, I. L.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Patrick, C. M.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Peake, O.||Wells, S. R.|
|Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Peat, C. U.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Hannah, I. C.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Petherick, M.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Harbord, A.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Harlington, Marquess of||Pilkington, R.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Withers, Sir J. J.|
|Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Porritt, R. W.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Procter, Major H. A.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Radford, E. A.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Hepburn, p. G. T. Buchan-||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Hepworth, J.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Ramsden, Sir E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Captain Dugdale and Mr. Cross.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Ammon, C. G.||Barr, J.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Batey, J.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Banfield, J. W.||Bevan, A.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Barnes, A. J.||Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)|
|Buchanan, G.||Hardie, Agnes||Price, M. P.|
|Burke, W. A.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Cape, T.||Hayday, A.||Ridley, G.|
|Cassells, T.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Ritson, J.|
|Chater, D.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Clynes, RI. Hon. J. R.||Hollins, A.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Hopkin, D.||Shinwell, E.|
|Cove, W. G.||Jagger, J.||Short, A.|
|Daggar, G.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Kelly, W. T.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Davies, S. O. (M"rthyr)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Day, H.||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, RI. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Dobbie, W.||Lathan, G.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Lawson, J. J.||Stephen, C.|
|Ede, J. C.||Leach, W.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Lee, F.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Leslie, J. R.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Lunn, W.||Thorne, W.|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Thurtle, E.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||McEntee, V. La T.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Gallacher, W.||McGhee, H. G.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Gardner, B. W.||MacLaren, A.||Walker, J.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Maclean, N.||Watkins, F. C.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Watson, W. McL.|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Mander, G. le M.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Gibbins, J.||Marshall, F.||Weir, L. MacNeill|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Maxton, J.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Montague, F.||White, H. Graham|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Muff, G.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Naylor, T. E.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Griffiths, J. (LIanelly)||Oliver, G. H.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Groves, T. E.||Paling, W.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Parker, J.|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Mathers and Mr. Charleton.|
|Division No. 47.]||AYES.||[8.39 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Gibbins, J.||Nathan, Colonel H. L.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Paling, W.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Grenfell, D. R.||Parker, J.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Price, M. P.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Batey, J.||Hall, G. H. (Abordare)||Ritson, J.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland N.)|
|Benson, G.||Hardie, Agnes||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Bevan, A.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Broad, F. A.||Hayday, A.||Shinwell, E.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Short, A.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Silkin, L.|
|Buchanan, G.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Cape, T.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Cassells, T.||Hollins, A.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jagger, J.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees (K'ly)|
|Chater, D.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Stephen, C.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Kelly, W. T.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Cove, W. G.||Kirby, B. V.||Thorne, W.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Lawson, J. J.||Thurtle, E.|
|Daggar, G.||Leach, W.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dalton, H.||Lee, F.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Leslie, J. R.||Walker, J.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Lunn, W.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Watson, W. McL,|
|Dobbie, W.||McEntee, V. La T.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||McGhee, H. G.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Ede, J. C.||MacLaren, A.||Westwood, J.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Maclean, N.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Marshall, F.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Mathers, G.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Foot, D. M.||Maxton, J.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Milner, Major J.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—:|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Muff, G.||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Adamson.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Culverwell, C. T.||Hepworth, J.|
|Alexander, Brig.-Gen. Sir W.||Davidson, Viscountess||Higgs, W. F.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||De la Bère, R.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Holdsworth, H.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Doland, G. F.||Holmes, J. S.|
|Apsley, Lord||Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Hopkinson, A.|
|Assheton, R.||Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Eastwood, J. F.||Hulbert, N. J.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Hutchinson, G. C.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Ellis, Sir G.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Emery, J. F.||Keeling, E. H.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T P. H.||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Kimball, L.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Latham, Sir P.|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Everard, W. L.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.)|
|Blair, Sir R.||Findlay, Sir E.||Levy, T.|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Fleming, E. L.||Lewis, O.|
|Bracken, B.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Liddall, W. S.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Lindsay, K. M.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Lipson, D. L.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Gluckstein, L. H.||Loftus, P. C.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Grimston, R. V.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Maclay, Hon. J. P.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Maitland, A.|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Hannah, I. C.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Harvey, Sir G.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Markham, S. F.|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel Sir T. C. R.|
|Cross, R. H.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Morgan, R. H.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)|
|Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Rowlands, G.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Munro, P.||Russell, Sir Alexander||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)||Touche, G. C.|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Savery, Sir Servington||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander B. L.|
|Palmer, G. E. H.||Scott, Lord William||Turton, R. H.|
|Peake, O.||Selley, H. R.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Peat, C. U.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Perkins, W. R. D.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Peters, Dr. S. J.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Procter, Major H. A.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Radford, E. A.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)||Wells, S. R.|
|Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Spears, Brigadier-General E L.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Ramsbotham, H.||Spens. W. P.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Ramsden, Sir E.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)||Wise, A. R.|
|Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Storey, S.||Withers, Sir J. J.|
|Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton (N'thw'h)||Wragg, H.|
|Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Ropner, Colonel L.||Tate, Mavis C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Thomas, J. P. L.||Mr. Furness and Major Herbert.|
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Batey
I have sat here ever since the start of the Debate to-day with two speeches which I had prepared in support of Amendments, but I was not allowed to deliver them and so I wish to take the opportunity of speaking now. I wish first to draw attention to Sub-section (2). It seems that it is the object of the Board of Trade to keep a hand upon the Commission and not allow it to go too far. The Board of Trade are taking power to give directions to the Commission. The Secretary for Mines was complaining on Monday night that I then wanted to give more power to the Commission, in spite of having said on Second Reading that I thought they had too much power. It is clear that the Government are not satisfied with the Commission, because here they are taking power to keep a hand upon it, so that it should not go too far or too fast. It is the Board of Trade who are to give those directions, but what we have been aiming at for many years is that the Mines Department should be a power in itself. Instead of the Board of Trade it should be the ministry of mines which should give the directions. We know that it is a Department of the Board of Trade, but we have never been satisfied with that. We believe that it ought to be a Department on its own.
Agriculture has a Minister in the Cabinet, and who is going to argue that agriculture is more important than mining? There are as many men engaged 680 in mining as in agriculture, and their interests are as great. I believe the time is coming when the ministry of mines will be made a department by itself; some of us thought it would have happened long ago. If we pass this Bill we continue the ministry of mines in the position to which it has been relegated of being a sub-department of the Board of Trade. The ministry of mines is far better able to advise the Commission than is the Board of Trade. The President of the Board of Trade is, I know, connected with a mining family, but I am sure he will admit that he has not a deep knowledge of mining. The ministry of mines is advised by what I regard as the best advisers it can have. In the matter of safety in mines it is advised by the mines inspectors, and those inspectors would be able to guide it in giving directons to the Commission as regards safety.
Now I have a word or two to say about Sub-section (1). If there was one thing more than another which we wanted to discuss it was the wages and social conditions of the miners, but we were not allowed to do so. We believed that we had put down Amendments which covered both those questions, but the first Amendment, in regard to national machinery, was ruled out of order and on the last Amendment we were not allowed to raise the wages question as we should have liked to raise it. Under this Sub-section the Commission have the power to grant coal-mining leases:As they think best for promoting the interests, efficiency and better organisation of the coal-mining industry.681 I submit that we cannot have an efficient industry and better organisation unless there is machinery for the national regulation of wages. One of my colleagues on the Front Bench said a few moment ago that the average wage of miners in Great Britain was £2 10s. a week. The Secretary for Mines, in an answer to the question to-day stated that in 1936 the average wage of miners in Great Britain was £2 10s. 6d. and in Durham £2 4s. 8d. I ask hon. Members opposite to say whether, if they were representing miners, they would be satisfied with the men being paid £2 4s. 8d. a week at a time like this? It must be remembered that in 1932 the average wage in Durham was £1 17s. 11d. per week, against £4 2s. 3d. in 1920. In view of those figures I submit that we are entitled to take advantage of every opportunity in any Bill to insist on the creation of machinery by which the wages can be improved.
The social facilities referred to in the last Amendment include housing. If hon. Members will read the report of the Samuel Commission they will find that the bulk of this Bill has been simply lifted out of it, both in regard to nationalisation of royalties and amalgamations. The Samuel Report seemed to look forward to the time when a Coal Commission would be appointed and would deal with royalties. On page 83 of their report the Samuel Commission said:In granting leases for any new collieries it should be one of the principal duties of the Coal Commissioners to ensure that adequate provision will be made for the housing of the workers, and for pit-head baths.No provision is made in the Bill for housing. One dare not start to deal with housing in many of our colliery villages, as we know them. One of the matters about which the Board of Trade should give directions to the Commission is housing, and it should not be impossible at the same time for them to deal with pit-head baths. By means of the Welfare Fund we are able to erect pit-head baths, but when the Government are negotiating a Bill dealing with royalties and are proposing to pay so much money to the royalty owners, they should be prepared to carry out this recommendation of the Samuel Commission and to insist that there should be a pit-head bath at every colliery so that men might be able to get their baths upon coming out of the pit.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
I want to draw the attention of the Committee to Subsection (2), and to the words:including all matters affecting the safety of the working of coal.I know that the President of the Board of Trade has given some assurance that if he is satisfied he will bring forward an Amendment to meet the objection which we raised previously on this Part of the Bill, but I would like an assurance from him in relation to a doubt that is in my own mind. I was particularly struck with what he said about the methods of mining showing a difference between last century and this century. I remember that on the Second Reading Debate he spoke in more or less the same strain about the dark days in the beginning of the industry. There is a tremendous difference now in the working of coal mines. They are more up-to-date. Competition has made things keener. Our colliery managers are highly scientific men. Improvements in ventilation have taken place, but there is still one overriding factor dominating the coalowners in the conduct of their industry, and that is profit. We have never got away from that. It is there, and is the overriding interest in the working of coal mines.
In looking at the words "safety of the working of coal" I am inclined to have regard also to the livelihood and the safety of the miner. They can be ensured in two ways. There is the rather profligate wastage of the royalty, and, secondly, the working of the colliery to the best advantage in a safe way in respect of accidents. Let me illustrate what I mean about profligate wastage of the royalty. I have in mind a colliery in which the seam was on an incline. The company that had the place made enormous profits out of it, I understand, and 100 per cent. dividend was practically nothing to them. They worked the high side of the seam. They concentrated upon it, and when dividends were at the very highest they sold out. The company that bought the royalty found that there was only the lower side working. Had the Commission been in operation then and had the powers, about which I require an assurance, been in operation, that royalty would have been worked in such a way that the fat would 683 have fried the lean. The colliery would have been working now, instead of the lower part of the workings being pretty well waterlogged with such a heavy accumulation of water as ultimately meant the abandonment of the pit. A livelihood would have been provided for 500 or 600 men.
As workmen at the colliery, shall we have the right under the Bill to representation, either from the colliery or through our trade union, to the Commission, in order to draw attention to the facts whenever we believe that the royalty is not being worked to the best advantage of the nation? That is a matter of primary importance in the working of our coal. It should not necessarily be worked with a profit motive, but in accordance with the greatest benefit to the nation. At the present time we can, and we do, make representations to an inspector of mines if there is some condition in the mine about which we are not satisfied and when we want an inspector to visit the mine. Although we have that power, we never raise any grievance or make a request that inspectors shall visit a colliery in order to safeguard the interests and safety of the men unless we have good grounds and substantial reasons for doing so. Cannot the Secretary for Mines make it possible that when an inspector has visited a mine the report of the visit—
The hon. Gentleman is now raising a matter which really ought to come on the Mines Vote.
§ Mr. Taylor
I have a few words to say of interest to trade union officials. I want to ask whether it will be possible under this Clause for men to make representations direct to the Commission or through their trade union in order to draw the attention of the Commission whenever they believe that the royalty is not being worked to the best advantage? The livelihood of the miners depends upon that, although it might not occur so often, just as much as it depends upon the method of working and the provisions for the safety of the mine. Those are two factors by which the livelihood and well-being of the miner can be very materially affected, and I merely rose to ask whether they are provided for in Sub-section (2) of Clause 2.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Evans
Even at this late stage I would appeal to the President of the Board of Trade to reconsider the attitude of the Government with regard to this Clause, and particularly with regard to Sub-section (2). I should have been content to vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend opposite which was directed to the deletion of Sub-section (2). When a public body like the Coal Commission envisaged in this Bill is being established, I doubt whether it is advisable to give to any Government Department the power to address to a body of that character what are called general directions. The meaning of general directions may be the subject of an infinite number of interpretations. Apart from that, I do not know what would happen if, despite the provision that, general directions having been given, the Commission shall give effect to them, the Coal Commission, in the proper exercise of the duties imposed upon it, made a decision which might appear to be contrary to the general directions addressed to it by the Board of Trade. Who is going to prevail in such an event? Who is going to decide who shall prevail? Is it to be the Coal Commission, in their quite honest, faithful, conscientious interpretation of the Act; or is it to be the Board of Trade, which may take a different view of a particular decision of the Coal Commission?
Surely the answer is that their action could be taken into court. If they acted contrary to the directions of the Board of Trade, their action would be ultra vires.
§ Mr. Evans
That is what I wanted to know. But that is a particularly expensive procedure, which may add to the practical difficulties of putting the Measure into operation. Apart from that, I must say I felt that the President of the Board of Trade was able to reassure us to some extent when he said that the object of the Sub-section was to enable the House of Commons to exercise its control over the Government of the day, because whoever might be the President of the Board of Trade would accept responsibility for the directions issued to the Coal Commission, and, therefore, could be challenged in the House. That reassured me to some extent, until I looked again at the Sub-section and found it difficult to understand why, if that were 685 its sole object, it was necessary to add the words:including all matters affecting the safety of the working of coal.
Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman was not in the House when, in answer to the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), I explained exactly why we put those words in.
§ Mr. Evans
The right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for saying that that was not a sufficient answer, because, as far as the safety of the working of coal is concerned, the House of Commons already has powers. It can challenge the Secretary for Mines in regard to matters affecting safety of working in the pits. The point is a larger one. Why particularise at all? The trouble in which the Government now are arises out of their own Clause. If they had left the words in the general sense that there were to be general directions, they might have obviated the difficulty which some of us felt, but, once they start particularising, they are placed in a difficulty in answering the suggestions made by hon. Members above the Gangway with regard to some other matters which ought to be introduced. The President has had to agree already that the words used in Sub-section (2) are not sufficient to cover the point which he said he wished to cover, in regard—
I said I was advised, and believed, that they did cover it, but, in view of the hon. and learned Gentleman's doubts, I will certainly look at it between now and Report.
§ Mr. Evans
It may have been the Secretary for Mines who said it, but I think it was agreed on behalf of the Government that the words in particular:all matters affecting the safety of the working of coaldid not meet the whole point that was mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), and that it might be necessary to reconsider those words.
I have already told the hon. and learned Gentleman that I made no such admission. I said I believed that they did, but I will certainly confirm that between now and the next sitting.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The hon. and learned Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans) was dealing, I understood, with the question of safety of working in the pit—
§ Mr. Evans
No. With regard to the question of subsidence, these words are sufficient to give the Board of Trade power to give general directions to the Coal Commission. I only point out these things to show that the Sub-section is badly drafted—I put it no higher; and I would beg the President of the Board of Trade to reconsider it and see whether it can be put in a more artistic and practical manner.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I want to say only a word on this Clause. We do not propose to divide against it, but I should like, before we pass from it, to make one or two observations with regard to it. On the first Amendment to the Clause, several Members on this side pointed out that obviously this Bill and this Clause were designed in the interests of the mineowners—those who were going to work the coal—and did not take into account the interests of the miners. It is clear from the refusal of Amendments, especially the last one, that that is the attitude taken up by the Government on this Clause. The Secreary for Mines, on an earlier Amendment, repeated the phrase, which he used on the Second Reading, that the Bill was for the general reorganisation of the industry, and he told us that regard would be had to the interests of the mining industry. When we tried to expand the words at the end of Sub-section (1):interests, efficiency and better organisation of the coal-mining industry,to include the interests of the miners so far as wages are concerned, or the interests of the mining communities so far as social services are concerned, we were told that these had nothing to do with mining. That illustrates the completely different approach between ourselves and the Government to this problem. We regard the most vital and important interests, so far as the mining industry is concerned, as being the interest of the coal miner first, and, next, the interest 687 of the communities in the pithead towns and the social services connected with them. We are told that neither of these two matters can be considered at all by the Commissioners. In other words they are not considered to affectthe interests, efficiency and better organisation of the coal-mining industry.The direction that the Board of Trade may give to the Commission under Clause 2 is limited togeneral direction as to the exercise and performance by the Commission of their function under this part of the Act.Therefore, if one cannot expand the meaning of the words in Sub-section (1)—the interests, efficiency and better organisation of the coal-mining industry "—to include the welfare of the coal-mining community, then, although it may be in the national interest that instructions should be given by the Board of Trade on those matters, they cannot do it because the Government have refused to give to the words that expanded meaning which we would like to have inserted. In the result, this Clause, as it stands now, does not enable the Commission, in its general reorganisation of the coal industry, to take any notice whatsoever of the standards or social conditions of the miners. We think it is typical of the outlook of this Government, which is entirely controlled by private interests, that they should bring forward a Bill, which they call a Bill for the general reorganisation of the coal-mining industry, and yet refuse to give the body in control of that reorganisation any power to deal with the conditions or wages of the miners.
§ 9.18 p.m.
I should like, if I might, to reply to various suggestions which have been made. First, in reply to the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey), let me say that I am sorry that he has been frustrated twice before, but I am glad he has now had his opportunity. His desire that the Department of Mines should be separated from the Board of Trade strikes, at this precise moment, a sympathetic chord in my heart, because if it were done I should not have to be in charge of this Bill. But that suggestion, important as it is—and it is one that is always under review—is outside the scope of the Bill. If and when there was a separation, how- 688 ever, between the Ministry of Mines and the Board of Trade, then clearly, under the Bill, the functions which are and must be allocated to the Board of Trade would naturally be transferred to the Ministry of Mines.
The hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor) and the hon Member for Spennymoor raised again the question of those words which deal with the question of safety in mines. It is quite clear that, at this moment, it is impossible to go into details, or to decide which particular thing would or would not come under the purview of the Commission. I would rather lay down this general rule. It is clear that we do not want any overlapping between what the Commission is able to do on the side of safety and the functions of the Secretary for Mines, who is responsible for making the safety regulations and responsible to this House for them. The case we have in mind, and one that is no doubt present to the minds of many hon. Members, is rather different. It is the case where, owing to the faulty lay-out of the mine in the first instance, regulations subsequently introduced cannot be efficiently carried out. The division I would suggest between the normal functions of the Ministry of Mines and what might be done by the Commission is a division between methods of working and lay-out. While methods of working would remain, as now, with the Ministry of Mines it would be possible for the Coal Commission to impose conditions from the point of view of safety as to the lay-out of mines which would prevent the repetition of cases which have occurred where the original lay-out of a pit has defeated the object of subsequent regulations.
The hon. and learned Member for the Welsh Universities (Mr. E. Evans) argued again the case for leaving out Subsection (2). I shall not deal at length with what he says. That was argued at length in the House, and the overwhelming opinion of hon. Members on all sides was that this Sub-section was necessary, that through it was given some control to the House of Commons, and that that was desirable; and I think hon. Members withdraw their Amendments on the assurance I gave. I cannot give the hon. and learned Member any such promise as he asked, that I should withdraw the Clause. The only thing which I do promise on this is in regard to the 689 very small drafting point which the hon. and learned Gentleman raised, and that I will look into before Report.
The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) said that the Debate on this Clause showed that the Bill was in the interest of the mine owners. The hon. and learned Gentleman is a very persuasive speaker. I only wish he could use his powers of persuasion on some hon. Members on this side, because they do not believe that, and it would facilitate my task if he could use an eloquence that I do not possess and convince them of that. But I feel that he would have some difficulty, because I do not think the statement is true. I think that it is clear that this Commission has limited scope, but, within that limited scope, I believe that the balance is held fairly, and that the Commission will be able to perform the duties laid down in paragraph (1) in the interests of the mining community as a whole.
§ Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.